The king of Lanka seems to have found a new kingdom — Dwarka. Though Titarpur in west Delhi remains the traditional market for Ravan making, the sub-city, too, is not to be left behind. It has been making effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkarn and Meghnad for more than a decade now.
From the police chowki in Sector 3 towards Kakrola Mor till the NSIT campus, the entire left side of the masterplan road is lined with hundreds of Ravans, Meghnads and Kumbhkarns in different shapes and sizes. You have your bespoke effigies, but if it’s a last-minute buy for you, there is plenty to choose from. And societies seem to be popular customers.
Sunil Mahto, who has been making effigies for almost three decade now, says, “Burning effigies is becoming popular. We also make Ravan effigies for small community pujas these days. This year’s rate is Rs 200- Rs 300 per ft.”
Most of these artisans hail from the villages of UP and Bihar. This year, business seems to have taken a hit due to chikungunya, and a hike in the cost of raw materials. The craftsmen are either down with chikungunya or are recovering from it. They say, in comparison to last year, they have made fewer number of effigies. “Last year, we had 60 Ravan effigies, but this year, I am badly affected with chikungunya, and been able to make only 30 so far. I might be able to make 10 more, but that depends on my health and the labourers,” confesses Mahto.
Rains, too, have played spoilsport this year, says Ishrat Khan, an artisan for the past 15 years. “We make the effigies, and the orders pour in later. This year, I have made 60, but have just 20 orders so far. Last year, I had done 75. A lot depends on luck, you see. We had to make the effigies again, because the rains spoilt the ones we had done earlier,” he said.
Along with inflation, uncertainties in demand, too, lead to financial losses for these craftsmen. Mahto says, “With inflation, it gets tough for us — and this year is the worst. The demand for Ravans has increased, but so has the uncertainty. Earlier, we were confident of selling what we made. But now, we are not sure of business even till Vijayadashmi. We can’t really wait for bookings to start making the effigies — we start the process way earlier. So I can just be hopeful. Or else we will have to burn them ourselves.”
So far, he has had no booking, but he remains hopeful.
Jangbahadur Mahto, who has spent 30 years in this business, says that if luck turns its back on them, they have to sell a Rs 5,000 Ravan for just Rs 500 — and even Rs 50 if they fall on desperate times. Drawing a grim comparison with earlier years, he says, “Till 2004-05, we were sure about the income, but now we are not certain even till Vijayadashmi. If everything goes well this season, we could earn anything between Rs 20,000-Rs 50,000.”
However, the Ravanwallas — or the makers of demons, as they are sometimes called — continue their work despite uncertainties. May their deft fingers and hopeful hearts conquer all evil and keep up a centuires-old tradition.