Will enough Ravanas burn in Dwarka this Dussehra?
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Will enough Ravanas burn in Dwarka this Dussehra?

This year effigy makers in the sub city have started their work before schedule; even before actual orders have been placed. 

Will enough Ravanas burn in Dwarka this Dussehra?

These days, if you happen to drive towards Dwarka Mor particularly from the traffic signal of Sector 3, you cannot miss the bamboo skeletons that are almost uninterruptedly lining the footpaths. Wrapped in worn cotton saris and paper these are effigies of the erstwhile King of Lanka- Ravana.

Every year on Dusherra, these effigies are set on fire in the residential community parks and grounds amidst splendid displays of fireworks- a tradition that symbolises victory of good over evil.   

This year effigy makers have arrived in Dwarka with renewed optimism. Shyam Lal, an effigy maker explains, “Last year things had been difficult for us. The rainy season had stretched longer and some effigies had been destroyed by rains. Almost 20 of my effigies had remained unsold. This year too cost of raw materials and labour is steep. So I have made a conservative decision to make just 50 effigies. However, I am confident that when orders start trickling in from tomorrow all 50 effigies shall be sold.”

Titarpur near Tagore Garden of West Delhi has always been synonymous with the effigy market. However, now the effigy market of Dwarka has almost become a mini Titarpur. So what exactly is in store for customers? There are various sizes of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakaran - all mythological figures associated with the ancient empire of Lanka. Orders for effigies are placed by RWAs and other residential community groups several days before Dusherra. However, there is considerable demand also from the festival revellers who take a last minute decision to burn an effigy.    

According to the effigy makers, the RWAs and small Durga Puja committees usually place orders for small sized effigies.

This year the effigy makers have started their work a little before schedule and surprisingly without actual orders. So clearly the expectations for profits are high. When City Spidey spoke to some effigy makers, different views emerged on the subject of profit expectations.   

Sunil Mahato who has been religiously creating effigies of Ravana for almost three decade says, “Today burning effigies has become an annual community tradition. Burning effigies is considered to usher good luck. This year the pricing strategy is just like last year. We are charging Rs 200 to Rs 300 for every feet of the effigy.” Mahato however, is not as prepared as Shyam Lal. “Last year I had made 60 effigies of Ravana alone. This year I am recovering from Chikungunya and hence have only made 30 effigies till date. I might make another ten but this is purely subject to my health and availability of labourers,” he says.

Effigy making incidentally is an art that is not confined to any religion or community. Ishrat Khan who has been making Ravana effigies for the last 15 years says that this year more orders are expected from RWAs. “We are concentrating more on small size effigies as RWA representatives and societies place orders for this size, especially in the last moment. We want to clock a good profit as we wait for this season to arrive throughout the year. We are hoping that nothing of what we are making remains unsold. This year the weather has also been good. Moreover, unlike last year, our labourers have had no incidence of dengue or chikungunya.  So many things are in our favour. However, luck plays a big factor in terms of actual sales and profits.”

Sarvan Mahato yet another effigy maker shared, “With rising inflation times have become tough for us and this year has been the worst. The demand for effigies has increased but with this, the uncertainty has also increased. Earlier we were confident of selling what we made but now till Vijayadashmi we will not really know about our sales.”

Jangbahadur Mahato who has already spent 30 years in this business compares the years gone by with the present times. “Till about 2005 we were very sure about the income that we would earn but now we are uncertain till the day of Vijayadashmi. If demand is really less, a magnificent effigy of Ravana that should fetch a price of Rs 5,000 could be sold at a throwaway sum of Rs 500 or even Rs 50. If everything goes well we can earn anywhere between Rs 20,000 to about Rs 50, 000 this season.” 

RWAs of the sub city have already made a decision of ordering the effigies. SS Chowhan, President RWA of Radhika Apartments in Sector 14 says, “We shall order the effigies soon. And we want a big effigy. We feel good that the tradition of burning effigies is creating a feeling of harmony and brotherhood in the neighbourhood.”