Effigy makers in the city said they are finally doing good business after the last three years brought very little work. The artists said there has been a spike in demand from Delhi and other States, and some even received orders from other countries like England and South Africa.
“The years 2020 and 2021 were affected by the COVID pandemic and there was uncertainty regarding open-air events last year. But I have got 100 orders this year, more than twice what I got in 2022,” said Shankar ‘Ravanwala’.
Like most other effigy makers in Delhi, Mr. Shankar puts his full-time job of a mechanic on hold for two months before Dasara to create customised effigies. He is expecting a total earning between ₹40,000 and ₹50,000 this season.
“Sometimes customers want an effigy with 10 heads, which is not very easy to do. It all depends on your creativity. This year, we were asked to dress up Ravana in a ghagra. Someone else asked us to drape Ravana in a dhoti,” said Mr. Shankar.
A resident of west Delhi’s Titarpur, the city’s hub of effigy makers, the 50-year-old added that even a customer from England recently placed an order with him.
Monu ‘Ravanwala’, 40, said he has received a request for an effigy with two heads facing front and back.
“We received a request once to make Ravana’s teeth shinier. Someone else asked us to make a shiny, silver-coloured effigy. Some customers want Ravana’s moustache to be twice the size of the effigy. Others want us to drape it in patchwork cloth. We have to meet these requests,” Mr. Monu added.
Vinod Kumar, 42, was pleasantly surprised when someone in South Africa placed an order with him. “I could not believe at first that our Ravanas are popular abroad too,” he said with a laugh.
“Since we had to send the effigy on a ship, we used premium quality glue, bamboo, and cloth for it. The cloth was stitched twice so it doesn’t break during the journey,” added Mr. Kumar, whose regular job is that of a server in a catering company.
However, Mr. Shankar said, “The cost of labour has become unaffordable now. Daily wage labourers charge ₹1,200 a day compared to ₹500 they used to till last year. This is why all my family members are working with me and the children often have to miss school. But what can we do? We have to make ends meet.”
With the Delhi government having banned the sale, storage, production, and bursting of firecrackers to check air pollution, effigy makers said they are getting orders for smaller, cracker-free Ravanas this season. Dasara will be celebrated on October 24.
“Smaller effigies are also cost-effective. We are getting such orders from residential colonies across Delhi,” said Sonu ‘Ravanwala’, who has been making effigies for the past 35 years. Outside the festive season, he works as an autorickshaw driver.