Expert pair of hands mold bamboo canes into immaculate shapes while another covers them with colourful paper pastings, and yet another gives finishing touches with fluorescent paint. These are some common roadside sights these days in Delhi as the Dussehra festival approaches. It is common to see the making of effigies of Ravana in all shapes and sizes.
Many makeshift colonies of effigy makers spurt out at various places around this time of the year. Laborers work day in and day out to produce these effigies, around which the entire festivity revolves.
Among many locations in the NCR, Titarpur is considered a ‘supermarket’ of Ravana effigies. A few days before Dussehra, the place livens up with activity as huge frames depicting the demon king come up. Organisers of the fairs on the occasion who hail from across the NCR make a beeline to order the effigy of their choice.
Hindu mythology refers to Ravana as an evil and an embodiment of the devil, it is no less than a god for these poor craftsmen and labourers for it provides them with livelihood. Many of them have been in the business since their childhood and the art and knowledge have been passed down through generations.
The skill and craftsmanship that they show while working, are a sight to behold. One is left speechless witnessing them create something, which they know, would be burnt to ashes within a few days. Yet, they do not let this thought overcome their work execution. They look like creating something that would live for ages.
The work that looks easy and effortless, in fact, requires a lot of toil and hard work. Preparation for these effigies begins three months before the festival and temporary structures are made days in advance. Besides the material demands of the task, these craftsmen also have to deal with factors like waterlogging, rain, and thunders during the monsoons. Although seasonal in nature, this job requires year-round planning.
Earlier, loading these effigies with fancy firecrackers was a big rage among fair organizers. But, the Delhi government’s latest guideline banning the use and sale of firecrackers has stopped the practice. This, however, has not dampened the spirit of the festival and the craftsmen are now making eco-friendly effigies.
The festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil will be celebrated on October 5 this year. Although most people, who visit the Dussehra fairs, love to see huge effigies of the ten-headed demon going up in flames, it is not uncommon to see effigies made on different themes. These themes are mostly related to the latest political and social developments that take place around the world. It would be interesting to see which themes would click with the public, this year.