No Puja Joy for Odisha Artisans due to COVID-19

For several years now, Navratri has been the busiest period for artisans Prakash Kumar Bhoi and his wife Reena. They would wake up early, start making idols and try to dispatch them before ‘Ravan Dahan.’ But this year, there is a pall of gloom in Prakash’s house.

Neither is he engaged in making effigies of Ravan nor does he have any hope of getting a last-minute order. This Dussehra is a dampener for him.

“Every year, I would get at least 10 to 20 orders to make the idol of ‘Ravan’ for Dussehra celebrations in Bhubaneswar. This period used to be the busiest time in the year for my family. But this year, there is no work. I am told COVID19 has impacted festivities, so chances of ‘Ravan Dahan’ are less,” says Prakash.

Prakash has been involved in idol making for years and this is the only stable income for his family. Making 10 ‘Ravan’ idols could fetch him anything around Rs 1 lakh. Deducting the production costs, he would be left with Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 as profit – a major chunk of his yearly income.

“For us, Ravan is the source of food. The number of Ravan effigies determine our income,” says Reena.

“If we don’t get orders, we don’t save enough for food. I work in other people’s households to supplement income, but idol-making is our main profession.”

For most of the idol makers in the state, the season has been a dry one. Even though ‘Puja’ is being offered at various temples, COVID-19 has dampened the festive spirit, impacting the sales.

With no alternative profession, the idol makers are facing financial troubles.

“My husband is unable to work outside due to an injury. So, we are dependent on whatever little I earn by working at other people’s homes. We have got some orders for making Radha-Krishna idol, but it is nothing compared to the orders we used to get in the previous years,” says Reena.

For the idol makers, the Puja this year has brought no joy.

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