PUNE: Keeping the family tradition alive, Manish Buradkar, a city-based engineer is making Ganesh idols from ‘chikmati’-soil collected from river beds. The shadu mati (clay) idols are eco-friendly, but are sold at a higher price than chikmati idols.
Buradkar visits several river banks to collect chikmati, which he sculpts at his workshop in Manjari. He chose this medium as it readily dissolves in the river, thus merging with its ecosystem instead of introducing harmful items like PoP. To gain visibility, last year, he started his own app and website called Mangalsudha, where he kept 300 types of mud idols for sale and from which about 15 idols were sold online.
Manish’s grandfather used to make Lord Krishna idols from the same soil but it was not outsourced. His father Sudhakar started making Ganesh idols selling them in Manjari from a young age. Manish graduated as a civil engineer from Pune University in 2016 and rather than a career in engineering, he started selling Ganesh idols. In 2017, he started the website and app, which boosted his business.
Manish said, “Making Ganpati idols from chikmati is an old tradition and I want to keep it alive. Also, shadu mati is easily available and it is eco-friendly, but chikmati is naturally available and if dissolved in river or pond, it does not pollute river. Also, these idols are available at cheaper rates than clay idols.”
“This year, we made 300 idols which 8 are of 20 inches and one is of 33 inches. Of these, 20 idols are colourless while rest are painted from water based colours. Along with online presence, we put up a stall at Keshav Nagar at Mundhwa. Also, there are four to five craftsmen who come from neighbouring villages to learn this technique and earn employment by outsourcing these idols,” he said.
“We do not collect soil from polluted rivers. We mostly collect it from Nirguda river, one of the main tributaries of Wardha river or from river flows which are seen at neighbouring villages. After processing the mud, idols have to be made immediately because then it becomes dry. Also, the soil contains huge amount of sand which does not give proper finishing. The whole process consumes a lot of time but the idols are price tagged only for the finished product and not for its process,” Manish added.
He explained the process of making idols from chikmati that, during summer, traditional Ganesh sculptors from rural areas start looking for river bed which is not polluted and from where soil can be easily collected. “Every year, the mud is not collected from the same riverbed. According to government laws, permission for collecting the soil from river bed is only given to potters. Hence, we have to purchase it from them,” he said.
“We take almost two to three truck of soil from them. Then, the stones are removed from the soil which are easily visible. Two ponds are created which are covered by gunny bags, the soil is dissolved in one of it for two days. Later, fine stones settle in the water completely and the slurry is filtered to the other pond which is again kept for two days. It is then re-filtered.
Thereafter, the soil is kept under sunlight for a day and it is pressed by feet for a few minutes to enable better binding and now, it is ready to use,” Manish said.