Idol makers are hoping for a boost in sales in this year's Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindus, after two pandemic-induced dull years when the festival was observed on a limited scale.
Potters in Brahmanbaria said Tk4 crore worth of idols are being made in the district over the last two months, while in Naogaon idol makers are looking to Tk3.5 crore worth of business.
Some 50-60 idol makers are involved in the business in Brahmanbaria and for most of them it is an ancestral profession. Each artist earns from Tk50,000 to Tk1 lakh in the biggest puja season of the year.
Hira Lal Pal, from Bhadughar Palpara area of Brahmanbaria sadar, has been involved in making different artefacts, using clay, including idols of different Hindu deities for about 50 years.
"During the Durga Puja season, we earn the most," he said, adding that his income declined significantly in the last two years because of the festival being observed in a scaled down manner due to the pandemic.
"The good old days have returned for the idol makers after a disastrous pandemic phase. All artists in this area have got enough work orders this season," Hira Lal Pal told The Business Standard.
Most artists from different upazilas of the district are in the last stages of making Durga idols for this year's puja.
Ranjit Chandra Pal, an idol artist in Brahmanbaria sadar, said, "I along with some other artists am making several idols this year. Giving the final shape to the idols has already been done and they will be painted in a few weeks."
Jhantu Pal, from the same area, said, "I have got orders worth Tk10 lakh for making idols for 20 mandaps. There was no work in the past two years due to the pandemic. This year's business will tide over the losses incurred during that crisis period."
Another idol artist, Ravi Pal, said that he has been making idols for the past two months. He expects to earn Tk50,000-Tk60,000.
The Brahmanbaria Puja Celebration Committee said that the price of an idol is determined by the size, materials used and the glamour of the idol. The committee has planned to celebrate this year's puja in a grand manner.
This year Durga Puja will be celebrated at around 600 mandaps in the district. According to the puja celebration committee, each mandap will have idols worth Tk50,000 to Tk2 lakh.
However, lighting will be limited at the mandaps to save electricity as per government guidelines.
Pranab Kumar Das, vice president of the District Puja Celebration Committee, told The Business Standard, "We organised Durga Puja on a limited scale during the pandemic years. This time, we are going to organise the puja in a colourful manner."
In Naogaon, Durga Puja will be celebrated at 816 puja mandaps in 11 upazilas of the district.
About a hundred potters are working day and night making idols in the district, putting the finishing touches to their work.
Potters of Naogaon pointed out that this year the cost of idol making equipment has increased and as a result they will make less profit.
"The cost of all the idol making tools is exorbitant this year. For each idol, an additional Tk3,000-4,000 was needed and this will limit the profit," said Gozen Pal, an idol maker of Maa Lakshmi Shilpalaya at Ghoshpara area of Naogaon.
"This year I have taken 16 orders for prices ranging from Tk20,000 to Tk50,000," said Gozen, who has been making idols for generations.
"The clay work is already finished. Now I'm putting the finishing touches. Painting the idols will begin in a couple of days," he added.
Gautam Pal, another idol artist of Old Kathhati area, said, "The cost of idol making equipment has doubled. This year I had to buy hay for Tk800 taka (80 pieces) which was Tk450 last year. Twine (rope) is Tk145 per kg, last year it was Tk120 per kg. Soil per tractor cost Tk500, up from last year's Tk400. Nails are priced at Tk140 per kg, up from Tk 80 last year. Tk200 worth of bamboo had to be bought for Tk350 rupees. Colour prices have increased by Tk80 per litre. Besides, workers' wages have increased from Tk500 to Tk700."
Naogaon District Puja Celebration Parishad Committee General Secretary Bivash Majumdar Gopal said, "After two dull years, we will make colourful arrangements this year. However, due to some government restrictions, we will only use as much lighting as required to save electricity."
Naogaon Superintendent of Police Muhammad Rashidul Haque said five levels of security will be in place with police and ansar personnel to prevent any untoward incidents and to maintain law and order during the Durga Puja celebrations.