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An Odisha village where everyone is an idol making artist

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rayagada, Sep 17:

Raghurajpur in Odisha’s Puri district is known all over the state and even beyond as a village where there is a pattachitra artist in every family. But little is known about Amlabhata, a remote village in Rayagada district just 10 kms away from the district headquarters, where every family is sculptor of clay idols.

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Come puja time and clients throng this village not just from Rayagada district, but from Koraput, Gajapati, Kalahandi and even Srikakulum and Vizianagaram in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Whether it is Ganesh Puja, Viswakarma Puja, Saraswati Puja or Durga Puja, clay idols made in this village are in great demand because of their exquisite artistry. \

Like their counterparts in Raghurajpur, every member in each of the nearly 120 families in this village starting from teenage kids to the elderly is involved in idol making in some way or the other.

Explaining the reason for the entire village taking to idol making, Reliwalsa Dalaya (30) of the village says; “The soil available on the banks of River Nagabali flowing close to our village is particularly suitable for idol making.”

But Rekhama Bhadrama (60) has another explanation for this interesting phenomenon. “We have been making clay items like pots, pitchers and candle stands for ages. But the sale of these items did not fetch us enough to keep our hearths burning. That is why we took to idol making about 30 years ago,” she says.

Bhadrama says preparations for idol making start on Bahuda Yatra day, nearly two months before Ganesh Puja when the senior most members of every family in the village congregate on the banks of Nagabali and collect a lump of soil after a collective puja.

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“After they come home, there is another puja. The men in the family make the structure of the idol with straw after which the women flesh out the idol with clay. Once the idol is ready, the entire family applies colours to it,” says Dalaya.

Sculptor Nageswar Rao says the prices of idols made in the village range from as low as Rs 100 to as high as Rs 15, 000. “Sometimes, we go to other places to make idols when people want idols 15-20 feet high. This year, we got orders for four 22 feet-high Ganesh idols from Vizianagaram, Salur, Badili and Parvatipuram in Andhra Pradesh and three 20-feet high idols from Rayagada, Tikri and JK Pur,” says Rao.

Unfortunately, however, there is little effort by the district administration to promote this artisan village and provide a market for their product notwithstanding a host of central state government schemes aimed to provide a secure and better livelihood for such people.

“Though the Tribal Affairs Minister’s village is just 3 kms away from our village, he has not visited us even once. The district industries centre (DIC) is content to just provide a stall for us at the during the annual district level Adivasi Mahotsav,” laments village committee head P Simanchal.

District industrial promotion officer Rushi Sahu, however, denies Simanchal’s charges. “Artisans of the village have been provided training by the DIC. They have been provided solar lanterns and loans and have been insured under the Aam Admi Yojana. Efforts are on to provide marketing facilities to them,” says Sahu.