With Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindus, around the corner, the idol makers of Chattogram are all smiles. Sales have increased significantly as the Chattogram Pottery Association has estimated Tk4 crore worth of business in 50 Pratimalay (where idols are made) of the port city this season.
Ratan Pal, president of the association, told The Business Standard, "The artisans had the worst season ever last year when sales were below Tk1 crore. Even this year, there was scepticism about whether the Durga Puja would be organised in its usual grandeur or not. But thankfully in the last one month leading up to the Puja, orders for making idols suddenly increased."
The artisans are trying to make up for the losses incurred last year, he said before adding that they have estimated a potential business worth Tk4 crore this year.
The Sadarghat area on Sunday afternoon was seen abuzz with activity, with the idol makers busy putting finishing touches on their handy work. Their assistants were busy delivering the idols.
Sushanth Pal, an artisan of Dulal Pal Pratimalay, the largest idol maker of Chattogram, told The Business Standard, "Usually, orders for idols begin at the onset of Baishakh. But due to the pandemic, orders were coming in slow. However, the workload has increased due to the surge in orders towards the end of Bhadra. I am yet to finish making several idols."
Sujan Pal, director of Dulal Pal Pratimalay, and general secretary of the Pottery Association said, "I received orders for 42 idols this year. In the last three months, 15 workers have worked day and night to make these idols."
He also said that this year he has made idols ranging from Tk10,000 to Tk1 lakh.
"This year, about 3,000 Durga idols have been made in 50 Pratimalay in Chattogram. About two thousand artisans have made these idols. Last time work was very limited due to the pandemic. But this year, as the workflow is similar to pre-pandemic times, I will be able to pay good wages to the artisans," said Sujan Pal.
Amar Pal, a senior potter at Su-Sudha Bhavan, an ancient idol shrine in Chattogram, said most of the idols made in Chattogram were originally from the greater Faridpur region. Most of the idol makers were residents of Shariatpur, Netrokona and Faridpur districts. Some 60 years ago, the potters came from there and settled in Chattogram.
Shedding light on the current situation of the potters, Amar Pal said, "Potters are not doing too good. Their main source of income is the Durga Puja season. But in the last few years, many have quit their ancestral profession and found new work for survival."
Chattogram Superintendent of Police SM Rashidul Haque told The Business Standard that Durga Puja will be held in 1,555 mandaps in Chattogram this year. 1,600 police personnel will be deployed for the security of these mandaps.
Meanwhile, the Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) has issued 34-point instructions on the occasion of Durga Puja considering the coronavirus infection and law and order situation.
Hillol Sen Ujjwal, general secretary of Mahanagar Puja Udjapan Parishad, said, "This time, Durga puja festival is being celebrated in 276 puja mandaps including private and Ghat Puja in 16 police stations of Chattogram metropolis.
The main puja mandap of the city is at the JM Sen Hall. Following the government's directive, this time there will be no special arrangement in the Chattogram puja mandaps.