Some artisans also complain of shrinking profits due to the rise in the price of raw materials used for making idols of deities
Kurigram has a long tradition of celebrating the annual Hindu festival of Durga Puja, where huge crowds cutting across religious lines visit pandals just to have a glimpse of the idol of goddess Durga.
These idols are, in fact, sculpted from mud and straw by specialist artisans, before being taken to the pandals for worship for a week. And these artisans usually earn the most during the Hindu festive season. But the second wave of the pandemic has made them anxious about business again, with fears of muted celebrations looming large.
Pal Para and Kumar Para are the two localities of potters in Kurigram town, where artisans -- in normal times -- get irritated by usual distractions in the form of onlookers. But this year too, they are a worried lot and seemingly have all the time in the world to explain their plight. The situation is the same in other potter localities of the district, including Kathalbari.
Most of the potters claim to have received orders for just eight to 10 idols this year, and that too from puja committees in the district, as against the usual 20-22 in pre-Covid years.
"In 2020, we lost all our savings. This year, we were hoping for a turnaround to tide over the losses. Though the situation is marginally better this year, not a single artisan in the area has got an order from outside the district because of the second wave of the pandemic," says Kalikanto Pal, an artisan in Kathalbari.
Some artisans also complain of shrinking profits due to the rise in the price of raw materials used for making idols of deities. They blame the second wave of the pandemic and the consequent nationwide lockdown for the same.
"We had no option but to reduce the price of idols this year to bag some orders. At the same time, the price of raw materials has risen this year. Though we have managed to bag some eight to 10 orders each this year, this price rise will further reduce our profit margins. It's a double whammy for us," rues Sushil Pal, another idol maker.
Kolpona Rani, a female artisan, says that she and her husband have been making idols in the Sobondaha area of the Ghogadaha union for the past 25 years. "This year, we have taken orders for as low as Tk10,000 for a small-size idol of Hindu deity just to ensure two square meals a day for our family," she says.
This year, district authorities have given permission to organize Durga Puja in 510 pandals across Kurigram.
The five-day event begins on October 11.