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 Nagpur: Tucked away in a dingy, squalid lane in Chhoti Dhantoli, this year too idol maker Subhash Pal is giving final touches to Durga idols made by him in the dilapidated building of Bengali Association Club. Clad in vest and shorts, he stretches himself to reach the face of a 12ft idol which will be installed at a mandal in Siraspeth.

“This year, I have made 12 idols for Bengali Durga Puja and 60 for non-Bengali mandals,” he says. Pal parks himself at this location from July when he gets busy making Ganesh idols. “This year, I had orders for 30 Ganesh idols as people now prefer the ones made with clay,” says Pal.

There is a marked difference in the idols that are prepared for the Bengali and non-Bengali pandals. “The eyes are pulled up, face is round, skin has a yellow hue and Durga rides a lion for Bengali pujas. For Maharashtrian pandals the skin is pink, eyes are normal, face is longish and the goddess is astride a tiger,” he says.

Pal carries from his home state — Bengal — clay from the riverbed of Ganges, brocade to drape the idol, hair and different types of jewellery. Known as saaj, the jewellery is crafted from shola, made of jute, suta saaj made of shimmering material and daakar made of wire. “In Bengal, puja is very traditional and so there are few variations,” informs the artist. Mounted on chatai, bamboo and wood splinters, the idols are of two kinds. One is ek chaali where Durga, Laxmi, Saraswati along with Ganesh and Kartik are mounted together. The other style is paanch chaali in which each idol is separate and kept at a distance. Each Durga parivar can cost anywhere between Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 and weighs nearly a tonne.

In the bylanes of Chitar Oli too, Durga idols as tall as 10ft are getting finishing touches. The area which buzzes with activity before Ganesh festival is comparatively quiet. “The number of idols that were made here has gone down as previously we used to get orders from Seoni, Chhindwara and Parasia too,” says idols maker Vinod Suryavanshi. “Many young artists who trained with us are now settled there and make idols. This saves transportation cost,” he says.

The idols for the Bengali puja will be moved out on October 6. The others will be taken away from Thursday onwards. At the Rani Laxmibai Durga Utsav Mandal in Laxmi Nagar, the nine-day festival will be celebrated with a number of items varying from patriotic ones like a pictorial gallery dedicated to freedom fighters and tributes to Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Veer Savarkar. Cultural events will feature performances by singers Anuradha Paudwal and Antara Mitra. A talk on ‘Bhagvad Gita and its reality’ by Dr Sanjay Upadhaya will be held. Classical dance troupe of Sonia Parchure will stage popular play ‘Parinat Kawan Janamla’. Dr Smita Mahurkar will present her solo act ‘Black & White Rainbow’. The mandal will also organize ‘Maha Garba’ and ‘Nav Chandi Yadnya.’