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Ravan Means Big Business for Some

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.

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Three months of hard work that will go up in flames in three minutes. But Ravan, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath mean big money for some ironsmiths and painters in Delhi’s Tagore Garden.

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“I’m a Rajput from Maharana Pratap’s kingdom, Chittorgarh to be precise”, Vijay tells me as he awkwardly balances a cranky baby and neon pink chart paper.

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
35-year-old Vijay makes Ravans for three months and works with iron, making hammers and sickles for the rest of the year. (Photo: The Quint)

He’s in the business of making Ravans and having sold 21 sets of heads (10 heads per set, of course) this festive season, the bleary-eyed father-of-two is relieved that the “48-hour-long work days” have finally come to an end.

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
Vijay’s impeccably mannered children are on leave from school due to Dusshera and serve as good assistants. (Photo: The Quint)

The 2-kilometre Najafgarh stretch in West Delhi’s Tagore Garden looks surreal. Massive heads to be fitted on 30 to 40-feet high Ravans are lined up, waiting to be loaded onto trucks which will take them to UP, Punjab, Haryana and, of course, the multiple Ramlila venues across Delhi.

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
The brightly wrapped Ravans survive the busy traffic and dust of the main road. (Photo: The Quint)

Work starts at least three months earlier, in July. Artists like Vijay and his five brothers, who run their own roadside studios next to each other, acquire the bamboo, cut it, and shave it till it’s flexible enough to be bent and shaped but tough enough to be kept tied in place.

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
Vijay makes Chhota Bheem and other such toys with wood, but takes out 10 days to paint the Ravan heads, which gets him extra money. (Photo: The Quint)

I started out making Ravans that were no more than 2.5-feet tall. God taught to me how to make these Ravans. I graduated to making 5-10 feet tall Ravans and now I make them as tall as 40-feet. I have no Guru, but my entire family – the women and children – all pitch in.
– Vijay, Ironsmith

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
It takes about 10 to 30 minutes to paint a small Ravan head and about an hour to paint the big guy. (Photo: The Quint)

The same pride reflects in 23-year-old Ravi Kumar’s face as he paints the danger sign (eyes) on a small Ravan head. He makes wooden toys for a living, but ten days before Dusshera, he camps here at Tagore Garden. “Hunar koi nahi sikhata, hunar apne aap hi seekhta hai insaan (Nobody teaches someone talent, talent is learned by oneself)”, he says with sniper-like focus.

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
The artists make Rs 6,000 to 7,000 for each Ravan and end up making roughly 20 to 30 each year. (Photo: The Quint)

It takes about half-an-hour and I get paid Rs 150 to paint a small-sized Ravan head. I make about Rs 2000 a day. In ten days, I’m able to make Rs 20,000. I make wooden toys like Chota Bheem etc for school children and compared to that, I’m able to make good money here.
– Ravi Kumar, Painter

Three months of hard work goes up in flames in 3 minutes. The Quint visits Delhi’s Ravan-making hub.
Only the teeth are left to be painted on this monster. (Photo: The Quint)

How do they feel about all their hard work going up in flames?

Both shrug, smile and say there will be more next year.

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