Khushi Sodhi, the 13-year-old daughter of a corporate-executive father and a social-worker mother, insists on having her personal space. A resident of the posh Vasant Kunj locality in South Delhi, she already owns a personal Mac, an iPod and an iPhone.

“Her demands are never-ending,” complained Gurpreet Sodhi, her mother.

But Khushi Sodhi's latest demand was a surprise even for her parents. This festival season, she wanted a personal Ravana effigy. The Class 8 was not thrilled by by the prospect of going to Old Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds to witness the burning of Ravana’s effigy to celebrate Dussehra.

As all Indians know, Ravana was the mythical king of Lanka who kidnapped Sita, Lord Rama’s wife, in the epic Ramayana. Effigies of the ten-headed demon will be set afire, mainly across North India, to mark the victory of good over evil on Saturday.

Khushi Sodhi is not unusual. This year, several Delhi residents commissioned personal Ravana effigies from craftsmen in the city's Titarpur village.

Located in south-west Delhi, Titarpur is the biggest market for Ravana effigies in North India. It serves customers in Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and sometimes even sends effigies abroad. Before Dussehra, hundreds of labourers arrive in the village from across the country to build the effigies.

In recent years, the effigy-makers of Titarpur have been witnessing a dramatic change in their clientele: most of the new buyers are individuals.  In the past, Ramlila committees  representing entire localities would  place orders at Titarpur for community celebrations. Most would ask for effigies that were about 30 feet high, though some could buy statues that were as tall as 60 feet.

But orders for large effigies are diminishing every year. “Most of the demand is now generated by individual buyers who want relatively small effigies about 10- to 15-feet high which they can burn in small gatherings with family and friends,” said Sanjay Sharma, who has been in the effigy-making business for the last two decades.

Until a few days ago, Sharma had received orders for 32 effigies. Of them, 15 are for Ravanas that are 10- to 15-feet tall. He has also made a few extra 10-foot high effigies to cater to last-minute buyers.

A 10-foot Ravana cost around Rs 500 while a 70-foot effigy of the demon king costs around Rs 80,000. This is excluding fire crackers and without any customisation.

Quest for comfort

Among the prime drivers of change is the middle-class quest for comfort. “Traditional fairs are overcrowded,"  said Gagan Sikka, General Secretary of the Resident Welfare Association of the Delhi Development Authority colony in Vikaspuri in south-west Delhi, which has ordered its own effigy. "No one wants to attend them with family. Security concerns as well as lack of basic facilities like vehicle parking, drinking water and sanitation have made traditional fairs unappealing."

His colony will burn 15-foot effigy on Saturday. The association is also organising a dinner in the colony, paid for per plate by the residents. “This is our way of celebrating Dussehra peacefully,” Sikka added.

The change in sizes isn't the only new aspect of Ravana. Traditionally, effigies were made of only one colour ‒  black. But now buyers are beginning to ask for specific colours and are willing to pay for it.

“Besides personalised colours, buyers also ask for specific features to be incorporated into the effigy," revealed Mahesh Duggal, a second-generation effigy maker in Titarpur. "The most common customisation is pointed moustaches.”

That's exactly what the Sodhi family has asked for on their Rs 1,000 effigy.

“We couldn’t have thought of having a personal Ravana effigy in our childhood," said Gurpreet Sodhi. "Times are changing fast. Let’s see how our grandchildren celebrate Dussehra."