It is that time of year again, when the victory of good over evil is celebrated with religious fanfare. The festival of Dusshera is marked by the burning of effigies of Ravana, who is depicted as a 10-headed demon king in the Hindu epic Ramayana. As the epic goes, Ravana abducted Lord Ram’s wife Sita, and the festival is a celebration of Ram’s defeat of Ravana.

Ravana happens to be a source of livelihood for several craftsmen who make his effigies in Delhi. Most of Ravan’s effigies that go up in smoke every Dusshera are made in the western part of the city. Titarpur Tagore Garden and Beriwala Bagh in Subhash Nagar – both in West Delhi – are well known markets where Ravan’s effigies can be bought. Customers from across Delhi-NCR and sometimes even from states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh flock to the area to purchase the effigies of the demon king.

The work on the effigies – made from bamboo, iron mesh and paper – begins months in advance. They come in varying sizes and shapes, depending on the orders placed by customers.

Strips of bamboo held together by wire are used to make an effigy's skeletal frame.
Strips of bamboo held together by wire are used to make an effigy's skeletal frame.
One effigy can take days to make depending on its size and shape.
One effigy can take days to make depending on its size and shape.
After the bamboo skeleton is put in place, workers start fixing paper on it with glue. Several layers of paper are used to make an effigy.
After the bamboo skeleton is put in place, workers start fixing paper on it with glue. Several layers of paper are used to make an effigy.
An unfinished head of Ravana lies in West Delhi's Beriwala Bagh area. The cost of the effigies depend on its size. Those as tall as 60 feet can cost upto Rs 40,000 per piece.
An unfinished head of Ravana lies in West Delhi's Beriwala Bagh area. The cost of the effigies depend on its size. Those as tall as 60 feet can cost upto Rs 40,000 per piece.
After the skeletal frame is made, paper or cloth is wrapped around it and then painted in different colours.
After the skeletal frame is made, paper or cloth is wrapped around it and then painted in different colours.
Most workers are seasonal craftsmen who go back to their regular professions once the festival is over.
Most workers are seasonal craftsmen who go back to their regular professions once the festival is over.
Ravana effigies come in varying shapes and sizes. Some are customised according to the needs of buyers.
Ravana effigies come in varying shapes and sizes. Some are customised according to the needs of buyers.
The finished effigies are then transported to their destination where they are assembled by experts.
The finished effigies are then transported to their destination where they are assembled by experts.
The effigies are stuffed with firecrackers and other flammable substances before they are sett alight.
The effigies are stuffed with firecrackers and other flammable substances before they are sett alight.
Schoolboy Jugnu Kumar (not in picture) made this small Ravan effigy to earn some pocket money. Effigies like this can fetch around Rs 500 each.
Schoolboy Jugnu Kumar (not in picture) made this small Ravan effigy to earn some pocket money. Effigies like this can fetch around Rs 500 each.
Ravana effigies await customers near Tagore Garden metro station in West Delhi. The area serves as a hub of craftsmen who make them a few months ahead of the festival.
Ravana effigies await customers near Tagore Garden metro station in West Delhi. The area serves as a hub of craftsmen who make them a few months ahead of the festival.

All photographs by Aabi Shafi.