Tuesday, August 22, 2017

An Account Of Villages Where Clay Diyas Are Made And How Potters Are Toiling To Keep Its Trend Alive!

A little before the day starts, the wheels start rolling and their hands move in synchronisation to create magic with clay.  And, the hands toil hard till the sun sets late in the evening. The men and womenfolk of Basantpur village near Dhauli on the outskirts of the capital religiously follow the same routine every day. The only deviation comes when they take a break to either play cards or at times get together for a bhajan-kirtan.


Goes without saying, every year, before Diwali, the potters of Basantpur get busy with preparations of earthen diyas and other decorative materials for home. Most of the diyas and other clay materials available in the Bhubaneswar market come from this village. Of late, however, these villagers are not able to make the most of the festival of lights as the demand for clay diyas has come down considerably. While the entire country is chanting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra of ‘Make in India’, these potters are facing tough competition from ‘Made in China’ decorative lights and fancy lamps that have flooded the Diwali market. Clay diyas, in fact, are almost on the verge of becoming a thing of past as new varieties of lights have forayed into the market.


However, there are people who still feel nostalgic when it comes to clay diyas. “Lighting diyas is an integral part of our festival and for me, it still is indispensable. I clearly remember how I used to, as a child, run after my father to help him set up the diyas in a horizontal chronological manner on the terrace border wall. That was followed by pouring of oil into the diyas and then placing them in different parts of the house. My mother used to put colourful patterns on the floor and it was one-of-its-kind experience placing the diyas on top of the intricate designs, made meticulously by her. The other fond memory I have is about how my mother used to stop me from lighting the diyas as she was scared I would burn my hands whereas my father, being the adventurous one, used to convince her to allow her daughter cherish new experiences!” says Aishwarya Das Pattnaik, a communication professional in the capital.


Similarly retired Principal, Ruchika Pre-School, Vimaljit Dua tells us how she feels like going back to her childhood days when she looks at her grandchildren enjoying Diwali. “I always relish those memories with clay diyas, which I firmly believe can never be replaced by any fancy items of these days,” she adds.



These emotions notwithstanding, the fact remains that demand for clay diyas has come down which has affected potters and even retailers. “Making of diyas or pottery in general is a painstaking task. The potters mix and grind the mud first, mesh it, make it compact, and then mould it with their hands and feet. After putting it on the wheel and giving it proper shapes, it is dried and baked. Since it is a family affair, for the potters, the day starts at 4 am in the morning and continues till late in the evening. They really work hard. Pottery is a part of our art and culture and that’s the reason, potters continue to be in this profession although it no longer is profitable,” points out Ramakrushna Rout, a retail shopkeeper who buys the diyas from Basantpur and sells them at Unit 1 Market in Bhubaneswar.


He further adds, “Clay is getting costlier with each passing day and we are suffering losses. Even during Diwali, there is no demand. People are either into lights or they use the old preserved diyas limiting our scope to do good business.”


Like Basantpur, Nuagaon on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar is another village where people are into pottery. However, today, a substantial number of potters from the village are either turning into daily labourers or taking up some other work to make ends meet. It is only the Kumbharpada area of Puri district, where potters are surviving comfortably due to the demand from Jagannath temple. On the other hand, at Kumbhasahi in Old Town area, pottery is just a seasonal practice today as artists are losing interest due to the unfavourable market conditions. “There is nothing left for us which would motivate us to pursue this profession. Even during Diwali, we are not getting proper returns as people are getting more inclined towards fancy candles and electric lighting,” points out Basant Muduli from Basantpur village.


To this, Pradeep from Nuagaon adds, “As the demand has fallen, cost of raw materials has gone up. It’s now getting difficult to get the clay and wood. Ten years back, wood was available in plenty in forests. But now forests have been cleared and we are being forced to buy wood. As far as Diwali is concerned, it takes us three hours to make 1000 diyas but all our hard work goes down the drain as it is the Chinese lights that sell in the market.”