Hope streams its way into the challenges of darkness
Deepawali, a Sanskrit word which means rows of lights. Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil. A festival of lights with many myths, regional traditions and legends behind the celebration. The houses, temples, offices and streets are decorated with an innumerable number of candles, lanterns and diyas which are kept burning day and night. The nation believes the dark nights will light a glow with happiness, wealth and prosperity in their lives.
Effect of corona on potters
This year the celebrations are not likely to be grand and exquisite. The muted glory has taken away the charm from everyone’s face. Pottery, is one of the small-scale business giving livelihoods to rural and poor urban families across India. Potters are adversely affected due to coronavirus lockdown this year. The demand is far less than what they witnessed during the past festive seasons.
A Jaipur based 80-year-old couple who is running their family business of selling pottery products for more than 70 years. Every person in their community is engaged and contribute their knowledge of the craft, the material and the skill which is woven into the lives and the cultural history of the people.
Recently, we visited their workplace and had a conversation with them. We found some interesting anecdotes and tales about their business and the craft.
What is history of your art form, according to you?
This art form came into existence when popular legend Rama triumphantly returns to the kingdom of Ayodhya with his wife – with the story saying that the villagers welcomed their triumphant return home with thousands of glowing oil lamps on a moonless night. This is why candles, lamps and other forms of earthenware are so widely used to mark the festival and livelihood.
How many generations have you been involved in this art form?
According to Moti Lal, his grandfather and father had started the business of with making earthen pots (Matka). Back in the years it was the only source in the houses as a water storage cooler and they reused the wastage material as a cooking utensil. Now, he had taken forward their traditional custom since childhood by selling more contemporary products with new techniques and designs.
Do you make the products yourself? Or do you buy them?
“No, we don’t make the products. My father used to make but from last many years we purchase from other potters. Most of the time we get from same potter because he gives the best price compared to other potters in the market. Now a days there are very few traditional potters in the colony who continue to eke for livelihood by churning the potter’s wheel”. Moti Lal said.
Have you seen this situation or similar difficult times before?
“Every year we face some or the other difficulties in this profession through techniques, material and prices. But this year is very much different. The demand is much lower than expected. The people are not willing to step out from their homes instead preferring online shopping to avoid contact.” said Phoolna Devi
What challenges have you faced / are facing this year?
“We are taking risk by investing our money for buying products for sale during Diwali. This is the only time we make good money out of it. These earthen lamps would usually be sold ahead of the festival but this time the sale looks difficult in the pandemic. Everything is in God’s hand,” said another potter.
Do you think that pottery needs upgradation, in form and content?
From then to now, many materials and techniques come and inventions are introduced, but no one can replace this old art of making a pot of soil. The most sustainable and ecofriendly product I have ever seen. There’s no doubt that ceramic items last much longer than other artifacts that were crafted from less-durable materials. The potters are already started making products on machines due to cost effective and time management.
With many thanks to Ajay Khandewal (story) and Kritin Khandewal (photography).