"Downturn" industry-Hinduism

2021-11-24 11:38:23 By : Mr. Genwee Yang

Vibrant finish: A lady puts the finishing touches on the kolu doll before the Navarathri festival in Kancheepuram. | Image source: Hindus

From September to October each year, as the northeast monsoon waits for the wet and windy to enter Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, the sky turns to gloomy gray, and Navarathri celebrations begin to add color to the family. Thousands of traditional craftsmen have made clay and pulp dolls, and they are eagerly waiting for discerning buyers to choose their dolls and add uniqueness to "kolu" at home.

Did you know that a traditional "kolu" doll maker started work on Vijayadasami on the 10th day of Navarathri to prepare his products for next year's festival? This is the workload of the dolls scattered on the sidewalks of Myrapol and Simambaram before the season.

“We first create a Ganesha idol, and then start making next year’s new dolls on Vijayadasami when the new ones begin to appear. Make the first model of the new doll, and then prepare the mold. These days, we use the stone used to make 300 sets Plaster molds. Earlier, we used Paris plaster molds and we could only make about 100 dolls," said Padma Shri winner VK Munusamy in Pondicherry.

According to him, the earliest molds were made of clay, brushed with neem oil and sprinkled with ashes. “Some of the molds have survived in Mayavaram for more than 110 years,” Mr. Munusamy added, who trained hundreds of women with terracotta warriors after the 2004 tsunami to help them recover their livelihoods.

By mid-January, in the Tamil month of Tamil, the first batch of doll suits were ready, and foreign orders were arriving one after another. "Between April and August, if we have time and air cargo, we will export dolls on board by container, otherwise. In addition, we also work for the local market. The positive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in online sales This is an advantage for doll manufacturers who have a fixed market abroad. The same is true in China. Now you can place orders online," said Munusami, a clay artist who can make a ganesha in one minute. Doll and won the UNESCO Prize in 2005.

Watch | Doll-making cluster severely affected by the epidemic

Every year, goods worth 5 crore are directly and indirectly exported to the United States, Australia, Singapore, Canada and Malaysia, etc., said Prabakaran, Regional Director (Supervisor) of the Office of the Southern Region Handicraft Development Commissioner, the Textile Department. "About 800-900 craftsmen and their families are involved in the work in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry," he said.

However, the pandemic has hit Chennai, Kanchipuram, Madurai, Thanjavur, Velupuram, Kudalor, Panruti, Nagkoir and Salem severely. Doll-making cluster business. As elsewhere, for the traditional craftsmen of Chennai and Kanchipuram, epidemics are the last straw that is well known. A series of changes in government policies, such as the introduction of goods and services taxes and the steady increase in raw material costs, have increased their problems.

M. Jayapal's grandfather made clay utensils, and his father graduated from making clay toys. He made paper dolls and opened up a niche customer base. In normal years, wealthy customers line up to place orders. But this year, "There have been no orders so far. Only 20% of my valued customers have called. Not many people have come in person. During the pandemic, I haven't made a doll," he said. The idol is not made for Vinayaka Chathurthi. "In 2019, when the government introduced a 12% goods and services tax, we were hit. Although it was reduced to 5% the following year, we had to pay a certain commission to the Cardi board of directors, but the sales were not that high. "He said.

Demonetization hit them first, but the goods and services tax exacerbated their plight. "The relaxation of the goods and services tax on annual income of up to Rs 2 million did not benefit us because the doll manufacturer’s income is not high. Although people only buy dolls within 40 days from Gokulashtami to Navarathri, we are required to show monthly In a good year, we will sell at a price of Rs 600,000 to Rs 700,000 and make a profit of 20%-25%,” said TS Vijayakumar, whose family started from Pondicherry more than 110 years ago. Li moved to Chennai.

His grandfather gained fame for shooting the movie "Avvaiyar". 25 years ago, when the Pollution Control Commission refused to open a kiln in the city, “we stopped making clay dolls and turned to pulp. In Kosapet, there used to be 100 doll manufacturers, but now there are only four or five,” the craftsman said. His fiberglass doll manufacturing business has also been hit by rising costs of raw materials such as resin this year.

His entire family, including Jagadeeswaran, a craftsman from Saidapet, was infected with COVID-19, forcing them to suspend work. "We can only survive on rice from cheap stores and government relief. Since I can't pay, my workers have gone home. Now my granddaughters are helping me. We are only making dolls from last year," Mr. Jagadeeswaran said. Said excitedly.

V. Siva, a craftsman in Aminjikarai, learned the art of making pulp dolls from his father. He now only sells 10 pieces instead of the usual 100 pieces before. He said that the government's decision to introduce new sales outlets hit artisans. Although sales in the showroom exceeded 10 million rupees, customer traffic dropped by more than two-thirds.

Kancheepuram's more than 50 doll maker families are in trouble. “Many of us were unable to repay last year’s loans. The closure of Krishna Jayanthi and Vinayaka Chathurthi temples was a blow to those who bought large idols from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh for sale in Chennai. Last year, due to heavy rains and heavy rains. In the flood, many doll makers lost the inventory stored in their warehouses. We need some kind of help from the government," said Baska, whose brother is also a doll maker and learned this craft from their father. Sankar, another doll manufacturer, said that since the dolls are not painted every day, they should supply electricity at domestic electricity prices.

The doll makers of Villianur in Pondicherry and Vandipalayam and Panruti in Cuddalore districts are worried about clearing up unsold inventory in the previous year. Due to the constraints of the pandemic, they believe that the upcoming Navrathri will not be a joyous moment. Buyers are hesitant, said national winner A. Sekar. "Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the doll manufacturers here have been working hard to continue, maintaining all preventive measures, and hope that business will resume as soon as possible. We must pay wages to employees who work 24/7. Most doll manufacturers have no other source of income. , The unsold inventory had a knock-on effect on our bank loans," he said.

Vandipalayam's doll maker is trying to increase sales through social media platforms. S. Karthikeyan, a third-generation toy manufacturer, said: “Those who buy dolls from faraway places will pay the advance payment first, and then pay in full. This has been the practice in the past few years. But this year, even this is impossible. , Because the demand has dropped sharply. Therefore, we have been convening old customers to persuade them to make at least small purchases to help the craftsmen get back on track."

Navi Suresh, a resident of Toronto, Canada, said the Navarathri celebrations in her area lasted for two weeks. “A lot of neighbors and friends come to see the dolls. We also visit other people. We buy dolls online and in local shops. We showed the dolls we bought during our visit to India,” she said.

In addition to earthen and pulp idols, the fourth-generation doll maker and terracotta maker S. Balamurugan also makes toys for children. 'Soppu saaman' is a toy for children to play, usually part of'kolu'. This set contains about 11 clay objects such as pots, pans, spoons and kitchen utensils. As parents purchase'soppu saaman' to keep their children focused after online classes, the demand for these toys has increased since the blockade was announced. "

However, the Vilacheri artisans in Madurai and Thanjavur did not lose everything. They worked late at night and at least could deliver some dolls to the market. In the gloomy skies and empty streets of Villacherri in the southern suburbs, the small room of S. Muthusamy in the two-story house on Velar Street was packed with colorful dolls ready to welcome Navarathri. Kann Pona Pokkile, a happy old song by MGR, plays in the background, and six women are making gentle jokes.

The pandemic has regressed their holiday sales. But hope drives them. "Our new doll is ready, and we have repainted the remaining inventory from last year," said 20-year-old M. Priyadarshini, a third-generation craftsman who is coloring Vilacheri's famous doll. Vilacheri is home to more than 180 families who have inherited a doll-making tradition for nearly 60 years.

M. Malathi said that pottery is the eight generations of her family. "Our ancestors made mann paanai (clay pots) or worked on gopuram temples," she said. Her husband Muthusamy says this training is passed on from generation to generation. Vilacheri artworks are highly regarded for their bright colors, glazes and beauty. “Our mastery of the idol’s sacred eyes and facial expressions makes us unique,” ​​M. Ramalingam points out, his family was one of the first five people in the village to turn to making dolls in the early 1960s.

The story happened sometime in the late 1950s when the famous clay craftsmen Kannan and Thangavel Pathar came to work at Chithira Kala, the first film studio in Madurai. Natarajan Velar from Vilacheri improved his skills and taught villagers. By the mid-1960s, the first doll-making units appeared. Although the business of the craftsmen is not very prosperous, the reputation of their dolls has not diminished. "Our'kolu' doll has an emotion," S. Meena, who has been a craftsman for 30 years, asserts. "We cater to every unique need of our customers," Mahalingam said. "NRI ordered custom paper dolls because they are easy to transport."

M. Saravana, a customer from Karaikudi, established contact with the Vilacheri artisans, who also ensured meticulous packaging and timely delivery. Scenes depicting Dasavatharam and Ashtalakshmi are popular arrangements in the home. Big dolls of gods such as Siva, Parvathi and Murugan have always been the most popular. N. Murugesan said that Nava Narasimha is in greater demand this year.

Since the mid-2000s, competition from plastic and battery-powered toys has hit the doll industry in Thanjavur, limiting the sales of traditional toys to festival seasons and regional tourism. The blockade will only make the family engaged in doll making worse. In the early 19th century, Raja Serfoji, the ruler of Maratha, brought the art of making these dolls to Thanjavur, which will soon become a footnote to India's rich history of folk handicrafts. S. Bhopath is a fifth-generation craftsman who has been making uruttai and thalai-atti dolls at Punanallur Mariamman Kovil, 6 kilometers away from Thanjavur, for 45 years. “Of the more than 40 families who used to make a living here, only two or three are left in business,” he said. "During the normal Navarathri season, we can easily produce 10,000 clay dolls of 11-12 varieties. Due to travel and travel bans, none of us can sell our dolls."

The Thanjavur doll was awarded a place in the Geographical Indication Registry in 2009 and embodies a unique combination of modern aesthetics and ingenious engineering-a lightweight body made of cassava flour, pulp and plaster of Paris-cooked and kneaded to a scones Consistency dough. Each toy is made by pressing the rolled out "doll dough" into a cement mold and sprinkling it with chalk powder at will. The dried half is reinforced with paper on the back and glued together with a homemade adhesive, which is based on tapioca flour.

The dancer doll has a heavier base-shaped foot. On the other hand, the uruttai toy uses a bowl-shaped clay base (formed using a mold) to ensure that the doll stays upright.

The craftsmen wanted a system to obtain an advance payment for the purchase of raw materials. "Farmers receive subsidies for agricultural inputs. We must also obtain raw materials at subsidized prices. The federal government must exempt "kolu" dolls from goods and services tax. More steps are needed to promote our products. Tamil Nadu has only two haat ( There is only one open-air market in Pondicherry. We urge the government of Tamil Nadu to provide houses for craftsmen who have working spaces in the front yard," Mr. Bascar said.

Mr. Prabakaran from the Office of the Handicrafts Development Commissioner stated that the center has donated 536 crore rupees for the hat construction of Mamallapuram and Kanniyakumari. This year alone, it has provided 500,000 rupees worth of kits to artisans in the state. "We do have solutions that artisans can seek. The state government can contact us about special projects. Soon we will start special projects in Kalahasti and Puducherry."

How did the festival come?

Raja Ravi Varma's influence on dolls

(R. Sujatha from Chennai; Soma Basu from Madurai; Nahla Nainar from Tiruchi; and S. Prasad from Pondicherry)

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Printable version | November 24, 2021 5:08:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/an-industry-in-the-dolldrums/article36676467.ece

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