FOR over 80 years, a little colony of potters in Kalyan has worked overtime in the weeks preceding the festival of lights. This is when the annual business spikes, as demand for earthen diyas or lamps rises.
Mahendra Prajapati, who belongs to one of the 15 families who reside in Kalyan’s Kumbharwada, said his grandfather shifted to Kalyan in 1953. His family belongs to Gujarat, as do all the families in the colony. “We make pots, diyas and various other earthen items, with our hands.
These are sold during the festive seasons of Navratri, Diwali and Ganpati, a business that has passed down through decades and generations,” said Prajapati.
An ancestral occupation for the colony’s residents, the methods used for making the items, drying them in the sun and baking them in the kiln are all traditional.
The potters of Kumbharwada know their style of pottery is rapidly declining, especially with modern lamps and electrical fixtures easily available at competitive prices. “It is our family business. The whole family is involved in pot-making. It’s also an art that we hand down from one generation to the next. I fear this art could vanish in coming years if our incomes don’t rise,” said another potter.
The women in Kumbharwada are involved in the baking process as well as in putting the finishing touches to the goods, including decorative embellishments and paint.
“Our kids are now thinking of taking up jobs as we hardly make enough money to satisfy our daily needs,” said Prajapati.
The biggest complaint in Kumbharwada is the replacement of the handmade earthen diyas with Chinese diyas that are cheap and flood the market ahead of Diwali.
According to the potters, their family incomes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in recent years, since the Chinese lights began to be sold in the suburban markets.
“My forefathers never faced issues of livelihood while earning a living through sale of these handmade pottery items. But now, we have to think about our future,” lamented Prajapati.