October 12, 2021 10:30:48 am
With foreign tourists yet to begin visiting the Taj Mahal again, many artisans in Agra have switched to carving idols of gods and goddesses to earn a living.
After the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, they have been working with limited labour force in difficult conditions but hope to see a boost in the tourism sector in the near future.
Chandra Bhan, an owner of a factory at Panchkuyian Nala in Agra city, said nearly 70 per cent sales have gone down as compared to pre-COVID levels.
“Before COVID-19, there were sales of 600 pieces of miniature models of Taj Mahal in a month, but now after the pandemic it has been reduced to around 200 pieces.”
“The miniature models are available in sizes ranging from three inches to 12 inches. The wholesale price of the models are between Rs 50 to as high as Rs 1,200 per piece,” he said.
Foreign tourists mostly buy miniature models of the Taj Mahal as a souvenir but since the closure of international flights, the demand is far too low, Bhan said.
Rajat (28), an artisan who helps his family in making miniatures of the iconic monument for the last 10 years, is now busy cutting big stones to make an eye-catching ‘Nandi’ idol or ‘Shivling’.
Speaking to PTI, Rajat said, “There is very little demand now for miniature models of the Taj Mahal. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the movement of international tourists due to which demand has seen a drastic change.”
Rajat further said, “We have been in this business from the time of my grandfather for more than 40 years. There are six family members associated with this work.”
Sunil Kumar, Rajat’s uncle said, “The pandemic has severely affected the handicraft business. There were more than 12 artisans who used to work, but these days only 5-6 are still employed. Besides us, there are about 10-12 families who make idols of gods instead of miniature models of the Taj. They are able to manage expenses only after changing the business.”
Another family, who did not want to be identified, echoed Rajat and Sunil’s views.
“Demand for the idols of gods is fairly satisfactory in the market. So, we have decided to change the business. When the tourism sector of Agra will boom and demand for miniature models of the Taj Mahal goes up, we will start making it again,” they said.
Naveen Kumar, an artisan, said the main wholesale markets for buying miniature models of Taj Mahal and other marble products are at Gokulpura near Kuns Gate and Panchkuiyan Nala in the city.
An emporium owner near Taj Mahal, who did not wish to be named, said, “Everyday, we pray to God that these days shall pass with the hope that the footfall of both national and international tourists increases in Agra. It will help artisans, tour guides, vendors, hotels, emporium owners and others associated with the tourism business.”
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