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Covid-19 Navratri restrictions leave potters out of business

By Sajana Nambiar, Kalyan
PUBLISHED ON OCT 02, 2020 12:01 AM IST

Sixty-year-old Dhanjibhai Kumbhar, who once used to be busy making garba pots (decorated earthen pots) ahead of the Navratri festival, is now sitting idle at his home. While he had no time to even relax earlier, he now has all the time in the world contemplating the future of his business.

With the Maharashtra government, on Tuesday, banning dandiya, garba and processions during Navratri, the artisans who usually look forward to some business during the festival have lost all the hopes.

“The ban has led to more tense atmosphere among us artisans as we have no other means to earn. Whatever we earn during the festival is saved for the rest of the year. With no garba and processions, who will buy the pots. Our business will be affected badly,” said Kumbhar.

The state had issued an SOP on how Navratri would be marked in the state. The state home ministry suggested that all dandiya, garba and cultural programmes should be cancelled this year to ensure the safety of the citizens. The government stated that all the festivals must be celebrated in a simple manner. The festivals of Navratri, Dussehra and Durga Puja are about to begin with Navratri scheduled from October 17, and Dussehra slated for October 25.

The garbo pots are placed overhead while performing garba dance during Navratri. People in Gujarati Kumbharwada locality have been keeping the tradition alive for the last 75 years.

With poor business during this year’s Janmashtami due to Covid-19 pandemic-led lockdown, artisans at the Gujarati Kumbharwada in Kalyan claim to have no orders for the upcoming Navratri also.

“Janmashtami this year saw very low sales and we fear the same during Navratri. I have not received a single order for the pots. People used to keep visiting Kumbharwada to select their favourite pots. This year, no one has come to us,” said Kumbhar, who runs this business with his wife.

The couple, however, has started making the pots, looking forward to some business in the coming days. Men in the family make earthen pots and women decorate them with different colours and designs.

The pots are decorated with shining glass materials, colourful threads, glitters and colour paints. They are in the price range of 25 to 400-500 depending on their sizes, colours and decorations.

The couple is not tech-savvy and hence are unable to take up the business online. Their two sons work in private companies and are not keen on taking up the business too.

“Today’s generation do not have interest in this traditional business. Taking the business online is not my cup of tea. The lockdown has completely affected my work,” said Kumbhar.

The couple makes the garbo pots outside their house, dries, colours and decorates them for customers. Every year, it gets order for around a thousand pots a month before the festival.

During Janmashtami, Kumbhar used to get orders for at least 500 handis, but this year only 200 were ordered. Of these, he could only sell 100 as many customers did not turn up. The remaining 100 handis are still kept at his house.

“During the festive season, I manage to earn at least 30,000 a month. This time, I could hardly earn anything. We are completely clueless if we should continue making the pots or not,” he added.

Harshada Jawre, 20, who comes to Gujarati Kumbharwada every year to make the pots and decorate them with her creativity, says she has no work this time and has earned very little.

“I have been doing this work for almost nine years and this is the first time there is no work at all. Usually, I earn from 8 to 100 for each pot, depending on the size and type of the pots. When there is a lot of order, I earn enough,” said Jawre, who lives near Kala Talao, Kalyan (W) with her mother and two brothers.

She added, “The Kumbharwada that used to look very attractive with beautiful pots during festive season now looks like a normal place. We used to work late nights, colouring the pots and enjoying it. This time there is no such atmosphere here.”

BOX

ABOUT GUJARATI KUMBHARWADA

Located opposite Kalyan’s Kala Talao, the narrow lanes of Gujarati Kumbharwada have potters producing thousands of clay lamps, pots that illuminate city homes during Navratri and Diwali festivals. Men in the family arrange the mud, shape them into pots and diyas. Women and college-going girls paint hundreds of brown lamps and pots into colourful and decorative ones. In the past, 50 families used to make diyas. Today, only around 10 of them do.

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