Photos: Dim Diwali fervor impedes business in Delhi’s Kumhar Gram

Kumhar Gram, better known as potters’ colony in west Delhi’s Uttam Nagar area, is going through an existential crisis, with dipping sales of earthenware even during the festive season, the time when potters expect to reap maximum revenue. Consequently, the new generation is moving away from pottery and taking up other professions. The potters blame the decreased sales on the growing fascination for Chinese lights and lack of encouragement of their craft from the authorities. Almost 40% of the families here have already given up pottery.

Updated On Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST
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A shop at potters’ village at Bindapur, near Dwarka in New Delhi. While in the last few years, Kumhar Gram, India’s largest potters’ colony, has become a tourist hub, with several tour operators and guides bringing in foreigners for an “unmatched cultural experience”, the potters there are struggling for survival. Diwali, the biggest sale season, has failed to bring any cheer their way. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

A shop at potters’ village at Bindapur, near Dwarka in New Delhi. While in the last few years, Kumhar Gram, India’s largest potters’ colony, has become a tourist hub, with several tour operators and guides bringing in foreigners for an “unmatched cultural experience”, the potters there are struggling for survival. Diwali, the biggest sale season, has failed to bring any cheer their way. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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Potter Shayam Lal Prajapati, 44, at his workshop. Owing to the decreased sales over the past years, Prajapati now also cycles a rickshaw to earn a living. “These days there are few takers for our earthenware, and, with my earnings dipping like never before, I have been forced to cycle rickshaws. I make some money only during Diwali, which too has dried up this year,” he said. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

Potter Shayam Lal Prajapati, 44, at his workshop. Owing to the decreased sales over the past years, Prajapati now also cycles a rickshaw to earn a living. “These days there are few takers for our earthenware, and, with my earnings dipping like never before, I have been forced to cycle rickshaws. I make some money only during Diwali, which too has dried up this year,” he said. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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Potter Lal Chand, 47, puts final touches to an idol. “Less than a week to go for Diwali, but most of our stock remains unsold. I have about 1,00,000 unsold diyas. Every year, we start making them four months before Diwali, a period during which we hope to earn enough to see us through the year because hardly anything sells during rest of the year,” said Chand. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

Potter Lal Chand, 47, puts final touches to an idol. “Less than a week to go for Diwali, but most of our stock remains unsold. I have about 1,00,000 unsold diyas. Every year, we start making them four months before Diwali, a period during which we hope to earn enough to see us through the year because hardly anything sells during rest of the year,” said Chand. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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Harkishan, 63, who is called “pradhan” by everyone in the colony, blames shifting tastes and sensibilities towards traditional artisans. “Plastic, glass, and aluminium wares have replaced earthenware in homes. There is a declining appreciation for handmade and handcrafted items,” said Harkishan, who has won several awards and is also a “Shilp Guru”, an honour conferred by the Union government on a master craftsperson. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

Harkishan, 63, who is called “pradhan” by everyone in the colony, blames shifting tastes and sensibilities towards traditional artisans. “Plastic, glass, and aluminium wares have replaced earthenware in homes. There is a declining appreciation for handmade and handcrafted items,” said Harkishan, who has won several awards and is also a “Shilp Guru”, an honour conferred by the Union government on a master craftsperson. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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“Many potters here are also a part of the problem; they are reluctant to learn new techniques, and improve the quality of their wares to make them more competitive in the market. They first need to treat themselves as artisans and not manual labourers. Our colony has many talented potters,” said Harkishan, who has travelled to countries such as Germany, Spain and Japan on government-sponsored tours. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

“Many potters here are also a part of the problem; they are reluctant to learn new techniques, and improve the quality of their wares to make them more competitive in the market. They first need to treat themselves as artisans and not manual labourers. Our colony has many talented potters,” said Harkishan, who has travelled to countries such as Germany, Spain and Japan on government-sponsored tours. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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What is weighing heavily on their minds is not just lukewarm Diwali sales, but “an existential threat” facing the colony. In 2017, the colony came under National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) scanner after residents of neighbouring Bindapur village filed a case against the potters claiming that they were running industrial units in residential areas and creating pollution. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

What is weighing heavily on their minds is not just lukewarm Diwali sales, but “an existential threat” facing the colony. In 2017, the colony came under National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) scanner after residents of neighbouring Bindapur village filed a case against the potters claiming that they were running industrial units in residential areas and creating pollution. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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A shopkeeper engaged on his mobile phone as finished products await buyers. Ved Prakash Prajapati, another resident, said it was wrong to call the potters as “polluters” for following traditional methods of pottery. “Almost 40% of the families here have already given up pottery, and if our kilns are shut down, we will be forced to move back to our native village in Rajasthan,” said Ved Prakash. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

A shopkeeper engaged on his mobile phone as finished products await buyers. Ved Prakash Prajapati, another resident, said it was wrong to call the potters as “polluters” for following traditional methods of pottery. “Almost 40% of the families here have already given up pottery, and if our kilns are shut down, we will be forced to move back to our native village in Rajasthan,” said Ved Prakash. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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Jaikishan, another award-winning potter, at his workshop. “There was a time I was invited every year by Gandhi Darshan to show visitors how a potter’s wheel works. I think the time is not far when our colony will become a museum of a lost art,” he said. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 22, 2019 10:14 AM IST

Jaikishan, another award-winning potter, at his workshop. “There was a time I was invited every year by Gandhi Darshan to show visitors how a potter’s wheel works. I think the time is not far when our colony will become a museum of a lost art,” he said. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

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