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Wheels and clay spell success for potters

C. Jaishankar
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Manamadurai people receive orders from various districts

Magic touch: A potter working to give finishing touches to the Karthigai lamps in Manamadurai on Thursday. — Photo: L. Balachandar
Magic touch: A potter working to give finishing touches to the Karthigai lamps in Manamadurai on Thursday. — Photo: L. Balachandar

: Even though the advent of a modern lifestyle and apartment culture has weaned away a section of people towards scented candles for lighting Karthigai deepam, the good prospects of the kulalar or kuyavar community, who engage in clay lamp making for centuries, suggest that it has not lost its sheen.

Karthigai is one of the important festival providing the kulalar community an opportunity to earn their livelihood.

During the last few years, the sale of candle-type lamps had gained momentum basically due to the aggressive marketing techniques by those engaged in the business.

Some chose to lure customers by selling them at their doorsteps.

It now seems that the people have once again moved towards the clay lamps like before.

“It was true that we received low orders for clay lamps during the last few years due to the change of taste among the customers. But this year, we have received order for thousands of clay lamps. We are in a hurry to make them in order to fulfil our promise,” says M. Ganesan (55), a potter of Manamadurai, known for pot-making in the State.

He added that lighting ‘agal vilakku' symbolised the tradition of Tamils, which was followed for generations over the years.

Back to the tradition

The people preferred to follow the old tradition and it was spectacular to watch these clay lamps decorating the houses on Karthigai.

Moreover people felt that the clay lamp was not a use and throw item and could be kept safely for years.

He said the potters had received orders from Chennai, Tiruchi, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Tuticorin, Madurai and other districts.

He alone had dispatched 75,000 lamps to different traders in the southern districts.

He was of the view that the clay lamps and clay vessels made by the potters of Manamadurai were special basically due to the workmanship of the potters in the region and also due to the high quality clay available in and around Manamadurai.

Mr. Ganesan said that the biggest problem for them was the hurdles they faced in getting the clay due to the rules imposed by the authorities.

By bullock carts

Since the authorities refused to give license to transport clay in tractors, they were forced to transport clay by bullock carts.

The expenditure had increased from Rs.80 last year to Rs. 240 this year.

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