A profession with an aroma of pride

An artisan engaged in making a garland in Chintadripet on Wednesday. Photo: S. Thanthoni  

Expertly stringing sandalwood from Thanjavur and beads from Surat together, the men engaged in making the garlands sit in the ‘lace houses' dotting Ayya Mudali Street in Chintadripet and practise the profession passed down generations. For dignitaries they braid coins, cardamom, almond and camphor to the garlands.

“It is a symbol of great pride and honour,” says B.C. Satishkumar. “Besides the customary purpose of garlanding photos and dignitaries, the sandalwood garlands are nowadays also being used for honouring the dead.”

R. Dhanasekhar, another worker of this cottage industry, who earns Rs.200 a day, recounts the enthusiasm with which he learnt the traditional handicraft by observing his father at work. Earlier, the zari had to be tightly twisted and bound with the metal string and the attractive frame was designed. Things have become a lot easier now, he says.

“Once I came across a decorative cardboard piece at my shop and tried using it in a garland. The proprietors of my shop took it to the markets, and more orders started pouring in,” he says, lamenting that the job had become effortless and monotonous with the readymade gold-plated boards replacing those handmade.

“The sheen and respect the profession commanded is now lost,” he adds.

For others like R. Dakhsinamurthy, these are positive changes, as the price of zari has gone up. He also does not have to work all night when there are bulk orders from other States.

“The garlands from Chintadripet are much in demand in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong as flower garlands are expensive,” he says.

T. R. Radhakrishnan starts work on a garland to be used in a wedding with a prayer for the well-being of the couple. He equally enjoys making other garlands, be it for adorning photos or for dignitaries. The long list of VIPs his garlands have adorned include Queen Elizabeth, actors MGR and NTR.

“But it was a startling experience when guards carrying large guns came to our shop, followed by a Minister from Sri Lanka. The Minister, who was impressed by a garland he had received at a function, came to this small shop to collect at least 15 more of our handiwork,” according to Radhakrishnan, who has been working in the shop for five decades.

But, the ‘shawl culture' that has caught the fancy of the politicians has hit this cottage industry badly. Braving all this, the sandalwood garlands continue to be popular in weddings in Andhra Pradesh and other places as they enjoy a status-symbol and also last long, says Mr.Satishkumar.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 9:27:35 AM |

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