A steady stream of customers visit shops in Vilachery on Sunday morning to buy clay and papier-mache dolls, with Navaratri fast approaching.
The village, which is home to 200 families of artisans, is throbbing as the streets are dotted with colourful idols wrapped and packed, ready to be sent to various places. The demand for Kanchi Athi Varadhar dolls are higher this year, says M. Ramalingam, an artisan, who has been in the business for 35 years. “The customers are frequenting the area for custom-made dolls. This year customers have placed orders for innovative sets like dolls depicting the life of goddess Meenakshi and a gram panchayat model,” he says.
Customers from across the State, including places such as Theni, Dindigul and Sivakasi, and even from far away Bengaluru visit the shops to buy dolls. “I have come from Bengaluru just to buy dolls from Vilachery as the dolls are economical. Unlike the retail shops, we can buy custom-made dolls here,” says S. Muthukumar.
Artisans say while the economic clay dolls are preferred for ‘kolu’ arrangements, the papier-mache dolls are preferred for packing. “I pack and send the papier-mache dolls to my daughter residing abroad,” says P. Malathi, a resident of Kochadai, who has been buying dolls at the village for the past 12 years.
The deteriorating quality of clay, however, is a cause of concern for the artisans. “Due to lower storage of water in tanks, the quality of clay is deteriorating. We can only make clay toys which are not more than 12 inches high,” says J. Kaveri, an artisan.