Tamil Nadu

Despite all odds, broom makers retain their legacy in Vellore

Around 40 families, mostly headed by women, in Pulianthope in Vellore are engaged in making grass brooms.

Around 40 families, mostly headed by women, in Pulianthope in Vellore are engaged in making grass brooms. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shades of neem trees on a small open plot encircled by asbestos roofed houses in Pulianthope, a thickly populated neighbourhood in the Old Town of Vellore, forms the work station for a group of women, both young and old. Their job is rigorous — cutting, sorting, cleaning and sizing before the thorny grass is made into a nice handmade broom.  Leaning behind rolled bundles of raw grass, S. Lakshmi, 62, works like a teenager as she sorts out dry grass to the required shape and size before rolling them into a broom. She hesitates to talk even to her colleagues during work hours because the more brooms she makes, the more she earns that day. In other words, they are paid one rupee for each broom they make. “On an average, each of us make 150-200 grass brooms everyday. Once the load of raw grass arrives, we don’t have holidays,” said V. Kavitha. Everyday, they start their work around 8 a.m. They divide their work based on interest and expertise in completing the process much faster. The grass is procured from tribals in Sivaganga, Pudukkottai and Madurai districts as people in southern Tamil Nadu prefer palm and coconut brooms than grass brooms. So, the grass is sold at low cost to the people here.

Despite struggles like low wages and seasonal work, around 40 families, mostly headed by woman, in the neighbourhood continue to work as the craft was passed on to them by their forefathers, who migrated to Vellore from Panruti due to famine and poverty in the late 19th century. Since then, the craft has flourished in the community. At present, key towns like Chittoor, Kadapa, Nellore, Vijayawada, Visakapattnam, Tirupati, Rajahmundry and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh are big buyers of grass brooms from Vellore. Bengaluru is not far behind as grass brooms from the fort town are used for ritual and household purposes there.

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Printable version | Jul 21, 2022 4:21:18 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/despite-struggles-broom-makers-retain-their-legacy-in-vellore/article65564455.ece