Will granting the Geographical Indication (GI) tag to two iconic, but dying products from Tamil Nadu be able to revive them?
The products — the Dindigul lock and the Kandangi saree — were given the GI tag by the Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai on Thursday. While the application for the lock was made by the Dindigul Lock, Hardware and Steel Furniture Workers Industrial Co-operative Society Limited, the Amarar Rajeev Gandhi Handloom Weavers Co-operative Production and Sales Society Limited filed the application for the Kandangi saree.
It remains to be seen whether the GI tag will infuse fresh interest in these two products and improve their performance in the market, and thereby revive the workers dependent on these products.
“Dindigul lock and Kandangi saree were registered today,” Chinnaraja G. Naidu, Deputy Registrar of Geographical Indications, said on Thursday. He added that both these products were losing their sheen in the market, and the GI tag would help them get some recognition.
The famous Dindigul locks are known throughout the world for their superior quality and durability, so much so that even the city is called Lock City.
The abundance of iron in this region is the reason for the growth of the lock-making industry.
Though machine-made locks are easily available, government institutions like prisons, godowns, hospitals and even temples use the older pattern locks. These lock manufacturing units are limited to an area of 5 km in and around Dindigul. There are over 50 varieties of locks made by the artisans.
But over the last few years, this industry has been slowly dying due to competition from Aligarh and Rajapalayam. Marketing these locks has also been a challenge. A. Premkumar, a third-generation lock maker, who runs Jegankumar Industries in Nagal Nagar, said, “The lock industry in Dindigul is focussed [more] on quality than production (referring to quantity). Aligarh replicates mechanisms from here but produces in large quantities. The GI tag will help people differentiate Dindigul locks from others.” He added that several people have moved away from the craft due to meagre wages and waning demand.
Currently, this industry is worth over ₹20 crore per annum.
The Kandangi saree, manufactured in Karaikudi taluk in Sivaganga district, is facing challenges similar to Dindigul lock’s. V. Krishnaveni, who runs Sri Mahalakshmi Handloom Weaving Centre in Kanadukathan, said the GI tag for the Kandangi saree will help revive lost patronage. The market is flooded with sarees that are woven in other parts of the State and look like the Kandangi saree.
The original Kandangi saree is manually made using a winding machine, loom, shuttle and bobbin. It is a team effort of the families who live in the town of Karaikudi and it forms part of their livelihood. These sarees are characterised by the large contrast borders, and some of them are known to have borders covering as much as two-thirds of the saree.
The sarees are usually around 5.10 meters – 5.60 meters in length. The Kandangi sarees exude brilliant colours like bright yellow, orange, red and a minimal black in the traditional pattern of stripes or checks with broad borders woven in coarse cotton. Over the years, more interesting colours have been introduced for the saree, which is worn in a particular manner.