The Odisha village that lights up only during Diwali

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Nov 10:

Be it weddings, thread ceremonies, Dussehra or Diwali, earthen lamps or deepas, are sought after feverishly. And for earthen lamps, one needs potters. Odisha has a tiny village of potters, called ‘Basantapur’. The residents of this village wait eagerly for such events and festivals, because that is the only time when ‘Basantapur’ bustles with noise and activity. People throng this village, 10 km away from the state capital to buy deepas. However, after Diwali, the village and its residents become redundant. For the potters of ‘Basantapur’, making ends meet is a Herculean task.

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A family of potters sells five to ten thousand deepas, on an average.  Generations have kept this traditional art form alive amongst themselves. However, their living condition is appalling. They have a BPL card and are entitled to just rice, under this scheme. Even though, some people own lands, the fear of floods keeps them from tilling them. Similarly, the educated youth have no employment either.

“We have been doing this work since childhood. Instead of looking for a job outside, the entire family is involved in this work. But, we have trouble finding clay. The same clay that was free now costs us Rs. 1000-1500 per trip. This hardly gives us any margin to make profits,” laments Kashinath Muduli.

Chandrasekhar Muduli adds, “Potters have never been rewarded for their craft, even though all other types of artists are honoured for their contributions. Plus, the government does not supplement us with modern tolls and equipments to upgrade our skill. This will also aid in earning our livelihood. Also, there is no market for us to sell our products.”

It is indeed ironic that, a village that is responsible for lighting up many households during the festival of lights, is plunged into darkness amidst poverty and unemployment.