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Pandemic takes the shine off temple and Bharatanatyam jewelry for Vadasery craftsmen

The jewelry makers, for whom the puja season is normally a busy time, have been left with no work

The September-January interval is normally a busy one for temple and Bharatanatyam jewelry makers of Vadasery, in Kanniyakumari district. Beginning with the puja season, their palms are full until the tip of the music-and-dance season in Kerala and Chennai.

This 12 months, nevertheless, the grasp craftsmen are dealing with a double whammy, with the lockdown and a steep hike within the costs of gold and silver.

“During a traditional puja season, I’m showered with orders from Kerala, the United States and different locations, as jewelry for Bharatanatyam is part of the salangai pooja carried out by the dancers. I might battle to finish the orders in time. Now, nevertheless, I’m left with no work,” lamented M. Muthusivam, a winner of the State authorities’s award. His father Manikkam is a national-award winner.

As many as 40 households in Vadasery are historically concerned in making temple and Bharatanatyam jewelry. They have been given the Geographical-Indication (GI) mark by the Geographical Indications Registry.

Hit by lockdown

Known as Vadasery maalai, the merchandise are in demand throughout the nation and overseas. Non-resident Indians who go to Chennai for the arangetram of their daughters throughout the December season purchase jewelry from them.

But the lockdown has pressured a lot of them to eke out a livelihood by taking on menial jobs.

“In the first two months [of the lockdown] I was able to pay salaries to the workers from my pocket. Diminishing orders made it impossible for me to pay them and they have taken up jobs such as white washing and carpentry,” mentioned S. Muthusamy, one other craftsman.

He has, up to now, made jewelry for the ISKCON temple in Bengaluru and Devanathaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

Making temple jewelry is a singular craft. The jewelry is made from 75% silver and 25% gold. First, they make moulds in silver, and fill it with wax for fixing semi-precious stones and small leaves made from gold. Precious stones are used for the ornaments. One facet of the jewelry is gold-plated to present them a final touch.

“A gram of gold costs ₹3,800. Since we get gold in the form of small leaves, the price goes up to ₹5,500. People who enquire about the jewellery do not place orders since the price has gone up,” mentioned Mr. Muthusivam.

S. Ramachandran, who has made jewelry for dancers like Padma Subramaniam and Chitra Visweswaran, mentioned he had not acquired even a single order within the present season.

“A set of ornaments for a Bharatanatyam dancer costs ₹1.20 lakh. Many of them opt for imitations as they can buy a set for ₹20,000. If the situation continues, it will be difficult for us to sustain work,” mentioned Mr. Ramachandran, requesting the federal government to obtain their merchandise via Poompuhar.

Faced with uncertainty, Mr. Muthusivam has requested his two sons — each engineering graduates — to not enter the household occupation. “How can I encourage them to take up my profession? I do not want them to suffer like me,” he mentioned.

Mr. Muthsamy mentioned he was planning to ask his cousin Thangavel to deal with a distinct job. “I do not want a loan or money; just a market for my products. Let the government arrange it through Poompuhar,” he mentioned.

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