Earthen lamp cottage indutry in Tamil Nadu is facing slump!

India hand-crafted clay lamp,

Iraditional hand made lamp, India,

The future of those people who make earthen lamps (Agal Villakuu in local parlence in Tamil Nadu) is bleak due to poor market for them. The  decline is caused by the mass supply of machine-made traditional mud lamps that are widely used by the Hindus on festival days like Navaratri, Deepavali and Karthigai deepam, the latter accounts for the most. In the wake of  unexpected influx of machine-made mud lamps on the market at stake is the lives of thousands of people  who depend on the income from the sale. Earthen lamps come under cottage industries. 
India, earthen lamps to be fired.

Above image: A potter painstakingly arranges earthen oil lamps or 'diyas' at a workshop ahead of the  Diwali or Karthigai festival in Chennai - October, 2019. Diyas, which are lit and placed around the home, as part of the  festivals, are in great demand during the Diwali  and Karthigai deepam festivals. Lighting of oil lamps on such religious festivals is a must and mainly clay lamps are used.The former festival synbolizes the victory of the good over the evil, while the latter is believed to dispel darkness and ignorance, and brings in good helath and peace of mind.Like many festivals, these are based on trust and strong belief ......................

For centuries traditionally made mud lamps had been used by people across south India and until a few years ago, the mud lamp makers - mostly villagers had a good business, and now their livilihood is questionable. Consequently, these people who light up the lives of tens of thousands of homes have fallen on hard time. Their lamps are nolonger sought by the customers.     

On top of accute competition, there has been a shortage of the raw material - clay and the resultant rising price, make the lamp makers worry a lot. The glut of moulded lamps on the market is a serious threat to their survival in this business and they need to focus on any other business or job to keep their familes going with their sales  hitting an all time low in the recent past.

For the earthen lamp makers, the annual  Karthigai Deepam festival time is the best one for their business  and the sale will hit the peak. Every Hindu household  in Tamil Nadu  uses lots of mud lamps and the temples  across the state  also use Agal Vilakku on their premises during Karthigi Deepam. According to one old oil lamp maker, “The Agal Vilakku used to be the top priority in temples and houses. But the interest in the festival is slowly diminishing. The ban on lamps at temples is like adding fuel to the fire. Getting clay nowadays has become so difficult for us. We used to bring clay from Emur’s Seethapatty lake after a lot of struggle. On top of that, the price of one bullock-cart of sand is more than Rs 6000 per load.”