Navratra festival, a boon for filigree artisans in Orissa

Cuttack (Orissa), Oct.12 (ANI): The Hindu festival of Navratra has come as a boon for filigree artisans in Orissa.

Filigree is an art of twisting and turning gold and silver threads into three-dimensional jewellery, but is more popular in creating religious motifs.

Usually filigree motifs made of silver or gold thread are used as embellishments on the attire adorned by the idols of Hindu deities, placed in pandals across the country.

This filigree work was used only in the making of crowns, ornaments for the deities or small accessories. But with the passage of time the decline in demand forced many artisans to leave for greener pastures.

The Navratra festival, however, has literally brought the shine back to the fading art.

The organisers of the nine-day festival this year decided to use filigree work to decorate the make-shift marquees which dot markets and residential areas.

It has enhanced the demand of the artwork as much as that today artisans find it difficult to finish the orders on time.

"Now they have got sufficient work, for earlier they were sitting with empty hand. Now, they have got sufficient work, even they cannot give the work, demand is so high," said Suryakant Singhania, president of the festival committee at Balubazar in eastern Orissa state.

Filigree work, which was slowly fading away, has now got the much-needed boost as it is increasingly used to decorate backdrops in innumerable pandals across the State.

Earlier, brocades were used to decorate pandals. But they don't last much, putting a financial burden on the organisers every year.

But now the organisers say that they get the value for the money spent on decorations as filigree works last a long time.

"Earlier we used to make the backdrop with zari or, brocade. We saw that every year we have to spend Rs.20, 000, an amount which used to get wasted. We discussed the issue with our committee members and decided to have a permanent backdrop. The filigree artisans, at that time did not have work for their survival. So, we thought of giving them the work, as at the same time they would be able to earn their livelihood," said Rajkishore Nayak, Secretary of Sekh Bazaar festival committee.

Pandal decoration is a very costly affair, as filigree workers use gold and silver as the medium. However, it also generates a lot of employment opportunities as each pandal would require at least 900 man days to complete the filigree work.

"This backdrop is made in a month by 30 to 40 artisans using almost 4.5 quintals of silver. We have made a gold crown each out of 7.5 kg of gold for Goddess Durga, Lord Ganesh, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Kartik," said Keshab Behera, an artisan.

Owing to lack of government support, non-existence of cooperatives, poor entrepreneurship, professional rivalries and invasion of machine-finished products in markets, the silversmiths or the filigree artisans of Cuttack were at a crossroad of socio-economic degeneration.

However, festivals like Navratra are surely bringing a smile on their faces. By Sarada Lahangir(ANI)

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