Header Ads

Lamp-makers of Melakondayampettai

Outside their small dwelling along the narrow bylane at Melakondayampettai in Tiruvanaikoil, 43-year-old S. Ramu and his wife Kamakshi are feverishly involved in mixing clay bought from various places.

The overcast sky condition galvanises the couple to hurry up with the task as a sudden downpour could hamper the mixing that needs to be done before they embark on making clay lamps.

Inside their concrete house situated along Kosa street, around 3,000 clay lamps (Agal Vilakku) are being dried using ceiling fan and a couple of table fans.

The couple are racing against time to make clay lamps, having bagged contracts for the upcoming ‘Karthigai’ Deepam festival this year as well.

Once the mixing works are done outside his house, Ramu embarks on his next job of making clamps of varying sizes using the hydraulic press machine even as his wife fetches the mixed clay from outside.

Seated in front of the machine he purchased three years ago, Ramu meticulously keeps placing a handful of loose clay inside the machine’s die. Within no time the clay turns into earthen lamps.

Though a labourious process, Ramu — a potter — does it with ease having been involved in making pots, earthen lamps and clay dolls from the age of 10, when he started helping his father. He took up the hereditary profession after dropping out from school years ago.

Just like him, several families residing along Kosa street are engaged in making clay lamps in their homes ahead of Karthigai Deepam season when the lamps are much in demand.

Many of them make hand-made lamps unlike Ramu who invested ₹50,000 in the machine.

“People are asking for earthen lamps in new designs, which prompted us to buy the hydraulic machine,” says Ramu, his eyes focussed on the device.

This time around, Ramu says he bagged contracts to manufacture 1.5 lakh clay lamps for supply to various places. One consignment has already been dispatched to a Chennai-based oil mill.

In addition to buying clay from the Kollidam river bank at Kondayampettai, Ramu says clay is also purchased from Kerala, Vriddhachalam and Salem. The clay is mixed for the manufacture of the lamps.

However, clay from the Coleroon river bank at Kondayampettai is famous and the prime source for several families of Kosa street involved in making earthen lamps, says Ramu who also makes earthen pots, dolls and stove.

Since the demand now is for earthen lamps, Ramu and others like him at Melakondayampettai are now into the manufacture of this product of varying sizes.

In the run up to the Pongal festival, the shift is to make earthen pots. Ramu has planned to purchase six tonnes of clay to manufacture 1.5 lakh lamps.

The rates of clay has shot up sharply this year compared to last year, he says adding that the differential amount was to the tune ₹5,000 per tonne. The rising cost of clay impacts Ramu, nevertheless he says: “we some how manage to eke out a living, thanks to the orders.”

No chemical is used in the mixing or in the manufacture of such lamps, he asserts. Working from dawn up to dusk, Ramu and his wife have made 25,000 lamps so far and racing against time to accomplish the remaining orders.


No comments

Powered by Blogger.