With the festival of lamps, Karthigai Deepam, falling on Tuesday, households in the city are busy shopping for dainty clay pots.
And catering to the demand are potters from the districts. As per pollution control norms, earthenware manufacturing units cannot function within city limits.
Traders, therefore, buy clay pots and lamps from Cuddalore, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts and Puducherry to sell them in the city.
“Potters in villages make clay lamps and pots and we buy from them. Potters in the city too have kilns in other places,” says Sema Narayanan, president of Tamil Nadu Potters Association.
Traditional markets in Triplicane, Mylapore and Royapettah have already begun selling lamps. “Though clay lamps are sold in large numbers, ceramic and terracotta ones too are slowly gaining popularity. Regular-sized lamps are sold at Rs. 2-Rs. 2.50 apiece. In some places, 4 lamps are available for Rs. 10. Painted lamps are costlier,” says Kannika who sells lamps in Royapettah.
Apart from households, temples use clay lamps in large numbers during Karthigai Deepam. “Large quantities of lamps are sold in shops near temples. These are also exported to Malaysia and Singapore where there is a sizeable Tamil population. I found that in Singapore, this Deepavali, lamps were sold for as high as Rs. 22 apiece,” says Munusamy of Villianur in Puduchery, who supplied lamps worth Rs. 3 lakh to traders.
On the occasion, a festival of lamps has been organised by Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation at Poompuhar on Anna Salai and at C.P. Arts Centre on Eldams Road. Brass lamps from Nachiarkoil, Madurai and Vagaikulam are among those on display.
According to K. Saminathan of the Nachiarkoil unit of Poompuhar, a two-feet-tall lamp weighs around 5.5 kg. “Earlier it took an artisan a month to make a single lamp. Thanks to modern technology, today, 10 lamps can be made by 20 men in just 20 days,” he says.