Height of misery: Cuttack’s Jari Medha artisans suffer as a result of idol restriction

CUTTACK: Although it is the festival season, Cuttack’s ‘jari medha’ artisans are generally idle.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Odisha government has instructed all puja committees to limit the height of Durga idols to within four feet. As a result, about 300 jari medha artisans have been unable to work on puja pandals.

These artisans were employed for decorative work in the pandals before the epidemic. Jari medha workmanship will increase the beauty of pandals for Ganesh puja, Biswakarma puja, Durga puja, Lakshmi, and Kartikaswara puja.

Bamboo is used to give the pandals shape and frame, and then ribbons, mirrors, beads, and thermocol are used to embellish them. Some of the products were also sourced from Kolkata by the artisans.

They would spend all hours of the day and night designing the frames and finish the project on time. Visitors to the pandals will be drawn in by their imaginative decorations.

The artisans haven’t been getting as many orders as they used to because of the height restriction on Durga idols.

“This work has been done in my family since my grandfather’s time. My father, Rama Chandra Parida, was well-known in the city for his work in this field.” Surya Narayan Parida, an artisan of Shilpi Kumbhara Sahi in Cuttack, stated, “I learned the work from my father, who died of a heart attack a few months ago.”

“We are having financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.” Previously, we would receive Rs 40,000 to Rs 45,000 for a single order. We are now collecting around Rs 12,000 for each order due to the reduction in idol height to four feet. We used to get orders from 25 to 30 Puja pandals, but now we only get orders from five to seven,” Parida complained.

They have to pay a high price for raw materials at the Cuttack market, previously artisans used to receive them from Kolkata for a lower price, according to Parida.

They used to labour for around six months to meet the demands of their families for the entire year, but that is no longer possible.

The artisans have demanded assistance from the district administration and the state government.

“The government should assist us in whatever manner it can for our survival.” This art may be alive if we survive,” Parida emphasised.

“In the previous two years, we’ve had virtually little work. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are various restrictions,” remarked artisan Saida Bibi of Cuttack’s Jagannath Ballava region.

Jari medhas produced from polythene by Saida used to be in high demand in the city. Durga Badi mandap at Alam Chand Bazaar features her as a frequent backdrop.

“This work was in high demand throughout the year. During the Rath Yatra, Durga Puja, and weddings, I used to get orders. During Durga puja, more orders come in. People from outside Cuttack also ask me to make medhas for them. Everything has altered as a result of the COVID pandemic, and we are now in serious jeopardy. The government should do something to assist us,” Saida remarked.

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