Vinayakar clay idols ready for chaturthi festival at Kosapettai in Vellore

New generation of Kulalar families has taken up other professions

Vinayakar clay idols ready for chaturthi festival at Kosapettai in Vellore
Vinayakar clay idols ready for chaturthi festival at Kosapettai in Vellore

The Vinayaka Chathurthi festival falling on September 17 provides an occasion for a family reunion among the members of the ‘Kulalar’ families who are traditionally in the business of making pots, Vinayaka idols for the festival and other idols for the Navarathri festival.

For several generations, the ‘Kulalars’ (the potters’ community) have been engaged in the profession which was their sole bread-winner. But in the last two decades, there has been a decline in the number of persons engaged in the business owing to the aging of the elders and their inability to do the job, and the disinterest among the next generation in continuing the profession. Many of the children of the traditional potters have got educated as teachers, engineers, doctors and IT professionals and have taken up jobs in other parts of the state and other states in India. Many have also gone abroad. Come Vinayaka Chathurthi, the members of the families would visit their native homes and assist the elders in giving finishing touches to the Vinayaka idols.

Senthilkumar, son of Mohan (55), a potter in Choolaimedu who is now studying 10th standard, was seen stamping on wet clay to prepare it for moulding Vinayaka idols in front of his house. Mohan’s another son Thulasiraman (24) is a B.Com. graduate and is looking for better pastures.

“My sons help me only on the eve of Vinayaka Chathurthi. The business is losing its sheen because of the declining interest among the younger generation in doing the job”, he said.

A. Dinakaran, who works for a religious organization, was making idols alone in his house in Kosapet as his mother who used to help him has gone to Dubai to be with her second son. His son, studying in an engineering college in Coimbatore, is not interested in taking up the profession, he said. He would come on the morning of September 17 and help him in giving finishing touches to the idols and selling them, he added.

“My uncle R. Chinnadurai, who is a retired headmaster residing in Ranipet, has promised to come on Wednesday night to help me. But my cousin who is a government doctor in Chennai, who used to come here in advance till two years ago is not coming now because of his professional preoccupation,” he said. A problem which the potters encountered this year was the intense heat which causes cracks in the idols, necessitating touch-up. Besides, the price of mud which the potters used to get from irrigation tanks has shot up from Rs.3,000 per lorry load to Rs.4,500.

A salient feature of the business is that the potters have taken to electric wheels to mould the three parts of the Vinayaka idol—the base, the body and the head.