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Asarikandi terracotta artisans finding it difficult to pass on their legacy

By Irfan Khondker
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DHUBRI, June 6 - Although the centuries-old terracotta heritage of Asarikandi village of Dhubri district is famous all over for its unique clay art, the artisans are finding it difficult to convince their next generation to continue with this art.

The village of Asarikandi is undoubtedly doing well with its terracotta business, as the products of the artisans are not only distributed throughout the State and many parts of the nation, but are also exported to other countries. The terracotta products of this village are in demand because of their unique design and crafting style � that is preparing the product in their traditional manner � without using any modern technology.

At a particular point of time there were more than 350 families in the village engaged with terracotta, which has dwindled in recent times to almost 200 families. This is due to the fact that the upcoming generation is not at all enthusiastic about taking forward this unique craft.

�The young generation is very indifferent towards carrying forward this craft. They don�t want their hands to be caked with sticky clay or work hard at such a level,� said Mahadev Paul, a senior artisan who specialises in making idols of Lord Ganesh.

Mahadev, who has also received many State-level and national-level awards for his talent, adds: �The people of our community are blessed with these skills, but my son and the children of most of the artisans here are unwilling to carry forward this centuries-old legacy�.

Dhirendra Nath Paul, who is an internationally acclaimed master terracotta craftsman who has represented the traditional Asarikandi style of terracotta craft on many occasions in India and abroad, states that the main reason behind the loss of interest among the youth are the challenges that a craftsmen faces for giving final shape to their creations. �The uniqueness behind the terracotta of Asarikandi is that it is made of a special kind of soil called Hiramati. But now, not only is Hiramati hard to find, but firewood has also become extremely scarce and costlier,� said Paul.

However, a survey was conducted by the North East Craft and Rural Development Organisation (NECARDO), an NGO that is promoting terracotta and its trade along with tourism in Asarikandi since the last 25 years, stated that it is high time the artisans of the village produced more commercially demanding items.

Talking to this correspondent, Binoy Bhattacharjee, director of NECARDO said that for the survival of this unique craft, the artisans must adopt some modern technology. �First of all, they must develop organised manufacturing units and use electricity for various purposes. For that to happen, we need uninterrupted power supply.�

He also added that roof tiles and designer wall tiles manufactured in Asarikandi are in high demand, but due to the traditional way of manufacturing, the production capacity of the artisans is very limited. �Even if partial mechanisation of clay conditioning is adopted by the artisans, they can save a lot of time and energy and multiply their capacity. If this is done, the terracotta industry here will certainly reach its zenith,� speculated Bhattacharjee.

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Asarikandi terracotta artisans finding it difficult to pass on their legacy

DHUBRI, June 6 - Although the centuries-old terracotta heritage of Asarikandi village of Dhubri district is famous all over for its unique clay art, the artisans are finding it difficult to convince their next generation to continue with this art.

The village of Asarikandi is undoubtedly doing well with its terracotta business, as the products of the artisans are not only distributed throughout the State and many parts of the nation, but are also exported to other countries. The terracotta products of this village are in demand because of their unique design and crafting style � that is preparing the product in their traditional manner � without using any modern technology.

At a particular point of time there were more than 350 families in the village engaged with terracotta, which has dwindled in recent times to almost 200 families. This is due to the fact that the upcoming generation is not at all enthusiastic about taking forward this unique craft.

�The young generation is very indifferent towards carrying forward this craft. They don�t want their hands to be caked with sticky clay or work hard at such a level,� said Mahadev Paul, a senior artisan who specialises in making idols of Lord Ganesh.

Mahadev, who has also received many State-level and national-level awards for his talent, adds: �The people of our community are blessed with these skills, but my son and the children of most of the artisans here are unwilling to carry forward this centuries-old legacy�.

Dhirendra Nath Paul, who is an internationally acclaimed master terracotta craftsman who has represented the traditional Asarikandi style of terracotta craft on many occasions in India and abroad, states that the main reason behind the loss of interest among the youth are the challenges that a craftsmen faces for giving final shape to their creations. �The uniqueness behind the terracotta of Asarikandi is that it is made of a special kind of soil called Hiramati. But now, not only is Hiramati hard to find, but firewood has also become extremely scarce and costlier,� said Paul.

However, a survey was conducted by the North East Craft and Rural Development Organisation (NECARDO), an NGO that is promoting terracotta and its trade along with tourism in Asarikandi since the last 25 years, stated that it is high time the artisans of the village produced more commercially demanding items.

Talking to this correspondent, Binoy Bhattacharjee, director of NECARDO said that for the survival of this unique craft, the artisans must adopt some modern technology. �First of all, they must develop organised manufacturing units and use electricity for various purposes. For that to happen, we need uninterrupted power supply.�

He also added that roof tiles and designer wall tiles manufactured in Asarikandi are in high demand, but due to the traditional way of manufacturing, the production capacity of the artisans is very limited. �Even if partial mechanisation of clay conditioning is adopted by the artisans, they can save a lot of time and energy and multiply their capacity. If this is done, the terracotta industry here will certainly reach its zenith,� speculated Bhattacharjee.