GOLAKGANJ, March 26 � Situated close to Dhubri district, Asharikandi is a small and sleepy village which is sometimes visited by passers-by for a glimpse into the traditional terracotta art. This village houses about 300 establishments, each employing eight to ten artisans who work for long hours under the able guidance of a master craftsman and produce valuable items of terracotta.
Asharikandi, located at a distance of approximately 12 km from Dhubri town, does not present anything remarkable at first sight. The narrow roads have houses on either side, crudely built of either mud or bricks with thatched roofs. The place is dotted with small, shallow ponds covered by algae and flanked by tall betel-nut trees. There is a village square too. The central feature is a huge banyan tree under which the villagers sit and indulge in adda sessions whenever they want a respite from work.
Dhirendranath Paul, a terracotta artisan, has been recognised and awarded at the national and international level.
It may be mentioned that his mother, Sarolabala Devi � a great master of the terracotta art in her own right � was awarded a national award in Delhi in 1982. On the other hand, Dhirendranath Paul also represented the State�s terracotta art in Sweden, Denmark and Germany in 1987.
When contacted, Paul said that if the Government had taken proper steps, this art could have brought prosperity to the poor villagers. This art is practised by the Paul and Heera community as their heritage. Besides Asharikandi, this art has now taken roots in Bilasipara, Golakganj and Balazan in Dhubri district.
Though the Asharikandi village has been connected with electricity since the past few years or so, power outage is frequent. As terracotta designs and items are made in the homes of the artisans, the power cuts hinder the work. The irregular supply of kerosene is another problem being faced by artisans who depend on blowlamps in doing their work. Another cause of frustration among the artisans is that being perennially short of cash, they often have to refuse bulk orders, something that adversely affects their economic condition.
Despite such problems, the artisans have managed to carry on their trade by displaying patience and an indomitable spirit.