Kendrapara, September 8 (LocalWire): Considered to be among the ancient art, the palm-leaf-craft has declined by almost 50% during the last three decades in the coastal district of Kendrapara and its nearby areas.
“Three decades back more than 3,000 craft persons of Mahakalapada, Rajnagar, Rajkanika, Aul and Garadapur blocks used to weave baskets, pots, hand-fan, and mat from the palm leaves.
Today, only 1,500 families have been eking out their livelihoods, making products using this craft,” a local artisan from Bharatpur village Mandakini Behera said.
“Earlier, around 50 families of Bharatpur Gram Panchayat used to make palm leaf craft.
However, we are now left with only 20 families who can weave,” the 55-year old Behera added.
She hit the nail on the head when she said that she does not want her two sons to take up this craft, reflecting a general sense of aversion to the traditional craft.
“I learned the art of making baskets using the palm leaf from my father.
The cost of a big basket is Rs fifty to two hundred and it takes one to two days for a person to weave a basket.
A decade ago, palm leaf artisan used to earn Rs two to three thousand a month by making traditional baskets and other items, but the invasion of plastic, aluminium baskets and other products have forced many craft persons to search for greener pastures.
Others have taken up odd jobs,” a native of Olaver village Ashok Mallick stated.
According to Giridhari Mallick, a craft-person from village Bagada, a large number of youths from the community have left the profession since the return is not commensurate to the amount of work needed.
“It is only the elders of the community who are keeping the profession alive because they feel that it is important to keep the craft alive.
It is only the neediest among the youth who are adopting the profession and that too temporarily,” Mallick said.
“In the past, manuscripts were made out of dried palm leaves.
Palm leaves were also used as writing materials.
These days, few horoscope makers prefer to use palm leaf in rural areas. There is an acute shortage of palm leaves nowadays as many villages have no palm tree.
Many trees were uprooted during the cyclones,” Dr Basudev Das, a researcher from Kendrapada, said.
Das also pointed out that while non-availability of sufficient palm leaves have badly hit the craft-persons, the lack of proper marketing facilities, government support, and bank loans will soon lead the once-famous craft to collapse.
“In the absence of patronage of any kind, the palm leaf craft persons have given up all hopes of arresting the declining trend of the age-old craft. Unless the government comes forward with proper aid, the craft-persons will be forced to let the craft pass into oblivion,” Bhaskar Behera of Aul said.
When contacted the Odisha Livelihood Mission district project manager Satyabhama Pradhan said, “We will soon form a few Self Help Groups among the palm leaf craft-persons in the district and provide them proper training and financial assistance.”