Hand-crafting in Dotihal

Day 5 of Padayatra, 
03rd February, 2018 

Culture of Prasada (Sharing of food)

As usual we woke up at 5 AM. At prayer today, in addition to the usual “Raghupati Raghava Rajaram”, there was a beautiful rendering of “Vaishnava jana to” by our volunteer, Nishanth. We left Kandagal at 6 AM. As we moved towards the centre of the village, some people who had gathered near a tea shop enquired about our walk and offered us tea. They also asked us to have prasada today in their village. Sharing of food with guests is considered offering prasada. It is a gesture of warmth.

Handmade is Spiritual

The practice of offering Prasada to Padayatris or pilgrims is ingrained in the culture of the North Karnataka. They believe that Athithi Dhevo Bhava, meaning that a guest is like God, and hence consider it a privilege to have guests. We halted for breakfast about 8 km away from Kandgal at a farm outside a village called Shiragumpi. A few farmer women who were going to their fields carrying their lunch (butti) spontaneously shared their Jolada rotti (jowar roti) with us. We shared our uppittu with them. We experienced such generosity throughout our padayatra.

Neo-secular symbols everywhere

After breakfast, as we walked through Shiragumpi, a Lingayat family invited us to their house and offered us tea. During our conversation over tea, we learnt that their biggest festival was Moharram. Though Muslims are a minority in this area, the entire community celebrates the festival as their own. People of the village working in far off cities come home to celebrate Moharram. This is a shining example of harmonious co-existence of people of different faiths.

God is Handmade

We also saw Ram and Rahim being worshiped together. This brings to mind other examples of syncretic traditions where Muslims as well as Hindus worship, like in Baba Budangiri near Chikkamagalur and people of all faiths going to St Lawrence Basilica at Attur near Karkala. Muslim influence in the architecture of temples in Hyderabad Karnataka is also quite common.

Hand-crafting in Dotihal

The Blacksmiths (Kammara)

We had lunch and rested at a school outside the village of Dotihal, and headed straight to our destination in Dotihal, Kaimagga Nekarara Sahakari Sangha (Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society), where we were to spend the night.

As we entered the village in the evening, we were welcomed by the scene of a blacksmith repairing a wheel of a bullock cart, in kannada it’s called patte idiyodu. The rim of the wheel was heated to red hot by burning dung cakes arranged in a ring shaped heap roughly of the diameter of the wheel.

The humble bullock cart still survives in North Karnataka when its place has been taken by tractors and tillers in most parts of the country. Dotihal being a hobli centre, people from the surrounding villages come here to get their iron implements repaired.

As we walked through the streets of the village, we saw the wares of potters and carpenters being sold. Though artisans are in distress in North Karnataka as elsewhere, they survive in larger numbers.
A little later, we were greeted by the sound of shehanahi played by the Bhajantri community (See Day 2 report mentions Bhajantri) at the Banashankari Temple, A fair (Jatre) filled in a festive atmosphere, goddess Banashankari is largely honoured by the weavers community.

The Weavers (Nekara)

The weavers of Dotihal weave a special kind of sari. While the pattern is similar to the Ilkal Sari, the length is 7m (regular saris are 5m). There is a demand for these types of saris from Maharashtra, where women wear it in a certain way which helps them to work in the farms.

The Cooperative society here supports the weavers by providing raw materials, buying back saris and also paying them the labour charges. From conversations with weavers, the distress is palpable. The making of a sari requires the labour of four people for four days, for which they get only Rs. 300!

“Our cloth has a value but not our loom”

“Why should I weave when I can earn Rs 8,000 by working as a server in the restaurants?”  asks, a weaver. Another weaver who hasn’t taught her children this art says, “this drudgery has to end with me, my children should work in a bank”.

The Carpenters (Badagi)

Some of the doors and door frames of houses in Dotihal are awe-inspiring. Our conversation with villagers revealed that, the carpenters who made these intricate wood-works belonged to the village.

We saw in a weaver’s house, a beautiful spinning wheel made in Kinnala, another village in the same district which is well known for the wooden toys made there.

“This is the only thing we know, the only skill we have, the only thing we enjoy doing, but today this is hardly a part of our lives.”

We spoke to a carpenter (badagi) called Rajappa Badiger. He has been practicing carpentry for the past 40 years. Part of his work is making bullock carts. The wood for making a bullock cart comes from a tree called jaali mara. Since this wood from Jaali mara, has the necessary strength and water resistance.

His family has been engaged in carpentry for generations but his business has been declining in the last 20 years. They still depend on this work as, it is the only thing they know. He told us that some carpenters who bought machines to make beds and window frames are better off. As traditional bullock carts are replaced with tractors, the population of the bulls in the village has declined. The government used to supply some resources that were useful in making some products but this supply has stopped today. Mr.Rajappa concluded saying, “This is the only thing we know, the only skill we have, the only thing we enjoy doing, but today this is hardly a part of our lives.”

Can you guess what is the scientific name for Jaali Mara? share with us in the poll. [polldaddy poll=9934678]

The Potters (Kumbara)

Dotihal has about 25 families of potters. With the help of a villager, we went to the place where their families live. On reaching the house of a potter called Basappa where, no sign of any work being done, left us in despair.

A few pots and mud stoves were kept outside the house. When asked, whether they had made these pots and stoves, they denied it and asked us, why should they make something from which there was nothing to be earned.

They said, once they used to have a variety of handmade items like jugs, glasses etc, but today only small pots and mud stoves remain. The pots and mud stoves they had were not made by them but bought from Ilkal town for selling.

Mr. Bassappa blamed plastic for the disaster. He complained that no one barring a few farmers bought mud pots because factory-made plastic vessels could be bought easily and cheap, besides being unbreakable. Mud stoves are no longer useful as more and more people use LPG. According to him, the decline of pottery started 15-20 years ago. A variety of earthern diyas were used during Deepavali before the invasion of plastic. They have now been replaced by mass produced plastic ones while the traditional potter has to labour in someone’s farm to somehow earn a living. Industrialisation has rendered their skills useless and has stripped their lives off their dignity. Bassappa’s mother had tears in her eyes as she prayed to God with folded hands that our fight for justice to the hand-making people meet with success.

Here is a short video on the Spirituality of Hand.

written by Nishanth, Abhilash, Shree Kumar