Elections UP: Industry Helping Adorn Lord Krishna in Mathura, Vrindavan Slowly Dying


Mature: A sharp drop in work orders, the closure of many workshops and meager salaries are giving a hard time to Muslim craftsmen who make robes, tiny crowns and rosaries used to decorate idols of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha in the temples of Mathura.

Prolonged temple closures and heavy restrictions during the strict COVID-19 lockdowns led many workshops to shutter, the majority of which never resumed operations, rendering thousands of artisans out of work.

Much of the Muslims in the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan crafted a range of colorful costumes studded with gemstones, exquisite embroidery and glittering strips of expensive fabrics.Have a‘ (embroidery using the appliqué technique). They also make dazzling crowns, hindurosaries and other decorative items.

The outfits are exported to the United States, United Kingdom and many other countries, especially where the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples are located.

Previously, June to August was a busy time for skilled craftsmen to sew embroidered garments for deities. But that was not the case for the past two years due to pandemic restrictions. As there were no orders either from the domestic market or from abroad, many workshops had to close, leaving artisans no choice but to look for other options to earn a living.

The Vrindavan workshops, where Lord Krishna’s clothes are sewn, continued production, but these too had almost no orders from abroad, even before the two Janmashtmis (Lord Krishna’s birthday) which have passed. Low-key celebrations at home helped the workshops secure very small work orders to enable these artisans to somehow survive, but their overall income was badly hit.

In Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna is said to have spent his childhood, some manufacturers said they used to get orders for clothes and accessories for the deity worth more than Rs 7-8 crore every year to be exported to USA,UK,Russia,Australia,Mauritius and wherever Hindus are settled,but there has been no big shipment in the past two years in due to low demand and transportation restrictions.

“We used to have bulk orders before Janmashtmi, which meant an increase of thousands in our income for at least two or three months. But after the workshop where I was employed closed, I didn’t I have no more job. Instead of sewing dresses for Lord Krishna, I am making masks to support my family of seven,” Shakir Shah, 41, said visibly upset. NewsClick.

Sajid, 38, who works at another workshop in Vrindavan, told the same story when asked how the restrictions and closures had impacted his income.

“Before, we didn’t have time for two or three months before Janmashtmi, we had to work overtime – 18 hours – to meet demand and deadlines. We were earning between Rs 20,000 and 25,000 per month. But now there is a maximum of three hours of work, and we only get a few thousand, which is not enough to feed my family,” he said.

Ameer Khan, a craftsman from a workshop in Mathura, said the two closures had brought the business to its knees. “While the work order has decreased significantly, manufacturers have reduced their workforce. As a result, many of us are out of work. Those who work do not receive good wages,” he added.

Manufacturers in Vrindavan said production fell by 60% with a drop in work orders following two successive shutdowns.

Since temples were closed and foreign tourists were not allowed to visit the country, and there were restrictions on transportation activities, there were low-key Janmashtmi celebrations in homes that maintained the industry in motion. Otherwise, all these workshops would also have been closed, they added.

Naresh Sharma, a wholesale trader in Mathura, said pilgrims from all over India and the world visit Braj Bhoomi; when they return, they buy colorful robes for their deities.

He said skilled workers from Hindu and Muslim communities produced dresses and decorative items in their homes or in units set up by large showrooms.

These robes are couriered daily to dozens of foreign countries for temples and individuals. “Mathura and Vrindavan are the manufacturing center of poshaks (dresses), crowns and trinkets, although dresses are also sold in Nathdwara in Rajasthan,” he added.

Explaining how this industry works, Junaid, a manufacturer from Mathura, said he is approaching traders with new designs. Once the new models are approved, they receive bulk orders. The manufacturers have the work done by the craftsmen they employ.

Intermediaries also play an important role in this chain, and the gap between manufacturers and traders often reduces the profit margin and makes the final product more expensive. “Many manufacturers do not deal directly with merchants, the order comes to them via intermediaries who lay down the law. They are eating into the profit margin of the manufacturers,” he said.

Junaid said the government’s “flawed” policies had also dealt a heavy blow to the industry. “First of all notebandi (demonetization) hit our business hard and then the GST (goods and services tax) came along. Previously, we paid 2.5% VAT (Value Added Tax) on the entire purchase of raw materials. But now GST ranging from 5% to 18% is charged on individual items. It has increased our input costs, but the rate we get from traders for different items is more or less the same,” he said.

As a result, many manufacturers began to sell products in units rather than by weight. “But that doesn’t help us either,” said the young man, who said it was his ancestral business.

ISKCON officials in Vrindavan also admitted that the Covid-19 outbreak had marred Janmashtmi celebrations for the past two years. They said they had to reduce orders by 30% for their 250 temples around the world.

“We used to buy around 1,000 exquisitely made robes – costing somewhere between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 7.5 lakh – for Lord Krishna temples around the world. But we had to reduce this order to 600 because of the crisis,” an ISKCON official said. NewsClick.

The World Bank’s ‘Pro Poor’ tourism project had long pledged to promote artisans in a big way, but the government failed to help producers run an exclusive market so that the profits would trickle down to the units. real production, it seems.

Those who always use the “tried and true” strategy of polarization to win elections and claim to be the sole torchbearers of the Hindu religion must come to the aid of this industry, because it belongs to Lord Krishna.

“Only dividing people on religious grounds with hate speech will not work in these elections,” said traders and manufacturers in the twin towns.

WE ARE GRADUALLY ISOLATED’

“Wash your hands first then touch any object because they are sacred,” Sharfuddin Khan, 70, told this correspondent while showing dazzling images. mukuts (crowns or headwear) and the intricate needlework of zari zardozi (golden cord), in a reflection of his reverence for religion and divinity.

Working in a workshop at Mathura’s Matia Gate – which is less than two kilometers from the outskirts of Shri Krishna Janmasthan (Shri Krishna’s birthplace), Khan inherited this skill from his ancestors.

Although indispensable (because Muslim craftsmen are adept at attracting attention zari zardozi embroidery work), he believes, Muslim craftsmen are “gradually isolated” due to the atmosphere of hatred and bigotry that reigns in UP.

Hindus sew and sew dresses, weaving attractive patterns and eye-catching curls.

“So far, our industry has been inclusive. The manufacturers are mostly Muslims, the consumers are Hindus and the traders are made up of members of both communities. Of the total workforce of this company, Muslim craftsmen represent at least 40% of the shares. But efforts are underway to ruin this camaraderie,” said the craftsman, who has been engaged in this work for 40 years.

He said there had been communal riots earlier, but this was momentous. But such an atmosphere of hatred never existed,” he added.

Ameer claimed that Muslim artisans respect Hindu deities as much as they revere their own God. They feel elated when complimented on their art form, he said, adding that making clothes for Lord Krishna “is not just a means of livelihood, but an emotional offering to the deity. by Muslim craftsmen”.

“We are Hindustanis, and our work is the symbol of our composite culture and mutual respect of different religions,” he concluded.

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