Delhi's SRCC students offer beacon of hope for Indian artisans

The demand for homegrown arts and crafts has been on the decline. India is home to more than thousands of artisans who are skilled in various crafts.

Published: 07th October 2021 07:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th October 2021 07:28 AM   |  A+A-

A potter crafting a terracotta vase

A potter crafting a terracotta vase

Express News Service

In the poem Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats stresses on the everlasting quality of art. While addressing the urn, the poet highlights the immortality of any kind of art even after the artist passes away. Unfortunately, the unique heritage arts and crafts of India, which once acquired that 'immortal' status, is dying a slow death.

Owing to the increased adoption of modern art for sectors such as home décor, among others, the demand for homegrown arts and crafts has been on the decline. India is home to more than thousands of artisans who are skilled in various crafts, but many such handicrafts makers have had to leave the profession that was once passed on within their families.

Realising the desperate need to reclaim this cultural heritage, the students at the city's Shri Ram College for Commerce (SRCC) partnered with non-profit organisation Collecting Dreams Foundation (CDF) to launch Rivaayat, a social initiative to help artisans revive the dying art of terracotta pottery.  

A glimpse of hope

Keeping the idea of Rivaayat (this Urdu word translated in English means tradition) in mind, the core members of this project are Niladri Sekhar Mondal, Raya Bhawan and Garv Vohra, who set clear objectives; they  wanted to create a demand for terracotta pottery and turn the artisans into entrepreneurs.

On surveying and analysing the Kumhar Gram of Uttam Nagar - the pottery village in southwest Delhi that once housed more than 600 potter families - the SRCC students realised that these artisans failed to adapt to a modern world.

With their clientele using online platforms to shop amid the ongoing pandemic, these potters had to rely on shops and exhibitions only to earn the bare minimum. 

"We focused on various crafts in and around Delhi. By teaming up with about 20 artisans, we built an online presence for them, and launched Rivaayat as a venture in 2019," says Mondal, a second-year BCom Honours student. 

Full steam ahead

Over the last year, this social initiative has picked up the pace. With over 70 members and volunteers, Rivaayat comes under the CDF-SRCC organisation. Presently, the team works with almost 75 artisans across five states - Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

Though it collaborates with a number of e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, Etsy, Gaatha, among others, Rivaayat also has their own website. The products sold globally starts at an affordable price of Rs 400. While the revenue received goes to the artisan, a small per cent is also retained as operation cost. 

By leaps and bounds

Along with terracotta pottery, the project has also launched a new venture featuring basket weaving with water hyacinth, an aquatic weed that harms the aquatic ecosystem. Facilitated by a local NGO in Uttarakhand, Rivaayat has employed around 15 women artisans from five villages around Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh for this venture.

When asked about his experience with Rivaayat, the 19-year-old Mondal, says, "This cause has really inspired me. It helped me venture into all aspects of modern-day entrepreneurship. Rivaayat, for me, is college life and a greater part of my being."

Quoting their mentor Giriraj Prasad, Mondal concludes, "Man is mortal, art forms are immortal," which highlights full circle what Keats tried to achieve with his poem. Rivaayat’s project then becomes a beacon of hope for all artisans around India and helps revive our age-old heritage arts and crafts.  

Shop till you drop

The social initiative Rivaayat provides a sustainable solution to transforming Indian arts and crafts. Its website features dinnerware, cookware, an aqua line, among other products crafted by Indian artisans using terracotta. Apart from this, Rivaayat also customises orders to cater to a corporate clientele.


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