KADAPA: For the past 100 years, around 300 families of Settigunta and Lakshmigaripalle villages, about 110 kms away from the district headquarters in Kadapa, in Railway Koduru mandal have been making a living by carving artefacts and toys out of wood, especially red sander and teak.
Their craft, which is passed on from one generation to the other, have earned them global fame and their products are still in demand in both local and international markets. Even Bill Clinton, former US president, had bought a wooden statue of Shakuntala made by the Kadapa woodcarvers during his visit to Hyderabad.
The finished products are widely available in temple towns of Tirupati, Tirumala, Srikalahasti and Srisailam. Raja Rani idols made by these artisans are the most sought after, and are given as wedding gifts in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as it is believed that gifting them will lead to early conception.
However, these families have been hit hard by the ongoing national lockdown, which has crippled the transportation sector. With each passing day, their financial problems only grow. Due to the reduced demand of their products, they’ve had no work for the past three months. Dwindling availability of red sander and other raw materials has only added to their woes.
With no sales, they are not able to invest in their craft or support their families. Also, previously made toys cannot be taken to the market and raw materials cannot be procured due to lack of transportation. Further, as all temples and pilgrim centres are shut and marriages postponed, the market for the finely crafted wooden idols has disappeared. Even the works pertaining to the Common Facility Centre being constructed in a 30 cents land at Lakshimgaripalle with `1 crore are now stalled.
All the artisans can do is hope for normalcy to return at the earliest. They have urged the government to lend a helping hand in the time of crisis. K Subbarayudu Achari, who has been running the Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Woodcarvers Association since 1993, said woodcraft was severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, that led to the lockdown.
“Ours is a hand-to-mouth existence and now with no works, most of us are finding it difficult to put food on the table. Due to the lockdown, there is no transportation, hence no wood to carve, no market to sell. The government has to help us survive in these hard times,” he demanded.