The hands that craft cradles

The hands that craft cradles

These cradles are colourful, made of natural eco-friendly material and are an important part of Dharwad region’s heritage. We are talking about the cradles of Kalaghatagi.

But urbanisation and modernisation have had an impact on this indigenous craft of making cradles as well. What was at one point a matter of pride to own is today not so important, thanks to machine-made cradles flooding the market.

And yet, there is one family in Kalaghatagi which has continued to craft colourful and attractive cradles – the family of Gangadhara and Lakshmana. At least five families here were known to make cradles, but the number has dropped to two, thanks to a fall in demand.

Other families in the town, earlier into cradle-making, have now gone to work in other jobs for the sake of their livelihoods.

Gangadhara is an artist who creates magic on these cradles. He paints episodes from the epic, Mahabharatha, on these cradles. Episodes from the Ramayana, Kalidasa’s works, ‘Krishnavatara’, ‘Dashavatara’, all find a place on his handicrafts, which include, chairs, swings and other furniture. He also makes cradles and packs them in glass cases, ready to be bought and gifted to anyone who cares for these indigenous crafts.

He has shipped his cradles not only to various parts of the State, but also to Goa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and across the globe, from Dubai to the United States and France.

The colours used on these cradles are not the ones available in the market. They are natural colours made from tamarind seeds, clay, etc. Tamarind seeds are soaked in water, and then ground into a paste. This is then mixed with a fine paste of clay and pasted onto the cradles. The cradles are then polished with leaves.

“Fifty years ago, we would go from house to house and sell cradles at a cost of Rs 16. Now, because we cannot sustain our livelihoods on these cradles, we make idols of gods and goddesses,” explains 73-year-old Gangadhara. According to 65-year-old Lakshmana, cradles are now made only if there are advance orders.

Though Kalaghatagi cradles are attractive and colourful, they don’t seem to stand a chance among metal and plastic cradles that now flood the market. Also, because the Kalaghatagi cradles are hand-crafted, they are expensive, and not everyone chooses to buy them.

Gangadhara and Lakshmana are willing to teach their craft to youngsters who are interested. But, there are not many takers. The Kalaghatagi cradle is now swinging towards oblivion, they remark.

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