Dandiyas add to their income in this sensitive town

Revellers in Navaratris swinging to the tunes of Bollywood chart busters is known, but what adds zing to the moves of the dancers is probably dandiyas.

 But not many are aware that the “dandiyas” that the people flaunt are made in the communally-sensitive town of Godhra in the Panchamahal district of Gujarat.

In the town, known for wooden furniture, dandiya making is a seasonal vocation for many families. The “dandiyas” made here are not only sold across the country but also a craze among Gujaratis settled in different parts of the world. While no one wants to reveal the margins from the sale of dandiyas, they admit that it is a good profit-making venture and the business encourages them to increase their production annually.

Artisans say communal tensions and differences in the town in the past have not deterred their enthusiasm. “It is a family business for us and it is the buyers who are interested,’’said Rasool Sheikh, whose family has been in the business for decades. He has been following in the footsteps of his father and elder brother. His family’s main occupation is to make furniture, especially for customers and retailers in neighbouring cities. His family is also one of the pioneers in making dandiyas in Godhra.

Dandiya makers say it is not just the quality of wood used but the size and shape matter most. “If a good looking and well-finished dandiya weighs more it has no buyers. So, while making dandiyas we have to keep their weight in the mind,’’ said another maker Rafique Khan. 

He said that an ideal dandiya weighs not more than 300 gm and the makers have to ensure that the scale in maintained. Otherwise, it is difficult for the dancers to twirl around with them. He admits that the business is growing with every year and at times they do earn beyond their expectation and it could run into thousands.

About 700 families earn their living out of making dandiyas during the Navaratris season. The making of dandiyas starts about a month and a half before the festival and they are sold even before the drum beats begin.

The makers point out that the demand for them is growing during the marriage season of Gujaratis in different parts of the world. 

“After several Garba chart busters which are played in several Bollywood films, dancing to their tunes has become a compulsion, especially among youngsters,” admits Khan.The artisans now try to make different kinds of dandiyas to attract more custo­mers. “Some retailers insist on designs because the dandiyas should look attractive and saleable,” said Sheikh. As the returns are attractive, many families take up the work for additional income.

Godhra is still fighting hard to shed the image of being a communally sensitive town. Businesses like these, members of the minority community hope, will play some positive role in changing the image of the town. 

While women design the dandiyas, men check quality and ensure delivery of them. Many non-resident Gujaratis (NRGs) buy them in bulk. 

“Depending on the demand from the NRGs, who come during the winters, we get bulk orders and often making dandiyas off season,” admits Sheikh.

“It does come as a surprise that the dandiyas are made in Godhra as most of us have been buying from local shops and they are available in every city, especially during the Navaratri season,’’ said a Garba enthusiast in Ahmedabad, Halak Shah. 

She said that they did realise that every year dandiyas are different. “We do know that dandiyas come from out of Ahmedabad, but did not know it was from Godhra,’’ admitted Shah. 

While Garba enthusiasts gear up for another season, the artisans have done their business for the year and are now shaping up the wood for making of dandiyas for the next season or for the arrival of the NRG season.

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