Koppal's coracle makers

Murugeshan and Anjini in Koppal make good quality coracles from bamboo. Photo by Bharath Kandakoor

Just give some bamboo or cane, plastic sacks and tar, and Murugeshan and his helper Anjini will readily prepare a coracle within a day. After practically ensuring that the coracle is leak-proof and break-proof in a lake, you can pick it from their modest ‘showroom’ set up under the shade of a mango tree on the banks of Kamanuru Lake in Koppal taluk. Hailing from Ballari, Murugeshan knows how to weave a coracle but does not know how to cut bamboo as required for the coracle.

Here Anjini comes to his rescue. Anjini, hailing from a community known for making bamboo products, is skilled in slitting thin cane poles which then become flexible to give the desired shape. After the raw materials are ready, Murugeshan prepares the chassis.

Firstly, hard and thick cane forms the skeleton (frame) of the coracle and thinner poles are weaved around it. After a bowl-type of shape is got from weaving, the round-shaped strong cane is fixed on the upper edge of the coracle and is fastened using nylon strings. Now, a coating of tar is smeared on the bottom to make it water-proof.

Sought after

To make it further strong, they fix two-layers of tar-coated sacks (usually used in APMCs to pack grains) to the base. If the sacks develop even a small hole, water can enter the coracle and so, the double layer is preferred.

When both Murugeshan and Anjini work continuously, they make one coracle each day. Murugeshan does this along with breeding fish in the lake. Apart from these, Murugeshan rears ducks which keep moving between the banks and the water, making the lake look scenic. There are also sheep and hens. These diverse activities are complementary to each other and help him earn a decent livelihood. Anjini is passionate about coracle making and helps Murugeshan in all his chores.

They have been into this for over a decade now and are known for building sturdy and quality coracles. The coracles they prepare in the dry land of Koppal are in demand in various parts of the State where fishing is the main activity, mainly Shivamogga and Davanagere districts.

Fishermen and fishermen associations from those areas fetch these coracles which are normally priced at around Rs 3,000 per coracle. Murugeshan and Anjini presently get the cane from Maharashtra as the ideal one used for the coracle is not easily available in Karnataka. So, they hope that in days to come, they get it here itself. They also hope that the guidelines of the Forest Department become more flexible.

Though the two men are outsiders to the village, the people of Kamanur respect them for their unique skill, which is dying a slow death. At times, some youth from the village lend a helping hand.

Villages of all age groups come here to see the art of coracle making. At night, their shelter is lightened up by solar lights. It is heartening to see these skilled artisans leading a content life close to nature in this nondescript village.
Sharath Hegde

(Translated by Divyashri Mudakavi)

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Koppal's coracle makers

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