A light for Tihar

The festival of light is upon us this week, and the Prajapatis of Bhaktapur are busy with their ancestral occupation of moulding clay to make earthen lamps called pala.

This week, the courtyards and sidewalks of old town of Bhaktapur were covered in clay lamps and other pottery including piggy banks soaked in coloured water, and drying in the sun until they can be fired.

Take to pottery during the pandemic, Monika Deupala

Prajapati families are expecting to make a decent income selling clay lamps for the festival despite the pandemic. And while modern LED garden lights from China have largely replaced earthen lamps in many households, people still regard the clay oil lamps as auspicious for Laxmi Puja, Mha Puja and Bhai Tika, which fall from 14-16 November this year.

Entire courtyard and toles are alight with clay lamps and decorated with colourful mandala on the main Tihar days.

Bhaktapur's potters adapt to survive, Monika Deupala

There is however a genuine concern about the future of this dying profession. Most young people have gone abroad for education or jobs, or have taken up other professions so there is no next generation to carry on the tradition.

Moreover, there is now a growing shortage of special black clay required to make pottery because of haphazard urbanisation. Pottery production shifted from Lalitpur and Kathmandu in the first place because they ran out of proper clay. Now Bhaktapur is turning into a concrete jungle with houses and buildings built over farmlands and former clay pits.

A time to every purpose, Sahina Shrestha

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