Craft
Bamboo straws, rope, glue, colour, crepe paper, and a little bit of patience — here’s what goes into making the traditional Deepavali lanterns.
All pictures by Mamatha

In the midst of the flurry of purchases of gifts, diyas and condiments for Deepavali, for many, Deepavali lanterns are unmissable component of the celebration. While many opt for the readily available lanterns at the store or even online, given their glitzy, fancy colour, design and lighting projections, the traditional variants are still in demand.

Bamboo straws, rope, glue, colour and crepe paper – the easily available items in the household or local markets — and a bit of patience, is all it takes to create a Goodudeepa, exclaims Mamatha, breaking into a smile.

The popularity of this 34-year-old traditional lantern maker and her all women team, has soared in Udupi district; the buyers of the traditional lanterns including the locals, youngsters, students and even tourists step into their humble store at Court Backroad, Bramhagiri, to purchase or admire their one of its kind traditional lamps.

For the last six years, Mamatha said their creation can be seen across the district in the bigger as well as smaller homes in the area during Deepavali. However, it is not just the final ‘display’ of the lantern at the homes that brings a source of fulfillment for the team, but an emotional connection that they achieve while putting their heads together for their creatives. 

“Every lantern has a different story to tell, as it is handmade and the hard work of a craftsperson is behind it. It may be the colour combination, shape of the structure, or size. The artistes are free to take their judgement on how or what they want to design,” Mamatha said.

Otherwise employed in woodwork and wood crafting jobs, it was in 2013 that Mamatha was first introduced to the craft, by her uncle Ganapathy Acharya. “I was very fascinated by the intricacies involved in the work. It brought me the nostalgic memories of my childhood, when along with my family and relatives we crafted the lanterns together. Initially, I pursued the venture on my own,” Mamatha said.

But soon, Mamatha was joined by six others, including Shashikala (38), Vrinda (19), Shreya (19), Geetha (27) and Nanditha (21). Right from assembling the ‘Atte’ (Skeletal) of the Goodudeepa to putting it up for display, the group using recyclable and biodegradable materials for their lanterns oversees the entire process. This year the women have put-together almost 150 lanterns, with the cost ranging from Ashta Patti (small lanterns) Rs. 450, Mantappa (medium size) Rs. 500 and Dasha Patti (large lanterns) Rs. 750.

Another lantern maker Shashikala said that unlike the earlier days in the coastal district, where families decked their homes with traditional lanterns, today they prefer modern alternatives. 

“Most of the people prefer Chinese or plastic lanterns that are glittery and more fancy in their looks. But nevertheless, we have substantial order for handmade lanterns that keep us at our creative best as well. We are also referred by many artistes for giving them a visual treat with the lanterns,” she said.

Soon after Deepavali, the team gets busy designing handmade stars, as Christmas celebrations are just a couple of months away.

Story by Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP.)