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The Charis and Chitaris of Cuncolim crave for a cottage industry to continue their craftsmanship

The Charis and Chitaris of Cuncolim crave for a cottage industry to continue their craftsmanship

The Chari and Chitari families, who reside in Demani, Cuncolim, are renowned for their talent with wood. They are so famous with their craftsmanship that people flock to them round the year for their requirements. The Charis have even branched out into auto repairs and have made the trade their own. Their cry for government helps has fallen on deaf ears. VIJAYKUMAR KHOPRE takes a trip to Demani to find out more

Demani is famous all over the state as an artisan’s ward. It serves as the best example in modern times of Mahatma Gandhi’s Cottage Industry. Approximately 80 Chitari and Chari families exhibit their natural talent and artisan skills in this unique ward in Cuncolim.

These artisans are now demanding a cottage industry or ‘Adarsh gram’ status for their ward.

Their major grievance is that they are not receiving any help either from the government or other corporations which claim that they work for the betterment of the community.

On one hand, the government spends lakhs of rupees organising artisan fairs, like the state supported ‘SARAS’ and the ‘Khadi Gram Udyog’ exhibitions, but on the other hand, they have not come out with any schemes for these artists who have diligently carry on the work of their ancestors and yet go unnoticed. The government doesn’t seem to bother about their well-being, they claim.

The entire Demani ward is likened to a small scale industry. Many of the artists work exclusively with wood. Most houses in the ward are blessed with skilled hands, renowned for their craft. The art comes naturally to them and they do not have to take classes or make giant attempts to learn the craft. It is a trade that is taught to the young ones by the elders and passed on from generation to generation. This self-sustaining ward is the perfect example of an ideal village.

At least 50 Chitari families have more than 250 artisans earning their daily bread with their unique form of art. The Chitaris came to Cuncolim about five centuries ago and have, since then stayed in the town. Cuncolkars utilise the services of these people to make articles like ‘tipri’, used during the Shigmo festival.

Apart from the decorative wooden items like wooden fruits and ornaments, the Chitari artisans also make daily household items like the rolling pin (latne).

With the changing times, many from the present generation have ventured out of the family tradition to make a career in other fields, but they have not forgotten their tradition.

It is the festival season that is the busiest for these artists. Hindu families in Goa have a tradition to give ‘Vazem’ to newly married couples from the mother’s home. For this, they give some wooden articles, prepared by the Chitaris.

The Ganesh Chaturthi festival sees these artists busy carving wooden fruits and other items used for ‘matoli’. Religious fairs like Zatra and other feasts increase the demand for their services. The present generation has also moved up a rung and has begun to manufacture pieces for awards, mementoes and trophies. They have also shifted to a more mechanical technique now. Some of the Chitaris have even been awarded for their work at the state and national level. Their claim is not for subsidies from the government but just a little recognition and support for their work.

The Charis are another family from the area who also specialise in wooden furniture. Their work is also widely known in Goa. In addition to furniture, the Charis also work on house ceilings. The Charis are more diverse and some of them have branched out to repair cars and other vehicles.

Demani is now on the map for vehicle repairs and modifications, especially of two wheelers, with over 20 garages in the ward. Vehicle owners claim that Demanis boast of skilled hands and say vehicles that can’t be repaired anywhere else in the state are easily repaired in their village. Additionally, vehicle body work, paint jobs, etc, are also part of the ‘menu’.

The Charis do not have any formal training. Children nurture this family talent as they grow up and continue with it through their life.

All what the Demani crasftmen need is the support and help of the government. Will the government step up and show its support in declaring the ward as a self-sustaining unit? This is the only question the people from Demani want answers to

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