As Diwali celebrations are thick in the air, it is time to exchange gifts and greetings with your near and dear ones. It is also the time to get back to our roots and celebrate the cultural repository that has nurtured us over the centuries. Time to relate to the artisans and their craft that builds a vigorous connect with the local traditions and then share it during the festive days with friends and relatives far and near.
Diwali celebrations would certainly be more bright and culturally enriching if, for instance, a Phulkari work is gifted to somebody in Andhra Pradesh, and a friend in Andhra Pradesh reciprocates with a tapestry in Pedana Kalamkari. If a pack of “makki ki roti and sarson ka saag” from Punjab is laid on the dining table of a friend in Andhra Pradesh, whose Punjabi counterpart in turn is licking his fingers while enjoying “pulihora” or “chitrannam” during the festive days. And a replica of Golden Temple crafted by an artisan in Amritsar is exchanged as a gift for the replica of Tirupati temple.
Besides the works of artisans, the idiom must also be extended to literary works whereby works of prominent Punjabi literary writers are shared with friends in Tamila Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, and similarly prominent writers in Telugu or any other Indian language find their way in the hands of readers in Punjab.
It is not just connecting with the roots of one’s state but also weaving a cultural tapestry of the nation where diversity is the underlying thread that builds the age-old national bond.
It is amply reflected in the ongoing Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat campaign in which cultural traditions of one state are exchanged with that of another far-flung state. During this festive month the campaign would assume new dimensions in view of the “Vocal for Local” call given by the Prime Minister and focus on local products, handicrafts, khadi and village products in order to bring home afresh the message of “back to the culture of roots”.
So Diwali, this time, would carry a message of “vocal for local” in a way that people celebrate the local artisans and local craft, enabling people to imbibe the innate chord of binding and brotherhood.
PM urged people to promote “local for Diwali” in a big way. Not loud with crackers and fireworks, but sonorously vocal to make people connect with their heritage and strengthen the cultural bonds across the nation.
Buying local products will not only strengthen local manufacturing but will also brighten up Diwali of those who make these products and give a new boost to the economy.
“You are seeing today that along with vocal for local, the mantra of local for Diwali is resonating everywhere….Celebrating Diwali with local products will give a new boost to the economy. I would like to say to the people of Varanasi and all countrymen, promote ‘local for Diwali’ big time,” said the Prime Minister adding that when every person buys local products with pride, talks about them, they help in promoting it.
The echo of “vocal for local” would not only resonate throughout the country but would also help rejuvenate the local art and craft that was dealt a severe blow during the Covid lockdown period.
Besides inspiring the nation to connect to its roots the prime minister’s call for “vocal for local” assumes significance also because Diwali, this time, has come at the backdrop of Covid lockdown which has ,in its aftermath, left lakhs of artisans gasping for breath. Their economy is shattered not because they did not work but because they could not find a market for their works. Artisans could not buy raw material, nor could they sell their finished products. Lockdown-related distress was felt across all crafts-be it weavers,potters or painters.
According to a report, the handloom and handicrafts industry that employs around 10 crore people was left in the lurch during the lockdown period. It not only gave them financial distress and loss of livelihood but threatened the very existence of age-old tradition in many ways.
So in the ongoing festive season the call for “Vocal for Local” would have two dimensions. One, is to awaken the people of respective states to their culture and the cherished repository of it, exchange it with their friends and relatives in other states.
Two, it would help resurrect the art and crafts sector that was dealt a mortal blow in the wake of pandemics.
It is a celebration of our cultural assets and infusing new life into them for the young generation to learn.
Ajay Bhardwaj: The author is a senior journalist.