Potter’s wheels are turning furiously in villages around the holy city to meet an expected record-breaking demand for 14 lakh earthen lamps that would light up the banks of holy Saryu, two months from now. A day ahead of Diwali, the Uttar Pradesh government sponsors the ‘Deepotsava’ — a festival of lights — in which volunteers from colleges line a stretch of the riverbank in Ayodhya with ‘diyas’. At dusk, they are lit, presenting a grand spectacle.
The Ayodhya tradition began with Yogi Adityanath’s BJP government. Beginning with 51,000 diyas in 2017, the number went up to 4.10 lakh in 2019, over 6 lakh in 2020 and more than 9 lakh last year, setting a new Guinness World Record. This time, on October 23, the organisers say the target is likely to be 14 lakh. Already, potters in Jaisinghpur village are at work, anticipating large orders.
Raju, who is in his twenties, is among them. Last year, he and those working with him delivered 21,000 diyas for the Deepotsava after they got their order only 15-20 days in advance. “This time I don’t want to take a chance. So we are on the job, making and storing diyas. I expect to deliver 40-50,000 diyas this time,” he said. And like others, he expects a better price. “We got one-rupee per diya last year. But this time I think we should get at least Rs 1.50 for a diya as prices have also risen. Everything has become costlier, so should our diyas,” he said.
Also read| Ayodhya: Plinth work at Ram Janmabhoomi temple site reaches final stage; See exclusive pics
Like other potters, he used to sell diyas to middlemen as they got immediate payment without any running around for it Panchram Prajapati, a potter since childhood and now over 60 years old, said diya sales were meagre earlier as people bought them only for the Diwali puja. They preferred lighting up their homes with fancy electric bulbs, he said.
Big events like the Deepotsava have changed things, he said. Jaisinghpur village, which has about 40 potter families, supplied five or six lakh diyas last year, claims Rajesh Kumar Prajapati. Prajapati said he is waiting for more clarity and is making “kulhads” (earthen cups) for now. “We are also starting the work of making diyas in advance. Last year, I got Rs 1.20 for a piece,” he said.
Also read| Ayodhya to become world-class tourism hub: UP government to spend Rs 2,000 crore to restore its ‘lost glory’
He hoped he would get Rs 1.50 a piece at least this time. “We are also facing rising prices. From diesel to foodgrain, everything has become costly.” As in previous years, Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University is organising the Deepotsava for the state government.
Prof Ajay Pratap Singh, the nodal officer, told PTI that they are reviewing the events held in past years so that they can manage this one better. “The target of lighting 14 lakh diyas has been fixed this time. We have sent a proposal on this to the government and e-tendering for purchase of diyas will take place,” he told PTI. “We are also working on deputing volunteers from various colleges and departments,” he added.