Rural women craftspersons find a platform at Saras Aajeevika Mela 2021 in Delhi

Saras Aajeevika Mela is on at the 40th International Trade Fair 2021, in New Delhi between November 14 to November 27. The fair was organised after a year-long break due to COVID19. Gaon Connection spoke to women artisans from Manipur and Karnataka who shared their experience about the fair.

Sarah Khan
| Updated: Last updated on November 22nd, 2021,

New Delhi

For the untrained eye, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between a painting and the coloured wooden carvings Ayesha Bano makes. 

The 40-year-old artisan from Mysore, Karnataka makes coloured wooden carvings using rosewood which look uncannily like a painting, so fine is it. Each carving is made of rosewood, which is procured from the local forests. It takes two to three months for a painting to take shape. Four or five women work collectively on it, in close coordination, Bano shared.

“One woman cuts the wooden logs, one paints them, while another one polishes them. One mistake can ruin the entire painting,” said Bano. 

Bano hasn’t received any official training but learnt on her own by observing other artisans. “I observed and learnt for four years and then started a self-help group (SHG) called Bismilla which comprises fifteen women. We make 10-15 such wooden paintings every year,” she told Gaon Connection

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Bano’s is one of the many self-help groups that are participating in the Saras Aajeevika Mela 2021 taking place in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, as a part of the 40th India International Trade Fair. 

Ayesha Bano from Mysore, Karnataka, makes fine wooden carvings using rosewood. Photo by : Sarah Khan

The Mela is exhibiting handicraft and handloom products of 300 craftspersons from across the country. It’s organised by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. 

SARAS Mela is an initiative by the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana National Rural Livelihoods Mission, MoRD to bring the rural women self-help group members under one platform to showcase their skills, sell and build linkages with potential market players at fair prices. 

“We sponsor craftspersons by bringing them from their state to the exhibition. Their stay and other expenses are taken care of by the government. We have also sold a few paintings made of goat leather by Sri Maruti self-help group to the United Nations Development Programme,” Siddhant Srivastava, a Consultant for the Department of Skill Development, Government of Karnataka told Gaon Connection

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Laishram Sandhya Rani Devi from Thoubal, Manipur, and a part of an SHG, displayed baskets, hats, mats, etc. made from water hyacinth. The products were made by her self-help group during the lockdown and are being sold at the Mela. 

“We were trained by a local non-government organisation called Audience. We didn’t make much money out of making products for them so I started a self-help group this year in February with ten women. We pooled in money, made all the products which are on display here and are selling them now,” she explained. 

Laishram Sandhya Rani Devi from Thoubal, Manipur and a part of an SHG, displayed baskets, picnics, hats, mats etc. made from water hyacinth. Photo by : Sarah Khan

Sandhya also said that business has been slow ever since the lockdown and a platform like SARAS would help to sell their products. Bano echoed her as she said how difficult it was to find raw materials during the lockdown. Sales were less than normal and she hoped to sell her products in the mela. 

The Saras Aajeevika Mela was officially opened for the public on November 18 and will go on till November 27.