Preventing extinction of hereditary professions

Preventing extinction of hereditary professions

It is a sad reality of the times that despite liberal help from governments, such as those of Telangana, hereditary professions are being gobbled up by Big Business. Perhaps, it’s time to make it mandatory by law to employ them, directly or indirectly, by Big Business, both in their production centers and also in marketing outlets for gainful employment

Gold and silver shops are now predominantly owned by Big Businessmen, instead of ‘Goldsmiths’ (Kamsali), a caste, traditionally engaged in working with gold, silver, and other precious metals by making ornaments since ages. Some goldsmiths work either directly or indirectly with these businessmen for trivial wages, while others, small in number, make inadequate livelihood on this. About 60-70 years ago, during our childhood, almost in every village, there lived a goldsmith, a carpenter, a provisions selling Vysya, a Brahmin pujari, a weaver, a blacksmith, a potter, a Mochi, a bangle seller etc., whose primary livelihood was hereditary vocation and, by and large, satisfying the needs of a majority of villagers in their own way and with respect.

It is a well-known fact that Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has been implementing schemes for the welfare and uplift of every section of society and economically weaker sections engaged in hereditary professions. For instance, sheep distribution and large-scale assistance to weaving and fish breeding sector form part of this. However, with the passage of time, despite numerous financial assistance schemes of the TS government for the hereditary professions, there exists gap and a good number of artisans are unable to make both ends meet by depending on their vocations. This is resulting in migration to nearby towns and cities.

For getting a foot finger ring (known as Mette) and anklets repaired and help in wearing, when my wife approached a silver shop in Ameerpet (Hyderabad), the shop owner entrusted the job to a person sitting in front of his shop, with required smithery equipment before him on a small table. In no time he did the job skillfully and helped in wearing them. He charged just hundred and fifty rupees. On enquiry, he said with passion and proud on his face that he is a ‘GOLDSMITH,’ reminding the Telugu proverb ‘KULAVRUTTIKI SATI LEDU GUVVALA CHENNAA’!!! (There is no equivalent to hereditary vocation or profession).

Rationale of the division into ‘Four Categories’ of occupations said to have been created in ancient Vedic days, according to individual’s qualities and activities, supposed to be not according to birth, not static forever, and ever dynamic, is contentious, controversial, and debatable in modern days context. However, the purpose for which the division was done, was successful in meeting the then existing social need and responsibility, which, however, is no more the case now.

Times have changed. No profession is monopoly now. Learning and reciting of Vedas is no more limited to Brahmin community and whoever has passion, interest, eligibility, and ability may learn and even teach Vedas irrespective of caste. There is no restriction for any caste to opt for defense services or be in administration or management, in addition to Kshatriyas. Agriculture or business is no more the domain of a particular caste. In other words, to say, knowledge is nobody’s monopoly or domain now – all professions for all, irrespective of caste and class these days.

However, diversification of trades in this fashion, implicitly affected adversely the hereditary professions and few Backward Classes who mainly practised and depended on them. In spite of enormous help by the TS government, preventing them from shifting to other professions for better livelihood has become a bit difficult. In a way, times and socio-economic scenario also demand it. Purchaser of a product is also put to loss, since affordability became expensive.

Years ago, there were not as many gold and silver shops as we see today. Goldsmiths living in villages, towns, and cities generally and also during auspicious occasions like marriages, were making ornaments, skillfully and with cent percent quality. For instance, the ‘Mangala Sutra’ and ‘Foot Finger Rings’ after making was over, the custom was to retain them with goldsmith who would hand over only a few hours before marriage. Now everything is mechanised and unnaturalised. It is doubtful whether ornaments are a handiwork of a goldsmith or are machine-made. Equally doubtful is, to what extent goldsmiths are engaged in making these now-a-days.

This is not the case with just goldsmiths. The village carpenter (Vadrangi) whose skill in making a variety of agricultural implements such as harvesters, drag, disc harrows, cultivators, seed drills, harrows, spades, ploughs etc., and also various parts of a bullock cart and the way they were assembled, especially, the wheels made with wood with iron rims, is a bygone history. Now for every agriculture-related activity, from sowing to harvesting, mechanisation is in place, such as combine harvester, rotavator, rototiller, tractor trailer, power harrow, leveller, water bowser, ripper machine, disc harrow etc. This resulted in most carpenters migrating to urban areas in search of alternative trades, except handful whose data is not available.

In this context, an acquaintance narrating his personal experience said that after he failed tenth class examination in 1977, he took up his hereditary profession of carpentry with pride, in his native village, and soon established a ‘Khar Khana’ (Known as Dayi) from out of the income of making agriculture implements. He even performed marriages of his two sisters besides buying four acres of land. With the advent of first tractor in his village, he gradually lost his income and in no time was propelled to move with family to Hyderabad with starving stomach. Competition from carpenters of other states in Hyderabad prevented him from securing gainful employment.

During our childhood, there used to be invariably a ‘Sale’ caste family in villages. Their traditional occupation was that of weaving. Most of the wear of locals, as well as bed sheets and a unique ‘Seven Cubits Blankets’ in pure white, which protected from sun and cold were their products. These have vanished now and, except in a few belts, mostly they moved to urban areas. The TS government did its best by setting up textile hubs and marketing assistance for their products on a large scale besides subsidies in several forms. Every village had a ‘Darji’ (tailor) who lost their occupation, due to advent of readymade cloths and exorbitant costs of tailoring material. These days to find a ‘Darji’ is a herculean task. Few highly skilled among them are employed by tailoring-cum-sales shops on meagre salaries. No data seems to be available for these skilled persons also.

‘Mochi’ who was traditionally making footwear to meet the needs of villagers, too, lost livelihood as a result of Big Business, who took over their profession and do not even respectfully engage them. Hereditary profession of ‘Nayi Brahmins,’ who are engaged in barber work, has been calculatedly taken over by others on the stylish and attractive names such as beauty parlors, saloons, massage centers etc., with pure commercial objective. Despite the Telangana government’s support in various ways to saloons in villages, such as free electricity, barbers, too, are migrating to urban areas. ‘Horse Shoe Making and Girding’ occupation, once profitable, is now languished.

The entire scenario aptly recaps Great Indian Telangana Poet and Singer known for his works in Telugu literature, and Kendra Sahitya Academy Awardee and MLC Gorati Venkanna’s song ‘Palle Kanneeru Pedutundo’ (Village Sheds Tears) word by word, where he painfully describes the plight of hereditary professions of goldsmith, carpenter, weaver, tailor, blacksmith etc., and their tools, not to speak of loss of their livelihoods and their migration to urban areas for diversification.

‘Alas! Big Business Reins where Traditional Hereditary Vocations languish.’ Hereditary professions are magnificently rejuvenated by the TS government, which no state has done. But, may be, an extra care of these artisans is needed. Their skills need to be upgraded and multiskilled to suit the current needs and tastes of customers, and to ‘prepare to challenge Big Business.’ It may also be a good idea to make it mandatory by law to employ them, directly or indirectly, by Big Business, both in their production centers and also in marketing outlets for gainful employment.

(Writer is Chief Public Relations Officer to the Chief Minister,


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