SANAWAD: Bakawan village, a small hamlet situated on the bank of the Narmada, is known for its unique and attractive Shivlings across the country. But the village is struggling to maintain its identity these days, because low business turnover due to the ongoing pandemic.
Bakawan, which falls under the Barwah Assembly constituency and Khandwa parliamentary constituency, is situated about 35 kilometres away from Sanawad town, in Khargone district.
According to 2019 statistics, the village has a total population of around 4,510 people. There are about 829 houses in the village, with a majority of the residents involved in Shivling manufacturing work. It is reported that there are 400 craftsmen residing in the village and running their manufacturing units.
They manufacture Shivlings ranging in height from one inch to 25 feet. In 2018, a 23-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide and 55-ton Shivalingam was taken to Sansthan Bhuvanagiri, Hyderabad, which was prepared by craftsman Dipak Namdev and others. The Shivlings manufactured here are in demand in every part of the world.
Covid changed everything: However, Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown changed everything. The village, which was earlier abuzz with the sound of machines, nowadays looks forlorn and deserted.
The craftsmen and their families involved in the work fear for their livelihood. They say that, if they do not get government help, they fear that the village could lose its identity as they have to opt for some other work instead of craftsmanship. The craftsmen here claim that the Shivlings from Bakawan are not only famous in the country, but also on foreign soil.
Sad plight of craftsmen: Narrating their plight, craftsmen Deepak Namdev, Rakesh Verma and Kesharilal Kewat, who are associated with the Shivling-making work, said Shivling manufacturing was started by 3-4 craftsmen about a hundred years ago. Slowly, more villagers joined the work and it became a source of livelihood for them.
Meanwhile, just as in the case of everyone else, the year 2020 turned out to be a nightmare for them as the lockdown not only affected their business, but forced many of the craftsmen who were solely dependent on the business to find some other source of income in other villages, Deepak Namdev said. “The state government must immediately help us to keep this skill alive, or else, we’ll become history,” Namdev added.
Revealing how the pandemic and lockdown had affected their business, the craftsmen said that, after March this year, Shivlings were not sold due to the closure of all forms of transport. During that time, many orders for finished goods were cancelled and, as a result, many families even took to begging because of a loss of livelihood.
‘End of lockdown not end of problems’: “Although the government has lifted the lockdown, unlike other businesses, problems continue for us as not more than 20% of the finished goods have been sold, so far. Today, we’re facing a serious financial crisis and the government must come forward and help us sustain,” another craftsman Rakesh Verma said.
Meanwhile, when contacted Barwah MLA Sachin Birla said that, to encourage and promote the art, the craftsmen of the village would get financial help at the appropriate facility and at the government level. “I’ll put this demand before the state government,” he said. Birla assured the craftsmen and their families he would take every possible step to provide help to the families there.