Pradeep Pattanayak

A melody of clanging metals and intricate stone carvings are distinctive features of this village, well not just any village, but with a unique history rich for its centuries-old art and culture. 

Yes, Lalitagiri in Cuttack district, one of the oldest Buddhist centre, once reverberating with sounds of hammer on chisel, is now wailing to save its identity. 

From sending sculptures, statues of Lord Budhha to China, Japan and other parts of the world and basking in its past glory, the village is now languishing due to neglect amid Covid crisis. 

Local sculptors rue that government apathy has dealt a two-fold setback to their only source of livelihood. 

“The Covid-19 has left us nowhere. Our business has come down to a big zero. What makes the matter worse is the government’s apathy. But for the government’s succour and intervention, it will be difficult for us to keep the age old profession afloat,” alleged Dhananjay Maharana, a sculptor. 

“My father was a well known artisan. My elder brother is a state awardee. And I am a recipient of ‘Kalinga Ratna’ award. We also worked at Akshardhan temple in Delhi. We have lost our business. We are working only to keep the tradition alive. What we are earning now is just hand to mouth,” observed Bhabagrahi Maharana, another sculptor. 

The stone sculptures of Lalitagiri village are in demand not only in foreign countries but also all over Odisha and in other states as well. As per the villagers, they used to export maximum number of Lord Buddha statutes to China and Japan during the pre-pandemic period. This apart, they would take their products to fairs and festivals and earn something that would fetch them enough to make both ends meet. 
Now, with the pandemic situation prevailing, they are no longer getting orders from outside. Worst, fairs and festivals have also become a thing of past. 

Narrating their agonising situation, a senior sculptor Kailash Chandra Ojha said, “The artisans are passing through a very difficult phase. If the government comes forward and does something like procuring our products and creating a market for them, it would save our family profession.”  

While they have had the art of making stone sculptures rolled down to them from generations, they allege the present generation is turning their faces away from this family profession. Instead of taking it up, they are exploring other sources of earning.