Despite the decline, as many as 33 shops were selling the traditional dolls around the Big Temple and each shop used do business to the tune of around Rs 6,000 per day. But the condition turned worst after the lockdown restrictions as the visits by devotees as well as the tourists had come down drastically and the artisans have lost their daily earnings.
Sources said, these shops were closed in March 2020 after the lockdown was imposed and they lost their entire business completely for several months. On September 1, 2020, the Big Temple was reopened for the public and the business started picking up gradually. “Though there were more footfalls after Deepavali, shops managed to achieve only 70 per cent of pre-COVID business and again restrictions have been announced along with closure of places of worship and we are not able to do business even for Rs 500 now. Many of us do not open the shop because of the almost nil sale,” said Big Temple Traders Association president R Jayakumar.
Since there was no sale, the production of such dolls too had has come to a halt and the artisans here have been searching for jobs in other trades.
“Due to the crash in the sale, only 25 per cent of the usual production is being done in units across Thanjavur. Earlier, we used to produce at least 500 dolls a month and this has now dipped to 100 and that too are getting stuck in the units itself,” said S Boopathi, a producer of Thanjavur rocking dolls.
Boopathi said that since they are not able to procure even raw materials, they have almost stopped making the dolls. “Only when the tourists flow picks up, we can revive our livelihood. Till then, the state government should help us with some monetary assistance,” Boopathi added.