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Designed to DAZZLE

With people lighting up their homes for Karthigai, M.R.ARAVINDAN checks out Poompuhar's lamp production unit.


AFTER DEEPAVALI, Karthigai is yet another festival of lamps. Houses and business establishments dazzle once again with the brightness of lights as earthen lamps are lit grandly for the occasion.Everyone seeks beautiful lamps to decorate their homes. And the obvious choice that comes across is Poompuhar Emporium, which has gained a roaring popularity over the years. People's expectations forces the Poompuhar Corporation to launch new designs in lamps each year.

Poompuhar with its enormous demand for variety lamps, has three well established brass artware lamp production centres which produce brass lamps in different sizes and attractive designs.

In fact, the Temple city is one of the three places where brass lamps manufacturing unit are located in the State. The other two are at Vavikulam and Nachiyarkoil. The Madurai and Nachiyarkoil units are bigger units. "On an average, the unit here produces 5,000 lamps a month which is worth Rs.two lakhs to Rs. three lakhs," shares A.S. Gnaneswaran, centre Superintendent.

Ranging from sizes of nine cms to eight feet, the unit churns out around 150 different designs.

While the Corporation is popular for its traditional kuttuvilakku, the Karthigai `agals' too have an equal niche among the customers. These agals come in three types - small, which is lesser than a palm's breadth, and big, which is size of a palm. The third variety is `Om' lamps, where the word is engraved on top.

"Likewise, lamps with various figures like Meenakshi, Ganesh, Vishnu, are engraved on the kuttuvilakku. The Ganesh lamps are the most common and sought after," says Gnaneswaran.

The process of lamp making is equally fascinating as revealed by Gnaneswaran. First, a special type of sand, found on a riverbed near Kumbakonam, is filled in two wooden boxes, inside which a mould of the lamp is placed. Through an extension pipe on top of one of the boxes, metal is poured in liquid form to make an unfinished lamp. Then, the extra metal is removed at the fitting segment and is sent to lathe for getting the exact shape. Here dyeing is done and threads on the lamps are created. Next, to remove the scraps and to get a soft touch, the lamps are polished. Later figures are engraved.

The unit is not only into the business of lamp production.

One of its greatest works has been producing four hundis in brass of six feet each. These were sent to Tirupati Temple some years ago. A four-feet tall bible stand specially designed for a church in Chennai is another of its pride productions.

* * *

Tips for maintenance

Clean it regularly.

Never touch them with wet hands or allow water to stay on the lamp for a long time during cleaning process.

Traditional methods of cleaning like use of tamarind is effective.

Dish-washing powders can also be used.

Never allow dust particles to settle on the lamps otherwise the polish will lose its shine.

How to identify good lamps

The polish should be in colour of 22-karat gold and the lamp should not break even if it is dropped on the floor.

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