"We started barely four months ago and already hundreds of village women have come on-board by now. From pots, diyas, agarbattis to even mobile phone stands and keychains, all these brilliant cow dung-based products are their brainchild."
As the nip in the air ushers in the festive season all over India, the women of Ban-Charauda in Raipur, Chattisgarh are extremely busy—applying another coat of paint or drawing beautiful motifs on the diyas (small lamps) that they make from cow dung. This Diwali, the women self-help groups (SHG) of Ban-Charauda are making over 2 lakh cow dung diyas to help India celebrate a cleaner and greener Diwali.
Made out of cow dung, dried and powdered herbs and tamarind seed paste – the cow dung diyas are 100 per cent eco-friendly and can last a long time. Even if they are discarded after the festivities, they will decompose in a jiffy, leaving no residue.
This Diwali, brighten up your homes the sustainable way! Light up these coconut shell Diyas!
In early 2019, when Ban-Charauda village was enlisted in the Gothan project, the basic idea was to involve the village women in producing vermicompost and organic manure from cow dung. Little did the authorities know that the women would invest their creativity and launch a plethora of innovative organic products from cow dung or gobar.
“It’s amazing to see how enthusiastic the women are about the Gothan programme. We had officially started barely four months ago and literally hundreds of women have already come on-board by now. All these brilliant products are their brainchild,” shares a senior official heading the Gothan programme in Chhattisgarh.
Gothaan (or Gaothan), which literally translates as a cattle shed, is a programme introduced across 1905 villages of Chattisgarh in 2019, aimed to empower the livelihood of rural women through cattle rearing and procuring dairy, as well as repurposing cow dung into eco-friendly daily-use items.
Green diyas and more
The process of making these diyas is quite interesting. First, the Gobar is dried and powdered in a machine, following which compostable adhesives like tamarind seed paste is added for binding. Then, dried herbs are added for fragrance and preservation, the dough is kneaded and placed into diya-shaped moulds. Once dried, the diyas are painted with all-natural colours and ornate motifs.
Priced between Rs 2 to Rs 10 per piece depending on their size and decorative intricacy, these cow dung diyas have already landed advance orders in bulk from cities all over India. Needless to say, the women artisans are working day and night on a war footing to keep up with the market demand. Around 4,000-5,000 diyas are being produced each day at Ban-Charauda SHGs.
Incidentally, these diyas are simply a seasonal initiative by the women artisans at Ban-Charauda, whose days are preoccupied throughout the year in curating a plethora of innovative products out of cow dung. Thanks to the creative ingenuity of these village housewives and mothers, the initial plan of making vermicompost has now branched out to making idols of gods and goddesses, flower pots, candle stands, mobile phone stands and even keychains – all prepared out of cow dung.
And of course, there is a wide range of cow dung-based manure that is helping the local farms thrive with their organic crops.
Aside from cow dung, other local ingredients also feature in their range of sustainable products like organic soaps or handloom textiles. “The soaps are completely made with locally-procured natural oils and floral raw materials, and costs no more than Rs 40-50, way cheaper than other branded sustainable products. But, the quality is the same, might even be better,” adds the official.
Another popular SHG product of the region is the dona-pattla leaf plates made out of Palash leaves.
Interestingly, the village of Ban-Charauda has a longstanding and innate connection with nature, which is evident in the name of the village itself.
Known as Charauda since time immemorial, the village had been home to the local aboriginal community. A few decades ago, the village suffered a severe drought which reduced the groundwater table drastically. As lives were affected, the villagers came together and decided never again to cut another tree. Rather, they started encouraging tree plantation. Within a few years, the forest cover was replenished and the village was rechristened Ban-Charauda (Ban means forest) to honour the greenery.
Once the Gothan programme was initiated in pen and paper for Ban-Charauda, the village got an extensive Gothaan (cow shelter). Interestingly, it was an all-women group who first stepped up and volunteered to take up the entire responsibility of managing the Gothan.
The tasks are hardly a cakewalk. From tending to a huge horde of cattle to ensuring their food, water and even medicines are provided on-time – the women in-charge of the Gothaan have a lot on their plates. Yet, they manage to take some time out and collect all the cow dung, which are later sold and repurposed by several other SHGs.
As more and more individuals are inching towards a greener Diwali, the cow dung diyas can truly be a perfect item for them this festive season.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)