In a small village named Kondagaon in Bastar District of Chhattisgarh lives a potter named Ashok Chakradhari. He has recently been trending on the internet for reviving a traditional lamp that can burn for at least 24 hours.
Being called the ‘magic lamp’, Ashok says that he tried his hand at sculpting this diya last year after watching a video on youtube.
“I am always on the lookout for new ideas that can challenge my pottery skills, and be a useful innovation for those around me. In 2019, before Diwali, I was looking for a new design to sculpt diyas. That is when I stumbled upon a lamp that carries a reservoir of oil over it and keeps refilling the base to ensure the diya does not stop burning. I found it interesting and decided to make that,” says 62-year-old Ashok.
Making the ‘magic lamp’
After watching multiple videos, Ashok made three different parts. The first was the lamp, the second, a dome-like structure that acts as a reservoir to hold the oil, and third, a tube-like structure to hold the reservoir over the lamp’s base.
The tube is open-ended and fits into the lamp’s wide base. Attached to it, the diya has a small hole opening into the tube-like structure. It also has a handle attached to the back. Through a spout opening in the dome-shaped reservoir the oil pours into the diya.
“It took me five or six tries to get the design right, but within one week I succeeded. Initially, the dome would get too heavy and the lamp would topple over, but after trial and error, I managed to get all the elements working together. I also tested it out by filling oil and lighting the diya,” says Ashok, adding that it was fascinating for him and his family to watch the fire not die out for an entire day.
How does it work?
First, the reservoir needs to be filled with oil and turned upside down over the lamp’s base. This causes the oil to start pouring from the spout into the diya. Once the small opening in the diya is covered with oil, an air gap stops the oil from leaving the reservoir.
After the diya is lit, whenever the oil’s level drops the air gap is released causing the oil to drip from the reservoir.
Ashok says, “I am unsure about the reservoir’s exact capacity but it can hold enough oil to keep the diya burning for 24 hours in one go. Only the lamp thread needs to be changed after one burns out completely.”
After he finalised the design, Ashok says he sold about 100 pieces or more last year during Diwali. This year he made the same number of lamps for Durga Puja and sold them for Rs 200 each. After sharing a video of the lamp on Facebook, he started to receive calls from close friends and family, who wanted to place orders. Soon, the video went viral and Ashok claims to have received more than 200 phone calls from people all over the country.
He says, “Some wanted to place orders for 1000 pieces and some wanted me to courier only five pieces or less. I had to refuse all those orders because I do not have the facility to send it across the country. The lamps are very delicate and can get damaged during transit. But, since I have received such a positive response from customers, I am looking for a solution to deliver these lamps safely.”
About the artisan
Though Ashok does not have a store to sell his crafts, people living around his village visit his home and purchase his handiwork. Apart from the magic lamp, he makes decorative horses, elephants and fountains based on orders. He also makes coffee mugs, dinner sets, water pots, etc.
Ashok says, “Pottery is a family business that I learnt from my father. I have been practising the art since childhood and have been earning from it all my life. I have three daughters, two of them are studying while my oldest is helping me with the business. She also does a bit of pottery.”