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In Tanil Nadu god's umbrella is referred to as ''Kovil Kodai''(in local parlance 'kovil' meaning temple and 'kodai' meaning umbrella). Kovil Kodai - the ritual umbrella is considered as one of the important services offered to the deity. It is supposed to protect the lord from sunshine and rain when taken out in a religious procession
Among the temple umbrella makers in south India, Chintadripet, a small part of Chennai city is well-known to have several hereditary families who are experts in the area of producing sacred umbrellas. It is said that these families once formed a large weaving community hailed from the Saurastra region (once part of Maharastra/ Bombay Presidency) and settled down here during the early colonial period. The English company - East India company that was also engaged in the export of woven Indian cloths to England wanted to create a facility in 1734. When Governor George Morton Pitt was in charge, he granted a large area of land to settle more than 230 weaver families from Saurastra. The English company who paid more attention to profit making wanted them to produce more cotton cloth on a regular basis exclusively for export. Subsequently, weavers' families decided to engage in a more profitable business - custom-made umbrellas for the popular temples to be used for temple festivals. In course of time these families gained better experience and learned the nuances of this business, besides, becoming well-versed in making eye-catching colorful and decorative temple umbrellas. As there were inquiries from other parts of India as well, they, over a period of time, became major suppliers of temple umbrellas to famous temples across India, in particular, south India. Puratasi month (according to the Tamil calendar) is closely associated with Vishnu temples and lots of umbrellas are made for the festivals held in that month (September-October).
Time keeps changing, so is the profession of temple umbrella making. It is a sad thing that only 12 to 30 families are in this business today as the work lasts for a few months. Part of the reason is young people in the families have no interest in this business that does not give stable income. Though modern technology is available, they try to follow the orthodox and traditional methods to make sacred umbrellas In the making of these intricate handcrafted products many elderly men and women are engaged in weaving and crafting the umbrellas, Of particular interest is design motifs on the umbrella and they find their roots in ancient tradition and mythological stories.
Each umbrella carries the image of the deity for which it is made. The long handle is mostly made of quality wood-teak. It is said, to cut cost strong and sturdy bamboo poles are used. The umbrellas meant for Vishnu temples are made in white and brown color silk cloth. Those designed for Shiva, Ganesha and Devi temples are multi-colored. The popular Kapaleeshwarar temple (dedicated to Shiva), Mylapore in Chennai needs huge umbrellas for the temple festivals (utchavams) and it requires at least 4 months to make them, considering the sizes.
|Tirupati temple umbrellas. templeumbrella.co/|