Kolkata: Ausgram in East Burdwan district of West Bengal is famous across the world, thanks to its Dhokra Art. However, the coronavirus pandemic has battered the lives of these Bengali folk artisans. They believe even after the lockdown is lifted their lives will be  plunged in darkness and they might take a couple of years to bounce back to normalcy.

About 60 families in Dhokrapara of Dariapur in Ausgram have been involved in this art for generations. Ramu Malakar, one of the residents of the village has received the President's Award for his skill. Many artists from India and abroad have also come to this village to learn the craft. Their work is exhibited in many places around the world. But now, these folk artists are struggling to survive.

According to the Dhokra artists, Durga Puja is a major source of income and they sign contracts with huge budgets every year. Some consumers also order Durga idols in the form of Dhokra art. In some cases, Durga pandals have the art theme.

Though Durga Puja is celebrated in the month of October, the artists receive orders as early as April. However, due to the lockdown they have not received any order till mid-May this year. They are not sure if they will receive any orders once the lockdown is lifted.

On the other hand, before the lockdown was imposed, the artisans had received some orders worth Rs 4 lakh from various traders. They received advance payment and spent it to buy raw materials and started their work. However, since the coronavirus crisis hit the country, traders have shown little interest in buying those products.

"Even if lockdown comes to an end, our industry will remain in crisis for at least the next two years. If there is no rice to eat, then who will appreciate the art?" asked Shubho Karmakar, an artist from Dhokrapara.