Traditional craft dying out as technology takes over

Kathmandu, October 15

The traditional occupation of carving stone mortar and pestle within Kusbariya community is fast dying out due to increasing use of advanced kitchen mixers.

Asha Devi Kusbariya, 40, travels different cities of the country to sell her mortars and pestles. Her family and other families in the community carve stones to make mortars and pestles and sell them.

She remembers that her grandfather and father pursued this occupation. Now, she and her sons are following in their footsteps. “Since the age of five, I started doing this job. Now even my sons are in the same occupation,” she said. In Biratnagar, Kusbariya families have adopted this occupation as the of means of their livelihood.

Asha shared that it had been difficult for them to sell their products as customers had an option to buy electric mixtures that were cheap and easy to use. “People are unwilling to buy our stone mortar and pestle,” she said.

Another Kushbariya woman, Bindi Devi Thawai from Birgunj had a similar tale to tell. She said it was next to impossible for their traditionally made mortars and pestles to compete with modern electric mixers in the market.

According to her, they spend a few months carving stones into mortars and pestles and roam around cities across the country to find buyers for the rest of the year.

Our children go to school only after we reach home after a long, exhausting journey,” said Bindi. When this scribe met her in Bhaktapur, roaming around the city to sell her products, she was with her four-year-old son, who studied in Grade II. She said she would be able to send him to school again only after she returned home.

Akesh Kuswariya, also whom this scribe met while he was selling mortar and pestle, said  he carved  six sets of mortars and pestles a day. “We import the stone from Banaras in India and give it a proper shape. A stone mortar costs Rs 600 to Rs 1,200, depending on its size. We make Rs 2,000 to 5,000 a day. We mainly travel places such as Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Illam, Jhapa,” Akesh said.