File picture October 2019: A worker places clay into a sizing machine which shapes the clay into cylindrical blocks for moulding at Makh Pottery Shop located at Ghany Street, Edingburgh, Chaguanas. The shop is well known for it’s East Indian pottery which caters to the Divali season.

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Clay potters have reduced the number of deyas they produce by 50 per cent, saying it was more lucrative to produce clay garden pots this year, rather than deyas.

The clay pots, which vary in size, are used for the celebration of Divali, popularly known as the Festival of Lights.

But with mass celebrations in jeopardy because of COVID-19 restrictions, pottery shop owners say deya sales have been abysmal this year.

Speaking to Guardian Media, Donny Benny, the owner of Donny’s Pottery said they were hopeful that sales would pick up nearer to November 14 when the celebrations are held.

Benny said although sales were slow, the price of the deyas had stayed the same compared to last year.

“We know that Divali will not be celebrated on a grand scale this year so we have cut the number of deyas we make by half,” he said. Unlike other pottery manufacturers, Benny said none of his staff has been terminated.

“We know that times are hard so are we trying our best to rally through,” he said.

He explained that many people had lost jobs so they now had the time to do kitchen gardening and landscaping.

“We are seeing people buying garden pots rather than deyas so we are making pots to suit that demand,” he added.

Owner of Radika’s Pottery, Andy Benny said his production of deyas was also cut off by 50 per cent.

“Usually we start making the deyas four or five months before Divali but this year it was not like that.” He said since March he has retained his workforce even though it was not financially feasible to do so.

“My workers have been with me for many years. I could not lay them off. Since March when COVID restrictions started I continued to pay them four days per week,” he said.

Andy said because thousands of people are affected by the economic downturn, he felt it was important for the government to promote Divali some more.

“Encourage people to celebrate on a small scale. We know people have less money to spend. As much as reopening the country sounds dangerous we have to consider the psychological impact this is having on families,” he said.

Meanwhile, general secretary of the Sanathan Dharma Maha Sabha Vijay Maharaj said it is unlikely that there will be any mass celebrations this year once COVID-19 restrictions remain in effect.

He said Ramleela activities were also at a standstill. Divali is usually preceded by the public portrayal of Ramleela, which depicts the story of Lord Rama and the rescue of his wife Seeta, after her abduction by the demon king Ravana.

Asked whether there will be any virtual celebrations, Maharaj said no.

He explained that Ramleela is a mass portrayal and even if the dramatisation was being done virtually, it would require too many participants to be in the same place at the same time.

Maharaj said once the Prime Minister lifts some of the restrictions, the SDMS will be able to give a clear indication as to how the festival of lights will be celebrated.

Meanwhile, president of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Deokinanan Sharma also confirmed there will be no grand Divali Nagar celebrations this year.

Apart from COVID-19 restrictions, Sharma said they had no finances to put out the grand show which usually costs between $4-5 million. Saying there is a great economic fallout because of COVID-129, Sharma said thousands of people are being affected.