Gulaal Gota

News Excerpt:

In some parts of Rajasthan’s Jaipur, an old tradition will play out where colours will be thrown through a unique medium called the “Gulaal Gota”, dating back around 400 years.

What is a Gulaal Gota?

  • A Gulaal Gota is a small ball made of lac, filled with dry gulaal. 
  • When filled with gulaal, these balls weigh around 20 grams. On Holi, they are thrown at people and smashed to bits on impact.
  • Local artisans say that making Gulaal Gotas involves boiling lac in water to make it flexible. 
    • Lac is a resinous substance secreted by certain insects. It is also used to make bangles.
    • After shaping the lac, colour is added to it. At first, red, yellow, and green are added, as other colours can be obtained through their combinations. 
    • After the processing is done, artisans heat the lac. The lac is then blown into a spherical shape with a blower called a “phunkni.”
    • Then, gulaal is filled in the balls before they are sealed with lac.
  • Source of the raw material:
  • Lac is brought from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. 
    • As per the Chhattisgarh State Skill Development Authority’s website, the female scale insect is one of the sources of lac. 
    • To produce 1 kg of lac resin, around 300,000 insects are killed. The lac insects also yield resin, lac dye and lac wax.

How did Gulaal Gotas become a tradition in Jaipur?

  • Gulaal Gotas are made by Muslim lac makers, called Manihaars, only in Jaipur.
  • Manihaars’ ancestors were shepherds and horse traders from Afghanistan. They settled in Bagru, a town near Jaipur, and learned lac-making from Hindu lac makers or Lakhere.
  • The city of Jaipur was established in 1727. Its founder, Sawai Jai Singh II, an admirer of art, dedicated a lane at the Tripoliya Bazaar to the Manihaar community, naming it “Manihaaron ka Raasta.” 
  • To this day, lac bangles, jewellery, and Gulaal Gota are mostly sold here.
  • In older times, kings would ride through the city on elephant backs on Holi and toss Gulaal Gotas to the public. The erstwhile royal family is also known to order Gulaal Gota at its palace for the festival.

What does the future look like for this work?

  • The government of India has given “artisan cards” to Lac Bangle and Gulaal Gota makers, allowing them to benefit from government schemes.
  • Many artisans have gone to different parts of the world to showcase their art. 
    • One of the artisans from Gota Makers was invited to put up a shop at the G20 summit in New Delhi last year, where India’s Prime Minister and other dignitaries appreciated him for his unique talent.
  • Some Gulaal Gota makers have demanded a Geographical Indication (GI) tag in a bid to save tradition
    • A GI tag can help boost a product's awareness and highlight its location-specific exclusivity. 
    • It also helps original creators safeguard their products against imitation.

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