STATES

Palmyra leaf beats plastic to become star this Christmas

Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: Though churches and other Christmas celebratory venues are still teeming with stars and decorative materials made of plastic, ornamental items made of palm leaves have made considerable inroads, courtesy anti-plastic awareness campaigns and increasing attention to palmyra.

Decorating christmas trees, hanging stars, illuminating houses with LED lights and setting up the nativity scene are indispensable features of the festival. With the State government keen on abolishing single-use plastic items and promoting palmyra products, artisans who can craft stars and festoons with tender palmyra leaves stumbled upon a lucrative business this winter. “The leaves are flexible, durable and can be easily painted upon,” the artisans say.

As the State government banned felling of palmyra trees without prior permission of respective District Collectors, the cost of the tender leaves has doubled now. A Nagarajan, a palmyra leaf artisan from Kootampuli, told TNIE a leaf that cost only `30 before the ban order, now sells for `60 to `70. The leaves were readily available before the ban and people used to indiscriminately cut the trees. Now, a skilled labourer has to scale the trees to cut tender trees. `100 is the going rate for climbing a tree.

Nagarajan, who was a driver formerly, now crafts stars sized from 3 to 20 inches, and has found demand for them in various parts of the world. He also shifted his residence from Kootampuli to Rani Maharajapuram near Tiruchendur as more tender leaves are available there. 

Another artisan Antony of Adiakalapuram told TNIE palmyra stars were in high demand this year. “However, I could not craft enough to meet the demand,” he said. A 20-inch palmyra star costs Rs 400 and Rs 520 for a star of the same size fitted with lights. “Though they cost more, people are buying them as they want to do away with plastic decorations,” the artisan added.

Father John Samuel of St Luke’s Church at Pandaranchettivilai, who had decorated the church with palm leaf ornaments, said, “It gives us immense pleasure to use eco-friendly products to adorn our place of worship. I bought a 120-feet long palmyra festoon and 200 small stars.”

As the State government is implementing several initiatives such as the Meendum Manjapai Scheme to eliminate single-use plastic bags, the palm leaf artisans have appealed to the government to help on the marketing front.

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