‘Kundera’ are craftsmen who work on turning wooden blocks to shape them into an art piece or product. The term Kundera came from the ‘Koon’ (a regional word), which means a lathe. And people who make products or artwork out of wood by using Koon, are called Kundera. At present People call them Kharadi also. According to Mr. Ram Khelawan Sing (age: 73), originally their ancestor came from Rajasthan and belonged to the Raghuvanshi community. During the Mughal period, they migrated from Rajasthan to Mirzapur, Benaras, Patna, Madhya Pradesh and various parts of India. For survival they had to work, so they started making wooden products for their livelihood. Initially, they made Pyali (bowl), Chauka–Belan (board and roller for roti making), and Moosali (mallet). They colored them with herbals. Thus, they made this work their profession. Now, other people are also started making wooden crafts as their profession but they have learned it from Kundera only.
Ram Khelawan Singh is a craftsman who lives in Khojwan Varanasi. Now he is retired, he has a lot of experience in making and selling Sindoora. He told me a story related to the importance of Sindoora. Once upon a time, there was an occasional wedding. Ram Khelavan Singh was a young craftsman and his friend was the person who was going to marry. His friend was from a rich family so he bought a gold vessel to keep Sindoor. But at the time of the ritual of ‘Sindoordan’ Pandit Ji rejected the vessel made out of gold and got angry. Pandit Ji argued that this vessel is not pure because it is made of gold and gold took the life of many people. It is the symbol of greediness and ego. Craftsman’s friend realized his mistake and apologized for that. Pandit Ji asked him to bring a vessel made out of wood because wood is pure. So he came to Ram Khelavan Singh and asked for the wooden vessel. Ramkhelavan Singh gave him a beautiful Sindoora and that’s how his friend completed the ritual of Sindoordan. There is a belief that without the wooden Sindoora, a wedding cannot happen in Hindu culture.
Craftsmen: Mr. Ram Khelawan Singh (left) and his son Ram Chandar Singh from Varanasi.