Crafting Ganesha..

Though I no longer live in Bombay, I still look forward to Ganesh Chaturthi every year. Part of the reason is that it signals the beginning of the festive season and the other is of course, the creativity in all of us that comes to the forefront. Every street has it own Ganapathi and the whole works around it is almost like a competition. It works the same way in most of our crafts. Check out some renditions of the elephant God in various crafts across the country.

Made in Dhenkanal, Orissa, this Dhokra sculpture was handcrafted by Dushasan Behera.

Found in a small alley in Oklipura, Bangalore, this metal sculpture is used in homes for Puja (prayer)

The auspicious silver sculptures are part of the Puja (prayer) room. A new bride is gifted these as a symbol of luck and prosperity.

The stone sculptures of Shivarapatna in Kolar.

A modern style Ganesha made in Udaipur.

A Pattachitra of a  five headed Ganesha from Orissa.

Ganesha masks on Papier-mâché.

That is me holding a Ganesha made with goat leather. The puppet craft Charmakari has Ganeshas on just about everything- lamps, puppets and even wall screens.

Sadly, every year after Visarjan (the day when the elephant god sculptures are cast into the water bodies), I hate to think of the pollution levels that our fun and festivals have caused the environment. A bio-degradable Ganapathi is a great option, but if you wish to retain your Ganapathi or even gift your friends, you can pick one of these options.

This item is available at our eBay Store.

Crafts of Orissa- Dhokra in Dhenkanal

It was the last day of my stay in Orissa. In all the 6 days I spent there, I barely managed to get a few hours sleep everyday. I had already covered the Rath Yatra (enjoying all the madness around it), visited loads of artisans ans covered some very interesting crafts. Managed a sunrise at Konark, took a quick tour of the temple, shopped and then I was left with one single thing to do- visit the Dhokra artisans at Dhenkanal.

A beautiful 2 hour drive from Bhubaneswar, crossing the Mahanadi river and a tiger sanctuary I was on my way to Dhenkanal. I had looked up a bit on the location, but it is almost impossible to find details of an artisan village online. Nevertheless, what works is a picture of the craft, an approximate location, stop-overs at chai (tea) shops and a lot of smiles and questions.

After a few detours (inevitable on Indian roads as there are hardly any sign boards), I reached the village nestled amidst lush mountains and freshly washed earth. I found myself on a street with dirt roads, puddles and the usual village life humming around. The first person I met was working on Dhokra and my joy knew no bounds when I saw that. It has been a while since I’ve been doing this, but there is this pleasure of exploring something and the joy of finding that which I am looking for is the same everytime! 🙂

I was taken to the village elder, Dushashanji Behera. He was in his sixties, agile, strong and very genial in his manner. The whole settlement were descendants of artisans who had  migrated from Bastar(a Dhokra settlement in Chhatisgarh), about hundred years ago. I explained briefly about CraftCanvas and I was suddenly surrounded by loads of curious onlookers. My father-in-law had accompanied me (for the first time ever!) on this expedition. Being a professor in rural marketing, he saw this as a case study for his next lecture!

I couldn’t get my eyes off those beautiful works of art, carelessly strewn around. The tigers, peacocks, tortoises, fishes, deers and the elephants in various forms kept tugging at me to buy them.  After feasting my eyes enough, I urged  Dushashanji to explain the process. The fact that I was shooting a video was an added bonus for him.

He quickly made a rough clay model in the shape of an elephant (with a cute trunk).

On this he would string around threads of bee wax, also adding details like the eyes, ears and a few embellishments with it.

The picture above shows that the wax structure (one in black) is an exact replica of the final metal structure.

On top of the wax structure, wet mud is rubbed all over. This takes the impression of the wax model.

Now the whole structure is heated, the wax melts forming an hollow with the image impression. Molten metal is poured into this hollow, which takes the shape of the wax model. Traditionally, wood was used as the fuel and a device made of goat skin was used to fan the kiln. Nowadays, coal and an electric fan have replaced these methods.

The structure is cooled, the outside mud covering is cleaned, the inside terracotta (clay fuses into terracotta) is broken to reveal the metal structure. Since they don’t have a controlled environment in the kiln, there are a lot of damages. Interestingly, they attribute this to ‘God work’ and accept the damages as a way of life!

This is how it looks before polishing.

This is then polished to a fine golden colour.

About 15 artisans remain in this settlement. They live in pitiable conditions in mud houses, bereft of any material comforts.  About 40 families have left for jobs in the mining sector that pay them Rs.130 per day. Dushashan proudly claims that he is a Rastrapathi (President) award winner. The recognition somehow has not been translated into rewards. Nowadays he travels to a lot of exhibitions to sell his craft. He wishes that he didn’t have to go and would love to focus on his craft. Nevertheless, the smiles on their faces and their abundant hospitality overshadowed their problems.

Here are some of the beautiful designs created by this group. I have ordered a few pieces-some jewellery and Diwali gift pieces for display on CraftCanvas. Will put it up as soon as they reach. Any suggestions for products, anyone?

This one was for the road. Dahi Vada Dum aloo is the traditional street food available in Orissa. Doted all along the highway are roadside stalls that sell this. Made with fried lentil balls, curd and potatoes, this spicy treat is just perfect for the rainy weather.

Work well done, I did deserve this! 🙂

P.S: Please click here for more pictures of Orissa- Rath Yatra in Puri, people and crafts