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.

Raghurajpur Part 4: Masked in creativity..

There is no exhaustive list of products that are made in Raghurajpur (considering their homes are also works of art). The walls are painted on in their homes, the empty bottles are painted in bright tribal art and Lord Jagannath, (the focal point of their lives) is portrayed on every conceivable medium. So when masks in bright colours and interesting themes beckon, it is hard to resist.

Made with Papier-mâché, Lord Jagannath and his triad were the only themes made initially. Nowadays apart from making faces of other Gods and Goddesses, regular Pattachitra and village themes are also used.

Take your pick from the ones in the pictures. There will soon be lots more available on CraftCanvas.

Please click here for more pictures of Orissa- Rath yatra and crafts.

Raghurajpur Part 3: Etched on a leaf..

The rampant power cuts in Raghurajpur ruined some of the pictures. It was very dark inside Dilip’s home and I am not a fan of flashlights! 🙂 So forgive me for the ‘ok-ish’ pictures, but I am sure you’ll love the concept.

After two posts of praises about Raghurajpur’s skill with the brush, this one takes it to another level! Dilip Kumar has carved out this piece on palm leaves sewed together to create a canvas.

The palm leaves are sewn together to make a canvas. The drawing is etched on the canvas using a sharp object.

Dilip took less than a minute to etch this!

The characteristic portrait of a girl’s face used in Pattachitra.

Black colour (made from soot of lamps) is used to fill the etching.

The colour is applied.

The excess colour is wiped off with a rag showing the face of the girl clearly in contrast to the beige background.

A close up to reveal the face of a boy and a girl.

Without a stencil or any measurements, Dilip managed this perfectly ‘in sync’ faces.

Please click here for more pictures of Orissa- Rath Yatra and crafts..

Raghurajpur Part 2: Folklore and colours..

I have known ‘Dilip Kumar Prusty’ for a year now, but had never met him in person. Going by his highly talented work and the average age of skilled artisans in our country, I expected him to be at least 60 years old. When I finally met him during this trip, I was surprised to meet a chirpy 30 yr old, with a lot of interesting ideas and dreams for the future.

As someone who has explained the process to complete strangers a million times, he clearly detailed out the process for us. Pattachitra is drawn on a special paper. The paper is made with multiple layers of old fabric treated with a concoction that consists of tamarind seed paste, a completely eco-friendly concept. A final coat of a limestone mixture is spread on the paper, which is then polished to provide a smooth canvas.

(Photo courtesy: P Sindhuja) On this paper, the basic sketches are drawn. The colours that are used are also derived from natural sources like Conch shell (white), soot from lamps (black), Geru (red), etc. The colours are stored in empty coconut shells.

The brushes are made with animal hair based on the thickness required, with the finest one being made from squirrel hair!

Mythology is the central theme of most paintings. Most crafts in our country have evolved to support the various rituals performed in temples (or the other way round!). Patta paintings are used in the place of idols in the Puri temple during a specific period of the year. During this period the gods are supposed to be sick and are not fit to offer darshan to their devotees.

Pattachitra is just not limited to a single canvas. Walls painted with Krishna’s Raas-Leela, his life’s story and Vishnu’s ten avatars abound in Raghurajpur.

(Photo Courtesy: P Sindhuja) Traditionally done by men, women have also taken to this craft. Initially, they were involved only in the process of making colours. Nowadays they are formally trained in this art by their family members.

Though I would have loved to visit all the 120 families in the village, it is impossible to cover everything in a day. So I restricted my visit to two homes, Dilip and his neighbor Narayan (the one in blue shirt).

Feast your eyes on a few designs..

At the end of it, we insisted that Dilip sign our purchase. He had never done it before and took a lot time to write his name on the painting.

Please click here for more photos of Orissa Rath Yatra and Crafts.

Raghurajpur, Part 1: Life in black

‘Raghurajpur’ has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time. So when I finally set foot inside that village, I was over joyed. Located on the banks of a picturesque river, Raghurajpur is truly a treat for travelers like me. It is more like a settlement of craftsmen, all highly skilled and each of them create magic on their canvases.

(Photo Courtesy: P. Sindhuja) Here is my first glimpse of the village and I was already on an high!

There are many crafts to explore in that little hamlet. I decided to start with what I saw first, the tribal art. Made with just the basic black (originally soot collected from lamps were used), this art is a true example of how creative someone can get with whatever little they can get their hands on. Nowadays a small bit of colour is used to highlight and offset the black. The images have no facial features, yet they all have a story woven into them.

(Photo Courtesy: P. Sindhuja) Look at the details of a woman playing an instrument.

Kamarupa is one of the many talented artists in Raghurajpur. Barely in his 30s, he has practiced his art for as long as he can remember.

(Photo Courtesy: P. Sindhuja) Drawing inspiration from their environment, the simple motifs of everyday life are accentuated with a whole lot of detail.

The art is used on other medium as well. They are painted on cloth to be used as wall hangings.

I flipped when I saw a beautiful Tussar silk saree painted with this art. Sadly, I don’t have a photo to feature here.

So if you are already dreaming of that motif on your wall, make sure you leave me a message.

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

A small thanks to my friend Sindhu for those lovely photos! 🙂

Crafted in stone..

My first day in Bhubaneswar happened to be very rainy indeed. Such a dampener when you have so much to do in such little time. Thanks to Dr.Gadanayak’s(Director, school of sculpture) advice, I had a fairly reasonable list of locations for the crafts I wanted to visit. The closest craft was stone carving, so Girish (my friend) and I were off to explore it in the maddening rain!

The initial experience was mind-blowing and this was even before I had visited the Konark temple.  Orissa’s temples are monuments of beauty, every bit of it sculpted by the ancestors of these gifted men, the worshippers of Vishwakarma, the divine architect of the world. The temples are made of sandstone (sanapattar, as it is locally called) and have a reddish-pink sheen.

The first stop was a well established set up owned and run by a master sculptor Dr. Sudarshan Sahu. Though we didn’t get to meet him, we were generously allowed a tour of his premises.

The craftsmen working under him were patiently creating the works of art. One of them, Murlidar explained that Orissa is rich in various indigenous varieties of stone. Anything from the super soft soapstone to the hard granite is available here.

Very simple tools like chisels and hammers are used to sculpt these beauties.

The detailing achieved using these simple tools..

Our next stop was a small workshop on the way to Pipli. The entire Bhubaneswar-Pipli road is dotted with such small workshops. We decided to take a random stop at one of them and we were not disappointed.

I met Rasamani Maharana, a master craftsman who runs a training school there. The rain soaked sculptures in contrast to the lush green of the surroundings was the first thing that hit me here.

During my discussion with him, I told him that I love these sculptures. However my tiny apartment cannot fit these in and so decided to try out something small for the city dweller! I am restlessly awaiting their arrival. 🙂

Here are a few designs..

Signature sculpture from Orissa. A lion sculpture guards the gate in every temple. It is a symbol of triumph and victory. Note the detailing on the waist band.

I would have loved to stay back to hear the constant chiseling, taking in the lush surroundings and admiring the sculptures. Another burst of rain and I had to leave.

End of day one..

Please click here for more photos of my Orissa trip.

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