Three exquisite handicrafts from Odisha that will inspire you

Traditional crafts of Odisha…

Odisha’s magnificent temples and silky beaches have been working overtime to pull in the throngs forever. But there’s so much more under the shroud of modesty surrounding this nearly-neglected eastern state of India. Like its untouched forests, secret gorges, abundant wildlife and a rich treasury of traditional arts and crafts. From elaborate stone carving and mask-making to fine silver filigree and handloom, a handicraft tour of Odisha can prove to be an adventure as well as a challenge. Smart traveller alternative? Kala Bhoomi, the Crafts Museum in the capital city of Bhubaneshwar. Every local art form lovingly curated, impeccably designed exhibit galleries and in-depth expert-guided tours by Ekamra Walks make it a mecca for the artistically inclined. Set aside an afternoon to soak in the soul of the city through the unspoken stories of its centuries-old crafts. Here’s a lowdown of three exquisite handicrafts from Odisha that left the deepest impressions on my heart.   

Painstaking palm-leaf narratives

Celebrate the tradition: Flash-backing to 2000 years may seem like a feat, till you come across a specimen of a time-worn Talapattachitra (literally ‘palm leaf illustration’). In the heritage of village of Raghurajpur, just an hour away from Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneshwar, yesterday merges seamlessly with today. Lipikaars (scribes) spend their entire lives creating hand-written copies of sacred verses and ancient literature on palm leaves, just like ancient times, when they did so under the patronage of kings and temple authorities. From decorative manuscripts to illustrative fables and folklore to art form…its no surprise why this rare craft is also Odisha’s most beloved. After all, the roots of its inspiration are Lord Jagannath and the Vaishnava cult.

Applaud the craft: Imagine a vintage-style scroll made of faded, hardened leaves that cleverly packs up into a compact pile of slim folds, held together by fragile thread. Etched meticulously and minutely with finest of stencilled drawings using an iron stylus. Recounting episodes from mythology, including Ramayana and Mahabharata. Flaunting lace-like finery. Duping you with a print-like quality. Always intricate and very expressive. Bold and striking in lamp black or vibrant and bright in natural colours. Every medium it has touched beyond the original palm leaves (cloth, paper, terracotta and even walls) over the centuries, has only added to its undying grace. A quintessential symbol of Odisha culture to treasure for all times.

Pattachitra_Raghurajpur_Bhubaneshwar_1

Pattachitra_Raghurajpur_Bhubaneshwar_2

Pattachitra_Raghurajpur_Bhubaneshwar_3

Pattachitra_Raghurajpur_Bhubaneshwar_4

Pattachitra_Raghurajpur_Bhubaneshwar_5

Ganjifa_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar

Embrace the art: Watch a magical specimen come to life under expert hands in one of the hundreds of workshops in the houses of Raghurajpur. Let your heart be the judge, as you scrounge for a piece that will find a place of honour in your own home. A set of Ganjifa cards, that ancient palace game (a Persian import), which the masses made their own. It even served as an intricate recitation of Hindu scriptures because of its detailed and varied imagery. An irresistible indulgence…whether as a card game, framed wall hangings, or even glass coasters. Or a classic black beauty in true talapattachitra style, like the one that I fell for?

Muted metallic monologues

Celebrate the tradition: Its a timeline of at least 5000 years. Indigenous tribes stumbled upon the abundance of natural resources in the mineral-rich central Indian belt and a streak of ingenuity transformed lifestyles forever. A never-seen-before line of craftsmen hit the market with uniquely handcrafted metal ware, Inspired by indigenous folk culture and traditional motifs, such as animals, birds, cattle, humans and gods-goddesses. These metal-smiths of the nomadic Dhokra tribe went from one village to another earning a living by selling their goods, mostly ceremonial and religious figurines, ornaments and kitchen ware. The craft has miraculously survived the test of time. Odisha is still proud home to the distinctive Dhokra art.

Applaud the craft: Have a soft corner for the delightfully disproportionate, charmingly crooked and perfectly imperfect? Then the primitive starkness of Dhokra’s old-gold, antiquity will fascinate you. Until you step behind the shopping shelf into the workshop. Where artisans fashion metal objects from bronze and copper-based alloys using an unusual method called ‘lost wax casting’. Bees-wax wires are wrapped around a coarse clay model till a clearer replica emerges and coated with a second, finer clay layer to create a final mould. Molten metal is poured into the mould, the cast is removed and ornamental finishing touches are added. A single piece could take up to a month or two to be created. Factoid: one of the earliest known lost wax casting artefacts known to mankind is the legendary dancing girl of Mohenjodaro. Head bow!

Dhokra art_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_2

Dhokra art_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_1

Dhokra art_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_3

Embrace the art: Made of scrap metal and eco-friendly, but that’s not the reason Dhokra continues as an unbroken tradition. Reinvention is. From one-of-a-kind utility items like door handle, ash-tray, candle-stand, photo-frame and tissue box to unique home decor, buttons and tribal jewellery, creators are determined to stick around for eternity. My find? An languidly reclining, skirt-clad lady with a literary bent of mind. What better quirky addition for the home library?

Dhokra art.jpg

Eloquently earthy tales

Celebrate the tradition: An unexpected choice, in comparison to other better known crafts synonymous with Odisha, but terracotta makes a prime target for its ancestry…it’s as old as the Indus Valley civilisations of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. One of the earlier mediums used by humans, to promote settled living…whether as vessels, houses, decoration, jewellery, art, toys, religious figurines, using clay from rich alluvium silt of river valleys, it continues to reign supreme in its own way, even in the millennial age. Which medieval town would have its medieval tag without those red-brick roofs?

Applaud the craft: Huge cooking pots, massive storage containers, everyday utensils, lamps, animal figurines, roof tiles and deity images…terracotta offers flexibility for endless applications. Not just utilitarian, but heavily adorned with colors, artistic outlines and scalloped edges too. Items created in clay by the terracotta process are treated with partially dried refined clay and then then cast into a mould, cooked in a hot furnace or over combustible material and dried in open air. A process which looks fairly simple but requires dexterity and delicacy of hands. One trial pottery class moulding wet clay into the simplest of shapes on a revolving potter’s wheel, is revelation enough. A split-second distraction can spells disaster. Best recommendation for site visit beyond the city? Baleshwar in western Odisha. Where traditional terracotta is still churned out tirelessly as the local mainstay.

Pottery_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_2

Pottery_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_3

Pottery_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_4

Pottery_Kala Bhoomi_Bhubaneshwar_1

Embrace the art: Eyebrow-raising element that will up the fascination factor? Unique roof figurines in terracotta that locals have been using to decorate the clay roof tiles of their houses since eons. Birds, squirrels, monkeys and mice, planted to scare away wild animals the way that scarecrows work in fields. With the cutest of expressions…confused to woeful to furious to suspicious…these symbols of earth and nature are worth collecting to add to the atmosphere of one’s urban garden. Emojis of the past…and endearing symbols of the deeply-ingrained culture, binding us together, across the length and breath of our country.

 

Pin this post for later!!

Traditional crafts of Odisha #talapattachitra #pattachitra #dhokra #pottery #kalabhoomi #ekamrawalks

Advertisements

How to celebrate art in these great European capitals

Art odyssey in Madrid and Berlin…

All great capitals have their art scenes well chalked out. You dial Paris for Louvre and Florence for the Uffizi Gallery. You go to London for Tate Modern and New York for the MET. But did you know that the capitals of Spain and Germany hold rank among cities with top museum landscapes? Boasting not one or two, but hundreds of museums for your art-craving soul. If you’re hard-pressed for time, this whirlwind download will set you back just by a day in each city. So add these iconic art-meccas to your dream list now!

Continue reading “How to celebrate art in these great European capitals”

Why you need to decode the celebrated Sun Temple of Modhera?

Amateur guide to deconstructing Hindu temples…

The common denominating factor binding ancient civilisations of Egyptians, Mayans, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Indians? Temples! But beyond the structural ingenuity and fine craftsmanship of temple architecture lies a deeper science (read common blueprint) alien to the amateur eye. Especially in Hindu temples…where astronomy, astrology, mathematics and metaphysics come together in an enigmatic formula. Know one and you will know all. Ready to break the code?

Continue reading “Why you need to decode the celebrated Sun Temple of Modhera?”

High energy folklore spirit at Wenceslas festival

Witness pure Bohemian spirit at Cesky Krumlov…

No better place to kick start your Czech Republic trip than with the most delicious slice of the Bohemian region, Cesky Krumlov. And no better timing than autumn, when this fairyland is wrapped in cozy folds of russets, auburn, ambers and cornelians. But fall brings colours to more than just the foliage. You have barely taken the first few steps onto the cobbled roads, and you can sense the festivities in the air. St.Wenceslas Festival is painting the town red!

Continue reading “High energy folklore spirit at Wenceslas festival”

This is a Van Gogh fan alert. You need to head to Arles now.

On the Van Gogh trail in Southern France…

Your search for France’s finest scenic beauty will lead you to rural Provence. Here, charming villages dot the fresh countryside. Undulating oceans of vineyards melt into sweeping, fragrant lavender fields. Summer sunflowers blend into lush olive groves. And canopies of plane trees border the long, winding roads…this magnificent legacy of Napoleon has been providing shade and shelter since centuries. These breathtaking vistas once fuelled the creative genius of legendary writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and art masters like Cézanne, Picasso, including one of my personal favourites, Van Gogh. Follow the dreamy drive to the town of Arles, where the famed artist lived for a year and developed his inimitable style characterised by bold colours and dynamic brushstrokes.

Continue reading “This is a Van Gogh fan alert. You need to head to Arles now.”

Who is the winner in the great Art Nouveau face-off? 

Klimt versus Mucha…

European neighbour countries Austria and Czech Republic have a lot in common, when it comes to culture. Including art. Especially art. Think two 19th-century artists, one from Vienna, the other from Prague. Contemporary, modern, both equally scandalous for their times. Challenging traditions as their ladder to fame. Branded as their home country’s most celebrated artists for posterity. Curiosity piqued yet? Here’s the Art Nouveau’ masters in a face-off…my way. Feel free to take sides.

Continue reading “Who is the winner in the great Art Nouveau face-off? “

Intrigued by the most beautiful buildings in Prague?

Interpret the language of Art Nouveau…

Some of us love cities with a past. For their narrow, wobbly cobbled roads and oil-lamp pedestals. For their charming places of worship, old wooden bridges, royal retreats and dark dungeons. For their imperfect half-timbered houses, impeccable tasteful mansions, vibrant tiled courtyards and rough red-brick tiled roofs. Because there’s more to brick, mortar and stone than mere eye candy. If you let them, buildings will whisper sweet-nothings in your ear. The wavelength needs a little more adjusting in a buzzing city like Prague, but you can still tune in to the fascinating narratives. As you trace the evolution of the ‘Mother of Cities’ from 9th-century Romanesque to 14th-century Gothic to 19th-century Art Nouveau and Cubist eras, you may find one of these styles particularly intriguing, as I did.

Continue reading “Intrigued by the most beautiful buildings in Prague?”