Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

Jambili Athon, the pride and cultural identity of the Krabi tribe, is an exquisite craft made solely from Bengwoi ke-er wood. Constructed within the strict realm of legend, it has no parallel with any craft or symbols of other tribes of Northeast India. The first Jambili Athon was exhibited at the socio-religious cultural festival Chomkan, which honors the life of the deceased, and has become a continuing tradition ever since. The privilege of practicing the craft lies in the hands of skilled craftsmen known as Baroi. The delight of Jambili Athon has seeped into all spheres of society- apart from from being displayed at Chomkan festival, it stands as a sacred regalia during the crowning ceremony of the social chief Lindokpo, it is presented as honorary gifts to people of high social standing, it is used in logos of many prestigious institutes of the region and also finds its way into textiles and homes of the Krabi people.

Like every other tribe, the people of Krabi hold their culture and beliefs dear. The physical representation of this ideology is transmitted into the woodcraft of Jambili Athon . The central shaft has the local bird Vorale residing at the apex, while the four to five branchlets host smaller birds. Another local bird, Voleng cherat is perched on the main axis, just below each lateral branch. According to the legend binding the form of the craft, the Krabis regard the Vojaru as the king of birds who is always followed by other birds, traditionally referred to as atoi-ani . The Vojaru is the Krabi king who protects his people symbolized by smaller birds, who are compared to faithful ministers and soldiers, and together they enjoy peaceful co-existence. The Vojaru is visualized as a true leader as he is well versed in the language of all the birds and can foretell danger. The Voleng cherat does not leave his master even in the symbolic form, as it is believed that they collect food for the king. The Jambili Athon is heavily ornamented with intricate carvings and beautiful beads.

To represent ethnicity in an institutionalized setting two parks in Diphu town of Assam, namely Recreation Park and Samson Sing Engti Park have Jambili Athon installed. The woodcraft reflects the social pattern of the community of the Krabi tribe- the symbolic assemblage of different birds depicts the iron-clad unity of the tribe and the closeness to nature is seen through the choice of specialized wood. While majority of the tribal culture has been lost in the chaos of modernity, Jambili Athon serves as a repository of information of the Krabi tribe. The essence of the people is captured within the space of the wood and firmly fixed in the ground, for future generations to not only see, but learn from.

 


Content Research, Conceptualization and Written by Kaavya Lakshman

The region of Kutch has been famous for its unique use of threads, beautiful beads, and intricate hand-made textiles. A dying art of textile craft which deserves utmost appreciation is the Rogan art, pertaining to this part of Gujarat.

Rogan art originated in Persia and came down to Kutch 400 years ago, though there are no historical evidences justifying this statement. In the Persian language, ‘Rogan’ literally means oil based painting. In the olden days, Rogan art was used on bridal clothing, as beautiful borders on the traditional Ghagras and on odhnis (bed spread).

Though Rogan painting has no elaborate history, nor any ritual or religious relevance attached to it, the significance of the art lies in the credibility of the work and the painstaking efforts of the artists. The art form is a fabulous example of the rich cultural tradition of India.

Rogan Art Map

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Characteristics of Rogan painting

  • Use of natural materials : The canvas of this painting is fabric, and the paints used is organic in nature.
  • Tedious process : The process of Rogan painting is very time consuming and complicated.
  • Colors used : Colors like white, red, blue, yellow, green, and orange are used in the pure form. Locally the colors are called :
  • Yellow : Pavadi
  • Red : Lal
  • Blue : Vadadi
  • White : Safad
  • Green : Leelo
  • Brown : Bhuro
  • Products : Rogan painting has found it’s way too many lifestyle products in today’s day and age. These include cushion covers, bed covers, traditional dresses like kurtas and saris, table cloth and wall hangings.
  • It is not a printing technique, but a hand made process.

 

Process of Rogan painting

  • Process of making the Rogan paste(colors): The paste is prepared by heating either safflower oil, castor oil or linseed oil to boiling point over a period of three days, thereafter pouring it into water. This paste is either mixed with chalk color pigment or vegetable pigments, as per the choice of the artist, to create a thick dye. This gives rise to bright and lively colors. Castor oil is mainly used as castor is a local crop grown in Kutch, and was traditionally sourced from the farmers.

The pastes are stored in earthen pots in order to keep them moist

  • Process of painting on the fabric : The artisan places a small amount of the paste on the palm of his hand. “At first, outlining is done, then the work is filled, then after drying, the colors are added and then the work is done again. Drying generally takes two days. In case of symmetric patterns, to reduce the effort, the fabric is folded from the centre to get the impression on the other half, this also helps in creating effects like the background and the foreground.” (cited from http://gaatha.com/rogan-art-kutch-gujarat/)

The designs made are very fine and detailed, usually geometric and floral motifs are depicted. ‘The Tree of Life’ and Mughal paisleys are also depicted. Though intricacy of the work varies from piece to piece, “if the work is very intricate, then a square foot piece of cloth could take around a month.” (cited from http://gaatha.com/rogan-art-kutch-gujarat/)

Table : A Comparison of the Then And Now of Rogan Art  (information taken from – http://www.isca.in/FAMILY_SCI/Archive/v2/i1/1.ISCA-RJFCCS-2013-026.pdf)

Material/Methods Traditional Present
Raw material Oil Linseed oil, castor oil extracted from plants Castor oil(bought from market)
Dye Pigment colour(natural sources) Pigment colour(natural and synthetic)
Additive used Lime Lime
Stylus Thick and broad at the tips and 7 inches long made of iron rod Fine and narrow at tip and 4to 5 inches long, made of iron
Preparation of gel Utensil used Earthen pots were used Metal pots are used(Aluminium)
Fuel Wood Wood
Amount of Oil Taken 2kg(because bold design were made earlier so consumption was more) 1kg (designs are smaller and fine.)
Storage

Of Roghan gel

Medium size earthen pots were used to store the gel with water Plastic container having 6-7 small bowls to store the roghan gel with water
Colour ranges Limited number of colours were used Many varieties of dyes are available for good combination.
Colour used Red, black Red, black, orange, green, blue, etc.
Fabric Material Cotton(khaddar) Cotton, silk, polyester, georgette, chiffon
Articles made Ghaghara, odhana. Saris, Wall hanging, Toran, Tablecloths, Folder, Purses, Cushion cover.
Customers Localities Mainly tourist and local people
A wareness Limited to local areas Known at international levels.

From the above table, it can be concluded that the method has changed to a great extent to cater to the needs of the growing market.

Artisans

With cutting edge technology defining the pace and the taste of todays world, our age old tribal crafts are finding it difficult to maintain their identity.  Rogan painting is an example of a spell binding yet dying art, with just six people from the same family shouldering this tradition today.(cited from http://gaatha.com/rogan-art-kutch-gujarat/)

As per The Times of India on October 3, 2014 : The 400-year-old Rogan or oil-based art in India is the sole preserve of a Khatri Muslim family based in Kutch region of Gujarat. The paintings, which have a heavy Persian influence, are by Gafoorbhai Khatri, the head of the family and a national award winner.

 

  • Abdul Gafoor Khatri

Abdur Gafur Khatri

Image Source: http://nazariya.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/01-2-3-generations-back-the-kind-of-workC.max-1400×1120.jpg

At the age of nine Abdul Gafoor Khatri left his formal school education, choosing to work with his family on this art form. He would keenly observe his father for hours, learning the process of Rogan art. However, when he was a young adult, he pursued other options to earn a living. In 1983 he got a call from his ailing grandfather, asking for Abdul’s help to execute a complicated order. It was his grandfather’s wish to pass on this special set of skills to the next generation, and not let it die with him. “So, I went back and picked up the brush again…and haven’t put it down since…”, said the talented artisan.

In 1988 Khatri won the State award, and in 1997 he won the National Award for an intricate sari that took over an year to complete.

As cited from http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2004/09/14/stories/2004091400601800.htm , on September 4 2004, “ There are all of four persons well-versed in this form of painting, says Arabbhai Khatri, who was in the city to participate in Paramparik Karigar, an exhibition of traditional art and painting. Apart from him, his three nephews, Abdul Gafoor, Jumabhai and Sumerbhai, have been trained in this form of art. “

As per The Indian Express, on 28 September 2016, “In the 1980s, Rogan painting was almost extinct. Only two craftsmen, Abdul Ghafoor and Rashid, were practising the craft in Gujarat’s Nirona. One could never have expected that 30 years on, the craft is still alive and growing. But, in 2016, there are many more young craftsmen in Nirona who have been trained in the craft and are doing well — which is evident in the variety of Rogan paintings on offer at state emporiums throughout India.”

On the site http://khamir.org/crafts/rogan-painting, a brief introduction is written by the artist :-

 

  • Khatri Arab Hasam

“The Rogan art of painting is an ancient art, over 300 years old.  I learned from my father, and my father learned from his, and so on.  My village is the only place where this work is created.  We use to make pieces for our community, but now we make it for the market.  It is such a rare and beautiful craft; but still it does not sell well.  Most families gave up the craft to find other jobs to get more money.  But not us, we continue the craft.  We are the only Rogan Art family left.

Rogan art is not well known, even in India.  Most of the artisans before me lost their art because they did not pass it down to the next generations.  I will make sure that this practice stays alive.  I am ensuring that my entire family learns and practices Rogan art.  I am also in the process of opening a school that teaches Rogan art to children from different families in this area.

 

Rogan Art in the News

October 3 2014, The Times of India : TOI has learnt that Modi gifted a couple of exquisitely handcrafted Rogan paintings to Obama.

July 8 2016, The Better India : Artist Papiya Mitra, who is also the founder of the Makers Club India, works towards uplifting Indian traditional art forms. In an interview to Sakaal Times, she said:

Even though there is a huge market for Indian art and crafts abroad, the means to sell them are very limited. The Rogan artists have limited themselves to the Kutch region and the next generation is not willing to carry forward the legacy as there is no future in it. If they travel to different parts of the country and teach the techniques to others or if art enthusiasts go to them and learn it and help spread its richness, only then will the awareness about Rogan art increase.

To help Rogan art reach more people, the government has started incentivizing Rogan artists. Many startups and NGOs are also helping to create a market for them. Other than preserving traditional designs, the artists are being encouraged to experiment with new motifs and colour combinations. This will create products that have a different appeal, are affordable and have a wider reach.

In an interview to Travel Knots, Gafoorbhai said:

The Prime Minister buys our works to give them as gifts to dignitaries. Also, we now get a free stall in handicrafts exhibitions all over India to help us showcase our art to the world. Foreigners coming to Kutch today have Nirona on their itineraries and most of them are enchanted by this rare art.

For a long time, this rare craft was not well known even in India. But with a growing fan following that includes Amitabh Bachchan, Waheeda Rehman, Shabana Azmi and, of course, Narendra Modi, Rogan art is now getting the recognition it deserves.

 

Organisations

  • Khamir

Website : http://khamir.org/crafts/rogan-painting

Address : KHAMIR Craft Resource Centre

Behind BMCB Social City

Lakhond-Kukma Crossroads

Post Village Kukma, Taluka Bhuj

Kachchh, Gujarat 370105

India

Phone : 91 02832 – 271272/422

 

2) Rangeela Gujarat 2016  

Website : http://rangeelugujarat.com

 

 


Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

Once the Aryans had made a home out of their conquest, they introduced the animals, practices and entertainment they had brought along with themselves to the indigenous people of India. Koodiyattam- the earliest classical dramatic art form of Kerala– is one such product of this intermingling. An ancient King of Kerala, Kulasekhara Varma Chessman Perumal, took this tradition under his wing and is regarded as the creator of Koodiyattam in its present form. His book ‘Attaprakaram’  is considered to be the most authoritative work on the art form till date.

Koodiyattam took shape as a socio-religious activity in the land of Kerala, engaging the local people in a religious setting. The artists perform under the intricately carved hall of the temple theatre Koothambalam, dedicating the first dance to the divine being watching from above. The evergreen relevance of Koodiyattam in today’s society is attributed to the coexistence of duality of the essence of the dance form being untouched by modernity and yet embracing the inevitable change of passage of time. While Koodiyattam’s sacred Vedic/Sanskrit origins have been preserved, the actors have adapted the art form to suit a wider audience by using local dialects and secular texts.

Koodiyattam Performance

Through the combination of the actors involved in the dance form, two world views of patriarchal and matrilineal are depicted. The male actors, who shoulder the responsibility of chief custodians of the art, are the Chakyars and they share the stage with the Nangyars, women of matrilineal households and their men, the Nambiar drummers. This coming together is also a harmonious fusion between two distinct cultures as the Chakyars are believed to be of Aryan origin and therefore probably carriers of Sanskrit learning, and the Nangyars are the local people.

Koodiyattam is always a long drawn affair, the performance ranging from anywhere between few days to a number of weeks. Each act is divided into three distinct parts- Poorvangam (preamble), Nirvahanam (solo performer) and Koodiyattam (group acting), with every segment last four to five days. The highlight of the performance is the humorous narration of the Vidooshaka or Royal Clown in Malayalam. His role is to rebuke the atrocities of the feudal society.

As the actors step onto the stage, their make up, costumes and theatrical gestures command the attention of the audience. Among the array of colors, red, black and white are predominant, supported by subsidiary colors. The heroic characters are distinguished by the color green and a small curved paper frame on their face. The Vidooshaka has special make-up, small head-gears and costume that vividly display his clownish features. Koodiyattam relies on a highly evolved mime language- stylized facial and eye expressions and a language of mudras or hand gestures. The performance is a visual feast, the audience eats through their eyes and nourish their senses. The magnificent display is accompanied by a musical orchestra, the rhythmic beats guiding the performance of the actors. The major musical instrument used in Koodiyattam is the Mizhavu, which is a big jar made of either clay or copper, with a narrow mouth covered by leather and is played by both hands of the Nambiar.
The eminent artists of Koodiyattam have made tremendous efforts to keep this 2000 year old art form alive. Artists like Padma Shri Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar and Ammannur Madhava Chakyar took Koodiyattam beyond the confined walls of the temples of Kerala, performing all over India as well as internationally. These efforts bore fruit when over a decade ago Koodiyattam was declared as one among the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. This was the first time that the UN body had conferred the heritage status on an art form. Koodiyattam embodies the true essence of Kerala with it being a theatrical dance form engaging people from different cultures in the sacred space of their beloved temples.


Content Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

History

The word Padayani originated from the word ‘Pada’, which means ‘army’ or ‘warrior’.

This is the traditional folk dance of Kerala which is a beautiful amalgamation of music, dance, theatre, satire, facial masks and paintings. It is a Dravidian form of worship that existed before the advent of Brahmanism. The ancient ritual is performed in Bhagavati temples, dedicated to goddess Bhadrakali. The performance takes place from mid December to mid May.

Temples : The Padayani festival takes place in central Travancore, comprising the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala.

Temples which still practice Padayani are Thazhoor Bhagavathy Temple and Kadammanitta Temple.

The Padayani festival at the Palli Bhagavati temple at Neelemperoor in Kottayam district is a spectacular event. Large swan effigies called ‘Annam Kettu’ are taken out, adding more charm to the festival. Fireworks and traditional orchestra are other features of the festival.

Image Source:http://nazariya.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/56751591411b0-3e34cfd690d64113b71746eb9e87d810-860×350-1.jpg

Story / Legend

“According to mythology, this ritualistic dance commemorates the dance performed by Lord Shiva and the other Gods to appease Goddess Durga, whose anger could not be quenched even after annihilating the demon, Darika” (cited from http://www.keralaculture.org/patayani/80)

Origin of Padayani

Earlier this elaborate and expensive event was carried out to heal the illnesses not amenable to medical modalities of intervention. In the form of psychic or spiritual healing, it was solely designed, controlled and performed by a section of the Thinta endogenous group of Kaniyar community (The traditional professional Hindu astrologers of Kerala), as a method of exorcism This folk art has become a divine ritual tradition in association with festival occasions of Bhagavathy (Bhadrakaali) temples of Kerala(cited from http://www.liquisearch.com/padayani/traditions_of_origin)

 

Padayani- The Ritual

In the olden days the Padayani performance lasted for nearly two weeks, but over time it has been shortened to a day. Kolam Tullal is the major portion of the performance. Kolam is the masque prepared by drawing images on the leaves. The Kolams are made of the green of the lath itself (kamukin pacha), kari (carbon), manjalpodi and sindooram. The dancer wears the kolam, and performs the ritual dance expressing his devotion.

The significance of the kolam is the representation of spiritual forces and divine characters. The face masks and headgear of the characters depicted are both spectacular and terrifying, a typical element of Kerala art. The paints used are natural and of vivid colors.

The characters include : Ganapathi Kolam, Yakshi Kolam, Bhairavi Kolam, Gandharvan Kolam, and Mukilan Kolam.

Kolam thullal takes place on the same day as the Kappoli. The main instruments used during the performance are the thappu, chenda and kaimani. Padayani songs are quite simple to understand for those who speak Malayalam, thereby engaging the entire community.

The members participating in the ritual performance undergo rigorous, traditional physical training and discipline. This consists of a special diet regimen for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Popular elements of the dance :

Kalan Kolam : It is the most popular part of the Padayani ritual. This dance form narrates the of a boy begging for his life to Lord Siva when ‘Death’ comes to his sixteenth birthday.

Bhairavi Kolam : It is the dance dedicated to the worship of the goddess Bhairavi. The kolam (masque) used for this performance is the biggest, and is headed by more than one person due to its massive size and heavy weight.

Vinodam : Satire is an essential part of Padayani. This is performed to make fun of the petty vanities of people as well as target areas for social reform.

 

Significance of Padayani in the society : Padayani is not just an art form, it is a community gathering to ensure the physical and mental well being of the entire village. It is a set of rituals that transcends the boundaries of caste and religion, generating a sense of unity.

Image Source: Pathan Amrita News