“I feel reviving a dying art is much better than continuing the existing art forms. Hence, I have dedicated over 20 years of my life, in breathing life to ‘Basoli,’ a unique miniature painting style, ruined due to earthquake,” said Eminent Artist Kamal Ahmed M from Gadag


Basoli paintings

Basoli paintings derive their name from the village named Basoli, in Himachal Pradesh in India, where they originated. These evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries as a distinctive style of painting by fusion of Hindu mythology, Mughal miniature techniques, and folk art of the local hills.

https://www.indiamart.com/harmonyarts-vadodara/basohli-painting.html

HISTORY

The roots of the art form can be traced to the 14th century. The Basoli school of painting developed with the decline of the Mughal empire, after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb. During his reign, master artists and painters began leaving the royal court and started seeking patronage at the courts which flourished far away from the center of the empire, as Emperor Aurangzeb did not pay them much patronage. One of the biggest such centers was the village Basoli. Two types of miniature art developed in Basoli. One was the regular miniatures which may be called classic painting. The second was eroticism in miniature.

The entire village was destroyed by an earthquake and so, very few paintings have been discovered among the ruins.

The discovered Basoli paintings were first introduced to the world in the Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India published in 1921. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy believed them to be the Jammu style of painting, which also contributed to their style. Coomaraswamy observed them to be “designed with a decorative simplicity very suggestive of large scale mural art.” They had not been categorized as Basoli paintings yet, and thus, there were certain errors in classification and they were often confused with other art forms with similar roots.

THEMES

The most popular themes depicted in Basoli paintings derive from the Shringara literature like Rasamanjari, Gita Govinda, and Ragaamala. Painters involved in the art form also painted portraits of local rulers, who provided them patronage. One of the important royal families most closely linked with the history of the painting during and after the Mughal period is of the Padhas of Basoli. The Raja also got his portrait made by the court artists.

[insert portrait of abovementioned king]

Portrait of Raja Dhiraj Pal, Basohli, c. 1720–25

One of the most popular themes in Basoli painting particularly during the reign of Raja Kripal Pal was the Rasamanjari written by the poet Bhanudutta. A Basohli Rasamanjari series was illustrated by Devidas, a local painter of Basoli belonging to the Tarkhan community, which produced many skilled artists.

The Basoli school of painting draws inspiration from the Mughal School as well as the Rajasthani School of painting and they have sometimes been confused with each other.

CHARACTERISTICS

Bright colors like red, blue, and yellow, bold lines, red borders, lustrous enamel like colors, and rich symbols are characteristic of this style of painting. The faces of the figures have receding foreheads and large bulging eyes shaped like lotus petals. Their rich costumes, stylized faces, and expressive eyes gave individuality to the Basoli paintings.

[insert vibrant pictures]

On the threshold of youthOn the Threshold of Youth, illustration to the Rasamanjari, Basohli, c. 1695

 

The Churning of the Ocean of Milk, Basohli, c. 1730

 

Krishna Stealing the Clothes of Cowherdesses, from the Bhagavata Puran

Nayikas in Rasamanjari. Basohli Painting (18th Century)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-BvuIMiCbnrs/UjIt7iYQbUI/AAAAAAAAPxQ/goOBfqyFIHk/s1600/Rasamanjari_Nayika.jpg

These paintings resemble the Rajasthani and Malwa school of paintings. The Dogra Art Museum in Jammu has an exquisite collection of Basoli paintings.


India has been a country with a very rich history and a much richer heritage. The Indian heritage has been a part of many art forms which have both been brought and developed in India some of which are even born in India itself. Arabic Calligraphy forms an integral part of this heritage. It was introduced in India around the 7th century by early Arabic traders. The core purpose of its existence is Spirituality and was initiated for preserving the scripts of the Holy Quran. With the establishment of Delhi Sultanate in India, Arabic Calligraphy developed analogously and has emerged as a mainstream art. Being a part of the Delhi Sultanate, Qutubuddin Aibak decorated and covered Qutub Minar with intricate carvings and verses of Quran.

The art form majorly flourished in the reign of the Mughals. It has been highly showcased in the monumental heritage like Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and coins recognized by the Mughals. Therefore with the establishment of Muslim rule in India not only a diversity of culture was established but also the fresh ink of Arabic Calligraphy was initiated to last persistently. Arabic calligraphy is the virtue of the religious and spiritual aspect of life and is a simple yet highly artistic illustration of text from the Holy Quran.

In today’s scenario Calligraphy has become even more precious since Artists practicing this art are now rare to find and the ones  practicing it are continuously losing their demand and respect in the society. Nazariya has joined hands with these artists and has taken a pledge to give them the true value for their talent.

This Eid, admire their work by getting one of their masterpieces home. Explore more about Arabic Calligraphy in the Images given below. Get a customized manuscript for yourself by these Wonderful Artisans and wish your loved ones Eid in the most artistic way ever.

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This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun, written by Arundhati Bhande.

We belong to a society that is forgetting to appreciate the handicrafts that have been passed down to us over generations. Moreover, we are forgetting to appreciate the artists who keep the fire burning.  One such community of artists are the copper artisans from Pune, Maharashtra- the Tambat Ali Workers.

They are a community that settled in Pune around 400 years ago; the Peshwas being their first patrons. The community that was once the talk of the town has been sidelined with the advent of stainless steel and plastic utensils.

Aware of the fact that the pots they get a few hundred rupees for are being sold for thousands in the market, they have no option but to continue with their art, desperately hoping that none of the future generations have to suffer.

Meet the workers of Tambat Ali and get to know their everyday struggles.

1. “When I was younger, my foot and thighs would hurt a lot while hammering the design on the piece and using the foot for support. Now I have become used to it. I can keep my foot still for half an hour while I am finishing a piece, this ensures that the consistency is maintained.” Ganesh Karde was 18 when he started working with copper, it has been 25 years since.

 

2. “I have a degree in Bachelors of Commerce, the constant sound of hammering has affected my hearing, but this is the only job I can do the best. I wear gloves while working because I have clammy hands and the moisture may leave black marks on the copper.” Ajit Pimpale is from the third and the last generation of copper workers from his family.

 

3. “I don’t work after 5 PM because the light isn’t good enough, the bulb is of little help. Some of us still work after sundown but I can’t.”

 

This photo story has been created by Arundhati Bhande. She is among the 20 students a.k.a heritage enthusiasts from The Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication who participated in the Make Heritage Fun! event held on 26th March 2017, in Pune, India.


Content research by Shivanki and Written by Ananya Maahir

In Mithila, an ancient city of Northern Bihar which is now known as Madhubani, nearly all women are experts in one or the other popular crafts of the region, namely – painting which has now become famous as Madhubani / Mithila painting, embroidery, papermache craft and Sikki grass work. Products made in these five crafts by a girl raise her popularity in the family. Such is the importance of craft in the region. Sikki craft is one of the most practiced craft form in the region.

Image source: http://www.umsas.org.in/en/bihar-arts-crafts/sikki-craft/

The Sikki grass craft has been in existence since hundreds of years. It is difficult to ascertain the exact age of this craft. However, as a craft used for commercial use is a more recent phenomenon, over the last couple of decades. Crafting products, mainly various forms of utilities, divine figures, and toys, using Sikki grass are an integral part of the living of the women of the part of Northern Bihar.

Image source: http://www.umsas.org.in/en/bihar-arts-crafts/sikki-craft

Generally, munj is used for coiling purpose due to its abundance in Mithila region of Bihar. It is completely coiled over and covered with sikki in such manner that it’s not visible.  Takua, the main tool is a six-inch long needle-shaped iron object with a rounded head which is used to grip the needle. Usually, the takua is used by the right hand and the product is held accordingly by the left hand. To make sikki grass more pliable it is dabbed with water. No threads or cords are used.

Even though sikki is a golden colored grass, various colors are added to it to make attractive products from it. Purple, deep blue, bright yellow, magenta, green and red all combined with the natural golden color of sikki grass are popularly used. The coloring is achieved by boiling sikki in different colors until the desired shade is reached.

Image source: http://www.umsas.org.in/en/bihar-arts-crafts/sikki-craft

SIKKI PRODUCTS

  • Jhappa- Big containers with caps to store food
  • Mauni- Trays for fresh fruits, betel leaf and nuts, flowers, etc.
  • Pauti- Beautiful small boxes with caps to keep jewellery, Dry fruits, and other costly items.
  • Gumla- Bowl like containers for various uses
  • Saji- Flower Baskets
  • Idols
  • Baskets
  • Ornaments
  • Toys

 Due to the invasion of television and other forms of entertainments women have found new ways of spending their time. This has decreased the popularity of this craft form. Industries in the area have decreased the availability of Sikki grass. But still, some women practice this craft form, mainly in Madhubani, Darbhanga and Sitamarhi regions of Bihar.

 These days new products like mobile cases, toys, paper weights, pen stand and other products are made besides the traditional products. Coiling without using munj is done by some artisans. Also a new art form has emerged using Sikki grass inspired from the Madhubani paintings wherein sikki grass is stuck on patterns of Madhubani paintings.

  


Content Research and Conceptualisation by Kaavya Lakshman and Content Written by Kaavya Lakshman and Saumya Sinha

Tikuli art is an unique art form from Bihar, which has a very rich and deep traditional history. The word ‘tikuli’ is the local term for ‘bindi’, which is usually a bright, colorful dot that women wear between their brows. Since olden times, the bindi was created as a symbolic mean to worship intellect and conserve the modesty of women. However, in today’s time, tikuli art serves as a source of empowerment for the women of Bihar.

A red bindi worn by married women signifies good marriage and virtue. It is an important symbol of Indian culture.

A red bindi worn by married women signifies good marriage and virtue. It is an important symbol of Indian culture.

HISTORY

Tikuli art originated in Patna over 800 years ago. It deals with beautifully designed paintings which are manufactured in the local streets of the city. With flourishing sales, Tikuli artform managed to influence traders from across the country to flock to Patna to buy tikuli art in bulk. The Mughals were active patrons of the art form and appreciated its many salient features.

This is a rare specialty of Bihar and no such work is found elsewhere. Since it is very intricate and detailed, it requires a special set of skills. Tikuli art is expensive too, as the value of the art is directly proportional to the refinement of the work. In the picture below, it can be easily seen that even though the figures are small-scaled, the artist has not compromised on the details.

intricate tikuli art

The intricate craftsmanship made tikuli art the sole privilege of the royalty.

With the decline of the Mughal Empire, and the coming of the British Raj, Tikuli art faced a severe blow. The British introduced industrialization, and so, indigenous goods came to be replaced by cheap machine-made goods. Thousands of Tikuli artists were left jobless as machine-made bindis came into the market, and Tikuli art was lost in the chaos.

REVIVAL

Revival of this art form can solely be attributed to two artists.

In 1954, Chitracharya Padmashree Upendra Marathi, single handedly took the initiative to revive this dying art form. He got the idea to portray Tikuli art on glazed hardboard during his stay in Japan, where traditional motifs on colorful hardboard were being commercially sold.

Mr Ashok Kumar Biswas, Tikuli craftsman who almost single handedly revived the dying art form.

Artist, craftsman, and painter Shree Ashok Kumar Biswas took Tikuli art to a whole new level. He, along with his wife Shibani Biswas, not only revived the art but also developed it into a source of livelihood. Tikuli art now serves as an economic beneficiary for over 300 women in Bihar. The noble efforts of the Biswas and the workmanship of these women are nationally and internationally acclaimed. In 2012, he was selected to participate in the Bihar Divas Celebrations organized in Delhi and Jaipur. He was also assigned the task of explaining the subtle art of Tikuli to the visitors of the International Fair held in Seoul.

MAKING OF TIKULI ART

Making Tikuli art is a delicate and tedious process. To simplify it, I have divided it into three steps:

  1. Tikuli artists use hardboard to create paintings. The hardboard is cut into various shapes like circular, rectangular, triangular, or square.
  2. Four-five coats of enamel are applied thereafter on the cut wooden piece. After every coat the wood is rubbed with sandpaper thus giving it a polished surface.
  3. After the final coat of enamel is applied, the design is made with paint. It is also embellished with gold foil and jewels.

Tikuli art also uses Madhubani motifs in its paintings. It exemplifies the art and it is always a wonderful feeling to see two exceptionally brilliant art forms together in one frame.

Beautiful juxtaposition of Tikuli and Madhubani art.

Spring and summer season are the most suitable for making this art as the craft requires dry air at room temperature due to usage of enamel paints. Squirrel or sable hair is used to make the brushes and the size range varies from 0.0-20.

THEMES

Tikuli art as a product is more popular as export, rather than as something of cultural significance. The aim of the products is to showcase Indian culture to the rest of the world. The themes mostly revolve around festivals of Bihar, Indian wedding scenes, and Krishna Leela.

Tikuli art sold as a wall hanging.

 

Costers and wall hangings with beautiful Tikuli art on them are hugely popular exports.


If you love stories then read along. Let us take you to the vivid world of scroll paintings! Here you will find paintings that would have you falling in love with the art that tells you the story as much as the story itself. Welcome to the world of Cheriyal Art!

 

 Cheriyal scroll painting depicting Indian Myth

               Cheriyal scroll painting depicting Indian Myth

 

 Types of Cheriyal art scrolls depicting different types of stories.

   Types of Cheriyal art scrolls depicting different types of stories.

Originated from the village of Cheriyal, 85 km from Warangal district of Telangana, Cheriyal scroll painting is a version of Nakashi art rich in Indian mythology motifs. Painted in a narrative format like that of a comic strip, Cheriyal art depicts stories from the Puranas and Epics. While they bear some resemblance to Madhubani paintings, they are intensely infused with local flavour that creates the uniqueness in Cheriyal art of storytelling.

Each Cheriyal Scroll painting is drawn on a khadi cloth opening with a piece of Lord Ganesha, followed by Goddess Saraswati. It’s way adopted by the artists to pay respect to the deities and seeking their blessings.

The technique of cheriyal scroll painting would tell you about the sophistication level as firstly they begin with applying a paste of tamarind seed along with tree gum and white clay. After applying three coats of this paste and allowing it to dry for a day or two, the scroll is finally ready for the further procedures. Now the artist draws the outline using a squirrel haired brush. Next is the turn for the predetermined colouring system. The red colour fills the background and blue and yellow colours are used for Gods and Goddesses respectively. While brown and darker shades are used for demons and pink skin tones are used for depicting humans.

Earlier natural dyes were used which were obtained from grounded sea shells, turmeric, vegetables etc. While today natural dyes are largely replaced by organic watercolors which are mixed with tree gum before applying on the scrolls. These paints are said to last over 300 years provided they don’t come in contact with water.

 D.Vaikuntham working on Cheriyal Art

        D.Vaikuntham working on Cheriyal Art

Today D.Vaikuntham’s family is only to practice the cheriyal art form, they have continued the Cheriyal tradition since the 15th century. They are the true masters of art form in this era. Apart from making the scroll paintings, the art has got a modified version of making masks in the same colour pattern and same themes of depicting the Indian mythologies as well. Due to the trouble of fitting in the modern world, the artists are forced to modify the art form.

The modified version of Cheriyal art as a mask

    The modified version of Cheriyal art as a                                                mask

Adapting the modern global changes is a major challenge for ancient art forms. It makes it difficult for them to breathe in with so many alternatives and replacements around but Cheriyal Art continues to survive. Ergo, an ancient tradition has been preserved with passion and zeal overflowing to keep it alive today and for coming generation!


Content researched by Shivanki and written by Sakshi Jain

Karnataka tableau at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi featured Bidriware and Bidri artisans from Bidar.

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org

A handicraft which recognizes itself as the symbol of Wealth. The term Bidriware originates from the township of Bidar. It’s a chief center for the manufacture of the unique metalware. Due to a striking inlay artwork, Bidriware is also primal export handicraft. The metal utilized is blackened alloy of Zinc and Copper inlaid. Along with thin sheets of pure silver (99%), so It never tarnishes during oxidization.

Artisans anticipate that soil of Bidar is away from sunlight & rain for years and Therefore, it has great oxidizing properties. The metal extract in the soil makes it more unique. The artisans also say that “the real art lies in testing the mud which is necessary for making its article. Artisans taste it by their tongue and then decide whether to use it or not.” This knack comes from experience is passes on to next generation.

Image Source: https://lbb.in/bangalore

Bidriware origins in ancient Persia. It came to India by the followers of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The art developed in the kingdom is intermingled with Turkey, Persia and Arabic countries and mixes with the local styles. Thus a unique style of its own was born as Bidriware.

In particular, one of the oldest records of origins of Bidriware is that of Abdullah bin Kaiser, a craftsman from Iran. He was invited by the Sultan Ahmed Shah Bahmani for decorating royal palaces and courts.  Kaiser joined hands with local craftsmen and give birth to Bidriware under the rule of second Sultan Alauddin Bahmani. The art expands markedly and handed over to succeeding generation with time.

Fortunately, today also we can enjoy its exclusivity. The craft has been handed down to succeeding generations. Mostly among the local Muslim and Lingayat sects. The general artifacts made are vases, huqa bases, jewelry, bowls. These artifacts are incredible sovereign of the Indian Heritage.

Image Source: http://kaveriponnapa.com/

Persons and Organizations 

1. 700 artisans, including a few women in Bidar city, still continue to create Bidriware artifact.

2. Anees Ahmed  is succeeding his family tradition and still working as bidri artisan http://www.craftrevival.org/

3.  Rehaman Patel – An artist based in Gulbarga has done an extensive research in Bidri Art collecting all evidence historical background of bidri.

4. Victoria and Albert Museum in London also have some collection on Bidriware.

 

Image Source: https://lbb.in/delhi

Bidriware Museums: To encourage the Bidri artwork many Exhibitions and Museums has been established. Some of these are as follows:

1. SalarZang Museum, Hyderabad

2. National Museum, New Delhi

3. Indian Museum, New Delhi

4.District Archaeology and Museum, Nizamabad.

5. Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay.

 


“In art, man reveals himself and not his objects”, Rabindranath Tagore on art and artisans.

Art is the language of culture and the artist is the poet. The true intricacies and beauty of art can be seen in the hands of the artisans, who put their soul into making a single piece of work. All art forms around the world have their own story to tell. But unfortunately for some of them, the audience is unable to lend a listening ear. As a result, many of our traditional art forms are now on the verge of fading away. We, at Nazariya, are working to promote these dying art forms and to restore the artisans their pride and dignity, which they once enjoyed.

 

Wood carving artisan

Mr Laxman Bhatt- wood carving artist

” I am an artist and I am proud of it. I started at an early age, with the talent
inherited from my ancestors. With my slow and steady efforts, I honed my skills in
carving. The piece of wood and my passion to keep giving shape to my imagination
motivated me throughout.”

Lifestyles have changed so rapidly that our traditional crafts and art forms have been consigned to the archives, dying slowly with each new generation being brought up unaware about our cultural heritage. Lack of funding to globalisation, a lot can be attributed to the decline of art. As a result of this, the millennials are mostly unaware of the art forms that make up our rich cultural heritage. Even people who wish to know more about them, find it difficult to do so. All that they are left with are trips to museums and libraries, which provide only half the picture.

kinnera artisan

The Kinnera; a string instrument played by the Chenchu tribe and which is on the verge of dying. To read more about this click here.

One of the reasons why traditional art forms are dying is because the children of these artisans no longer want to carry on their ancestral art. The technicalities behind these arts are passed on to the younger generation and the knowledge is mostly confined to the same family or clan. Since machine-made art is cheaper and cost-effective, the age-old traditions have faced a backlash. Even though traditional art forms require huge commitment and dedication, these artisans seldom get enough recognition and financial support. This leads the youth to abandon traditional arts making it a major factor in their decline. Nazariya helps them by giving them a bigger platform and an engaging audience to work with. As soon as the market for traditional art forms improves, then money would automatically flow.

So, there is need to bridge the gap between the urban and the rural. While traditional art forms flourish in villages, they do not have an urban outreach. Consequently, Nazariya provides these artists with a platform to showcase their work and helps in building connections with the urban market. By being a part of Sargaalaya International Arts and Craft Festival- 2016, we have, thus, taken our mission to a new level. We are not simply a storefront for selling paintings and art & crafts, our aim is to build deeper interactions between the customer and the artisans. In addition, we also organise regular workshops, where visitors can have face-to-face interaction with the craftsman. After all, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “true art must be evidence of happiness, contentment and purity of its authors.” And to revive the art, we need to provide opportunities for the artist.

Given below is a list of some artisans and the art they specialise in.

ARTISANS

  • Mr Laxman Bhatt; Wood Carving
  • Mr Shankar Lal Bhopa; Phad and Miniature Painting
  • Mr Harekrishna Parida; Coir Toy Making
  • Ram Pal Singh; Braj ki Sanjhi
  • Mr. Chandan; Dhokra Metalsmith
  • Mr. Dilip Shyam; Gond Art
  • Mr. Abdul Rehman; Arabic Calligrapher
  • Kayakalp; Puppetry
  • Kreeda Games; Traditional Indian Games
  • Mr. Menon; Jambili Athon

In order to read more about various artisans and their work, click here.

 


Join Nazariya at Sargaalaya as we rediscover our Artistic Heritage Together


Sargaalaya, the Kerala Arts and Crafts village in Kerala, is an initiative of the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala. It is an exclusive place where you can not only pick a product fashioned by the traditional artisans of Kerala but also learn one or two lessons in the subtleties of crafts-making. While designed as a tourist destination, Sargaalaya is also a platform for exhibition, sales, and craft-making. The tourist can have face-to-face interaction with the artisans showcasing their life-long achievements, and maybe learn a thing or two!

We, at Nazariya, focus on building a platform where you can not only purchase unique handmade products, but also discover the behind-the-scenes of who makes them, what their story is, and experience their journey in a way you could have never imagined before. Our aim is to provide a platform to the artisans and help them showcase their talents and handiwork to the masses. We also organize workshops to allow the people to gain better insight into how the artist’s mind works, what nuances go into making a single piece of craft, and help them learn a few basics themselves.

The core values of Sargaalaya and Nazariya are the same; revisiting art forms. The only difference is that we focus more on how to revive dying forms of art around the world. The thought is the same but the thinkers are different.

Given below are some art forms that Nazariya would be focusing on presenting at Sargaalaya International Arts and Craft Festival- 2016.

 

  1. Wood Carving

“Exquisite Wood Craft from Amer, Rajasthan. Available on our website.”

Wood carving is a form of woodworking done by a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel in two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, to make a wooden figure or figurines of deities, like Buddha and Ganesha. It originated in Rajasthan in the 17th century. Intricately carved wooden doors and windows in palaces and havelis are testimonies to its popularity in the medieval era. In fact, even today this craft is practised extensively in various parts of Rajasthan.

 

  1. Phad Painting

“Ethnic tribal royalty painting in Rajasthan.”

http://i0.wp.com/www.artnindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/img046.jpg?fit=995,1000

Phad painting is a style religious scroll painting and folk painting practised in Rajasthan, state of India. Phad painting is traditionally done on a large piece of cloth or Canvas known as Phad. The paintings are the life of two legendary Rajasthani heroes, Pabuji and Devnarayan ji, who are worshipped as the incarnation of lord Vishnu and Laxman. While the story is narrated using songs and dance, the visual impact is provided by the phad.

  1. Miniature Painting

“Radha and Krishna as depicted in a miniature painting.”

http://www.dollsofindia.com/images/products/miniature-paintings/miniature-painting-CU12_l.jpg

Miniature paintings are beautiful handmade paintings which are often vibrantly colored, but as the name suggests, very small in size. Also, very intricate and detailed work goes into making them, which further gives them a unique identity. The art of miniature painting was introduced in India by the Mughals, who brought this art form from Persia. Here, the themes mainly depicted are court scenes, gardens, forests, palaces, stories of Lord Krishna, love scenes, and battles.

   4. Puppetry

“Kathputlis in Rajasthan.”

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-VQPlWd3eee8/UOcMCyTA8aI/AAAAAAAAUy0/qIhxNf7pDqQ/s1600/Kathputli Dance, Rajasthan.jpg

Puppetry has always held an important place in traditional entertainment. Like traditional theatre, themes for puppet theatre are mostly based on epics and legends. Puppets from different parts of the country have their own identity, and regional styles of painting and sculpture are reflected in them. Like the string puppets from Rajasthan are known as Kathputli, similarly string puppets of Orissa are known as Kundhei, and puppets from Tamil Nadu known as Bommalattam.

   5. Gond Art

“Tribal Gond art”

http://www.artribal.com/img/dummies/t3.jpg

Gond Art is a reflection of India’s largest Adivasi community called Gonds in Bhopal. It is the art of stories, the art of spirituality and is believed to bring good luck. The Gonds were storytellers who used to narrate the stories glorifying the king and this was the main source of their livelihood. The Gonds painted their walls with lively portrayals of local flora and fauna and gods and the art form is created by putting together dots and lines. Here the artists use colours developed by charcoal, plants sap, cow dung and leaves.

The passion and heart that the artisans put into creating these art forms are what distinguish them truly. Every art form has a deep history, a deeper soul, and this year at Sargaalaya International Art and Craft Festival, Nazariya is going to help voice their stories.

“Let’s live history together”


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Somok Roy

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Bhaskar Chitrakar painting a traditional theme. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

Characterized by fluid curves and flat bright colours, Kalighat painting occupies an important place in the history of Indian art. It was the urban and reformed version of the Midnapore school of Patachitra, a scroll painting tradition of Bengal.  Liberating itself from the confines of religious narratives, it went on to comment on the contemporary socio-political phenomena. The rustic folk simplicity was replaced by the emerging complexities of city life.

In the early 19th Century, rural patuas (the community of Patachitra painters traditionally carried the surnames ‘Patua’ and ‘Chitrakar’) from Midnapore migrated and settled around the Kalighat temple, on the banks of Adi Ganga. Kalighat being a major pilgrimage center attracted thousands of devotees round the year.

The devotees wanted to carry something as souvenirs on their way back from this sacred place, and the locally available, cheap paper painting was the only affordable option. In the memoirs and travelogues of the European travelers, these paintings have been called ‘Bazaar paintings,’ a description that carries a sense of inferiority when compared with the Occidental standards of art.

This is primarily because the painters lacked the sense of perspective, and the linear rhythm of human figures miserably failed to impress the lovers of realism. Kalighat painters faced draconian competition from the ever-expanding market of lithographs and cheap oleographs and gradually disappeared by the 1930s.

The Midnapore roots

The medium of scroll painting has a vibrant history in this part of the continent. In an age when the society and economy were primarily agrarian, bards toured from village to village with their painted scrolls, unfolding the world of Puranic epics and folk myths to the curious audience.

These demonstrations were accompanied by narrative songs. The Cherial paintings of Andhra Pradesh, Phadpaintings of Rajasthan, and Patachitras of Bengal and Orissa are part of this vivid and arresting storytelling tradition. Patuas of Midnapore used scrolls known as ‘jorano pat,’ which were executed on cloth and could be rolled easily.

There were divisions within the patua community on the basis of the duration of tours. The ‘Duari patuas’ travelled from door to door throughout the day in nearby villages and returned home by night. The ‘Doori patuas’ travelled long distances, exhibiting their works and narrating stories.  The themes were from folk literature. Episodes from the ‘Mangal kavyas,’ creation myths, magic and cult-rituals, agrarian lives, pantheistic practices such as ‘pahar puja,’ and Hindu epics were painted and sung.

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style. (Unfolding a Painted World: Revisiting Kalighat Paintings)

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style.

From Midnapore to the Mecca of arts

Initially, the Kalighat school produced images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, keeping in mind the target audience. The rolling scrolls were replaced by rectangular sheets. Cheap mill made paper was used for painting, but the painters retained the tradition of using natural colours.

The outlines were painted in black using lampblack, which was later filled in with bright flat colours. Turmeric was used for yellow, red chilies for red, indigo for blue and so on… The paintings acquired a semi-classical finesse due to the application of colloidal tin for the purpose of depicting jewellery.

Secular themes entered the painters’ world soon and Kalighat school emerged as a satirical genre, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of the society. Their detailed observation of an evolving social class helped them to produce symbolisms in art, which could be interpreted as important sources of modern Indian history.

The flamboyant Bengali nouveau riche or the urban elite has been the favorite theme of the Kalighat painters for their ostentatious display and extravagant lifestyle. These paintings unveil the pretentious mannerisms of the nouveau riche by the use of subtle metaphors and visual allegories, which have become an integral part of the Kalighat iconography over time.

Kalighat painting is perhaps one of the best primary sources to reconstruct the social history of the19th Century ‘Babu culture’ which flourished in Calcutta. ‘Babu indulging in sensuous pleasures with courtesans’, ‘Babu sitting on a chair and piping the hookah,’ ‘cat with the marks of a saint eating fish,’ ‘horse-race,’ ‘Elokeshi-Mohanto crime case’ were some popular themes.

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Babu with a concubine. Photo credit: banglapedia.org

The painting of a young attractive lady sitting in voluptuous posture with her right hand raised above her head, holding a rose in each hand, titled ‘Golapsundari’ is an evidence of the eternal fact that the essence of Indian aesthetics flows down the ages evermore.

Gopalsundari, or the 'rose beauty'. Photo credit: Nibaran Chandra Ghosh/banglapedia.org Drawing Woman with roses; Kalighat painting by Nibaran Chandra Ghosh of a seated courtesan with roses. Calcutta, ca. 1900. Nibaran Chandra Ghosh Calcutta Ca. 1900 Watercolour on paper

Gopalsundari, or the ‘rose beauty’. Photo credit: banglapedia.org

Similar ‘nayikas’ have been painted earlier by miniature painters of North India. The patuas also painted nationalist heroes like Rani Lakshmi Bai, and scenes from everyday life.

The Ultimate Autumn

The legendary painter, art critic and scholar, Mukul Dey, who collected some priceless works of the Kalighat school ( a major part of it was acquired by art historian W.G Archer during 1930s, and many of these paintings are exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) wrote in 1932 :

These pictures have now entirely vanished. The artist craftsmen are nearly all dead, and their children have taken up other business. In the place of these hand-drawn and hand-painted pictures selling at two or four pice each, garish and evil-smelling lithographs and oleographs – quite appalling in their hideousness – have come. The old art is gone forever – the pictures are now finding their last asylum in museums and art collections as things of beauty which we cannot let die.

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A contemporary take on traditional icons. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

One of the last practitioners of this art to have received international recognition and critical acclaim is Kalam Patua. He reinvented the Kalighat style by painting contemporary themes and yet retaining the stylized pattern of the traditional works. His paintings are housed in galleries and museums such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium, etc..

The alleys and by-lanes of Kalighat buzz with life from the dawn-break. But practically none of the residents and shop-owners are aware of the rich painting tradition which once flourished here. I accidentally met the only custodian of this great tradition, residing in the vicinity of the temple, Bhaskar Chitrakar, who is arduously trying to revive the art form. His unflagging efforts do not seek beneficial opportunities, but the admiration and appreciation of a true ‘rasik’.