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.

  


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Image Source: www.anokhi.com/museum

The two-story pink sandstone haveli in the dusty lanes of Amber is usually easy to miss. Many of the locals know this as Chanwar Palkiwalaon ki Haveli and not Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, eight miles outside Jaipur where women clad in the most colourful of sarees suspend their chat to wave at you.  The museum focuses on contemporary fabric ranging from innovative designs created by talented artisans to traditional outfits still worn in select regions today, albeit in dwindling numbers. A focused selection of historic textiles provides a context for a further understanding of block printing.

image source: http://josephinewilson.com/?p=417

Image Source: http://josephinewilson.com/?p=417

The one of its kind museum is an endeavour to preserve the community of artisans of 500-year-old block printing in Rajasthan. It was started by Anokhi, a clothing line selling block printed garments in stores across in India. The company was the brainchild of a British woman who married an Indian and moved to Jaipur in 1970, Faith Singh worked with local craftsmen to create contemporary prints on textiles that have become so popular in India and abroad. It was Ms Singh’s daughter-in- law Rachel Bracken-Singh who restored the dilapidated 17th- century mansion which once belonged to the palanquin bearers of the royals and turned it into a museum. This preservation project earned a UNESCO award for ‘Cultural Heritage Conservation’ in 2000. The old but well-maintained building is a cool relief from the desert heat.

 Large boards are put up in the open courtyard which explain the lengthy process of hand block printing. It all begins with the design to be printed on the textile. Once finalised—often floral, paisley or geometric—they are carved by hand onto wooden blocks which have been soaked in oil overnight and cleaned. These blocks are then used to print the pattern onto fabrics using natural vegetable dyes like indigo, pomegranate rind and turmeric in vibrant blues, reds and greens. 

 

 

 

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Image Source: www.google.com

 

 

Inside Anokhi

More than a hundred garments and blocks are on permanent display inside alcoves and galleries across two floors. There are ethnic designs and patterns  and also Western clothes in traditional prints, like knee-length dresses in shades of red and russet. On the roof-top terrace, a few craftsmen sit with their tools, ready to demonstrate their work to interested visitors. The museum also offers a 2-day course in block printing and wood carving to the enthusiasts. The museum shop carries a selection of hand-crafted merchandise which includes limited edition textiles, clothing, furnishings, jewellery, books and cards.

Anokhi is trying to preserve the dying craft which is overpowered by the more efficient and more economical machine-printing process damaging the livelihood of the artisans and threatening to extinguish an important craft. But it has a modern approach too. The team is always looking for new craftsmen and techniques to develop new garments in the main workshop on the outskirts of Jaipur. They have worked with a British designer to re-interpret William Morris’s prints, made costumes inspired by the Russian theatre, and worked their patterns into contemporary fashion—all of which are showcased in temporary exhibitions.

 

 

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Image Source: www.anokhi.com/museum

 

Visit them in Jaipur:
Chanwar Palkiwalon ki Haveli (Anokhi Haveli)
Kheri Gate, Amber, Jaipur
Tel:- 91 – 141 2530226 / 2531267

 

Museum Working Hours

  • Tuesday – Saturday : 10:30am – 5:00pm
  • Sunday : 11:00am – 4:30pm

Together with garments – Indian and Western in design – home textiles, sarongs and accessories, Anokhi offers a diverse and colourful selection of products in its 27 outlets in major cities of India. Anokhi doesn’t offer e-commerce.

Instagram @anokhijaipur

Facebook @AnokhiIndia

Here are some insights, with Ms. Rachel Bracken-Singh, the museum’s director:

Are there any festivals/events/Hand Printing workshops in the museum?

The museum offers regular works throughout the year. These are usually against request and range from individuals and small groups of enthusiasts to large school groups –from within India as well as visiting from abroad. School groups, college groups, design student groups – we tend to tweak the workshops to suit the particular need. While most workshops involve block printing we also offer block carving workshops. Throughout the day, the onsite printers and carvers demonstrate their skills and offer interactive sessions with visitors as they walk around.

 

What excites the visitors the most about your museum?

The response to the museum and what people enjoy most varies quite a bit. While most people love to try their own hand at block printing and also block carving, we find that there is a very clear appreciation for the overall quality of the experience from start to finish, in all the spaces at the museum. A great deal of attention has been given to clear and concise information and good visuals, and great care is taken in maintaining a high standard of care for the various striking and interesting textiles as well as tools, techniques, etc. The building is well worth a visit for that alone!! Visitors leave feeling that they have had a very positive, informative and satisfying and holistic experience.

 

How is the museum funded?

It is funded by Anokhi – we do not take outside financial support. The small shop there and museum publications go part way to supporting some of the costs.

 

What would you say to those looking forward to visit the museum?

Above all, I would recommend that any visitors coming to the museum should give as much time as they can to enjoy a complete experience – a full morning or an afternoon. The opportunity is there to fully absorb and appreciate one of India’s most beloved indigenous crafts,  set in a beautifully restored 16th century haveli. Interacting with the craftspeople and well-informed staff, and then enjoying a cup of desi chai in a traditional clay pot with a view of Amber’s enduring heritage is something to be savoured.

 

 

 

 


Content Research by Shivanki

The historical blend of both modern and ancient is creative best is best identified with Togalu Gombeyaata,  a puppet show unique to the state of Karnataka, India. ‘ Togalu Gombeyaata’ translates to ‘a play of leather dolls’ in the ancient language of Kannada.

This leather art form has an interesting blend of shadows and music which makes it livable in theatres.  The puppets used in Togalu Gombeyaata are goat hide and deer skin.

It has unique characteristic of transparency that absorbs colours , such as vegetable dyes of red, blue, green and black adding life to this art of storytelling. For puppets representing human and animal figures, the head and limbs are joined in such a way that they can be moved easily.The maximum size of the puppet is 4 x 3 feet and the minimum is 6 x 3 inches.

The puppeteers of the small leather puppet theatre performers use Kannada language and in a box stage manipulator sits behind the screen, raise the puppets held in their hands. During the performance men, women, children, the whole community of the artiste, take part. The puppet shows in this particular art form traces it’s origin to Rashtrakutas, Pallavas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Kothapur kingdoms in south.

In Karnataka there are two major varieties in the leather puppet shows, depending on the size of the puppets.

Chikka Togalu Gombeyaata

The small puppets players have their own mobile stage measures 9 feet and 5 feet.

Leather puppets demonstrating the war between the PandavaArjuna and his son Babruvahana                              

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leather_puppets_of_Karnataka.jpg

Dodda Togalu Gombeyaata

The average dimensions of the leather puppet stage 12 feet in length, 6 feet in width.

An Elephant Puppet

Image Source: http://seltmann.manasvi.eu/images/25300_201007140356b.jpg

A Boar Puppet

Image Source: http://seltmann.manasvi.eu/images/25300_201007140379.jpg

Each variety shows several regional variations in the style of music, craftsmanship, stage technique and manipulation.

The visible portion in front where a white screen tied up. Behind the screen the manipulator sits and manipulates the epic characters from behind the screen. Behind the curtain the hands of the manipulators remain unseen. On front of the stage the puppeteers’ family or associate sits and give chorus and exchange dialogue with drum beater. In the projected light sources the leather puppets shadow appears with beautiful colour.

 

Related image

A still from Ramayana in Togalu Gombeyaata

Image Source: http://indulge.newindianexpress.com/shadow-play-3/section/51889

Even as television, radio and movies remain our first choice to entertainment , this sheer execution of creativity and hard work by puppeteers fulfils one’s connect roots in easiest way possible.

Here is a sample video of spectacular art form :

YouTube Videos:

Togalu Gombeyaata Part 1

Togalu Gombeyaata Part 2

Now that this ancient art form is no longer restricted to Dravidian states alone, do find time to catch hold of amazing performances in nearest festival near you. Follow Nazariya to know about the upcoming performances.