Friday, May 28, 2010


Anyone who has spent time at the centuries-old temples at Belur, Halebid or even closer at Srirangapatna's Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, will see on the temple reliefs sculptures of celestial damsels with ornate bangles and anklets.

This tradition of wearing bangles, bracelets and anklets continues to this day from the Banjara woman with bangles made of horns of animals and silver from her wrist to her elbows, to the young woman in your neighbourhood wearing intricately designed gold jewellery.

All women, young and old, married or unmarried wear bangles, Kangan or chudi, made of gold or silver, glass, terracotta or plastic. They may be plain or studded with precious and semi-precious stones.

In a country as diverse as India, you can, if you make the effort, identify the region from where a woman comes from the kind of bangles she wears: the ornate, heavy gold bangles from say, Kanchipuram or Madurai or the colourful Kundan lac bangles of Rajasthan or Gujarat.

In this modern age, most women love to adorn themselves with flashy and ornate bangles which make a jingling sound when they move their hands. To find out how far the sound of tinkling glass bangles can be heard, SOM spoke to some of 'costume jewellery' shop-keepers in Devaraja Market.

"Inexpensive bangles made of plastic are slowly replacing those made by glass. But it is the glass bangles that are still preferred during occasions such as marriages and festivals. Most Indian women prefer wearing either gold or glass bangles or a combination of both," says Shoaib who is in this business for the past 20 years.

"Now-a-days most bangles are made of metals. They come decorated with either lac or embedded with small glass pieces, paintings or even small hangings attached to the bangles. Among the recent entrants are rubber bangles that are worn more like a wristband by youngsters, while the plastic ones give a trendy look which are available in unique colours, but they are a bit expensive," adds Shoaib.

"Glass bangles are available in every shades of colour. One can mix and match the glass bangles until you found a perfect match for their costume. Bangles covered in glitter look great under stage lights or in sunlight. They produce a completely different sound than metal bangles and add movement and flash to your wrists," says Shoaib.

"Nothing can match glass bangles. The luminescence, elegance and the unique sound produced in these bangles are incomparable. When these colourful glass bangles are worn in a countless ways it percepts one's own style," adds Asline.

"We are specialists in designing and making all kinds of glass bangles, jhula & jhumki bangles, traditional glass bangles, fancy glass bangles, mirror bangles, thread bangles, Kundan and antique bangles. We have skilled designers who design the bangles by creating the customer's own art on them," adds Asline.

"The normal procedure adopted for making glass bangles is by melting a mixture of silica (sand) with required calcium compounds (lime) along with some metallic oxides which are added as colouring agents," adds Asline.

"Bangles give me an elegant look and I prefer to wear glass bangles because of their novel designs. When I want to appear formal, I wear an extra large set on each wrist with very less jewelry. A set of elegant glass bangles sets me apart from all the tennis bracelets and watches," says Nruthya, a housewife.

These bangles are completely unique and ethnic. Being inexpensive, they can be easily bought and added to one's collection.

The demand for glass bangles has led to manufacturers coming out with dazzling designs every now and then. Gold-plated alloy bangles which look like real gold are also very popular.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


"Indians are adopting western culture while westerners are learning Indian culture,” says M.R. Ranganatha Rao, master puppeteer and Founder-Director of Rangaputhali Puppet Group, Bangalore.

Man making images of himself is as old as history of civilisation itself. What began as part of shamanistic practices soon became an art form to be performed for the entertainment of villagers. Puppetry has been and is still being performed in various parts of India. In Karnataka, it is known an 'Bombe-aata' or 'play of dolls.' It is supposed to be based on popular folk musical drama, Yakshagana. Tales from the epics form the basis of the story lines in any puppet show. There was a time in the not too distant past when puppet shows were regular part of religious festivals and wedding celebrations.

Puppet shows would be held in make-shift theatres, the lighting dim and flickering and throwing shadows on the screen behind and the colours of the puppets bright and beautiful. But this art form is dying out due to the ingress of various other forms of entertainment, like the animated cartoons etc. While in some parts of the Europe including Britain, puppetry is nurtured by the local governments, it is not so in India where this art form is left to fend for itself.

To know more about this dying art, SOM contacted M.R. Ranganatha Rao, the master puppeteer, who is in city to give a puppet show at BVB. He shares his experiences thus:

"Generally, puppeteers with a family tradition practice this art. The elder members of the family train their children in the skills of making and manipulating the puppets. There is no need of formal education for these puppeteers. They just need to memorise the dialogues. To save this diminishing art, I have taught this art not only for my family members but for other students too, which has led many to choose this profession," says Ranganatha Rao who has taught thousands of students and is constantly innovating.

"There are mainly four types of puppets available in India — string, rod, glove and shadow puppets — which are still practiced in many parts of the country. But, these puppet shows are organised only as part of any festival, religious celebrations, ritual or marriages." Manipulating the rod puppets is most difficult as the puppet is about 3 feet tall and weighs around 10 kgs and the puppeteer has to use the iron rods to make puppets move. Ranganatha Rao has taken it upon himself to develop rod puppetry.

Training children has been the passion of Ranganatha Rao and his wife, Gayathri Rao. They have trained thousands of artisans by forming 5 to 6 teams and training them in puppet making, script writing, music and costume designing. In the coming days Rao dreams of showcasing ‘Gokul Nirgamana’ (Putina story) for which the dolls are ready.

He has also scripted many episodes complete with dialogues, script writing, costume and songs. They include Sri Krishna Parijata, Narakasura Vadha, Girija Kalyana, Krishna Tulabhara, Hanumadvilasa, Nala Damayanti, Shurpanaka Prasanga, Rajasuya yaga.

Like characters from Yakshagana, each puppet is made to resemble a particular character through facial features, ornamentation and colouring which is done using vegetable dyes. The long slender iron rods attached to limbs are used to make the puppets, move, wave their hands and leap and jump with abandon. The size, colours and stylisation varies from region to region.

Themes from the epics form the storyline, the music is simple like twanging a rubber band tied between two strips of bamboos. The show begins with an invocation. Then the Sutradhar or Narrator takes over. He stands directly behind the puppets on the stage keeping the wings free for the movement of the puppets.

It is not as simple as it sounds for a puppeteer is the narrator, manipulates the puppet, lend his/her voice to the various characters and produce sound effects. A good puppeteer must be knowledge of epic poetry, history, religion and philosophy. Puppeteers also need to be able to speak several dialect.

Then the lights go on, not the glow from the proscenium, but shadows of light, the puppets come awake and the Sutradhar begins the tale, and the audience take to a different world.
Meet Ranganatha Rao, the Master Puppeteer

Ranganatha Rao (77) is a pioneer traditional puppeteer who has adapted modern themes and techniques. Born on May 10, 193,1 in Magadi (Bangalore), he had his early schooling in Magadi and received training in puppetry from his grandfather Narasingha Rao a professional puppeteer. He later shifted to Bangalore and finished his graduation in theatre and was appointed as a Government school teacher.

Rao devised special puppetry kits to be used as visual teaching aids in schools. In 1983 he took voluntary retirement to devote all his time and energy for this art. His wife, Gayatri, assists him and their three sons chips in.

Rao has toured the country giving lectures and performing with his puppets. In recognition of his contribution to resurrect this art the Central Sangeeth Natak Academy honored him with the national award in 1981. Rao has attended a number of puppet festivals at the national and international levels. Rao is also a Founder Director of Rangaputhali Puppeteers in Bangalore.

Rao and his team were selected to attend various puppet festivals in Japan, California (US), Switzerland, Poland and Austria. At the national level he has participated in the puppet festivals at New Delhi and Hyderabad. He was appointed the director for the children’s puppet festival during the SAARC festival at Bangalore. He was also the director for the National Puppet Festival, Puthali’ 91 in 1991 in Bangalore. He has worked for Janapada loka, Karnataka and has set up a multi purpose puppet theatre there.
His puppets hold prominent places in museums like the - Victoria Albert Museum in UK, Swiss Puppet Museum of Fritbourg, Japan Puppet museum, China Puppet Museum and many others.


“We feel very proud, as we have learnt this dying art. When we join for this school we don’t know anything about this art, now we write scripts, narrate puppets, and design them. Till today all over Karnataka we have given 175 shows, it is very much exciting to us to go to others cities and show our indigenous art for them. We would like to continue this art as our profession,” says students of SVES.

They pull the strings: The students of SVES (standing from left) Tilak, V. Avinash, S. Nagaraj, Jayashree, V. Anusha, D. Shobha, Pooja, Ravi Kiran, S. Kumar, Narasimhamurthy (95% in SSLC) are seen with (sitting from left) Team Leader Raghavendra; School Head Master and Tabla player H.V. Shankar; Secretary B.S. Subramanya, Master Puppeteer M.R. Ranganatha Rao, Harmonium player Guru Murthy and costume designer Shobha Praneesh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Traditional painting in a country as diverse as India can be Madhubani or Worli on the one extreme and Tanjore and Mysore Schools of Paintings on the other. These are not the typical Raja Ravi Verma type of calendar art of gods and goddesses but a stylised form of using certain elements.

Chandrika, daughter of renowned Palace artist Ramanarasaiah, who resides in Kuvempunagar, is a proponent of Mysore Traditional painting.

Chandrika is not only specialised in Mysore Traditional paintings but is equally good in Tanjore paintings and also an expert in micro-miniature Mysore paintings. This facile artist who has done her BA in fine arts learnt the basic strokes from her father Ramanarasaiah who was an artist in Mysore Palace for more than 50 years.

Understanding the traditional values and improvising its ancient techniques, modes of drawing and propagating its form, Chandrika has participated in about 60 workshops and training programmes all over India and has trained people to paint my-thological and historical figures. She has been working with this style for the past 15 years through teaching and exhibiting her works.

Chandrika is a recipient of many prestigious awards including State Award and Mysore Dasara award as well as a certificate from the Government of Karnataka.

"Mysore traditional paintings are created according to a set pattern of rules that have been followed for decades. The Mysore style Painting is derived from the Vijayanagar style. In 16th century the boards were prepared using the artist papers and a white sheet on which to sketch was created and later it was painted. Natural dyes like oxides were used as paint after mixing with Arabic Gum. This ensured longevity of the colours. Pure gold leaf was used to enhance the richness of the painting."

"A sketch is made on the paper with a pencil. Earlier, the sketch was made with charcoal prepared by burning tamarind twigs in an iron tube. Colours were made from the minerals by grinding the minerals in a stone mortar and then putting them in water to make a paste. Brushes were made of different material including squirrel, camel and goat hair. Sometimes, grass blades were also used to make sharp lines. Now, brushes available in the market are used for painting," says Chandrika.

"Once the sketch is made, Gesso work is taken up on the area earmarked. Gesso work is normally done where there is a need for embellishments. Design work is carried out on jewellery, attire, etc., with a specially prepared compound and a brush. On completion of the work, after the compound dries, gold foil is placed over it and stuck firmly. The painting is done subsequently. After the painting is completed and is dry, a thin paper is placed on top of it and rubbed with a smooth stone to bring out the richness in the relief work done with gold foil."

"The themes of these paintings are largely religious and are taken from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The most popular themes of this painting are traditional deities of the Hindu pantheon, including the famous Goddess of Mysore Chamundeswari. Stories from the epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana and Jain epics are also depicted in traditional Mysore paintings."

"A typical Mysore Painting today is usually sized between 11"x12" and a maximum of 30"x40". The pricing depends not only on size but also the intricacy involved in the subject," adds Chandrika.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meet 'paper-razzi Mysore Huseni

A snip here, a touch of glue there – a paper objeted’art is ready

You mean it’s made of paper? It looks simple. It’s artistic…” These are some of the comments that greet the paper craft creations of Mysore Huseni, artist par excellence when it comes to wielding paper, scissors and glue dexterously.
Syed Fakruddin Huseni snips paper, pastes bits of paper and a work of art is created before your eyes.

Paper sculpture as done by Huseni has its origins in origami and the popular Victorian paper sculptures, mostly silhouette portraits. As in origami, a diverse range of subjects ranging from fruits and flowers to landscapes and humans can be created.

For Mysore Huseni, it’s an art form but for many of us it could be an inexpensive way of using our creativity. Hailing from Mandya, Huseni studied art at Vyjayanthi School of Arts in Mysore and has obtained a degree in Bachelor of Fine Arts from Karnatak University, Dharwad. He has exhibited his paper art works at major exhibitions and has also demonstrated and conducted workshops in many institutions of Bangalore and other places. He was invited to take part and exhibit his talent in Japan Habba 2009, which was held at Bangalore.

Huseni has exhibited his works in many group shows in Karnataka and has held five solo shows in Bangalore, Mysore, Dharwad and Udupi. His works are with many art collectors in India and abroad. He was given the Anche Kunch award four times. The award was instituted by Shanthi Vana, a Trust of Dharmadhikari Virendra Heggade of Dharmasthala. He was also awarded the Dasara Lalithakala award by Kannada and Culture Department (Mysore) and Poster Making award given by Manasagangothri, Mysore.
Huseni is one among the few artists who are specialized in paper cutting arts like Sanji (Indian Paper cutting art), Kirigami (Japanese) and he has successfully adopted these methods in contemporary themes since the past 8 years.

“Craft is a tradition that has survived for centuries. My sculpture is a mutual symbiosis of reality and fantasy. I was inspired by paper cutting when I was in my school and I thought of creating designs with paper. Now, I produce high quality, creative sculptures and take risks to learn new things.

“After understanding the art concepts, I create a sculpture which saves landfill space with a refined taste and focus on the subjects concerning the common man. My present theme of paintings is ‘Home in every Heart’ as home is a wider perspective,” says Huseni remembering his parents who encouraged him.

“I have been researching rural folk elements for the past one-and-half years to cre-ate a document on the use of papers since many centuries. For example in Chamarajanagar paper is used to decorate floor in place of red-oxide. Till today, I have conducted survey in Kollegal, Mandya, Gulbarga, Dharwad, Shimoga, Soraba and many other places,” says Huseni proudly. Huseni has also created a Do It Yourself (DIY) kit complete with instructions and leaflets.

He now lives in Bangalore practicing his art and conducting free workshops in rural areas in an attempt to promote his indigenous rural art form.

SOM readers interested in learning paper-art can contact Huseni on Mobile: 98451-53277 or e-mail:

Art, be it splashing colour on canvas, drawing, stick-men or artistic paper creations, is the best stress-buster. And Huseni helps you beat stress.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hand-painted ceramics make an aesthetic difference

Do you want to decorate your home creatively and artistically? Then visit ‘Craft and Handloom Expo’ at JSS Urban Haat, which is showcasing exquisite handmade crafts like marble inlays, wood carvings, carpets, brass metal-wares, blue pottery and many other exhibits along with traditional sarees from Madurai. But it is the hand painted ceramic ware that catches one's attention immediately.

These handmade ceramic wares are aesthetic with vibrant colours. They are made using non-toxic ceramic tiles. The glazed tiles reflect the hues when decorated on walls.
“India is a treasure trove for some of the most exquisite handicrafts ever made. I chose to work only on ceramic or porcelain clay as it is the smoothest of all clay bodies and is an excellent medium for painting. Once the design and the painting is complete, I make it glaze by heating it in a kiln at very high temperature. This is the most critical stage of the entire process. These ceramics have a market and much sought after by customers who want their houses decorated with unique kind of artworks,” says Manoj Ramtke, who has come all the way from Bhadravathi to exhibit his ceramic works, shaping them into beautiful pieces of art.

Ceramic works are highly sought after for their unmatched beauty as they come in myriad colours and shades. Everything from abstract to geometric designs, images of historic events, even ancient cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Mayan stone carvings are adopted as themes for hand painting on these ceramic tiles. Hand painting on ceramic tiles has also now evolved as a hobby as it gives a skilled artist freedom to express his imagination. Plain, shiny and white glazed ceramics are most suitable for hand paintings. The medium used for hand paintings on ceramics generally depend on the paint and techniques employed.

The first step is to decide upon the theme of the painting. Rough sketches are then made on a graph paper of the same size. Before starting hand painting, they are thoroughly cleaned with soap water and dried. The paint is then mixed with oil and turpentine. Brush and palette knife are used to smear and blend colors. After the hand painting is completed, it is heated in a kiln between 1350 and 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, then it acquires a shiny appearance giving it a glaze.
Most of these hand-painted ceramic works are quite durable and can be used even outdoors. A recent addition to the ceramic work is water-proof hand painted which can be used in swimming pools and fountains. The artisans are catering to the individual’s choice of paintings and colours.

The exhibition also has on display beautifully handcrafted flower vases made by craftsmen showcasing not only traditional Indian motifs but also modern designs. They appear in various styles, having exquisite to exotic designs, made out of a variety of materials in various shapes and are quite eye-catching with their compelling beauty. The crafts mela at Urban Haat will conclude on May 9.

Magic lamp

A deft work: This tortoise-shaped magic lamp has a hole below the design into which oil can be poured. The specialty of this design is that when the lamp is kept
upright, the oil will not spill out.