Monday, August 30, 2010


"Yakshagana is not meant only for certain category of people. It is everybody’s play. It is your elders property. Don’t vanish this art, pass it on for next generations too," says Kumble Sundar Rao

Renowned Yakshagana artiste-cum-politican, Kumble Sundar Rao, was in city recently to deliver a talk on the occasion of 72nd Chaturmasya Vratha being observed by Pejawar Swamiji at Krishnadhama. Having carved a niche in Yakshagana with his vivid portrayal of various characters and dialogue delivery in his own inimitable style, he is the recipient of numerous awards, the most recent being the Yaksha Nidhi award - 2010 by the New Delhi-based Academy Thenku Thittu Yakshagana. He has also been conferred with the title 'Yakshanugrahi' and is the President of Karnataka Yakshagana Bayalata Academy since 2008. Here is a brief write up of his journey in the world of Yakshagana.

Born into a weaver’s family in 1934 in Kerala, Kumble Sundar Rao like many unfortunate victims of circumstances was educated till seventh standard. Not interested in learning the traditional skills of weaving which was the source of livelihood for the family, it was again the same fate which made Sundar Rao take to Yakshagana.

Being a regular visitor to a hotel in his home town, one day a stranger approached him and asked him if he could render certain dialogues of a character in the Yakshagana play as the regular artiste suddenly took ill. That proved to be the turning point in Sundar Rao’s life. His first role of delivering dialogue (who is known as Bhagawata at the age of 19, was such an instant success that opportunities started pouring in and he never turned back again. Over the years he gradually gained mastery over all the other features of the play such as the Raga, Tala and Prasanga.

Kumble, as he is affectionately called by the Yakshagana lovers, stands out as a unique person for several reasons and not merely for his dialogue rendering skills. Though born into a Malayalam-speaking family, he mastered speaking Kannada so fluently that anyone listening to him would be bewildered to know that his mother-tongue is not Kannada.

The 76-year-old Yakshagana veteran is very much remembered for his outstanding performances in his roles as Rama, Krishna, Bharata, Parikshita, Vishvamitra, and Ramacharvaka which he played with equal precision and variation over the years. Kumble is known for his intrinsic ability to relate with the audience, making them laugh, weep, dance and sing with him.

His journey into Yakshagana began in 1953 when he joined the Kudlu Gopalakrishna Yakshagana Mandali which went on to reach new peaks as he participated in drama fairs held at Ira Somanatheshwara, Surathkal, and Dharmasthala. At Dharmasthala, he gave performances for 25 consecutive years. He was even invited to countries like Abudhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and others to demonstrate his artistic prowess there.

What is remarkable about Kumble is his penchant for using alliterations. He weaves them spontaneously into his dialogues. In the process, he has created an inimitable style of his own. His dialogues are not in-depth as that of the late Sheni Gopala Krishna Bhat, another doyen of Yakshagana.

Sheni’s dialogues demand a very high level of understanding from the audience, whereas Kumble’s dialogues are more instantaneous, witty and appealing to the masses.

Though politics and Yakshagana make strange bedfellows, Kumble tried his luck in politics and has been quite successful too. He is the first professional Yaksha-gana artiste to be elected as MLA. His political career took off to a flying start, just like his entry to Yakshagana, when he was elected as MLA from the Surathkal constituency in 1994, representing the BJP. He is credited with yeomen services to the field of theatre and performing arts in his capacity as a Member of Legislative Assembly during his four year tenure at the office.

Once when he spoke in the Legislative Assembly, the then speaker Ramesh Kumar asked other MLAs to learn from Kumble the right way of speaking in Kannada. It was Kumble’s gift of the gab that earned him laurels both on stage while performing Yakshagana as well as in the political arena. In fact, impressed by his oratorical skills during the Ramajanmabhoomi campaign conducted by the BJP in the early 90s, it rewarded him with an MLA ticket to contest the Surathkal seat in 1994 Parliamentary elections. By winning the elections Kumble did what only cinema artistes had been known to do — graduating from the world of arts to what Bismarck had called ‘the art of possible.’

Like his performances onstage, he is equally at ease wielding the pen as well. His poems and odes appear regularly in the Kannada daily. Hosa Digantha His name would appear in the credit line of Udayavani wherein he writes about Narayana Guru’s memoirs. His autobiography 'Sundarakaanda' is a testimony to his writing skills as well.

For a man of such artistic calibre, awards and recognitions are bound to come by. He is credited with honours such as the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana Prashasthi, Karnataka Rajya Prashasthi, Rajyothsava Prashasthi by the Bahrain Karnataka Sangha, Polali Shankaranarayana Prashasthi, Muliya Timmappayya Prashasthi and several others. He is also a recipient of the Vijaya Vithala Prashasthi from Pejawar Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji.

Though Kathakali, the traditional dance form of Kerala and Yakshagana were treated at par with each other about 50 years ago, today Kathakali has achieved the status of classical art and has made name at the international level. Art forms can receive patronage both from the Centre and UNESCO if it gains classical art status. It is time that Yakshagana is accorded that status. In this context Kumble has undertaken many awareness campaigns about the art by releasing books, CDs, holding Kammatagalu – Chanda Madhale, Hadugarike and extending support to Yakshagana training centers.

Kumble Sundar Rao resides with his wife Sushila at mangalore. He has three daughters and two sons.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Rajasthan is a land of glorious historical traditions and culture and it is also one among the richest States in the country as far as in the field of arts and crafts are concerned. Stone, clay, leather, wood, ivory, lac, glass, brass, silver, gold and textiles are given the most brilliant forms here.

The hides of dead animals have never been put to better use than in Rajasthan whether as juthees, the embroidered footwear the people wear, or as saddles, bags and pouches. It is even used as backs for chairs after it has been embroidered with woollen motifs. Jaipur and Jodhpur are the traditional centres for juthees. The exotic spectrum of Rajasthan's handicraft heritage is a dazzling kaleidoscope of colours and textures.

SOM caught up with some artisans who are showcasing their talent at Sahara Art and Craft Bazar on Scout and Guides Ground, behind DC Office. The expo will conclude on Aug. 22 at 9.30 pm. Excerpts:

Rajasthani Wall Hanging

"This wall hanging has been made of concentrically placed fine jute ropes, stuck on cloth. This is a handcrafted traditional Rajasthani work on wall hangings. These can be used at homes to enliven its beauty. We stitch in various attractive and bright designs and colours. The traditional patchwork is coupled with zaridar thread work and mirrors. Green, turquoise and blue harmonise in the elaborately detailed embroidery of this cotton wall hanging. Traditional Rajasthani designs include tiny mirrors woven into the fabric. We offer various designs in a great variety of colors. These designs are inspired from the traditional Rajasthani designs and add to the beauty of the product thereon," says Asha R. Lohia, who is engaged in this work for the past 23 years.

Silver filigree

Silver filigree is the most unique and finest handicrafts of Orissa which is locally called as tarakasi. This is an ancient art of metal work practiced in the traditional way. The artifacts are made of alloy which contains over 90% of silver and to compete with the changing times new methods are being used.

"The silver is extracted through a series of consecutive smaller holes to produce fine strings of silver threads. The string is the speciality in the filigree jewellery. Brooches, ladies bags, pendants, earrings and hairpins and other utility items like trays, plates, cups, candle stands bowls, ashtrays, incense containers, animals, birds, flowers, peacock and many more are crafted," says Sambhu Dutta.

Bead work

Bead work is a Gujarati speciality from Khambhat and Sauras-htra. Motifs and patterns are dictated by the technique of putting two and three beads together. Beadwork objects are used in wall decorations, potholders, etc. The best beadwork is produced by the 'kathis' (tribals). Worked mostly on a white background, they use colours that are vibrant with very distinct patterns. Beadwork 'torans' are usually placed across the doorways. Satya Narayan has exhibited this artistic work.

Gesso work

It is one of the finest crafts to emerge from Bikaner where the inner hide of the camel is used for the purpose. The hide is scraped till it is paper thin and translucent. It is then moulded into various forms of lamp shades, hip flasks, perfume phials or vases. It is then painted over with fine gesso work using gold to lend richness to the otherwise bright reds and greens used in the work. Vijay Solanki has exhibited this talent.

Pottery and Terracotta

As the driest region of India, the pottery works of Rajasthan are very famous especially the small mouths of the water pots which are made in such a way that helps to circulate the air and keep the water cool.

The most famous pottery of Rajasthan is the water bottle among others like Pokran and painted pottery of Bikaner. They are exhibited at the bazar by Pinto, hailing from Kolkata.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sarees tell the tale at Urban Haat

When we talk about Indian fashion, invariably it's about wearing the traditional evergreen saree and the salwar-kameez. Sarees are an inevitable part in the wardrobe of any Indian bride. The saree has travelled a long way since the ancient times but in recent times we have witnessed the change in the look of the saree.

Sequences, embroidery, patch work etc., are all an eternal part of Indian attire which enhances the beauty of the dress. Embroidery is often regarded as the best form of art which is highly demanded by men and women. Embroidery work is flawless for adding beauty to any dull fabric.

Hence to introduce the tradition of saree, JSS Urban Haat in Hebbal has organised a saree mela which is on till August 22 and is open from 10 am to 9 pm. In all, 40 craftsmen and weavers from various States are taking part in this Mela. SOM had a tête-à-tête with some craftsmen at the Mela. Excerpts:

West Bengal is known for its colourful and vibrant culture. Artisan Chandana Aich from this city is showcasing her Batik and Kantha Stitch. Batik means 'wax writing', an art of decorating cloth using molten wax. This work is believed to have originated during the 12th century.

To create a design, we use a wooden stick fashioned into a pen with cotton thread wound around it. The hot wax is applied on this 'pen' and the designs are drawn on the cloth. Then, the design is separated according to the colours to be used for the dyes. Colouring usually starts with the white sections and progresses to the darker shades. Later on, the cloth is dipped in boiling water to remove the wax. The areas covered in wax retain their original colour and the pattern is made by the plain and dyed parts. Vegetable dyes are used for colouring.

The batik craft gives more prominence to figures of humans and animals than other traditional art forms where flowers, landscapes and such take top place.
Another interesting fact is that both sides of the cloth look the same. There is no right or wrong side because the hot wax seeps into the other side of the cloth as well, making both sides look identical.

About Kantha stitch

Kantha is a type of embroidery popular in West Bengal which is practised by rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. The entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals, birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. Originally it was used to join layers of old saris, to make quilts. The existence of Kantha dates back to early 1800s, embroidered with blue, black and red threads that were unraveled from saree borders.

Tussar Silk

Artisans Kalim Ansori and Md. Wali Ahmad are displaying Tussar Silk, Matka Silk, Noil Raw Silk etc. Speaking to SOM about Tussar Silk they narrated thus:
Tussar silk is also known as Kosa silk, produced mainly in Jharkhand. Tussar is valued for its texture and natural gold colour, which is unusually rich and deep.
Tussar is a type of wild silk obtained from silk worms that are not bred on mulberry trees but whose cocoons are collected from the local trees like Sal, Arjun and Saja. It is less expensive than cultivated silk and not as durable. Some Tussar silk today made is called non-violent silk, or Ahimsa Silk, which is extracted from the cocoon after the silkworm larva has left it.
Chikan work
The chikan work of Lucknow is one of the most popular embroidery works in India. It has a certain grace and elegance and never goes out of style. The word chikan literally means embroidery. It is said to have been originally introduced by Nur Jahan, the beautiful wife of the Mughal emperor Jahangir. It has since evolved and attained its glory and perfection in Lucknow, says artisan Sanjay from Lucknow.
The designs depend on its effect on the variety of stitches used and different grades of threads used to form the patterns which include the lace like jali, the op-aque fillings and the delicacy or boldness of outline and details.
A variation of the chikan work is the bakhia or shadow work. Here the work is done from the back, the stitches completely covering the design in herringbone style. The shadow of the thread is seen through the cloth on the right side.

Kundan work

Kundan work by artisan Mahfooz Alam is a method of gem setting, consisting of inserting gold foil between the stones and its mount. This task requires a great deal of dedication as it has intricate work to be done with great precision. The Kundan work consists of precious gems like diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The various designs done in the Kundan work sarees are a sure shot eye-catcher.
The speciality of the Kundan work sarees is that the precious gems give it an even more beautiful look, making the saree glitter and add glamour to one's beauty. It is learnt, Kundan works are a favourite of Mughals.

Apart from this, there are a wide range of collections from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Jammu-Kashmir and many other places. This beautiful hand-crafted works created by the artisans have a low environmental impact and are produced in a community-friendly way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


V.K. Murthy is the first Cinematographer to be chosen for the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award-2008 on Jan. 19, 2010. Born in Mysore in the year 1923, he obtained his Diploma in Cinematography from Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic, Bangalore, in 1946. Having spent nearly five decades in Mumbai, the ace cinematographer was the cameraman for all of Guru Dutt’s movies and is now settled in Bangalore.

Star of Mysore caught up with the octogenarian (Venkataramana Pandit Krishna Murthy) on Saturday when he visited his Alma Mater, Sarada Vilas College in city to participate in the Independence Day celebrations.

"I am neither a politician nor a good speaker, I don’t know to speak well....." said the 87-year-old Murthy going back to his student days and the freedom struggle movement.

SOM: What made you join freedom struggle?

V.K. Murthy (VKM): Among the fondest of my childhood memories was the inspiration I derived from Mahatma Gandhi. India was fighting for its freedom and Gandhiji was a constant source of inspiration for many youths like me. I still vividly remember being arrested and sent to jail. In fact I remember that day so well as if the canvas has been just there in front of me.

SOM: ... and you found yourself in jail! How did it happen?

VKM: In my student days I was very enthusiastic. I was ready to do anything for the nation. During 1942 Quit India Movement, Tulasidas Dasappa and H.Y. Sharada Prasad were arrested one day. The next day sheepishly I along with a group of some 65 students on a cycle went in front of the Police Chowki (jail) shouting, 'Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai, Bharath Matha Ki Jai.'

The guard standing near the jail entrance stopped and told us to meet the Jail Superintendent. I replied that we are not his slaves and instead asked him to come and meet us. The Jail Superintendent came out and requested, 'Please come inside.' The anti-climax was that when I turned to seek my supporters, there were only thirteen left ! And we entered the jail. I was thinking they would release us by evening, but we were kept inside prison for three months. The Jail Superintendent, an Indian named Sheshu Iyer, was a kind-hearted person who often got us eatables and coffee. He even took us to Indra Bhavan on our way to the Court where we were taken once in 15 days. By the time I was released I had put on 5 pounds weight.

SOM: What was your childhood like...?

VKM: Life was an uphill task, almost freedom struggle for me. My father was a retired Ayruveda Doctor getting a pension of Rs.30. I lost my parents quite early in life. I was lucky to have caring relatives and friends who supported me till I began earning on my own. The going wasn’t that easy. My hobby was to play violin and I was so good at it that I scored 175 out of 200 in the examination. I started teaching students. I took classes for 216 students at a time, for which I got a mere Rs. 9. I spent this money for my studies. I later did a course in cinematography, which benefited me a lot in the industry.

SOM : When did you first go to Bombay?

VKM: I went to Bombay in 1943 when the Quit India Movement was at its peak. I didn’t exactly know where my life was heading. In initial days I played violin for movies. During my third year of Cinematography course, the Institute where I was studying offered us the chance of visiting either Madras or Bombay Studios. I preferred to go to Bombay. I was sent to Prakash Studios which had produced several movies based on mythology, the prominent being Ram Rajya, a popular movie during those times. I used to watch a lot of English movies in 1946-1982.

SOM: So how did you finally become a cinematographer?

VKM: I didn't exactly know where my life was heading, when in 1946 I got a break in Jayant Desai's Maharana Pratap where I assisted cinematographer Dronacharya. Then one day I saw Amrapali and was amazed by Fali Mistry's photography which was as good as English films. Here is where my luck helped me. I had played the violin for some music directors too, and when I went inside the studio to collect my money, I was told that Fali Saab was looking for me. I worked with him for about 5 years.

SOM: Your life took a turn after you met Guru Dutt. Right?

VKM: Meeting Guru Dutt was a radical change in my life. How I met him itself was a chance happening. I first met Guru Dutt while working for Famous Studios as an assistant cameraman. Dev Anand's Navketan Films had hired the studio to make Baazi. I suggested a difficult shot, which Guru Dutt said his cameraman would not be able to execute. I requested him to give me a chance to take the shot and I could do it. After the day’s pack up, he asked me if we could work together.

SOM: What was it like working with Guru Dutt?

VKM: Working with him was a terrific experience. He worked on serious subjects, the intellectual kind of work. He was hesitant to face the camera as an actor, but he did so at my insistence. I was sure because he understood the roles so well. I remember once while we were scouting for locations in Baroda for Chaudhvin Ka Chand, he quoted a line from Pyaasa: Agar yeh duniya mujhe mil bhi jaye to kya hai. I asked him why he said that suddenly and he said, 'Mujhe waise he lag raha hai. Dekho na, mujhe Director banna tha, Director ban gaya; actor banna tha, actor ban gaya; picture achcha banane tha, ache bane. Paisa hai, sab kuch hai, par kuch bhi nahi raha…’

SOM: His death must have been a terrible loss for you?

VKM: Yes, after Guru Dutt’s death in 1964, I worked with several other Directors but working with Dutt Saab will always be a special experience. My last film was with a Kannada director after which I quit rather than wait to be thrown out.

SOM: Kagaz Ke Phool failed in box-office yet it won accolades for its cinematography.

VKM: Not everybody can become a photographer. I was the cinematographer for the first 75mm cinemascope movie, Kagaz Ke Phool which also happened to be the debut directorial venture of Guru Dutt. I tried this as Guru Dutt was encouraging me to do something new. Around that time, 20th Century Fox of US was visiting India and had accidentally left behind two cinemascope lenses, better known as Anamorphic lens.

I tried those lenses on a camera and took the pictures of Geeta Dutt (wife of Guru Dutt). I found some noticeable difference. It was then we decided to do the movie in Cinemascope and completed it successfully. Unfortunately when the film was released, the response was poor, but surprisingly today this movie is a subject for those who learn Cinematography.

SOM: What do you have to say to the aspiring cinematographers?

VKM: It is a very tough job. Cinematography is both an art and science. Keep watching movies, but at the same time also observe the facial expressions of the actors and the locales where the film is shot. Try to understand the kind of lighting and visual depth they are using.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tribal Lei Motifs come alive

The carved and inlaid wood carvings are an integral form of Indian handicrafts. This tradition is passed on by master craftsmen through generations. Gods, goddess, devils, demons, animals from nature and mythology all find a place in the wood carvers repertoire.

One interesting aspect that needs to probed further is the wood used. The trees native to the region from where the craftsmen originate are most often used. There are several species of balsa wood, jack wood, matchwood , teaks like honge and mathi apart from rosewood and sandalwood. It is mentioned somewhere in one of the esoteric Vedas that the sculptor, the wood-carver and the potter are usually known as the Creator.

SOM caught up with some wood craftsmen who are participating in Anantha Yatre - a Meet on Tribal and Analogous Cultures at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) at its premises in Wellington House. It will conclude on Aug. 12.

Wood Carving

Artist Lakshman Dugga is a Muria tribal from Bastar region of Chattisgarh. The Muria, a su-bsect of the Gonds, are a forest community. Lakshman Dugga’s work reflects his heritage. You have bamboo and reed flutes, wooden axes and swords as well as animistic representative sculptures. Laskhman has taken part in several demonstration workshops.

Artist Premkumar Dhiman Kangra is from Himachal Pradesh. Kangra Valley in the mountainous Himachal is known in the world of art for its Kangra and Pahari miniature paintings. But there is more to Kangra than daubs of bright colour. There is also a fine tradition of wood carving. Premkumar Dhiman is a renowned wood carver from Tikkar village in Kangra district. The wood he uses is usually pine and walnut and the skeins of veins that run through the wood are used to highlight the features of the sculptures. Premkumar Dhiman’s works in wood are displayed at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal. Premkumar uses the lei motif of mythic figures like Baba Pahadiya in all his carvings.

Artist Gowrishankar and Girish Kumar are wood carvers from Barakote village in Almora district of Uttarkhand. They are what the legendary Jim Corbett called 'Hill Folk' with a history replete in sacred, secular and profane images. The wood used is mainly deodar, pine, teak and walnut and the light toned wood which is burnished into a gentle brown and makes good for strong door frames and windows.

They also carve vases, chillums to smoke rough cigarette, inc-ense holders and wall plaques. They prepare images of the characters from tribal folk myth and beliefs. Other than this they also exhibit their excellence of wood carving skill on doors, door frames and various other household fixtures and objects.

Bamboo Work

Artist Shankar is also a Muria Gond from Bastar ( Chhatisgarh). Shankar specialises in making bamboo flutes and wooden artifacts like axes, swords, plaques.

The Gonds of MP and Chattisgarh form the largest tribal group in the country. They are the true hunter-gatherers who lead a semi-nomadic pastoral life. It is but natural their artistic expressions reflect their lives. Shankar, who is an inspired craftsmen, had taken part in many demonstration workshops across the country.

Artist C.P. Antony from Kerala uses fine slivers of spliced bamboo to create lamp shades, hanging lamp shade and wall clock. Materials used are bamboo and reed.

Traditional Muria Painting

Artist Belugur Mandavi is a Muria from Dindori region of Chattisgarh. The walls of a Muria ghotul and the houses are decorated with vegetable dye paintings of rudimentary animals and men, of hunting scenes and nature motifs. There is a blend of mythology though from a later period. Belugur has participated in many artist camps in Bhopal and other places and his works have been displayed in many exhibitions. His Ghotul series depicts a traditional dormitory with boys and girls (Cheliks and Motiyars respectively) singing while some are playing on musical instruments.

Traditional Bhil Painting

Chowki Work

Artist Ramesh Katara is a Bhil painter from Madhya Pradesh. Like the Gonds, the Bhils too are hunter-pastoral tribes who are spread all over Madhya Pradesh. There is an inborn tendency to paint and the walls of a Bhil hut is always colourful with earth shades of geometric figures and patterns. Ramesh is a self-taught painter who uses his commu-nity’s deep-seated belief in the world of the Gods and demons to create his works of art. Ramesh has painted a sacred hill, Kokkida, which to them is a spiritual centre, much like the various mountains in South India which are supposed to be representative of the various Gods. Ramesh has not been taught painting but his inherent sense of form and colour enable him to compositions whose focal point is the sacred hill to whom at any auspicious ceremony are sacrificed goats and chicken, offered fruits and coconuts.

Madhubani Painting

The playful god Krishna, the heavy dewlaps of cows, gopikas and the blossoming Kadamba are the lei motif of Madhubani paintings. Alka Devi from Mithila (Bihar) uses these motifs to advantage as she shows off her finesse in recreating the mythology and the legend of Madhuban and Vrindaban. Alka narrates the tale of the laughing God Krishna perched on a branch of the Kadamba as the Gopikas stand in the pools, pleading with him to return their clothes. Alka’s son Kanhaiya Kumar helps her in her workshops and thus a tradition is kept alive from generation to generation.

State-awardee Kishore, a traditional wood carver from Shimoga, makes low round tables with their surface top painted in brilliant colours. These are handcrafted tables and the carving seems to be more embossed. Kishore learnt the art by observing and copying his father Narayanappa Chitragar, a well known Chowki artist. But Kishore has now gone beyond the confines of tradition and carves wooden door frames, deities and other objet d'art.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


India is an epicentre of gold, silver and metal crafts in the world. Thousands of articles are made out of one or more pieces of metal and the Indian craftspersons have excelled in this art. Hence, metal ornaments have been a rave in all ages and times. The attractive contrasts in colors and textures of metals has led to the evolution of metal ornamentation through techniques like inlay, overlay, appliqué, fixing of colours etc.

SOM met some of the metal craftsmen, who have come all their way from various parts of the country to exhibit their talent at Anantha Yatre, a meet on tribal and analogous cultures, organised by Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya at Wellington House on Irwin Road. The meet will conclude on Aug. 12. Excerpts:

Iron Art Work

Hailing from Chattisgarh, Nand Lal Vishwakarma, a member of Lohar community and State awardee, specialises in large wrought iron sculptures of animals and tribal deities. Though it looks very simple, it requires huge skill to shape flat metal into intricate designs. The figurine is heated from time to time to make the metal more malleable. Apart from articles of rural requirement like plough, spade, sickle, etc, Nand Lal skillfully creates iron lamps in various sizes & shapes, figurines of horse, deer, peacock, decorative gates for government institutional buildings and masks for foreign clients.

Another artist Hanuman Lohar Tonk from Rajasthan started making tools and artistic items out of iron at the age of 16 under the guidance of his father. His work shows evidence of acute observation of nature. Different designs of artistic items are moulded and after that they are given shape by hand-chiseling & polishing. Hanuman has received State Award in Iron Art work.

Kosuru Brahmaji Bobbili from Andhra Pradesh is a traditional metal craft artist of brass and bronze works. He learnt the craft work from his father. Their main works are related to temples like lamps, bells, ritual images and different kinds of statues.

Dhokra craft

Dhokra is lost wax technique to cast non-ferrous metals. A group of artisans from Chattisgarh are modeling exquisite figurines and motifs in bell wax. The themes are generally drawn from folk and tribal culture.

First they make a model in fine clay to main mitti. Then thin fine clay is filtered through fine cloth for a smooth texture and later it is packed carefully. This mould of fine clay is then coated in a mixture of laal mitti and bhoosa (husk) and then left to dry in sun. Openings are left in the mould for the bee wax to subsequently drain out. After the metal is glowed in a stone crucible the mou-lds are baked in a nearby furnace till the bee wax flows out of the mould completely leaving behind a cavity and later the molten metal will be poured into the mould from the opening and the moulds are left to cool and they become harder.

Artist Udai Ram Jhara, a member of Jhara community (Chattisgarh), is engaged in metal casting by ‘lost wax process’. He is an expert in this technique. He has participated in many camps in India and bagged Rashtrapathi award.

Another artist Meera is a renowned Gharwa artisan from Bastar region of Chattisgarh. She has also exhibited her bell metal craft work (Dhokra craft).

Brass Work

Artist Ram Swaroop Soni, a member of the Soni community in Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, is engaged in metal casting by ‘lost wax process’. He is an expert in this technique and has participated in many camps in India. His work includes small bells, lamps, decorative figures of gods and goddeses, animals and household articles.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Tribal art, whether Warli or Madhubani wall paintings, the brass wire-work animals of the Gods or leather embossing, the variety is bewildering. Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), in association with the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) has brought to the Royal City a fascinating exhibition-cum-workshop on indigenous art forms of the country's tribal and rural people. The exhibition ‘Tribal and Analogous Cultures’ is currently going on at the Wellington House and will conclude on August 12.

Some 50 different tribal and indigenous art and craft, commemorating the International Day of World’s Indigenous People, are on display here. The exhibition has a scholarly research component and a demonstration workshop (Anantha Yatre) that tells the visitor that tribal art is as sophisticated as modern ones. The expo will be open from 10 am to 6 pm.

To the cloistered urbanite, this exhibition makes a good introduction to indigenous people's cultures. To know more about the tribal art, SOM spent some time with some of the artisans. Here are the excerpts of the artisan-speak:

Golden embossing nakkashi work

Gold-embossed Nakkashi work is popularly known as 'Usta Art' and originates in Bikaner, Rajasthan. This unique fine miniature painting work is mainly done on camel hide. Thus you have camel hide bolsters, coffee tables, decorative dressing table mirror etc, including slippers. This work is also done on marble, wood and glass. It is said, this work was being done in ancient Iran. But similar works can also be seen in Multan (Pakistan) as well as north western India. This work is being kept alive in Bikaner by some 15 families.

Ayub Ali Usta received his training at Usta Camel Hide Training Centre, a unit of Rajsico, Bikaner. Nakkashi work is done on a variety of items — photo & mirror frames, jewellery box, glass bottles and table tops etc. They use gold foils and viscous oil colours like green, red, blue. Outlines are drawn in pencil and embossing and embellishing is done late. The fascination with leather as a medium started during the British rule when there was a demand for highly ornate saddles.

Traditional Gond Painting
Artist: Ajay Kumar Urveti, Dindori, Madhya Pradesh

Ajai Kumar Urveti is a Gond from Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh. Ajai's paintings are greatly influenced by the mythologies of his community. He has been participating in many artist camps in Bhopal and other places. His works have been displayed in museums and exhibitions. At the workshop, he painted the "traditional Bagesh," a marriage mantap among Gond tribes. According to Ajai, this painting is confined to 'Kushram clan' marriages. Gond paintings are the living expressions of tribals. They paint on grounds and walls with limestone or charcoal.

Surapur style of Painting
Artist: Jagannath Bellad, Gulbarga

Jagannath is a young painter who has made the 17th century Surapur traditional style of painting of North Karnataka. He graduated in fine arts from Gulbarga University and has held his solo and group exhibitions in a number of art galleries and has bagged many national and international awards including the Gold Star Award in Thailand.

Jagannath's paintings of gods and goddesses seem to float on the surface of the canvas unfettered by the colourful background. Tones of light and shades used on parts of the body add depth to the paintings.

Traditional Ornamental Design
Artist: Raghusurya Rao, Bobbili, Andhra Pradesh

Raghusurya Rao is a traditional metal worker from Bobbili, Andhra Pradesh, who makes embossed images of mythical characters, animals, famous personalities etc., along with charms and locket pendants. He has created more than 6,000 designs till now. He uses sheets of brass or gold on which images are embossed with iron-dyes.

Artist: Simhadri Kameswara Rao

Kameswara Rao is a traditional ornamental artist of AP who makes gold, silver, copper and brass metal ornaments. Basically it is an iron-dye work. He makes traditional jewellery meant for various occasions particularly birthdays, marriages, temple festivals and other social and religious purposes. Some of the common and most important ornaments in Andhra region are Mangalasutram, ear ornaments (Makara Kundanamulu), Simhakankanamlu, Kumkum Karinulu (Vermillion boxes), Jadagartalu and Vaddanamulu.

Kameswara Rao is the father of Raghusurya Rao and Prakash. The entire family follows this tradition.

In fact, in most of the cases, tribal art is a family occupation. Tribal society, as any other society, is as rigidly divided into several linear layers as modern societies. In a way, this has been the salvation of these ancient indigenous arts and crafts.

Monday, August 2, 2010


'Media plays a major role in propagating art among youth,' says Neelamma

Neelamma is a sprightly young 72, who has an unbounded zest for learning new things that will light up another person’s home and hearth.

SOM caught up with Neelamma to find out if she had that secret elixir to a happy life. Neelamma, who lost her husband a few years ago, has three children and also talented grandchildren. You would expect her, if she had been like so many others, to be sitting in the outer sanctum of a temple or the nearest park, chatting with her friends or watching that long running soap on TV.

Neelamma does not do any of those things. Maybe she secretly watches TV soap opera, but she spends greater part of her waking hours, full of enthusiasm for arts and crafts.

In the last seven decades she has mastered over a hundred traditional art forms that includes Mysore style painting, Rajasthani miniatures, Tanjore painting, rangoli, knitting, artificial flower-making and several others. Having learnt and mastered all these, she is still interested in learning modern art , from Cubism to abstracts.

Impressed by the magic she spins, weaves from her fingers, more than 50 institutions have held training camps all over India and invited her to teach her art to youngsters. The camps were held in far-flung places like Belgaum, Tirupathi, Raja-mundhry, Vijayawada, Vishaka-patnam, Hassan, Bangalore and other cities. She even went to Australia on an invitation to teach her handicraft skills.

She has participated in all the training camps conducted by the Handicrafts Board, Govt. of India, held at various places in the country like Bangalore, Mysore, Delhi, Chennai, Indore, Gwalior, Pune and Hyderabad. She has won several awards for her art during the Dasara festivals held every year in Mysore. She has lost count of the number of prizes won and awards received so far. She has been honoured by the Rotary, Lions, JCI and various private organisations including some Departments of the State Government like the Department of Horticulture and others. She received International Woman of the Year Award in 1995.

Neelamma started learning a variety of skills at home when she was just 10 years from her elder sister and mother. But this learning continues even after 60 years. Though she has been widowed, with all that pain and anguish that comes with widowhood, she has got over it and continues in her pursuit of acquiring and perfecting her artistic skills. She works non-stop for eight hours daily and is never tired. She lives for six months in Mysore (No. 216, 10th Main, 1st cross, Saraswathipuram) and the remaining six months at her son’s place in Bangalore. She is not dependent on any of them. She lives by the money she earns by selling her works. She also specialises in ‘Patch Work’ on fabric and quilting for which she has obtained orders from foreign countries.

Amidst all these she keeps herself fit by walking regularly and busy by writing down all the Rangoli designs that comes to her mind in a book.

Her message to the youth of present generation, "I don’t watch TV even for just half-an- hour. It robs you of the opportunity to learn new skills. All our ancient traditional art and skills are slowly dying out because it is not being learnt by today's youth as they waste time by watching TV shows and soap operas. The media plays a great role in promoting a variety of art and keeping the interest alive in these youngsters. They can spend their spare time learning and teaching these arts to others. This gives deep joy and immense satisfaction."