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Indian Traditional Arts

Cast in myth

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Cast in myth


Artisans from Bastar not only breath myth and magic into their metal artefacts, but they also show traditional artistes in Kerala how to adapt and survive in changing market conditions. 

Photo: K. Pradeep

<img src='http://www.hindu.com/mag/2008/08/10/images/2008081050320701.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
Shaping dreams: Artisans from Bastar at work in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sankarlal Jhara loves to sing and he does it at the drop of a hat. In raw Chattisgarhi Hindi, in full throated ease, he sings about his philosophy of life. It conceptualises his ideas, emotions. The song is full of their activities, interactions with men, with nature, with the spirit world.

This song extends to his craft too. Sankarlal, along with 137 tribal artists from various areas adjoining Bastar and Raigarh districts of Chattisgarh, attempt to make the imaginable real. They bring myth and magic to the objects they make. They transfer the images, ideas, expressions of their songs and their music to their works of art.

Leaving their little villages, wedged in by thick forests, the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the intoxicating mahua flowers, where art is part of their very existence, these artists came down South for the first time. <b>They took part in a 42-day art workshop, organised by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, in association with the South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, and Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahlaya, Bhopal, at Kozhikode and Kochi recently.</b>

Lessons learnt

More than providing these traditional artists a new space, the Akademi had other objectives in organising these two workshops. “What we have observed, at least in Kerala, is that there is absolutely no effort to preserve traditional knowledge. All that we had is gradually vanishing. These traditional arts are actually a documentation of a time, society and culture. We wanted to create awareness about the significance of traditional art and craft,” says T.A. Satyapal, Akademi secretary.

<b>Kerala has an indigenous, 600-year-old casting technology. It is believed that artisans from Thanjavur settled on the banks of the Pampa River at Mannar, near Alappuzha. The clay along the river banks was best suited for their works of metal art. They flourished mainly because of the feudal societal system that was prevalent then. “With the end of this system the artisans found work hard to come by. The superstitions attached to the casting technology of these artisans, like keeping away women, making only traditional artefacts, gradually brought them to the verge of extinction. Today at Mannar you may find rows of shops but most of the artefacts here are mechanically made in places like Moradabad. The tradition is lost as the artists did not evolve,” </b>says Satyapal.

The workshop also had a few artists from Mannar who worked alongside the tribal artists. “This was a new experience for us. Watching these highly skilled craftsmen at work, and by interacting with them, we have picked up some valuable lessons. <b>At the end of the day we have decided to try out some new items other than just working on the traditional ones. They will be works that cannot be replicated by machines,” </b>says Jeevan Raj.

<b>“There is nothing in the curriculum for students of sculpture both for BFA and MFA in metal casting. Hence, most of the students end up working on clay or other mediums. Added to this is the functioning of a sort of ‘art mafia’ that promotes painting, pumping in a lot of money into this genre. This has forced many skilled sculptors and craftsmen to shift to painting. We had as observers art students, blacksmiths, who again have not gone beyond the usual artefacts, who must have gained a lot of confidence from the work of these tribal artists. The Akademi has plans for a follow-up sculpture, metal casting workshop for this group soon,” </b>adds Satyapal.

<b>The tribal artists were provided the materials and they crafted 207 exquisite, exclusive works of art. They were then exhibited at the Akademi gallery in Kochi. “We paid each of the artists Rs. 12,000, looked after their travel, food and accommodation. The whole project cost us Rs. 28 lakh. We now propose to set up a tribal museum in Kochi where these works will be preserved. We have not put any of these objects on sale. The exhibition did attract a lot of orders, which have been sent to the tribal artists.”</b>

Vibrant tradition

Endless in variety, tremendous in craftsmanship the works of these tribal artists provided a glimpse into their world. They have, through generations, kept the art alive and vibrant. The intricate method of moulding clay, the elaborate work on wood, stone and metal, turning them into mind-boggling forms and designs is simply alluring.

<b>The metal casting method that the tribal artists use is the lost wax technique. This is perhaps the same that was used by the Mohenjodaro craftsmen. This ancient art, imbued with an intrinsic starkness and vitality, makes each of the objects of art exclusive, coveted pieces. Though this technique is used worldwide, the coiled thread technique is unique to the craftsmen of Bastar.</b> The craftsmen of this area, as also of the neighbouring areas of Chattisgrah, are artists first and metal workers later. <b>Working on bee wax, they etch out designs and images that form in their mind. The motifs used are all inspired by their culture, the animals around them, gods and goddesses, everyday work, dance and music.</b>

This question is for Bodhiji, HH or anyone who is able to answer -

Did Hindus rarely make sculptures or busts of kings and other figureheads etc? Why does so little remain of that compared to the Romans or Greeks.
<!--QuoteBegin-Pandyan+Feb 13 2009, 01:51 AM-->QUOTE(Pandyan @ Feb 13 2009, 01:51 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->This question is for Bodhiji, HH or anyone who is able to answer -

Did Hindus rarely make sculptures or busts of kings and other figureheads etc? Why does so little remain of that compared to the Romans or Greeks.
Probably from modesty,just like artists that didnt sign their work.
Some royal figures are etched on inscriptions, e.g. IIRC, figures of some lichcHavI royals in Nepal along side the writings.

Some royals are depicted on temple murals, e.g. choLa-s.

Along side some mUrti-s of the deity, the royal donor or the installer is also depicted as minor figures in worship, often on pedestals, e.g. and especially in jaina iconography.

Some can be seen in miniature paintings on manuscripts.

Most clear depiction of the Hindu royals comes from numismatics. Coins depict so many of kings - kuShANa, gupta and so on.

In opinion of some, certain mUrti-s of deva-s can give some ideas of how the ruler might look like. E.g. rAhula sAMkR^ityAyana opines that some characters on the mUrti-s of North India might have been made to look similar to royal figures by the sculpturer in order to please the King. E.g. bhUdevI of a certain vArAha of mathurA, he says, looks like the queen of chandragupta II the gupta (jaya yaudheya). But that is only a speculation.

But in later days, figures of kings were of course prominently made. We have Rana Pratap's figure so also Shivaji's prominently sculpted/painted by their contemporaries/near-contemporaries. Many busts of rAjapUta chiefs can be seen too. A european mentions that even Akbar had a couple of these in front of Agra Fort.
Elephant in architecture <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo-->


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