Reviving the crafts

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 8 October 2018

Shilpkatha 2018, organised by Symbiosis Institute of Design, gave people a better understanding of the heritage of Indian crafts.

Indian craftsmanship is popular worldwide. Diverse cultures and traditions make our country a rich reserve of ancient art and craft that must be treasured, appreciated and preserved for the future generations.  Keeping this in mind, Symbiosis Institute of Design (SID) had recently organised their annual craft sustenance initiative Shilpkatha at the  Viman Nagar Campus. The objective was to conserve and bring about a product diversification of heritage Indian crafts.

Students from the institute visited the state of Madhya Pradesh to understand and familiarise themselves with the crafts from central India. They explored Zardozi, Bohra caps, Panja Durries, Bagh printing, Pithora and Dhokra, among others which are kind of native to the place.

Chatting up a few students we find out more about the art forms and the need to preserve them as a part of our Indian heritage.

Tribal tapestry 
The Dhokra art form primarily belongs to the tribal people living in some areas of Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and even some parts of Western India. Most of the artefacts belonging to the art form are human and animal figurines or even tribal deities. One of the earliest known Dhokra artefacts is the famous dancing girl which was found during the excavation in Mohenjo-daro. 

Hiteshi Jain, a student, who visited the village where Dhokra is still practised, says that the art form is centuries old. However, it is not something which is taught professionally, which is why it is dying and only a few families are known to practise it.   

She adds that there are two varieties of Dhokra practised in India. “The solid casting  figurines are mostly made in West Bengal and the hollow casting ones are widely made in Madhya Pradesh,” she says. What is really fascinating about the craft is that making a single product can take up to three weeks because it is all handmade. 

“Right from making the moulds to giving shape to the designs and finally polishing the finished product is a tedious job which is done by hand only, and therefore it is time consuming,” she says adding that most of the designing part is done by shilpis who are the village women. 

Weaving magic 
Machine made carpets are available in plenty everywhere. But the Panja Dhurrie, which involves a painstaking weaving process, is unique. 

“Panja is one of the glorious weaving techniques but sadly, the demand for it is higher in the West than in India,” laments Rajat Jhavar. He says that the eye-catching carpets from central India get their name from the technique that is used to make them — a metallic claw-like tool called panja is used to beat and set the threads in the warp. 

He explains that even though it’s a traditional form of carpet weaving, it has very futuristic patterns, which will appeal to urban people. “The dhurries have given the floral motifs a skip and instead have incorporated geometric abstracts in various colours, which is why there is a high demand for them in Western countries. Also, they have an advantage over regular carpets. They can be  flipped and the reverse side can also be used as a carpet,” he says. 

The best part of the Panja Dhurrie is that only natural vegetable colours are used in making them, which makes them extremely sustainable. 

A print tale 
The art of Bagh printing has travelled across several regions because of which it has evolved and has incorporated the uniqueness from each region. 

“However, these days the print is widely associated with Bagh, situated in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh,” says Jasmine Shibu. Despite the technique being practised for centuries, it has not changed its identity. “For centuries now, the same motifs and the same colour profile — red and black — have been in use which is the reason people easily recognise them,” she adds. 

The craftsmen make sure that all the elements that go into making the final product are natural. “Right from the colours that are used, to the materials on which they are printed — everything comes from nature, so it does not leave any carbon footprint,” she points out.  

Explaining the technique, she says that Bagh printing is primarily done through hand blocks on cotton or silk materials. “Even in terms of fashion, Bagh print has become really famous because more and more designers are now reviving the art form by incorporating it into commercial fashion, which interestingly has become a huge hit among youngsters as well. 

 “It is good to know that this traditional form of printing is not going extinct anytime soon and will be around at least for decades to come, that too in its original form,” she concludes.

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