Two craft forms that flaunt the rich and nuanced traditions are on display.
There are two craft forms of ineffable delicacy, conjuring up jewellery featuring exotic flowers made up of thin, twisted, curled and plaited silver threads and stylised flowers created from semi precious stones embedded on a marble canvas.
The silver filigree or ‘tarakashi’ work of Odisha and Agra’s pietra dura or marble inlaid work with semi precious stones are part of the treasure house of the country’s crafts handed down through the centuries by paramparik artisans.
Fine as a spider’s web, the filigree work of Odisha adorns Lord Jagannath’s ‘mukut’ (crown) and other pieces, while the luminescent jasper, garnet and lapis lazuli give flowers a new dimension and canvas to Mughal-inspired art. Both styles draw their inspiration from the beauty of flowers with motifs based on ‘dhatura’, ‘kusum’ and ‘itali’; ‘madhumati’ and ‘patti dhatura;’ nargis, gulab and champa.
Teaching his children
Purnachandra Mohapatra, paramparik tarakashi artisan has handcrafted a 2 ft gold filigree mukut for Lord Jagannath and has helped to repair and restore the deity’s filigree-work jewellery. “I learnt the craft from my father, as my children learn it from me after school hours. The filigree making process is long and involves delicately-nuanced work. After making fine wires out of silver, often by hand with the help of a cutter, we make the base or frame of the conceptualised product. We then make tiny micro mini pieces, which maybe the veins of a leaf, the detailing of a petal, or pollen. This is done with help of a ‘chimti’ a delicate handmade tool which is part pincer, part shaper. Each tiny piece is made separately, set aside and then joined within the frame of each tiny leaf or petal, the soldering being done with a blow pipe.
“Often there are 50 or more petals of a flower, each of which is meticulously curved and brought together within each frame and then the whole flower is soldered onto the base. The intricate micro mini jaali work is done by this method,” he says.
He holds up a light, delicate chain that has been knitted, using a pair of needles, with the silver thread being held secure by the toe.
His filigree kadas glitter with the luminosity and lustre of diamonds, while his ‘patti dhatura’ flower pendant is a marvel of minute jaali work with the petal folding in a natural way.
Prem Raj’s ancestors have been doing marble icons and forms as well as delicate pietra dura inlay work for generations.
He learnt his craft from his father and today makes beautiful inlay-work wall hangings, boxes pencil cases, lamps and gorara stone artefacts.
He holds up a marble jewellery box, which has a spray of blue lapis lazuli champa flowers within a circle of leafy vine. “I made incisions and ‘khudai’ work on the box as per my free hand design and then fixed the lapis and mother of pearl pieces that have been shaped by me to fit the design. The semi precious stones are fixed with araldite. A touch of polishing finishes the process.”
His gorara stone pieces, some radiating rays of different colours, are impressive - especially his circular boxes reminiscent of antique Buddhist ritual reliquary boxes, carved in the stone with frolicking animals and birds.
The tussar silk paintings from Odisha, Saura art, dhokra wall hanging are also on view at the Odisha Handicrafts Mela along with glass sculpture artefacts, Chennapatna toys, glass bangles, Saharanpur furniture and textiles from Odisha and West Bengal.
The Odisha Handicrafts Mela is on till January 13, at Vijaya Raja Thirumagal Mantap, 58, 1st Avenue Road, Shastri Nagar, Adyar (Opp. Adyar Telephone Exchange).