Gangadhar and his brother Narasaiah run South India’s biggest woodcarving unit

Running South India’s biggest woodcarving unit, K. Gangadhar is always busy monitoring his crew in a tiny house in this remote municipality.

His eyes are always on perfection in patterns they carve for various customers from all over the country. Born and brought up in an agriculture family, the 53-year-old Gangadhar and his brother Narasaiah are unsung heroes in bringing national reputation for the Kalamkari designs on textiles.

Customers across India and abroad fell in love at first sight with Kalamkari designs because of its incredible and stunning beauty, which speak about an unmatched creativity of the brothers, who are masters in wood block making and carving. “Almost 90 per cent of Kalamkari designs being used in any given material are our brainchild,” they claimed.

“We derive the designs from the Indian culture and traditions,” said Mr. Gangadhar, who is grooming 12 local youths and six woodcarving artists from Utter Pradesh. While Kalamkari market flourished, there were 20-25 individual wood block makers in Pedana. All of them have now given up the fine art due to falling orders from local Kalamkari textile units.

“Mastering carving the blocks in Bathik designs of Andhra Pradesh, Turban of Rajasthan, Quilt of Maharashtra as well as every traditional design published in ‘Textile Arts of India’, we always keep ourselves busy,” an eighth-class drop-out K. Gangadhar told The Hindu.  

Learning to carve

They do not have local orders for the last two-years, says K. Narasaiah, but people from across Indian states are rushing to the place to get a block carved as per their desired style. All the 18 co-workers in this unit are now in learning carving the designs drawn by the brothers on ‘Teak wood’.

An exquisite Kalamakari art, carved in the shape of Kuja, won the President of India’s national award and they were recognised as the best woodcarving artists-2002. A few businessmen from various Indian cities have been tempting the duo to sell them the piece, but they have denied. When love for art and hard work comes together their fight for survival, they produce such masterpieces like Kuja and Mango.

They do not want to put these works on sale ever, said Mr. Narasaiah.