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The Fading Crafts Of India

By Staff

Tradition is a form of art and it requires to be preserved and handed down to generations to come. Various forms of art in India are soon facing a decline, because they were not preserved or widely practiced.

One such art is Roghan painting, the art that is currently practiced by only six surviving people in a little village of Nirona in Gujrat's Kutch area. This is the Khatri family, with Abdul Gafoor Khan, one of the six people, who is presently in Kolkata to exhibit his paintings at Artisana Gallery.

The Khatri family have been the practitioners of the art since seven generations, but Gafoor now fears that this would be the last surviving generation for the Roghan painting. This unique form of art is executed in a very different manner. The painting is carried out on fabric with Castor oil, paints and a six inch thin metal rod.

The painting originated in Persia, is done using metal rod from which the paint mix in castor oil swirls down on the fabric under the deft guidance of the painter, bringing alive brilliant motifs in myriad hues. The castor oil is heated for two days and mixed with color stones. The mixtures turns in to a rubbery substance called 'Roghan'. Gafoor expertly explains the entire process while adding that the painting on the fabric appears like fine embroidery or prints but a close look or feel will make it obvious that the motif has been painted.

While 'Tree of life' is a widely popular traditional Roghan motif with price ranging anywhere between Rs. 15,00 to Rs. 150,000 depending on the size and intricacies of the design. The art is basically done on cotton or silk fabric.

Gafoor explains that Roghan paintings are too expensive to be sold in market or crafts or handicraft segments. They are mostly bought by foreigners as pieces of art who visit the work shops in Kutch. The Rogahn painting are usually done on carves, Odhnis, sarees, table clothes and other fabrics, find good number of buyers. "However, the work is tedious and laborious and youngsters are not patient enough to take up Roghan painting," says Gafoor.

For Archana Sharma, a Kolkatan, Roghan painting is almost like a revelation. She watches with awe as Gafoor prods with grace, putting colors on his palm and painting with a thin metal rod in another hand. Archana strongly feels that this is a unique piece of art work and should be learnt and preserved for posterity.

Other art on display at the 'Tribal Treasures' is the embroidery art by the smallest tribal communities in the world, the Todas, the ancient people living in the Nilgiri hills. The tribe consists of only 2000 people and they are struggling to protect their culture and craft. The embroidery is basically done on cloth and its square shaped deceptions are one of a kind. The embroideries done on every thing from wallets, cell phone pouches, bed sheets, stoles etc and every design is a masterpiece in its own rights.

According to Priya, a Toda embroiderer each Toda craft is a masterpiece and it cannot be duplicated. The entire community depends on the sales of the craft to the tourists, however, the Tamil Nadu government has set up several stores to sell Toda products and sponsors exhibitions of Toda craft across the country and the world.

Rubi Pal Chowdhury,who is the secretary general of the 'Crafts of West Bengal' which is hosting the show, points that it is very important to make the people aware about the amazing crafts of the Indian culture and work together to preserve the dying tradition.

Other crafts on the show are Mech weaves from Jalpaiguri and Santaali Kantha and organic tribal jewelry from Santinikiten in West Bengal, paintings from Koraput, Dokra from Mayurbhanj, jewellery from Dhenkanal, Orissa and paintings from Jharkhand are also on display at the exhibition.

The exhibition had started on February 16 and ended on February 23.

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Read more about: india handicrafts paintings
Story first published: Thursday, February 26, 2009, 12:25 [IST]