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Monthly Archives: March 2017

  • Brocade- The Beautiful Art of Zari Weaving

    The art of weaving has been an age old tradition in India. How beautiful a fabric can look when it is woven with silver or gold thread? That’s what is called as brocade work. Brocade is a rich decorated silk fabric with or without gold and silver thread (or zari). Brocade work can be seen in Indian traditional dresses like sari, gharara, blouses and wedding dresses. The name comes from Italian word broccato meaning embossed cloth. The history of brocade dates back to time when it was worn by rulers and kings of China, Greece, Japan, Korea and India. It flourished during the Vedic period and reached its zenith during Mughal era especially during the reign of King Akbar. Brocade is one of the main craft forms of the holy city of Banaras. Brocade designs are often Persian in origin displaying beautiful floral and geometrical pattern reflecting the skill and hard work of craftsmen behind them.

    Technique of Brocade weaving

    It’s a traditional art of handloom weaving that employs an extra weft. In a brocade weave, in addition to the primary weft that holds the warp threads together, an extra weft called Draw loom or Jalla is made that weaves only the motifs without touching the back ground. This type of irregular weaving gives an embossed look on the fabric. The material used in brocade weaving is mainly silk as it is very durable, smooth and facilitates lovely weaves. The various varieties of silk fabric used in brocade weaving are Tanduri, Banaka and Mukta. Making of nakshas (designs) and color of the silk thread forms an important part of brocade weaving. The nakshas are first made on paper and this process is called as likhai (writing) and then the nakshabandha (or the designer) makes a little pattern of it in a framework of cotton threads, like a graph, to provide guidance to the working of that design into brocade weaving. Brocade fabrics are now largely woven using the jacquard technique to create various complex tapestries like designs.

    Brocades weaving can be done by two ways: The continuous brocade technique or the Fekuan technique and the discontinuous brocade or the Kadhuan technique. In the Fekuan or continuous technique, an extra weft runs end to end, weaving all the motifs across the width of the fabric. This technique is also known as cutwork or katrua. Whereas in the kadhuan technique, the extra weft does not run across the width. In fact each motif is weaved individually, along with the cloth, making the fabric more comfortable to the skin due to absence of cuts.

    The distinguishing and most attractive feature of brocade work are its designs that are mostly mughal inspired and include various intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs like kalga and bel, a string of upright leaves called jhallar along the border. Other features of brocade are gold work, compact weaving, figures with small  colorful details, metallic visual effects, pallus, jaal (a net like pattern) that are often combined with the art of minakari.

    Popular Brocade Designs

    Kinkhwab

    Kin means little and khwab means dream, Kinkhwab is an elegant, heavy silk fabric known for its floral butis and geometrical jals (also called as shikargah).The weaving is done on pure silk cloth with threads of gold, silver and sometimes copper. Kinkhwabs designed brocade fabric is made up of several layers of warp threads with an all over pattern including the extra weft, which may be of silk, gold or silver. In Kinkhwab designs gold and silver threads are more visible than the fabric. These designs are popular in Indian wedding saris.

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    Himru

    Himru design is a specialty of Hyderabad and Aurangabad and is woven from silk. It is distinguished by its intricate charkhana (four squares) jaal and woven like kinkhwab using badla zari method.

    Mashru

    The cloth is distinguished by its butis or the designs woven in circular shapes giving an impression of ashrafis (gold coins) and are usually woven from gold zari. Gul Badan (or the flower like body) is a known variety of mashru in which the gold wire is used abundantly.

    Brocade today is typically an ornate, jacquard woven fabric and is usually seen on apparel, draperies and upholstery. The main centers besides Banaras are Ahmedabad and Surat where saris of the finest silk, gauze and gold with lively color schemes are woven. In south India, Thiruchirapalli and Thanjore produce a variety of fine kinkhwab brocade. Even toady when competition from other type of woven and printed fabric is so much, brocade fabric continues to earn a great reputation in textile and handicraft industry.

  • South Indian Festivals-A Way to Celebrate Life

    Festivals hold an important and special place in a culturally diversified country like India. They help us to remain connected to our culture, keep the evil things away and bring prosperity and happiness in life. The wide variety of festivals celebrated in South India is a true reflection of its rich culture and tradition. Most of the South Indian festivals are based on mythology. People celebrate all festivals zestfully and whole heartedly. That is the reason festivals here are so popular all over the globe. Let’s know about some famous festivals of South India.

    Pongal

    Also known as harvest festival or Makar Sankranthi , Pongal means festivity or celebration. Tamil people refer to Pongal as Tamizhar Thirunaal. Pongal is the only Hindu festival that follows a solar calendar and is celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year. Pongal is also the name of a sweetened dish of rice that is ritually prepared on this day. The festival is celebrated for four days. The first day is called as Bhogi, where the old clothes are discarded or fired, marking a new beginning. The second day or the main Pongal day is celebrated by making Pongal dish. Celebrations include bonfires, dance, cattle races, preparing sweets and savories. The houses are decorated with Kolam designs (traditional floral design made with rice, colored powder, and flower petals). The third day or Mattu Pongal people offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes and on the last day, Kanum Pongal, people celebrate by visiting each others home and exchange greetings.

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    Karthigai Deepam

    Karthigai Deepam is one of the most ancient festivals of Tamil Nadu. It is a symbolic festival and is known as festival of lights and as per Tamil calendar falls the festival falls in the month of Kārttikai (mid November to mid December). It is dedicated to the infiniteness of the Almighty and is an extension of Deepavali festival. On the festival day, a huge fire lamp called as Mahadeepam is lit up on a hill and in temples also, where thousands of Hindu devotees come to pray and make offerings to lord Shiva. Beautifully lit lamps or diya can be seen all around the home to bring in prosperity and happiness. The Gods and Goddesses are placed on the vehicle and carried along the road. People celebrate and rejoice with happiness, wear new clothes, exchange gifts and meet all friends and relatives during the festival.

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    Onam

    Onam is the biggest and most popular festival of Kerala. Also known as the harvest festival, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm by people of all communities in Kerala. Onam falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam between August and September and is celebrated for a period of ten days. Onam celebrations start with a grand procession known as Thripunithura Athachamayam, featuring elephants marching with drum beats and music. Women wear traditional Kasavu sari. They decorate the front of their houses with intricately designed flower mats called Pookalam to welcome King Mahabali whose spirit is believed to visit during Onam. Women dance and sing and rejoice the festive spirit by cooking, dressing, greeting each other and shopping.  Kaikotti kali and Thumbi thullal are two wonderful dances performed on Onam.

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    The most distinctive feature of Onam is the grand feast called as Onasadya. Served on banana leaves, it is a delicious meal comprising of 11 to 13 mouth watering dishes. Another spectacular feature of Onam is Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race, oared by hundreds of boatmen held on the river Pampa. Among chanting of songs and cheering by spectators, snake boat race is worth watching.

    Ugadi

    The name Ugadi or Yugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga and ādi, meaning beginning of a new age. Ugadi is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka during the month of April following Holi. It is believed that Lord Brahma started creating world on this day. On the day of festival, women and girls wear jasmine flowers, woven in the form of heavy garland which is also offered to Gods and Goddesses. A variety of traditional and delicious dishes like Ugadi Pachadi are cooked on this day.

    Thaipusam

    Thaipusam is celebrated during the Tamil month of Thai in a grand manner at Palani Dhandayudhapani temple in Tamil Nadu. The most remarkable feature of this festival is the Bhaktas or devotees bearing Kavadis. The devotees prove their devotion by piercing their chest and back with needles and hooks, while some walk on fire. The idea of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his blessings so that evil traits are destroyed.

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  • Ten amazing Indian Folk Art forms you need to know

    India is a land of rich cultural diversity with more than 2500 tribes and ethnic groups. The tribal groups in India are blessed with an outstanding talent to create a matchless form of folk art. Folk art is an indigenous form of art that is created by a particular class of artisans and peasants reflecting the tribe’s culture. Capturing stories in folk art has been a common practice since ages. Folk art form has a variety of distinctive paintings that are not only exotic, but also represent a rich historical perspective. The most distinctive characteristic of folk art is the use of natural materials and creative techniques. Let’s have a glimpse over India’s amazing folk art forms:

    Saura Art

    A jungle tribe with a distinct culture, Saura is found in Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Based on the concept of ‘Tree of Life’, Saura paintings convey the beautiful relationship between man and environment. The artist use a fish-net approach, creating the border first, and then moving inwards to draw the patterns.

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    Bhil Art

    Bhil is one of the largest tribe of India and is found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Drawing inspiration from the powerful archer, Ekalavya of Mahabharata, Bhil art portrays tribal life and natural phenomenas like changing seasons, sun, moon, animals, trees, rivers and mythological figures. Bhil artist use herbal colors and vegetable dyes made from kumkum, haldi, kajal, rice, mehendi etc that reflects the tribal creativity and talent.

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    Miniature Painting

    As the name suggests, miniature paintings refer to paintings that are small in size but portray fine detailing and expression. Miniature paintings flourished under Shah Jahan and Akbar’s rule in 16th century and are now popularly practiced in Rajasthan. The main characteristic of the miniature paintings is the intricate brushwork and colorful motifs embellished with semi-precious stones, conch shells, gold and silver dust.

    Cheriyal Scroll Painting

    Cheriyal paintings are stylized version of Nakkashi art. Cheriyal, a small village, in Andhra Pradesh, is home to one of the most beautiful surviving artistic culture.The 3 feet long Cheriyal painting is done on Khadi cotton cloth which is treated with rice starch, suddha matti (white mud), boiled tamarind seeds and gum water. The painting brush used has squirrel’s hair on it, which portrays beautiful patterns depicting ancient Indian mythology, literature, folk traditions, and even simple rural life.

    Bengal Pat

    The indigenous art from Bengal developed hundreds of years back when roaming minstrels used to sing life incidents and tragedies, and started depicting them on cloth scrolls for beatification and preservation. Bengal Pat depicts regressive social set up in a very satirical manner where housewives are painted protecting themselves with a broomstick and women flying up high inside a balloon. These paintings also portray historical figures like Rani Lakshmibai, Jhansi ki Rani dressed up in Mughal style.

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    Warli Art

    An ancient tribe inhabiting the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, Warli’s are known for their rudimentary wall painting that reflects thousands of years of old tradition .The striking feature of Warli art is that of a human shape, a circle and two triangles. The geometrical patterns represent life and activities like hunting, fishing, farming, festivals and dances. A bamboo stick is used as the paint brush, and white color (made of rice paste) is used for making shapes against a dark colored background. Sometimes cow dung and geru (red earth) is used for earthy background.

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    Gond Art

    Inspired from nature, Gond paintings show fine dots and intricate lines revealing finesse and hard work of the craftsmen. Gondi tribe is the largest tribe of Madhya Pradesh with a history of over 4000 years old. People decorate their houses with this art form to ward off evil and bring in good luck and prosperity. Gond art use colors made from charcoal, cow dung, leaves and colored soil to create bold and vibrant patterns that depicts mainly flora and fauna.

    Patachitra

    Pata means vastra or clothing, and chitra means painting. The special art form was developed in Orissa in 5th century BC. Patachitra starts on fine gauze like cloth where the painter uses tamarind paste, chalk powder and gum. After getting dried, marvelous designs are portrayed on it using natural dyes. A plethora of paintings can be seen in magnificent Indian temples of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar.

    Madhubani painting

    The folk painting of Bihar is known as Madhubani painting or Maithili painting, These paintings are done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens and matchsticks, and use natural dyes and pigments like turmeric, soot, cow dung, indigo, rice powder, sandalwood and rose. An interesting feature of this art form is that the artist aim to cover every possible inch of the canvas with spectacular patterns, filling the gaps with flowers, animals, birds and geometric designs.

    Phad Art

    Originated in Rajasthan, Phad is mainly a religious form of scroll painting. Phad is a 30- or 15 feet-long canvas or cloth representing stories of life and heroic deeds of folk deities like Pabuji or Devnarayan.

  • Made for each other: Handicrafts and Sustainable Development

    Sustainable development is a way to secure a future for human race by preserving natural resources for coming generations. Due to increased urbanization and industrialization the natural resources are depleting fast. This is evident in the decline of sectors that uses them for its livelihood. For instance, if we are cutting a tree to use its wood and other parts then we should plant at least one or more than one sapling at the same time. In olden days, sowing the seeds was a regular practice for everyone. It is because of this old practice we are able to enjoy all the resources very well. Sustainable development makes the world a better place to live in. The main areas impacted by sustainable development are economical, environmental, agricultural and handicraft sector.

    Handicrafts form an integral part of a country as diverse as India, as they provide an identity to the people belonging to a particular culture. Derived from natural resources, handicrafts do not require sophisticated technology for its manufacture and are based on local and traditional expertise. Indian artisans possess talent that is indigenous to them to design unique and original craft showcasing the community’s culture. This can be vey helpful in playing a crucial role in sustainability.

    Handicrafts can be among the most important solution to fight with unemployment in the country. A commendable feature of handicraft sector is the hard work of craftsmen, participation of women in production, diversifying sources of household income, reduced income risks, use of internal concepts and many other economic and cultural factors.  Being indigenous in nature, handicrafts also promotes tourism of the place. In this way handicrafts play an essential role in achieving long-term socio economic benefits thus promoting sustainability. The industry of hand made art and crafts can be boosted by focusing on certain issues such as:

    1. Mobilizing potential and resources
    2. Marketing and advertising for an effective supply and distribution system
    3. Awareness and education.
    4. Interest of handicraft items amongst youth.
    5. Bringing traditional craftsmen into the main stream
    6. Establishing more crafts and design institutes in India
    7. Increasing the demand of handicraft items.

    It is necessary to implement the idea of sustainable development to overcome the challenges faced by handicraft sector of India. Villagers and community people can employ various ideas of modern science in combination with traditional art forms to create new and unique products. This will help the quick return process and marketability of such products. Holding workshops on various handicrafts items that are popular abroad also, like woodcarving, jewelry, textile, carpet making, leather crafts, knitting etc will not only be helpful in generating employment but is also effective in sustaining rural progress and development. Thus handicrafts can help achieve an optimal model of sustainable development through a subtle combination of both, indigenous and modern knowledge considering the resources and potential of the particular place.

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    The government has also started various projects and schemes that aim at funding markets for hand made crafts and providing training to those sectors where demand often outstrips supply. There are also several exhibitions and promotional events for the welfare of craftsmen where they also try out contemporary methods of marketing and have direct sales experience with the client. This can be quite helpful for both the craftsman and people at market front, to resolve various constraints that they face and provide an effective solution for sustainability through rigorous innovation without compromising art quality.

  • Five popular Brass products from Poompuhar

    Since ancient civilization till today people have been using handcrafted products for decorating their homes. The art of Indian handicraft is continuously spreading around the world because of its quality and uniqueness. The specialty of Indian handicrafts is that they are solely hand engraved, hand carved, hand painted and hand molded by skilled people working for years to create a masterpiece. Hand crafted products are life long, rich, robust and unique in itself as compared with machine made products, that are totally different in quality and feel. Every craft item reflects a story and history of its culture. The art of metalworking is as old as Indus Valley civilization, when iron was not discovered and copper and its alloys were used for making objects of daily use. Brass statues, carvings, and castings come from furnace of Pembarti, a small village in Andhra Pradesh where such marvelous products are made by beating and casting brass. At Poompuhar you will find various beautiful brass items that can also be spotted at airports, international museums, hotels and corporate offices. Let’s know a few of such amazing brass art forms:

    Balaji Deepam

    The brass lamp signifies truth and glory. Balaji is believed to have appeared to save the mankind from the troubles and trials of Kali Yuga (the age of demons). The lamp shows Lord Balaji standing at the centre with prabai, the Arch. The lamp has a normal base and thagali with only 1 spout making it useful for prayer and decoration purpose.

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    Brass Nataraj Antique Finish

    Nataraja is one of the finest illustrations of Hindu art and a popular symbol of Indian culture. The dynamic art piece shows Lord Shiva holding a musical instrument in left hand and snake wrapped around his right hand. Surrounded by a ring of flames Lord Shiva is seen lifting up his left leg and balancing the other over a demon. The brass item signifies triumph and is ideal for gifting and decoration purpose.

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    Brass Peacock Bead Stone Polish

    Apart from being the national bird, peacock is also a symbol for hope and peace. The characteristic feature of this brass item, is the high held proud head and compact tail of the peacock. The fine embellishment with red, green and blue stones over it gives it a royal look.

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    Color Bowl Antique Finish

    The circular bowl with cut work on its edges can be ideal for decoration and gifting purpose. Brass is casted and colored with vibrant colors creating diamond and heart shaped motifs. The designing of the bowl is very fine and heart touching.

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    Parrot hanging Lamp

    The wonderful brass lamp features a lovely parrot holding a thagali through 5 interlinked circular spouts from its beak. The price of the lamp is worth the art behind it.

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  • Classical Dance forms of India

    India is a land of different cultures, festivals and rituals and has thousands of years of tradition in classical dance and music. Classical dance comprise of various performances from Hindu epics mostly and is adopted from Sanskrit text Natya Shastra. In past, dance was not only a form of celebration, but also a way to entertain various Gods and Goddesses. Classical dances also represent the culture and heritage of the state to which it belongs. The chorographical patterns and certain dance scenes can be seen on the frescoes of Indian temples. Dance is a great source of motivation as it connects oneself with the higher power and world around. To accrue the changing needs and sensibilities of audiences, Indian classical dance is now acquiring various contemporary styles and themes. Eight popular classical dances of our country are:

    Bharatanatyam

    This is presumably the oldest and most traditional classical dance of Tamil Nadu. The dance got its name from Sage Bharata who wrote the Natya Shastra. Though the style of Bharatanatyam is over two thousand years old, the freshness and richness of its essence is still retained. It has been handed down over ages by nattuvanars (teachers) and traditional dancers known as devadasis who used to dance during important festivals and ceremonies in South Indian temples.The prominent features of this dance are bent legs in a sculpturesque style, abstract hand gestures and graceful facial expression along with music, emotion and poetry. It is also known as the fire dance as the dancing steps resembles a dancing flame. The costume and theme of the dance form a distinguishing aspect of this dance drama.

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    Kathak

    Kathak (the art of storytelling) is one of the most celebrated classical dances of North India. It is often a dance of love and performed by both men and women.Like other Indian dances it began as a temple dance and moved to the courts of ruling emperors later on.The three main components of Kathak dance are invocation, Nritta and Nritya. The dance starts with slow body movements offering respect to Gods, transcends into a set of stylized gestures and intricate footwork and ends with a story or a spiritual message.

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    Kathakali

    Kathakali is the most well known dance drama of Kerala. It is a highly charged and influential performance that combines dance, music and dramatizes stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The most distinguishing feature of this impressive form of dance is its cheerful make up and elaborated costume. The dance is performed by men and usually starts in morning and continues through night. Kathakali is more of a devotional act displaying the universal struggle between good and evil. The various elements in the dance include angikaaharya, achika, satvika and nritya. A Kathakali dancer undergoes a hard training to understand and develop the language of hastmudras to convey the story.

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    Kuchipudi

    Kuchipudi is a popular classical dance of Andhra Pradesh and was held in high esteem and honor before the rulers of the state at that time, presenting different scenes from Indian mythology and Hindu epics The classic element of Kuchipudi repertoire is taranagam, where the dancer use scintillating foot movements to dance on the rising edges of a brass plate. Starting with a formal song, sprinkling of holy water and burning of incense, the attractive gestures of this dance are worth watching. An important aspect of Kuchipudi is the use of speech along with dance, histrionics and mime.

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    Manipuri
    Manipuri is a major classical dance of India and is native to Manipur, the North eastern state of India. The dance style is very much ritualistic and usually depicts Manipuri culture and tales of Lord Krishna.Unlike other rhythmic classical dances, it is characterized by smooth and graceful body movements. The most attractive part of Manipuri dance is the exquisitely embellished long barrel shaped skirt worn by female dancers.

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    Mohiniattam
    Mohiniattam is a graceful classical dance that originated in the state of Kerala. Mohiniattam is derived from the word Mohini (means beautiful women) and attam(means dance). Mohiniattam is a mesmerizing dance performance depicting many styles of divine and feminine love through swaying body movements. The white and gold costume, the hairstyle and sophisticated gestures gives an aesthetic dance effect.

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    Odissi
    Odissi is one of the famous classical dances from the state of Orissa. With a history of more than two thousand years, Odissi is a highly inspired, passionate, ecstatic and sensuous form of dancing style. It is predominantly a dance for women that involves more than fifty complex mudras (symbolic hand gestures) representing great cultural history of Orissa. Like most of the classical dances of India, Odissi too originated from the Devadasi system of dancing.

    Sattriya

    The dance was started by saint and scholar Shankara Deva in Vaishnavai monasteries of Assam that are known as Sattras. Sattriya is an amalgamation of music, beats ballad and drama and is usually performed in monasteries and community halls of Assam .The music is provided by khol drum. Dressed in white costumes and turbans, dancers use a variety of graceful hand gestures and elegant footwork to spread the charm of the performance.

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