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Monthly Archives: March 2018

  • Five Ways to Differentiate between Fake & Authentic Handicrafts and Artworks

    Each year, hundreds of artists and craftsmen go out of business. Marginalised by intense competition and a lack of sufficient administrative support, these unrecognised heroes who have played a significant part in the preservation of the cultural heritage that the Indian people are so proud of are losing out. Counterfeiting and the mass production of cheap imitations have also hurt the industry.  You can make a difference - support the artists and craftsmen preserving India’s culture by purchasing authentic art and craft.

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    1)    Chikankari

    This beautiful craft comes from Lucknow, a royal city located in Uttar Pradesh, and is used to signify femininity and royalty. The pastel colours and detailed embroidery. When shopping for authentic handmade Chikankari, look for shadow stitch, crisscross embroidery and French knots. If there is any unevenness in the fabric or lose threading, it hasn’t been handmade. This also applies to most hand weaved and embroidered fabrics.

    2)    Silk.

    At times, it is possible to differentiate real silk from artificial silk by rubbing it in your hands if it emits a clear sound, it’s most probably real. Real silk is also highly susceptible to wrinkling. Crumple it up and release it, if the fabric doesn’t spring back to its original state quickly and wrinkles, it’s likely that it is silk. Burn it. You could take a small piece of the fabric from the fringe or pull a knot if the item is a rug, burn it. Take care to note the smell of the smoke and colour of the residue. If the sample is authentic silk, the ash should form a crisp black ball of ash and the smell should be similar to that of burning hair.

    3)    Gold

    For any handcraft made from gold, make a small indentation on the surface and add a drop of liquid nitric acid. If the area turns green, then whatever you're about to buy is not real gold. If it turns milky, then the product is made from over sterling silver. Only pure gold will not react with nitric acid.  Though effective, these tests do have their weaknesses. Besides the tests, it is often advisable to seek the advice of a professional before acquiring gold handicrafts.

    4)    Silver

    When silver is tapped with a metallic object, it produces a clear ringing sound, cheaper metals will only produce a dull sound. As with Gold, it is always wise to seek the qualified opinion of a certified professional before making a purchase.

    5)    Paintings

    For paintings, the buyer must know the artist and their style of work. Watch for inconsistencies in the framing and signature. Observe the colours in the painting. Not all the colours available today were possible in the past. Art enthusiasts often use colour charts to identify a colour that didn’t exist at the time the painting was supposedly made. Turn the painting over, what kind of surface was it painted on. Does it look and feel aged enough? Considering these factors could help avoid paying a small fortune for an imitation.

  • Celebrating Spirituality of Lord Krishna with Sanjhi Art

    Sanjhi is a traditional art form from Mathura, the hometown of Lord Krishna. Widely appreciated for its spiritual outlook that conveys much more than aesthetic beauty, it is rightly recognised as one of the greatest forms of spiritual expression. The art form rose to prominence in Indian culture in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the floors and walls of the places of worship were adorned with Sanjhi inspired motifs and designs. The word Sanjhi comes from the Hindi word sandhya. This was chosen as a name because it refers to the period of dusk which Sanjhi artists often portray in their paintings. The art form often portrays stories from Indian mythology often focusing on Krishna’s Leela. Folktales suggest that the first Sanjhi art designs were made by Radhe who used flowers, natural colours and pigmented stone to make Sanjhi rangolis. Others soon copied his initiative, creating detailed designs to please Krishna. According to the tale, Sanjhi art became popular from that time on. The influence of the Mughal era added a contemporary outlook to the art form.

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    After the ancient tradition of Sanjhi art was adopted by Vaishnava temples in the 15th and 16th century, it was developed further into a highly complex form of a painting by uniquely trained Brahman priests. Sanjhi art can mostly be seen in the temples which are made using dry colours applied onto an eight-sided earthen platform to symbolize a lotus with eight petals. The heart of the design symbolizes a seat for the divine couple. A detailed design in the sanctum sanctorum will often portray complex interlocked diagonal patterns meant to expand divinity in all eight directions. The modern Sanjhi art piece is created using stencils made from specially designed scissors. The stencils are placed on a level surface where the Rangoli is to be applied. Dry colours are then sifted onto the stencil. Horses, peacocks, trees and butterflies are some of the most common designs. Sanjhi artists' attention to detail is meant to signify intimate love and devotion to Krishna.

    Modern Sanjhi art is popular all over India. It is displayed in public areas such as train stations and is used in interior decor. Recently, Sanjhi art also featured in the pictograms used for the commonwealth games.

  • Gond Art Tribal Vibes

    Gond painting is a tribal art form practised by one of the biggest tribes in India of the same name. The word Gond is derived from an expression in a Dravidian language known as Kond, meaning the green mountain. Though Gond art is perceived as exclusive to Madhya Pradesh, it is also practised in areas such as Maharashtra, Odisha, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Gond art is ancient-The Gond people have lived in India for nearly one and a half millennia have practised this art form for the entire duration of their existence. Some sources suggest that the art form itself may be much older as the gonds could have simply imitated cave paintings made by their ancestors in the Mesolithic era.

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    The gonds believe that all naturally occurring objects, such as trees, rivers, rocks or hills are inhabited by a divine entity and that they are consequently sacred. The Gond, therefore, make paintings of them as a way of showing reverence and respect. Viewed this way, the Gond art form is a unique but accurate example of the closeness between man and his natural environment.

    Besides nature, Gond artists get inspiration from traditional Indian mythology and folklore. Some painters focus on scenes from daily life and abstract ideas such as dreams, imaginations and emotion. The style is often categorised as a form of line art. When making paintings, Gond artists draw inner and outer lines with great care to achieve a level of perfection and detail that is bound to draw the user's attention. Dashes and dots are utilised to add a greater sense of motion and detail. Artists utilise vivid colours such as yellow, red and blue on and white. Dyes are obtained from plant sap, animal manure, coloured soil, leaves and charcoal. Brown and yellow are derived from a type of locally available sand.

    Gond art was typically applied as a finishing for newly built houses. But starting in 1980, talented painters transformed this ancient style with a new narrative and figurative ideas using various modern media such as ink, acrylics, animated film and silkscreen prints. Rich in humour, colour and mystery, Gond paintings effectively make use of modern media to evoke the primordial psyche.

  • 10 Amazing Facts about Madhubani Paintings

    Mithila, more commonly known as Madhubani painting is a style of art that was developed by the women of several communities in the Mithila regions of Nepal and India. Its first known appearance was in Bihar, a village in Mithila. It was and still is popular throughout the region. Though it was initially a style of wall art, artisans have transferred it to canvas and paper in recent times. The instances of this art form that are produced on paper and canvas are more popularly known as Madhubani art.

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    Interesting facts –

    Madhubani art is highly resourceful. Paint is made from the paste of ground rice. Artists use their fingers, matchsticks, pen nibs and twigs to apply colours onto the canvas.

    It’s environmentally friendly. Only natural dyes are used for the paints. Among other materials, Madhubani artists will typically use soot, charcoal or lamp black for black, indigo for blue, sandalwood for red and turmeric extracts for yellow.

    Madhubani art has five individual styles, namely - Kachni, Kohbar, Bharni, Godna and Tantrik. The Tantrik and Kachni styles were originally practised by the upper caste women of Kayashth and Brahman. However, modern Madhubani art has transcended these boundaries and there is hardly any distinction by caste on this art form.

    Madhubani art is a geographically unique form of art. These paintings were unknown to the world until a British officer, William G archer discovered them in 1934.

    Madhubani saves nature. In 2012, Madhubani artists decorated over 100 trees to protect a forest from encroachment. The strategy worked! The spiritual and religious symbols painted onto the trees instilled a sense of respect and reverence for nature and spirituality into the locals.

    Madhubani art today draws a strong following from art enthusiasts all over the world. Madhubani patterns have now been incorporated into mugs, mouse pads, cushion covers and bags.

    Madhubani art is really old. It’s a 2500-year-old folk art that dates back to the era of Ramayana when the king asked an artist to make a portrait of his daughter’s betrothal to Prince Rama.

    Madhubani paintings are created instinctively by artists. There is no sketching at all. This quality makes each feature unique.

    This art has exclusive galleries. There are art galleries dedicated entirely to Madhubani art all over the world. Besides Mithilasmita in Bengaluru, there is a Mithila museum in Japan that displays over 850 Madhubani art pieces.

    Madhubani artwork is made in accordance with a set theme. Artists use lines, pattern and symbolism to depict and emphasise cultural values such as religion.

  • Fashionable and Traditional Handicraft Items for Home Decor

    Have you ever gone looking for trendy handicraft home decor pieces?  If the answer is yes, then you must know that it can be an extremely tedious task for the unprepared.  This article offers a few tips on the current trends in traditional handicrafts for home décor to help you make the right choices during your next trip to the craft shop.

    Brass ornaments

    Brass handicrafts provide a sturdy and durable home decor solution. Brass has quietly been making a comeback in interior design and traditional handicrafts made from this material are now popular home decoration items.

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    In India, handmade brass items are typically produced in the region of Rajasthan. Artisans from this region make uniquely designed figurines, table tops, bowls, plates and wall art. Pure brass usually tarnish quickly once exposed to air. It is therefore important to ensure that the product that you are about to buy has a good coating of lacquer.

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    Wood

    As a home decor material, wood has great traditional value in India. It is also a popular choice for handcrafts because it is durable, versatile and has natural beauty.

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    Papercraft

    Paper handicrafts are a simple but elaborate art form where brightly coloured papers are combined to make ornaments such as lampshades, decorative flowers and masks. One of the most popular forms of this kind of art is the paper lantern. Colourful, light, and easy to install, this decor element is an eye-catching addition to any home.

    Jute

    Jute is one of the most beautiful and affordable traditional fibres in India. Consequently, home decor items such as tables, wall hangings and rugs made from this material are inexpensive and will add a natural look to your home's interior. Jute products are primarily produced in the regions of Asam and West Bengal.

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    Ceramics

    Pottery is one of the world's oldest forms of handicraft.  Ceramics are great for home decor because they are an ideal way to add a touch of colour and texture. The distinctive curves found in wheel threw pottery combine nicely with the straight edges and right angles common in most architectural designs. Accurate placement of a ceramic piece can be achieved in multiple ways both on a large and small scale depending on how much you can trust yourself with the brittle material.

    Vases are particularly ideal ceramics for home décor because they can stand on their own or combined with other ornaments such as flowers. They are also the best choice for covering of large amounts of open space.

  • The Timeless Art of Wood Carving in India

    Woodcarving has been one of the most universal handicraft techniques around the world. Be it intricate pulpits inside Gothic churches in Europe, delicately carved panels in Persia or massive columns from Japan depicting aquatic plants, wood carving is an eternal, timeless craft appreciated across the world.

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    India itself has a rich wood carving history and contributes prolifically to the array of carved handicrafts produced in wood. Being a climactically diverse nation, India is blessed with a variety of soft and hard woods — each being used to produce a different family of wooden crafts. Moreover, the cultural, lingual and religious diversity is reflected in the different handicrafts that emerge from different regions. In Assam, they are reflected in the unusually carved thrones in the shape of peacocks which are called ‘namghar’ or ‘kirtanghar' and the figures of the one-horned rhinoceros. In Uttar Pradesh, we see elegantly chiseled screens or ‘jaalis’ patterned with floral and vine-like details reminiscent of the Kashmiri origins of the craftsmen who first brought them here. Large, chests called ‘pataras’ carved out of rosewood, teak or sandalwood in Gujarat are part of wedding trousseau for brides to this day.

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    Although wood carvings in Tamil Nadu come in a variety of themes such as animals, mythological creatures and dance forms, one of the most prominent of these themes is the depiction of mythological scenes with gods and goddesses mounted on their chariots. From doors to wooden brackets and panels, one can find this theme running across different handicraft items produced in the state. Idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Dashavtara idols of Vishnu are some of the most highly demanded products in the region.

    When creating a wood carving idol, the artisan begins with a single large block of wood. Designs are first drawn on paper which is then imprinted upon the wooden block. Then, using a hammer and chisel, the artisan carves out the wood from the appropriate places in the design, layer by layer. Soon the idol begins to take shape. When the artisan is satisfied with the carving, he buffs the wood so that its natural shine appears. Then it is painted or polished suitably and is ready to go on the market. The whole process takes days and even months depending upon the complexity and size of the idol. Rosewood and sandalwood is most commonly used for creating wood articles produced in Tamil Nadu.

    Over 2 lakh artisans in Tamil Nadu work behind the scenes to uphold our cultural heritage through sheer hard work without proper recognition and appreciation. Poompuhar, in collaboration with the TN state government is proud to be observing March 5 as Artisan’s Day in order to bring these gems to the forefront in the handicraft making process. The video of artisan P Subrayan below is just a small initiative in that endeavour.

  • The Legends of Lord Shiva

    Lord Shiva is a widely revered god with many followers in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In Shaivism, which is one of the main traditions of Hinduism, Shiva is the Supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe. He is depicted with the holy river Ganga flowing through his hair, a blue neck wrapped with a serpent and his weapons — the trident or “trishul” and the small drum or “damaru”. It is said that the damaru was created by Shiva to produce sounds that ultimately created and controlled the universe. Lord Shiva is often known as the “creator” and “destroyer” — an attribute that is displayed through “tandava”, a vigorous dance performed by him.

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    The Story of Neelkanth

    According to mythology, there was once a time when the Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) were at war with each other. Upon being advised by Lord Vishnu to handle the demons diplomatically, the gods joined hands with the demons to churn the ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality. Secretly, it was decided between the gods that they would not share the nectar with the evil demons.

    The ocean was churned using Mount Mandara as the rod and the King of Snakes as a rope. During this process, known as “SamudraMathan”, many things emerged from the ocean including Sura, Apsaras, Kaustubha, Uchhaishravas, Kalpavriksha, Kamadhenu, Airavata, Lakshmiand Haalaa-Hala — the Poison. This poison was extremely potent for destroying the entire universe. The gods had to think of something fast so they requested Lord Shiva to drink the poison because only he was strong enough to be able to take it. Out of compassion for the world, Lord Shiva drank the poison. His consort, Parvati pressed his neck to prevent the poison from reaching his stomach. Thus the world was saved, but the toxic poison turned his neck blue. Neelkanth, which means the blue necked one became a title of Lord Shiva after this episode.

    Descent of the Ganga on Lord Shiva’s Hair

    According to a legend in the Ramayana, an enraged Kapila Muni erroneously burnt 60,000 princes to ashes. King Bhagiratha was the son of one of those princes. On King Bhagiratha’s request to save his father and uncles, Kapila Muni advised that the water of the holy Ganga alone could bring back the princes. King Bhagiratha meditated and prayed for a thousand years for the salvation of his ancestors before Lord Brahma finally granted his wish for the descent of the Ganga from the heaven. However, the gushing force of the river could destroy everything, and Lord Shiva alone could bear the weight of it. Therefore, he spread out his thick matted hair to catch and slow down the descending river. The water was then flown over the princes’ ashes to bring them back alive. During the process the Ganga became a part of Lord Shiva’s hair and came to the earth in the form of the holy river.

    Legend of the Third Eye

    Lord Shiva is often identified with his third eye which is also a symbol of his wisdom as well as destructive side. There are various legends in which Shiva used his third eye to punish or destroy. For example, when he went into solitude and deep meditation following the demise of his wife Sati, the gods sent Kamadeva — the god of love — to bring him out of his meditation. Angered by the intervention, Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Kamadeva to ashes.

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