Voices anand neelakantan sadhguru jaggi vasudev sheila kumar sathya saran ravi shankar shinie antony MAGAZINE Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment NEW DELHI february 14 2021 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Royal Revivers Descendants of erstwhile ruling families are committed to restoring dying traditions in metalwork, handicrafts and handlooms. The result is the aesthetic conservation of a lost era. By Bindu Gopal Rao O n a cold winter day, Heeralal, a 90-year-old traditional swordsmith, is busy at the conservation lab of Udaipur’s City Palace Museum. It’s a mammoth task. He is patiently restoring hundreds of old swords using ancient tools such as emery stone, horse shoes, ferni (a blade-sharpening machine) and deer horn. He belongs to one of the last families of Sikligars, a community of ironsmiths or sword makers from Rajasthan who have been making fine swords for generations. In spite of his advanced years, Heeralal does not miss a stroke as he lovingly works on returning the swords to their original glory He feels fortunate that his son and daughter-in-law are continu. ing the traditional occupation instead of finding other work in big cities. The restored swords and other exhibits of the armoury are to be part of Saleh Khana, the new museum situated on the palace premises set to open this year. The Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) has been working extensively to showcase traditional crafts and craftspeople at the City Palace Museum in Udaipur. MMCF has been directly and indirectly supporting the crafts, honouring the craftspeople with prestigious awards at the Maharana Mewar Foundation Annual Awards Distribution Ceremony every year as part of the living heritage of Mewar. Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, Chairman and Managing Trustee of MMCF, explains, “Mewar has contributed significantly towards the growth of tourism and I am also very proud to be a small stakeholder in the promotion of tourism in Mewar, working on the path laid by my father, His Late Highness Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar. Tourism is the worstaffected sector by Covid-19 pandemic all over the world and the traditional art and artists in rural tourism business have suffered the most.” Similarly royal descendants , from across the country are doing their bit to conserve and promote traditional handlooms and handicrafts. Yuvrani Meenal Kumari Singhdeo of Dhenkanal in Odisha says these Gond art of Madhya Pradesh age-old traditions are part of the cultural heritage of the country . “These are today depleting for many reasons. For me, it was important to spread awareness among our youth. We run a heritage homestay at our palace, the Dhenkanal Palace, and have used almost every craft and art form practiced in Odisha as part of its restoration and conversion into a homestay This is . constant process that enables us to patronise the crafts through our renovations and maintenance.” For someone who has done a lot of design interventions in the tradition crafts to make sure the products have a contemporary spin, Singhdeo says this helped the artisans make their craft more relevant to modern times. “Minaketan as a brand was started for this reason, so that the crafts of Odisha could be brought to the attention of many others. The visitors and guests at the Dhenkanal Palace are taken on specially curated craft tours to our patronised handicraft and handloom clusters as well as other villages where they can interact and engage with both the crafts and the craftspersons. These interactions enable not only an understanding of the crafts but also the context in which these crafts are today and what little can be done to create a large difference.” Through the pandemic as well they were able to reach out to and help over 700 “Tourism is the worstaffected sector by Covid-19 pandemic all over the world and the traditional art and artists in rural tourism business have suffered the most.” Arvind Singh Mewar Chairman and Managing Trustee, Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation families from the crafts community . Aimed at protecting, preserving and promoting the country’s heritage—be it tangible and intangible or cultural and natural—royal descendants are doing their bit to ensure dying crafts are revived and here are some examples of the work being done across the country . Mayurbhanj Chhau & Dokra Art, Odisha In Mayurbhanj, the Belgadia Palace in Baripada, home to the royal family was converted into , a hotel whereby a percentage of funds are earmarked for use by the family’s foundation called the Mayurbhanj Foundation under which they conduct activities to pump funds into the rural economy They begin by . conducting research on finding new self-help groups (SHGs), community organisations and even small and medium-sized enterprises, and take tourists who stay in their palace to meet these organisations and people, to increase market linkages for these communities. “For example, guests are taken to see a Sabai grass SHG and a Dokra village where they can purchase goods directly from the artisans making them. We do not charge guests for finding these communities nor take any cut from the sale. In addition, we connect global development organisations to communities who may need them, and even have local artists in the arts and culture space to the palace and have them interact with guests to learn about their dying crafts, for example, Mayurbhanj Chhau (a traditional dance). All the money guests give to interact with these artists and to watch them perform is given directly to the artist,” says Jema Akshita Pattachitra painting on new age products Bhanj Deo, Princess of Mayurbhanj. “We have tie-ups with local communities to promote business and provide an alternative livelihood from eco-tourism by giving them access to market linkages with travellers without any middle man with 100 percent profits going back to communities. The Mayurbhanj Foundation keeps a percentage of revenue earmarked for social and environmental projects benefiting the local community throughout the year,” avers Princess Mrinalika Manjari Bhanj Deo, her sister. Crafts of Udaipur, Rajasthan The traditional craftspeople of Udaipur include Jadiya (goldsmith), Bunkar (weaver), Vari (who make utensils from tree-leaves), Ganchi (bamboo worker), Tamboli (betel seller), Chitrakar (painter), RangrezChhipa (cloth dyer), Kasara (brass worker), Sikligar (swordsmith), Prajapat (potter), Mochi (shoemaker), Suthar (carpenter) and Teli (oil marketers). Udaipur is a big centre for wooden toys and the craftsmen called Suthar use local wood ‘Doodhia’, which is soft and can be finely chiselled and shaped. The toys are polished with organic colours. Initially all these communities , came with Maharana Udai Singh II from Chittorgarh when he established the city of Udaipur, on the banks of Lake Pichola. MMCF has been at the forefront of documenting the traditional crafts and providing every opportunity to the craftspeople to grow and develop. These artisans were an integral part of the everyday lives of the citizens of Udaipur. Their livelihood, social and cultural pursuits as well as artistic development, all depended on the royal patronage. With the establishment of World Living Heritage Festival in 2012, a platform to promote the cause of living heritage and create awareness among diverse audiences in India and overseas was mooted. Kangra Painting, Himachal Pradesh The pictorial art of Kangra has been patronised by the Royal Katoch Family as it became prevalent in mid-18th century and the Pahari paintings came to be known as Kangra Turn to page 2
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