Monday, February 5, 2018

Handmade Tales

It was my son who informed me of Naya village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal, a village inhabited by traditional chitrakars, those who have adopted painting narrative scrolls as a way of living for many generations now. These narrative scrolls are called pata chitras and I remembered the Kalighat school of such paintings which used to flourish a hundred years ago or thereabouts in Calcutta. Essentially, folk art. So one fine morning we took the express train to Kharagpur junction and from there a suburban local to Balichak. Buses and trekkers were available to Naya and this is how we found the village - 

As you can see, it appeared to be a painted village! We also learnt that the colours used in painting the narrative scrolls were all vegetable colours sourced locally from leaves, roots, flowers and fruits. 

In the olden days, these people used to roam different places with these scrolls and when invited, exhibited these scrolls with accompanying songs. Kind of a primitive bioscope! Usually, these were about mythological figures and folklore. At some point of time, morality creeped in, with stories of waywardness and consequences, with accompanying panels. Reminds one of Dante's hell ...

The house of Shyamsundar Chitrakar and Rani, his wife came first. He was quite eager to show us his paintings as well as the source of his colours. He also explained that the artwork on T shirts and fabric is done by using synthetic acrylic colours but the colours on the scrolls, paper or fabric, were invariably vegetable colours. And I bought that picture of Ganesha, have had it framed and put up in my home 

Here is Shyamsundar Chitrakar unrolling one narrative scroll and singing along  - 

Next door, Mousumi and her younger sister were busy painting umbrellas and dupattas (stoles & scarves) and I bought some knick knacks from them, a T shirt and some miniature pots. Painted pots

Many of these people have visited countries like Norway, Japan, the UK etc with their wares, supported by NGOs. Two of the artists in the village are National Award winners and we had the good fortune of meeting Anwar Chitrakar, one of them. His mother was very kind to show us some of his works which were truly awesome and I was told that his works are hanging in several museums abroad. But first, the seeds of the latkan tree, which gives a vibrant orange as you can see on my palms

Here is Anwar (rudely woken up from his siesta) and some of his paintings. If I had Rs 6000/- in my pocket, I would have definitely bought one of them and I will, one of these days ..

Anwar's elder brother showed us some entirely hand painted sarees, which must have taken a lot of time and patience! And we were grateful for the black tea with a pinch of lemon

Bahadur Chitrakar has converted his house into an exhibition. He was not at home, but his family members welcomed us to have a look see

I just had to get one of those aluminium kettles, painted with folk motifs, a cousin sister in mind. It appears the stream of visitors to this unique village is increasing, and the West Bengal State government has built a permanent museum in the village itself. Sadly however, the museum is almost always under lock and key.

The children of the village were very friendly and were extremely adept at striking a pose for the camera, as you can see!

I wish we had more of such villages, more of such people devoted to traditional crafts and conscious of the environment around us. Truly, the salt of the earth!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Migratory Gulls at Patratu

The Patratu dam is again, at a distance of about 40 kms from Ranchi, just like the other places and waterfalls. Except that it is on a different road, the road to Ramgarh. The dam was built in the early sixties and the reservoir serves the Thermal Power Station as well as the cantonment at Ramgarh but that apart, it has also been attracting migratory birds.
The road to Patratu goes over two sets of hills and looks like this 

Rowing boats are available for hire with the boatman. They have formed a small cooperative which runs about 40 boats. Wearing life jackets is mandatory for the waters are more than 80 feet deep, as our boatman informed me. We saw groups of people feeding the migratory gulls with crunchy bites but that is definitely not the right thing to do and the administration should do more about it!

There were hundreds of these beautiful birds and I could not help wondering about the thousands of miles they must have crossed. The reservoir lake formed by the dam is also used for cultivation of fish and we noticed fish as well, with sudden plops on the placid surface.

Bandhan Mahto, our boatman. He lives nearby. It is only during the season, from October to March, that he makes a good living as he said, but with plans of a waterfront resort in the air, he was quite optimistic. And yes, all earnings were pooled together and shared together.

Saw an island in the far distance but did not go that far. Next time, surely and I wish you would come along too, to explore the island and find more species of these wonderful migratory birds!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sita Falls and Jonha Falls, Ranchi

Along the Ranchi to Purulia Road for about 35 kms and then, a small road turns right, running through rural hamlets. The air is so clear and fresh and the winter sun feels great now that the north winds have started blowing in from the foothills of the Himalayas. After some time, there comes a fork in the road, announcing Sita Falls to the left for about 5 kms and Jonha to the right, 1 km. We take the road to Sita Falls, full of ups and downs and sharp, hairpin bends. The road is totally deserted. And then, down some very steep steps to Sita Falls 

Sita Falls, Ranchi
We could not tarry here because time was running out. Off to Jonha falls, which is on the Gunga nala where it meets the Rarhu river and then, flows on as Goutamdhara. It is so called since Goutam Buddha is said to have bathed here and done penances sitting in a little cave overlooking the confluence of the streams.

The Rarhu rivulet, seen while descending the stairs

The Gunga nala, just before the falls. The surroundings were so peaceful, with only the sound of rushing water and I wish you were here!

The Jonha Falls 

Jonha Falls, Ranchi

The waters looked so cool, fresh and inviting! Ready for a dip?

And the Buddha cave, which has been buttressed by some cement work. A local inhabitant, selling cucumbers and soaked gram, served with rock salt and green chillies. 

This little girl had sold whatever little she had but for some reason, she looked quite lost in herself

The Jonha falls have this strange effect on you, making you wistful for no particular reason. Turning back every now and then, looking down at the falling waters in an incredibly beautiful setting.