Artefacts bring alive hoary traditions


The bronze sculpture of ‘Enthroned Bhitku & Mitki’ placed beside a palanquin named ‘Rahi’ imparts an amorous context to the recently reopened gallery ‘Tradition, Art and Continuity’ at the National Museum.

Cast in bronze, the sculpture narrates the legend of Mitki who lived in village Pendagram with her seven brothers. She fell in love with Bhitku and became a domestic help at her father’s place. They managed to get married but Bhitku was killed by Mikti’s brother as a human sacrifice was needed in order to build a dam.

Worship-ped today as gods of prosperity and wealth, the sculpture of the duo from Madhya Pradesh, gives an insight into the rich tribal crafts of India. The palanquin placed beside it mentions the rituals and ceremonies performed during its making.
Among the 200-odd artefacts, belonging broadly to the 20th century, these two conjure a pithy image of tribal and folk art that celebrates simplicity, beauty and sophistication found in our daily crafts.

Towards its left is a black-painted exquisite sculpture of Ganesha. Difficult to believe that this piece from Karnataka is in papier-mache, one is left amazed at the unusual collection of Ganeshas in bronze, in varied forms.

An assembly of dhokra objects depicting the marvels of sculptures created through the lost-wax process. Emotive faces of dancers and singers (that would have been probably singing at Jhitku & Mitki’s wedding) among these capture the mind.
Among the articles of daily use, there are also few striking ones in metal such as a Hanging lamp with camel figure, Suri Measuring Bowls and a pen stand and ink pot in unfamiliar shape.

The witch doctor’s stick from Nicobar Islands is distinct from the rest of the lot which also includes a Tallismanic armlet from Jammu & Kashmir and a peacock-feathered headgear from Chhattisgarh. A semi-precious stone- studded dagger in toad-skin and silver is equally captivating!

Carved in wood, the Kathakali dancers are alluring while in the Jewellery segment, almost everything is enticing. Related to the ethnographic interest of researchers, these artefacts have been acquired over the years through exploratory expeditions, purchase and gifts from private collectors.

Belonging to diverse communities, the costumes and textiles from India are also a part of this gallery. A sophisticated Peshwaz of Rani Sahibja Baji from Chamba, Himachal Pradesh in cotton and  its Joji (headgear) along with a velvet Achkan from Rajasthan and Mekhela from Assam are breathtaking. There are also headgears and footwears to complement these.

From the Northeast,  there is a fine show of basketry with an elephant-shaped basket in sikki grass from Bihar and a head-hunter’s basket made in cane from Nagaland. Even a child’s bag from Nagaland captures attention for the use of bird’s head to decorate it.

The walls are covered with Warli paintings and an exclusive display of painted doors that would want the visitors to open them!

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