At home with a priceless heritage

Family legacy

At home with a priceless heritage

Twenty four-year-old Deepak Kumar is completely engrossed in what he is doing — weaving threads together. He is undaunted by the fact that his skills are curiously watched by the who’s who of the Indian diaspora. He stops once in a while only to make sure his designs match and nothing is out of place.

Deepak Kumar is a fifth generation Patola weaver  from Surendranagar district in Gujarat and has been working n the Ikat woven saris for the last eight years. He is also one of the 30 artisans who have pitched camp at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in the city.  Artisans like him have come from small villages from across the country and are excited to share their traditional art and craft with people. “We don’t get as much income and profit for the long hours of hard work that we put in but platforms like this, encourage us to preserve the age-old craft,” says Deepak, who is presently pursuing his Master’s degree in Social Work. Deepak says getting into weaving was a natural choice for him. “This is our family business and I have watched my parents do it and now my brother and I continue it,” he adds. 

A little away from Deepak sits Ralhva Design Bhai, a Pithora tribal artist from Gujarat. He is doing last minute touches to a  painting in Pithora art. This form of art usually captures and celebrates the different aspects of rural life.

Ralhva picked up this art form from his father and has been at it since 2004. None in Ralhva’s family has ever gone to an art school. “I grew up learning this art form and this is the only job I know. Everybody in our home is into this profession and we have been doing this for generations,” explains Ralhva. Where does he get his ideas from? “Everything around me inspires me. The challenge is to keep the ideas flowing and keep repetition out,” he says. He takes anything from two hours to a day to complete a painting depending on the size of the canvas.

The intricate work is visible in every product at Vankar Mukesh Naran and his brother Jayapal’s store. The brothers are fifth- generation Kutchi weavers who dropped out from school to take forward their family business. “The weaving of sari, shawls and stoles are done by the men of the household and the designs are done by the women. The responsibility of keeping the tradition alive rests with every member of the family,” explains Vankar. The brothers concede that the expenditure exceeds the income but they work hard to prevent this art form from dying.

It’s not only the traditional handicraft exhibitors at PBD who have interesting stories to narrate, even ‘Yakshagana’ and ‘Dollu Kunitha’ have been grabbing a lot of attention. Purushottam Gouda, a tribal folk dancer from Karwar, who has been invited to perform during PBD, started doing this when he was 16 years old. “This is a tribal dance form that is performed on a regular basis in our villages. It’s nice that we get to perform on such occasions. But we’re hoping that the government supports us monetarily. We get paid a paltry sum for our performances which is nothing when compared to the hours of hard work that we put in,” explains Purushottam. The headgears and traditional outfits are handmade by the dancers themselves.

The elaborate and heavy costumes by the ‘Yakshagana’ dancers had many delegates line up to take selfies with them. Thirty six-year-old ‘Yakshanaga’ artiste Sudharshan Vijay, is a fifth generation dancer, from his family. “The most challenging part of their profession,” Sudharshan says, “is the costume and headgear which together weigh about 30 kg. Standing for long hours and performing in that is challenging. The weight varies according to the characters we choose to portray. We also have to find innovative ways of storytelling to hold the interest of the youngsters,” he says. He says that it is his passion, dedication and commitment that has kept him in this profession for the last 36 years.      

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