Andhra University, Andhra Pradesh
India is a land rich with art, tradition and culture. There are many types of traditional Indian folk paintings, such as Madhubani paintings from Bihar, pattachitra paintings from Orissa, Pithora paintings from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, Nirmal painting from Andhra Pradesh, Warli art of Maharashtra, Phad painting originating in Rajasthan and so on. What makes these paintings special is that each of these types of paintings uniquely reflect the cultural and socioeconomic milieu in that particular territory of India, giving us a clear idea about the life and work in that particular region.
Andhra Pradesh in the south has the distinction of having all-important categories of handicrafts. This handicraft is practiced in different locations spread over different parts of the state. Generations of dedicated and tainted craftsmen working with the treasures of the earth have transformed precious and ordinary materials into objects of rare beauty. Most handicrafts have been learned as an art form down the ages. And some of them are still a part of the cottage industry of Andhra. The present paper will explore the multiple regional art forms of Andhra Pradesh.
Key words: Regional arts, handy crafts, folklore, wooden toys, local cultures.
Regional art forms are an integral part of our lives which are close part of our culture and associated with festivals, ceremonies and rituals. Most of the folk and tribal art has an aspect of functionalism, and its usage thus becomes the key that unlocks the treasure trove of folk and tribal traditions of India. Every state in India has its own unique folk and tribal art forms, having certain timeless quality. Art evolved over centuries, and they continue to be made with a singular sentiment and they are integral part of our living culture.
Andhra Pradesh has a rich tradition in handicrafts with techniques of craftsmanship handed down from generation to generation. South has patronized itself in a host of arts and crafts that not only attract millions but earn the artisans a decent livelihood. The various forms of arts and crafts are aristocratic to this state and are not to be found anywhere else in India.
Several head turning art and crafts of Andhra Pradesh are very popular among the masses. One among those crafts is Kondapalli doll. The Kondapalli dolls of Andhra Pradesh are light weighted wooden dolls, which belong to a small village called Kondapalli in the vicinity of Vijayawada. The dolls are adorable, warm and realistic. The faces of the figures are extremely expressive and the subjects are taken from the surroundings. Soft Poniki wood is used to create these dolls and toys, which depict everyday scenes, figures of deities, animals, birds and mythological characters.
These Kondapalli dolls are mainly based on village life, culture and characters. The popularity of this fantastic craft work has reached the foreign shore due to its flexibility. The process of making these dolls and toys starts with the seasoning of the wood. Carving is done separately on independent units, which are then joined to the body. An adhesive paste of tamarind seeds is used for the pasting purpose. Further it is coated with lime glue. Then the painting is done with special brushes made from goat’s hair. The entire process is long enough and the artisans carry on with the work very patiently. Some of the toys and dolls are also made of a mixture of sawdust, cow dung and clay. The Kondapalli doll is one such item, that one will readily agree to buy at one’s child’s request.
The fame of wooden dolls and toys of Kondapally is spread all over Andhra Pradesh. Conventional in form and colour, they are crafted by artisans known as Arya Kshatriyas. Using a soft wood called poniki, the themes crafted include everyday trendy from village life, figures of deities including the dasha avataras (ten divine manifestations of Vishnu), birds and animals. The figures are extremely well formed and are sometimes made in large sizes also. The style is realistic and great attention is given to the smallest detail, the painted faces are expressive and each figure has a distinct identity and beauty.
Obtainable of the many beautiful forms of handicrafts, the Kalamkari in Andhra Pradesh has always been favorite with the art and craft lovers. The Kalamkari craft of Andhra Pradesh involves the art of printing and painting of fabrics. This is an infrequent kind of art, which uses a Kalam or quill, from which it has earned its name. It is exclusively found in the Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti areas of the state. However the areas have distinct styles of their own. While artists in Machilipatnam use designs carved in wooden blocks for printing, the Srikalahasti style uses the wax process to fill in the colors after drawing the outlines with the quill.
All the colors and dyes, which are used in the Kalamkari craft style are made of natural materials. The printing process of Kalamkari is very delicate and time taking as it involves not less than twelve different stages. Kalamkari is mostly used in wall decorations and clothes. It is highly inspired by the Persian patterns and motifs. The art form of Kalamkari usually showcases mythological figures and stories. Stories of the epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shiv Puranas are also depicted on the fabrics. The origin of Kalamkari dates back to the 10th century when it was derived as the result of trade relations between the Indian and Persian traders.
Kalamkari hand-painting on fabric is a technique used to embellish temple cloth and hangings. Painted hangings are used for religious instruction, in temples, and for draping behind the idol in temple cars during processions. The process followed here is even more painstaking than the kalamkari done at Masulipatnam as the entire design is drawn bv hand using a kalam or pen made from wood (tamarind twigs charred to charcoal sticks) and fibre. All the processes are nearly the same as at Masulipatnam except for the absence of blocks. This craft grew mainly around places of pilgrimage and one of the leading centre is Sri Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh. The temple hangings and tapestries from Kalahasti are famous worldwide. Madder and indigo processes are used here and alum is the mordant used to fix the colours. Vegetable dyes in deep rich shades red and blue are used, while green is obtained as a combination of yellow and blue. The washing of the cloth to remove starch and the washing between dyeing and bleaching is done from flowing water in a stream or river. The lines of the design are drawn with a mixture of iron-filings and molasses. The color schemes used are traditional ones, with women figures in yellow, gods in blue, and demons in red and green. The background colors are usually red with motifs of lotus and other
Etikoppakka, a village (about 80 km from Vishakapatnam) in Andhra Pradesh is well-known for its lacquered toys and products. Tradition has it that the craft has been practiced continuously for two centuries. The products made include toys, utility items like bowls, jars, and containers, and ornaments like bangles and ear rings. The lacquering here is done on hand- or machine-operated lathe, though delicate items are turned with a hand lathe only. In the lacturney method that is followed here, the lac stick is pressed against the woodenware. The woodenware keeps revolving and the heat generated by friction makes the lac soft, and makes it adhere to the article. The wood used is usually poniki, a soft wood, though toys are also made of other kinds of wood like teak and are given a natural finish. Solid color lacquering is preferred here. Traditionally natural colors were used though now chemical dyes are also prevalent
The Nirmal Paintings of Andhra Pradesh holds a significant position in the art and handicraft sector of the state. The exquisite traditional art form of Nirmal Paintings has earned its name from the Nirmal town in Adilabad district, where it is mostly perceived. The community of craftsmen who are engaged with the traditional art form of Nirmal paintings are known as Nakkash. They usually depict the scenes from Hindu epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata and other historical and mythological stories. This form of art received great patronage from the Mughal rulers, who were captivated by its beauty. Later on, Lady Hydri promoted Nirmal paintings in Hyderabad by bringing in experts craftsmen to the city.
The uniqueness of Nirmal painting has appeared due to the use of natural materials. The colors and dyes applied in these paintings are indigenous natural products made from gums, minerals and herbs. The widely used golden color are extracts or juice of different herbs. In recent time a change in the subjects can be observed. Many painters of today are not contended withdrawing from epics only but they are exploring the styles of Old Indian schools of paintings. Be an epic scene or an old school style, an example of the Nirmal paintings on the wall will surely enhance the beauty of the wall.
The complicated and the very beautiful Bidriware was developed during the gothic period. Bidriware was originated in the 14th century C.E., during the reign of the Bahamani Sultans. The term ‘Bidriware’ arises from the township of Bidar, which is still the head centre for the manufacture of the antique metal work. Bidriware is an important export handicraft of India and is seen as a symbol of wealth because of its striking inlay artwork. The origin of Bidriware is usually ascribed to the Bahamani sultans who ruled Bidar between the 13th and the 15th centuries. The Sultan invited Abdullah bin Kaiser, a craftsman from Iran to work on embellishing the royal palaces and courts; which he did by joining hands with local craftsmen and thus gave birth to Bidriware. Since then, the local Muslim and Lingayat sects have been handed over the art in order to succeed generations. The method of Bidri making had its origins in Persia peninsula, Iranians and Syrians. However, BIDRI is a specialized metal handcraft manufactured in Andhra Pradesh. The basic material used in order to make this craft is an alloy of 6% copper and 94% zinc. After the molding is completed, the required article is then filed and the surface is smoothened, followed by the design sketching and engraving on the same. In the engraved design, pure silver wires and sheets are inlaid by hammering them and the item is then filed, polished, buffed, and oxidized.
A distinguished form of earth from the fort at Bidar is used in order to oxidize the article which leads to the alloy surface becoming jet-black and the silver remaining as it is, when the article is dipped into the boiled solution. The article is finally coated with coconut or groundnut oil and is finally polished with a soft cloth.
Bidri are the works of art that involve extreme adroitness and patience on the part of the craftsman who devote his/her diligent craftsmanship in the procedure of structuring it. This style of encrusted metal-work in which one metal is inlaid or overlaid on another metal requires acute practice, skillfulness and presence of mind. Behind the breathe-taking bidri crafts are the hard-working hours and struggling efforts of Hyderabad artisans. Different kinds of bidri designs are decorated on items that include elephant figures, plates, bowls, huqqa bases, jewelers, ash-trays, trinket boxes etc., as well as other work of art. So as to memorize its worth for years to come tourists from all over the world make it a point of acquiring it and considered it an exciting piece of art and a worthy gifting item. The Bidri designs are basically designs such as the Asharfi-ki-booti, stars, vine creepers and stylized poppy plants with flowers while the traditional designs include the Persian Rose and passages from the Quran in Arabic script.
Nakashi art is basically scrolls of narratives from mythology and folklore. In that sense, it may be somewhat similar to the Pattachittra of Orissa. Nakashi practised in Cheriyal, Warangal, has evolved as a distinct art form on its own – quite stylised in form and technique. An exhibition-cum-workshop (till May 21) being held at the State Gallery of Fine Arts, Kavuri Hills, Madhpur not just displays paintings but helps one to learn the technicalities of this art form. The artists who paint scrolls and make dolls and masks are present to explain its excellence. In vivid hues (mostly primary colours) with a predominance of red in the background, these scroll paintings are easy to relate to – as the themes and stories are familiar – drawn from the storehouse of ancient literary and folk traditions.
This is a traditional craft of Andhra Pradesh found usually on sliced ivory pieces that has been practiced from Mughal times onwards. Intricate and fascinating details of Mughal culture are depicted in this craft form. Miniatures are also painted on trinket boxes made of teak with sandalwood mounts and on silver filigree boxes.
Presently in Andhra Pradesh this craft form is largely mass produced, they may not match up to the standards of the modern designer products, but the practices still maintains its unique quality. The modern artists in India have realized the potential of these crafts and started working using the technical and the formal aspects. Jamini Roy was the one who intelligently used the elements of folk art of Bengal and became one of the most popular artists of his time. The essence of folk forms of art is that it is very Indian. Later many artists have followed his path and made use of these forms at different levels. The important ones are K G Subramanyan, Reddeppa Naidu, Nandagopal and Srinivasulu.
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