Dharmavaram – The Woven Heritage

One of the world’s oldest and perhaps the only surviving unstitched garment from the past, saree has now become a sensuous and glamorous dress for women. Saree, ranging from 4 metres to 9 metres in length, is a traditional attire worn by women in India. Though centuries have passed since the sari was conceived as the Indian women’s hereditary costume, its charm has not waned till date. In-spite of the limited scope for any change in the garment, it seems to have a limitless future for every new generation of women.

Unstitched garment which is considered sacred in Hindu tradition, Sari evolving from the prakrit word “sattika” which is most sacred garment for females not only symbolizes cultural, grace and elegance but also an epitome of courage and strength as depicted by Rani Lakshmi Bhai during the war of independence. This 5 yard fabric has been a unifying feature, despite the variation in its wearing style in different parts of India. Draped around the body in such a way that midriff is left bare so that the navel which is center of creativity and life embraces the positivity from the Panchatantra of environment and recreating the abundance in the form of new life (fetus), is a reflection of women’s ‘inner supreme self’.

roopkala-orange-dharmavaram-silk-saree-sdl430155844-3-4e277India has a number of silk weaving clusters that are known for unique designs, weaves, colors, patterns, traditional knowledge and processes that are specific to a geographical region, and are guarded for centuries. Andhra Pradesh is a treasure of traditional handloom silks known for their distinct and typical style of products. Dharmavaram is a famous hub for its unique silks and a small town of rich handloom weaving cluster located at a distance of 47 km from Anantapur, has enthralled, endeared and throbbed the hearts of millions of women with its elegant, splendrous and classic silk sarees. The traditional, heavy, broad bordered rich with buta sarees of Dharmavaram have world wide popularity.

11.12.2016:

My mom is a huge fan of Sarees and especially she likes to have a collection of all from the various weaving clusters of India. And I too love to add things to her collection and hence decided to visit Dharmavaram. On our way back from Nimmalakunta, we asked our auto-driver to drop us at Naesaepet which is the landmark of Dharmavaram, having more than 1000 shops selling sarees. Though it is a difficult task to find out a shop which is genuine (had a very bad experience in Kancheepuram ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ), with belief in our guts, we entered a shop. With the cash crunch going on, we first inquired whether there are any ATMs nearby and whether they would be accepting card payments ๐Ÿ˜€ . The response was negative, but we turned it to positive ๐Ÿ™‚

The shopkeeper and his assistant started showing us a wide-varieties of silk sarees. It is said that each and every thread of a Dharmavaram saree is hand woven. The silk sarees are exclusively made of mulberry silk woven by hand, with elaborate zari work woven on them in resplendent colors. These sarees are known for their excellent weaving quality, rich look and feel. Evidence of origin of Dharmavaram sarees can be found in the roof wall painting of Lepakshi temple. There are a total of 280 designs in the temple, constructed during the year 1522 to 1538 AD. A place called the “Latha Mandapam” wherein 36 rock pillars have 144 unique designs of Dharmavaram sarees!

indexThe shopkeeper explained us that the weavers and designers of Dharmavaram are continuing the legacy of yester year designers and experimenting on silk weaves and producing array of unique designer silk sarees. The hallmark of Dharmavaram Sarees are the motifs and designs adapted from the sculptures of temples at Lepakshi and Tadipatri and other motifs of nature like peacock, deer, flowers etc. The Dharmavaram Sarees may range between Rs. 6000 to Rs. 100000. I bought a silk saree for my mom and a cotton saree for my mam back at office. Both were satisfied with the quality of the products as well as the prices ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ .

We bid a bye to them and thanked for explaining us the rich history of the place and the sarees ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you Shweta for the opening paragraphs in this article :). Shweta – a well-educated and humored person with passion for fashion, beauty and entrepreneurship can be reached @ย  https://shwetasinghspeaks.wordpress.com

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Nimmalakunta Leather Puppets – A day with Dalavai family…

11.12.2016:

10.00 hrs – We were at the Dharmavaram Bus station. We thought of shopping here and if time permits to head to another famous pilgrimage centre of Andhra Pradesh – Puttaparthy. Bilal and I were calculating the time and were walking towards the road when a board drew my attention. The board said ‘Welcome to the Nimmalakunta Art Village and Puppetry Workshop”. We dropped the plan of Puttaparty as we need to cover another important place and hence decided to visit this village. We hired an auto-rickshaw to take us there and drop us back in Dharmavaram.

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Nimmalakunta is a small village located 10 kms away from Dharmavaram town, which is famous for its leather puppets. There are different forms of traditional puppetry prevalent in rural areas in India. Shadow puppetry in Andhra Pradesh is referred by the name Tolubommalatta. ‘Tolu’ refers to leather; ‘bomma’ denotes doll and ‘atta’ means play. It is traditionally performed in villages and now in various theme restaurants and craft villages. The origin of Tolubommalatta in Andhra Pradesh has had a long history and the oral tradition and old scriptures suggests that the art form originated in 200 BC, when the rulers of Satavahana dynasty patronized it. The mode of entertainment in those good olden days! ๐Ÿ™‚

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The components of a puppet show are the curtain, the audience sat before it, the commentator behind the curtain, the lights that throws the shadow on the screen and the puppets (actors). Episodes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are the popular themes selected. The puppets range from 3 to 6 feet in size. Among the Andhra Pradesh Puppeteers, the Nimmalakunta artists are well known both at the national and international level. The Nimmalakunta puppeteers are frequently seen in all the government sponsored exhibitions conducted in major cities all over India. They are also well known as leather craft artists.

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When we reached the village, the community center and the workshop were closed. Our auto-driver inquired, and to our luck – the Dalavai’s family turned to help us. Dalavai Chalapathi Rao is a famous shadow puppeteer, a national award winner and gave many a performances in the West. ย His son started explaining us the various aspects of puppetry while his son was busy painting the lampshades and his wife busy in making the puppets. They explained us the process right from the procurement of the skin, processing it and how they are cut and designed. They showed us various pictures of puppets under the light in a dark room.

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Leather puppets of Andhra are large and made from translucent goat skin. The details are painted in bright colors and perforations are added. The designs are mainly mythological figures and occasionally the painters own creations. These drawings are done with a pencil. After making the designs, outlines are painted with black. Thereafter colors are filled in with vegetable dyes – brilliant red, green, white, yellow, brown and orange being the most popular. Many of these puppets have movable hands and legs and some, movable heads and necks ๐Ÿ™‚ Elaborate ornamentation of puppets indicating jewellery and clothing is typical and amazing.

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They further told us that with the advent of television and cinema, leather puppetry is on the decline and that they are diversifying into the production of miniature puppets, lampshades and other utility items. The lamp shades are of much demand in the near-by Bangalore and Hyderabad and these people supply most of their work to these cities. I too bought a lamp shade before leaving the place ๐Ÿ™‚

Colorful Woodcrafts

Kondapalli is an industrial town near Vijayawada city, Andhra Pradesh, India. The town is known for its locally made toy craft Kondapalli bommalu (Kondapalli toys). Kondapalli toys are famous for their light weight, vibrant colors and age-old production techniques. Themed around mythology, rural life and animals, these toys exhibit joyous and realistic expressions. The art shows the strong influence of Islamic style and pointed nose of the human figures is reminiscent of the 17th century Rajasthani style. This 400-year old tradition has passed on from generation to generation with every member taking part in the toy-making activity in โ€˜Toy Colonyโ€™ of Kondapalli. Over the years, Kondapalli toy has become a collectible from a plaything. Kondapalli toys are made of wood available locally called as Tella Poniki (White Sander wood and botanically called Jiuotia Rotteri Fromis). The Kondapalli craftsmen use this particular wood because this wood is soft, light weight and can be easily carved.Kondapalli toys in bright and vibrant colors portray and depict themes relating to spirituality and village life falling under any one or more of the following distinct categories. The popular animal forms are cows and elephants, while swans, peacocks and sparrows are the usual forms in the birds category.

Kondapalli is an industrial town near Vijayawada city, Andhra Pradesh, India. The town is known for its locally made toy craft Kondapalli bommalu (Kondapalli toys). Kondapalli toys are famous for their light weight, vibrant colors and age-old production techniques. Themed around mythology, rural life and animals, these toys exhibit joyous and realistic expressions. The art shows the strong influence of Islamic style and pointed nose of the human figures is reminiscent of the 17th century Rajasthani style. This 400-year old tradition has passed on from generation to generation with every member taking part in the toy-making activity in โ€˜Toy Colonyโ€™ of Kondapalli. Over the years, Kondapalli toy has become a collectible from a plaything. Kondapalli toys are made of wood available locally called as Tella Poniki (White Sander wood and botanically called Jiuotia Rotteri Fromis). The Kondapalli craftsmen use this particular wood because this wood is soft, light weight and can be easily carved.Kondapalli toys in bright and vibrant colors portray and depict themes relating to spirituality and village life falling under any one or more of the following distinct categories. The popular animal forms are cows and elephants, while swans, peacocks and sparrows are the usual forms in the birds category.

The village of Etikoppaka in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh delights the visitors by a diverse range of wooden lacquerware: colourful toys like train engines, curios like bangles, and objects of household use like jars and bowls. These Etikoppaka toys are user friendly as well as eco friendly. All natural color and dyes are used in it. Etikoppaka toys remind one the exquisite lacquer finished products of wood. The making of the toys are traditionally followed since years and years. Many artifacts are composed from wood and are also colored with natural dyes such as from seeds, lacquer, bark, roots and leaves. Additionally the process of making the Etikoppaka wooden toys is known as the Turned wood Lacquer craft. Anciently lac dye was used in India as a skin cosmetic and also as a dye for silk and woolen industry. Now days it is used for decorating the Etikoppaka toys so that people can buy them and put in their homes as a decoration item.

The village of Etikoppaka in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh delights the visitors by a diverse range of wooden lacquerware: colourful toys like train engines, curios like bangles, and objects of household use like jars and bowls. These Etikoppaka toys are user friendly as well as eco friendly. All natural color and dyes are used in it. Etikoppaka toys remind one the exquisite lacquer finished products of wood. The making of the toys are traditionally followed since years and years. Many artifacts are composed from wood and are also colored with natural dyes such as from seeds, lacquer, bark, roots and leaves. Additionally the process of making the Etikoppaka wooden toys is known as the Turned wood Lacquer craft. Anciently lac dye was used in India as a skin cosmetic and also as a dye for silk and woolen industry. Now days it is used for decorating the Etikoppaka toys so that people can buy them and put in their homes as a decoration item.

Kalamkari – Speaking with Hands

Kalamkari is an exquisite craft of painted and printed fabrics. It derives it’s name from Kalam meaning Pen, and Kari meaning work, literally Penwork. It is a hand painting as well as block printing with vegetable dyes. Kalamkari art has evolved through trial and error over the last 3000 years.

India is rich in art and craft and Kalamkari which is painted on cloth is done in several parts of India and Iran. In Andhra Pradesh, both the Masulipatnam (or Machilipatnam) and Srikalahasti village are recognized as major centers for Kalamkari painting. Kalamkari practiced in Masulipatnam is different from the Kalamkari practiced in Srikalahasti.

History:

It is believed that the earliest fragments of painted fabrics were found during Indus valley civilization. The archaeological evidence tell us that the hand painting on resists – dyed cloth was discovered in the 8th century. The popularity of this art was found in the old writings of the french traveler, Francois Bernies. Other evidence like the illustration of the Hamzanamesh done at the time of Akbar, also talk about the profuse use of painted fabrics produced in the Golconda region.

The Moghuls patronized this craft in the Coromondel and Golconda provinces. Thus the name Kalmakari comes from the Urdu word Qualam meaning pen.

Techniques:

The Kalamkari art of painting undergoes a laborious, slow process of resist – dyeing and hand printing. Unlike other styles of painting, Kalamkari painting demands a lot of treatment before and after the painting is completed on the cotton fabric. Depending on the treatment of cloth, or quality of the mordant, the colors change accordingly. The artists believe in using natural dyes, extracting from bark, flower and root. No chemical dyes are used in producing Kalamkari colors.

The process used for both schools of Kalamkari painting is more or less the same. The only major difference is that Srikalahasti paintings, depend entirely on the brush – like pen where as the Masulipatnam style uses block-printing procedures. The process done in Srikalahasti is more tedious.

Masulipatnam style of painting - Masulipatnam designs are Iranian in character with intricate and delicate forms. The old traditional block prints were largely used with Persian motifs like trees, creepers, flowers and leaf designs. This style of Kalamkari was mainly done on bed covers, curtains and also garments, as it was a popular demand from the west. In the 19th century block prints reached its peak and even today it's largely produced for Indians and foreigners.

Masulipatnam style of painting – Masulipatnam designs are Iranian in character with intricate and delicate forms. The old traditional block prints were largely used with Persian motifs like trees, creepers, flowers and leaf designs. This style of Kalamkari was mainly done on bed covers, curtains and also garments, as it was a popular demand from the west. In the 19th century block prints reached its peak and even today it’s largely produced for Indians and foreigners.

 

Temples were a major inspiration for this art. The art flourished under the patronage of the temples with their demands for scrolls and wall hangings with story figurative and narrative components. It richly displayed episodes from the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and other Mythological stories for their themes painted in the panels with a script running along the border. The subjects chosen to paint were restricted to Gods such as Krishna, Brahma, Ganesha, Durga, Arjuna, Lakshmi, Rama, Shiva and Parvathi.

Kalahasti style of painting – Temples were a major inspiration for this art. The art flourished under the patronage of the temples with their demands for scrolls and wall hangings with story figurative and narrative components. It richly displayed episodes from the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and other Mythological stories for their themes painted in the panels with a script running along the border. The subjects chosen to paint were restricted to Gods such as Krishna, Brahma, Ganesha, Durga, Arjuna, Lakshmi, Rama, Shiva and Parvathi.

Traditional Crafts

The BELL METAL or DHOKRA is one of the earliest known method of metal casting. This craft dates back to pre-historic time of Harrappa and Mohenjodaro period of Indus Civilization. Dhokra metal casting is perhaps the only living tradition of metal image making in Eastern India. The technique has managed to survive many centuries and change of dynasties owing to its modesty of application in everyday lives if traditional tribal people of BASTAR, Chhattisgarh, INDIA by more than 10,000 traditional tribals. Artwork is done with hand, without any advancement of technology. The unique 13 stage process of DHOKRA/BELL METAL making is the original creative instinct of the craft persons, which is a beautiful amalgation of art and science. The ancient art of cire-perdue or lost wax thread method of metal casting is still used by the tribal people of BASTAR, from Chhattisgarh over a last 200 years. The DHOKRA/BELL METAL castings of figurines and different animals with their antique look, fits in with interior decor. DHOKRA/BELL METAL is an alloy of brass, nickel and zinc that gives an antique effects of the castings.

The BELL METAL or DHOKRA is one of the earliest known method of metal casting. This craft dates back to pre-historic time of Harrappa and Mohenjodaro period of Indus Civilization. Dhokra metal casting is perhaps the only living tradition of metal image making in Eastern India. The technique has managed to survive many centuries and change of dynasties owing to its modesty of application in everyday lives if traditional tribal people of BASTAR, Chhattisgarh, INDIA by more than 10,000 traditional tribals. Artwork is done with hand, without any advancement of technology. The unique 13 stage process of DHOKRA/BELL METAL making is the original creative instinct of the craft persons, which is a beautiful amalgation of art and science. The ancient art of cire-perdue or lost wax thread method of metal casting is still used by the tribal people of BASTAR, from Chhattisgarh over a last 200 years. The DHOKRA/BELL METAL castings of figurines and different animals with their antique look, fits in with interior decor. DHOKRA/BELL METAL is an alloy of brass, nickel and zinc that gives an antique effects of the castings.

 

Silver filigree or Tarakashi is a creative form of handicraft created from the twisted threads of silver or gold. Silver filigree can of three distinctive types, Meenakari, Khulla Jaal and Flowers and Leaves. The most famous works of silver filigree includes paandans, tea trays, trinket boxes, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and varied other jewellery. Besides Cuttack in Orissa, Karimnagar in the state of Andhra Pradesh is known for its silver filigree work. In Filigree work, twisted silver wire is the material, and the articles have the trellis-like appearance of jali which endows them with a rare charm. The silversmith crimps thin strips of fine silver into zig-zag patterns and loops using it to fill up the ground of designs formed by thicker silver strips. The strips and fine silver are then deftly soldered, carefully avoiding the trellis-like Filigree pattern.

Silver filigree or Tarakashi is a creative form of handicraft created from the twisted threads of silver or gold. Silver filigree can of three distinctive types, Meenakari, Khulla Jaal and Flowers and Leaves. The most famous works of silver filigree includes paandans, tea trays, trinket boxes, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and varied other jewellery. Besides Cuttack in Orissa, Karimnagar in the state of Telangana is known for its silver filigree work. In Filigree work, twisted silver wire is the material, and the articles have the trellis-like appearance of jali which endows them with a rare charm. The silversmith crimps thin strips of fine silver into zig-zag patterns and loops using it to fill up the ground of designs formed by thicker silver strips. The strips and fine silver are then deftly soldered, carefully avoiding the trellis-like Filigree pattern.

Unique crafts

Bidri artwork is a 500-year-old metal art form that originated in South India near the famous Bidar Fort in West Karnataka. Its roots go back to the craftsmen of Persia who were working in India on the forts and palaces of the Bahamani Sultans. The manufacturing process, which developed at that time, is primarily the same method used today to produce Bidri artwork.

Bidri artwork is a 500-year-old metal art form that originated in South India near the famous Bidar Fort in West Karnataka. Hyderabad boasts of one of the finest forms of creativity – the Bidri craft. Its roots go back to the craftsmen of Persia who were working in India on the forts and palaces of the Bahamani Sultans. The manufacturing process, which developed at that time, is primarily the same method used today to produce Bidri artwork. Bidri treasures have been valued by art collectors and art connoisseurs for centuries. The base material of Bidri artwork is a black, metal alloy, which is cast from zinc and copper. Talented artists engrave intricate designs over the surface of the piece; then, they tap thin sheets of copper or silver into the thin grooves of their etching. The contrast between the black surface and the silver and/or copper is breathtaking! Bidri artwork once practiced all over India now has confined to Bidar in Karnataka and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh, now Seemandhra, is known for the Budithi art which is a unique and special form of metal handicrafts in India. Budithi art is practiced in the Budithi village in Srikakulam district where it was originated. It is famous for making beautiful metal handicrafts from alloys in both traditional and modern styles. Brass is the main alloy that is used prominently in this art. This place is gaining popularity for creating wonderful Brassware. It has been in the tradition of this village for years and it has now become the profession of locals. It has not been that famous, but with the efforts of state government, it has achieved huge popularity. The antique and modern styles used in Budithi art fascinate the art lovers. Handicrafts in India manufactured using this art have fictional shapes ranging from the appealing traditional to stylish modern. These usually have trim neck and amazing body shapes and come with elegant charm. In this art, various utensils, vases, pots, and a series of decorative items. Many of these artworks usually have geometrical shapes with curves and lines forming presentations which are simple, but look remarkable. Some artists also use floral patterns on these handicrafts.

Andhra Pradesh, now Seemandhra, is known for the Budithi art which is a unique and special form of metal handicrafts in India. Budithi art is practiced in the Budithi village in Srikakulam district where it was originated. It is famous for making beautiful metal handicrafts from alloys in both traditional and modern styles. Brass is the main alloy that is used prominently in this art. This place is gaining popularity for creating wonderful Brassware. It has been in the tradition of this village for years and it has now become the profession of locals. It has not been that famous, but with the efforts of state government, it has achieved huge popularity. The antique and modern styles used in Budithi art fascinate the art lovers. Handicrafts in India manufactured using this art have fictional shapes ranging from the appealing traditional to stylish modern. These usually have trim neck and amazing body shapes and come with elegant charm. In this art, various utensils, vases, pots, and a series of decorative items. Many of these artworks usually have geometrical shapes with curves and lines forming presentations which are simple, but look remarkable. Some artists also use floral patterns on these handicrafts.