Amma Deivam The Mother Goddess an illustrated talk by
performance is a living tradition, living in and around homes
and villages, with participation from people of every age
group, caste and class. The indigenous pre-Aryan cult
practices are still preserved in the West Coast of south India
despite the onslaught of outside influence. Worship of the
Mother Goddess and the practice of fertility cult were in
existence in this part of India long before the Aryans came.
Worship of mother goddess in her myriad manifestations is the
most common practices in this region. All the goddesses in
Teyyam are Shivite.
The Mother Goddess is the most widely worshipped deity in
Kerala. Every family has its own ishtadeivam, personal deity,
every clan-house -- taravatu --has its kuladeivam, the patron
deity, and every village has its own gramadevata, the village
goddess. Most of these ishtadevatas or kuladeivams or
gramadevatas are manifestations of Kali or Bhadrakali and, in
Northern Kerala, they are worshipped as Teyyams. The narration
of the story of these gramadevatas, sung at the beginning of
the performances, though glorifying the manifestations, are,
in fact, local legends which, in most cases, have no sanction
in the Puranas. At the end of the story, the heroine dies and
her spirit is identified with the Adi Sakti. This spirit is
deified and worshipped as mother goddess in Teyyam.
Balan Nambiar is a painter, sculptor, enamellist, photographer
and a research scholar. He has a Diploma in Fine Arts
(Sculpture) from Government College of Arts & Crafts, Chennai.
He has an Academy Fellowship from the Kerala Lalitha Kala
Academy, Nehru Fellowship from Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund,
New Delhi, a Senior Fellowshipf rom Ministry of Education,
Govt. of India and State and national awards from the Lalit
In the academic field he has done research and documentation
of various ritual art forms of the west coast of south India
and presented several research papers at seminars in India and
abroad. Some of his papers and photographs were published as a
part of the books by the MARG, IGNCA, History of Science,
Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilisation, Rientberg
Museum, IIC quarterly journal, etc.
During the last ten years he has been doing sculptures in
stainless steel and some of his monumental works are
commissioned by banks, corporate houses and various
institutions around the country and abroad. One of his
monumental stainless steel sculptures, "The sky is the Limit"
was commissioned by the Indian Oil Corporation and installed
at its corporate office in Sadiq Nagar, New Delhi in May 2010.
Five museums in India have his creative works.
For more details please visit
deified- Sholapith of West Bengal
Indica) is a milky-white and very light weight sponge-wood
which is carved into delicate and beautiful objects of art.
The plant grows wild in marshy, waterlogged areas. The shola
pith is the cortex or core of the plant and these inner soft
milky-white and spongy materials are similar to "Thermocol".
They can also be cultivated by planting seeds in
February/March in a pit or ditch with plenty of water. The
plant is ready to harvest in 6 months. It is dried and outer
skin carefully removed and the inner core cut into pieces or
other shapes as required. This craft requires no complicated
tools, only knives of various shapes and sizes and needle and
thread Earlier natural and vegetable dyes were used, now
brightly coloured chemical dyes find more buyers.
Two main types of objects are made - Masks, headgear and
images of deities, as well as flowers and other ornamental
objects. The craftsmen, Malakars (maker of garlands) have
traditionally made garlands of shola and decorative headwear
for deities. The headgear (Topor) is worn by both Bride and
groom during a Bengali wedding ceremony. Temples and houses
are decorated with these objects during festivals and other
auspicious occasions. The idol makers of Kumortuli who
traditionally produced clay idols have taken to making idols
of sholapith and fibreglass.
A very interesting early use of the plant has given its name
to one of the most enduring signs of colonial times. The Sola
Topee is a Shola Pith. The pith, the core of the shola plant
was used to make the inner lining of the sun helmet which was
covered initially with white cloth, and later in the Boer wars
in South Africa it was dyed with tea to use as a camouflage
giving birth to the typical khaki sola topee. Versions of this
shape have been used by the French, The Americans, and the
Germans and they continue to be used by the Royal Marines (see
photograph) and the Vietnamese substituting the pith by cork
and other materials.
Mata ni pachedi
- the ritual painting of Gujarat
are ritualistic Temple Hangings of Gujarat created and
significantly popular amongst the semi-nomadic rural
communities in Western India. The term Mata-ni-Pachedi in
colloquial Gujarati literally means that which enshrines the
Goddess. The narrative hangings of epics of Mata or Devi or
Shakti are created by the Chitaras using kalamkari technique
and are conventionally used by other communities of a similar
The unique feature of these temple hangings was that instead
of being hung behind an icon, four to five pieces were erected
to form a shrine for the Mother Goddess. These hangings used
by the nomadic tribe served the purpose of depicting the epics
of the mother goddess as well as forming a temporary shrine
Conventionally the rectangular fabric is divided into 7 or 9
columns which allows for a narrative format and always has an
architectural rendering of a temple at its centre which also
houses the main mother goddess image. The central image and
surrounding figures may vary in size and position, depending
on the artists personal creative imagination. These hangings
used by nomadic tribes served the purpose of depicting the
epics of mother goddess as well as forming a temporary shrine
The chandarvo a square piece of cloth is used in lieu of a
ceiling. Here the painted pattern is a representative of the
magic circle, the garbha, the ceremonial dance to the goddess,
in effect a stylized mirror image. The mother goddess occupies
a central position with myths and incidents following a
circular patterns around the central figure.
Both the Pachedi and the Chandarvo are always framed with a
bold border, which is colloquially termed as a lassa patti.
The lassa patti is the outer frame. After this comes a band of
decorative linear patterns. Traditionally maroon and black
were the only colors used, with the surface of the material as
the third color. Gradually other colors from nature started
adding to the color palette without having any religious
significance. As time went by the community got introduced to
pigment dyes which had begun arriving in Gujarat for a
fledging textile industry.
The work is traditionally done by master craftsmen from the
Chitara family, belonging to the Waghri community of Ahmedabad.
For this event Chandrakant Bhulabhai Chitara from Ahmedabad
will be demonstrating this kalamkari style of painting and
Each traditional tribal or folk art form in India uses its own
technique, process and style which have been handed down
through generations. The individual processes can be complex;
sometimes the entire family is involved, with each family
member responsible for one particular step: doing the
outlines, filling in the colour, making the dyes from flowers
and minerals. We rarely realize how vital these artists are to
the preservation of our countrys cultural heritage.
will be followed by a talk by Bishakha Shome
Shome is a Graduate of Vishwabharati University in
Shantinketan in Textile Arts and a Post Graduate in Rural
Development. She is President of the Hutheesing Design Company
involved with diverse Art, Design, Heritage and cultural
activities. She was a research and design consultant for the
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, The Craft Center
Development Project for Uttaranchal District Industries
Commission, and Kerala Handlooms. She is the co-author of
‘Stone Buildings of Gujarat’. She has presented papers on
Mata-ni-Pachedi and Natural Dyes and Block printing.
Tribal Metalcasting for 5000 years
is non ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax (cire perdue)
casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been used in
India for over 4,000 years and is still used. One of the
earliest known lost wax artefacts is the famous dancing girl
The primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful
form of Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious
images, measuring bowls, and lamps are highly appreciated
allover the world. The lost wax technique for casting of
copper and brass based alloys has existed in many ancient
cultures but as in many crafts, other cultures have lost their
art forms. In India Dhokra Damar tribes the traditional
metalsmiths of West Bengal, extend from Jharkhand, Orissa;
Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh as well as in South India.
There are two main processes of lost wax casting: solid
casting (common in South India), and hollow casting.(from
Eastern and Central India). In hollow casting, a clay core is
moulded and covered by a layer of Beeswax. Designs are carved
on this and covered with clay leaving drain ducts for the wax.
Molten metal is poured into the mould forcing the wax to melt
and be replaced by the molten metal. The outer layer of clay
is chipped off and the metal icon polished and finished as
The famous metal miniature known as the dancer evokes
wonder not only for its perfection as an art piece of
exquisite elegance but also for the advanced knowledge of
production nearly five thousand years ago.
The perfection of casting images in India was reached in the
Gupta-Vakataka and early medieval period when some of the
finest examples like the Sultanganj Buddha, the Pophnar
Buddha, the Brahma from Karachi, the Jain images of the Akota
hoard, the Nalanda and Kurkihar bronzes, and the famous
Pallava and Chola bronzes of South India were prepared. (C.
Sivaramamurti ex director National Museum of India.)
Sir Mortimer Wheeler excavator of Mohenjodaro says about the
dancing girl "There is her little Balochi-style face with
pouting lips and insolent look in the eyes. She's about
fifteen years old I should think, not more, but she stands
there with bangles all the way up her arm and nothing else on.
A girl perfectly, for the moment, perfectly confident of
herself and the world. There's nothing like her, I think, in
Manifestation of the Divine
A "Thangka," is
a painted or embroidered Buddhist banner which was hung in a
monastery or a family altar and occasionally carried by monks
in ceremonial processions. It is a scroll painting which can
be easily rolled and transported from monastery to monastery.
These thangka served as important teaching tools depicting the
life of the Buddha, various influential lamas and other
deities and bodhisattvas. But how does one distinguish one
diety from another.
There are gods and goddesses, some benign, others wrathful,
some universal, others local, almost always represented in one
of the five colours of Vajrayana Buddhism white, green,
yellow, red or blue (black, in some cases). What finally
differentiates these deities is their asana (posture), mudra
(gesture), and their attributes and accompanying symbols. In
fact so vast is the array of deities within the Buddhist
pantheon that sometimes a monk himself is unable to tell one
Thangka, when created properly, perform several different
functions. Images of deities can be used as teaching tools
when depicting the life (or lives) of the Buddha, describing
historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling
myths associated with other deities. Devotional images act as
the centerpiece during a ritual or ceremony and are often used
as mediums through which one can offer prayers or make
requests. Most importantly, religious art is used as a
meditation tool to help bring one further down the path to
enlightenment. The Buddhist Vajrayana practitioner uses a
thanga image of their yidam, or meditation deity, as a guide,
by visualizing themselves as being that deity, thereby
internalizing the Buddha qualities.
Madhubani - The
folk art of Mithila
was a kingdom of ancient India whose most famous resident was
Sita wife of Rama of the Ramayana. The region was an important
centre of Indian history during the first millennium and
Maithili, an Eastern Indic language, spoken in Mithila is an
officially recognized Indian language. The Mithila region of
Bihar is rich in culture and religious traditions and its most
important art form is Madhubani painting.
This art originated as ritual geometric and symbolic
decorations on the walls and floors of houses, generally done
by women before a marriage. In the 1960s a terrible drought
lead to the All India Handicrafts Board encouraging the women
artists to start painting on Handmade paper and other mediums
as a source of non agricultural income.
There is a strong caste hierarchy involved in the making of
Madhubani paintings. The Brahmins, depict images of deities
using bright colours (red, yellow, blue and lemon). The second
in the hierarchy are the Kayasthas, who paint religious themes
and motifs, but use only red and black.The lowest caste, the
Dusadhs, paint religious themes but use more of the Gondhna or
Tattoo art and usually depict flora and fauna in repetitive
motifs. The differences between the works of Brahmin and
Kayastha women and women of lower castes are apparent. "The
Harijan Madhubani paintings appear simpler and less
sophisticated. They are closer to the Geru tradition of
painting, with emphasis on volume and depth rather than
Madhubani paintings usually revolve around mythological themes
(Hindu deities - Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi,
Saraswati, Sun, Moon and Tulsi) and socio-cultural themes
(court and wedding scenes,) The subjects most commonly
depicted include sun, moon, birds, fish, and bidh-bidhata (a
male and a female bird facing each other), patia (mat woven
from mothi), nag-nagin (entwined male and female cobras), pan
ka ghar (leaf house) and naina jogin (Goddess with magical
powers). Flowers, birds, animals and geometrical designs are
interspersed throughout the painting.
Traditionally Madhubani paintings were always made with
Natural Dyes - the extracts of locally available creepers and
flowers; for example, yellow is prepared from turmeric or from
chunam (lime) mixed with the white excretion of the banyan
tree, black from burnt jowar or kajal, orange from the palasa
flower, red from kusum, and green from the bilva leaf or the
saim creeper. For brushes, the artists still use twigs with
cotton rags wrapped around their tips.
These paintings may have had their origins in tantric rituals.
Mithila has from time immemorial been a seat of the tantric
tradition, with strong leanings towards the Saiva and Sakti
cults. The contribution of foreign scholars in promoting the
art form internationally has also been immense. Starting with
W.G. Archer in the 1930s who discovered this art form to
Yves Vecaud, who wrote The Women Painters of Mithila followed
by the German anthropologist and folklorist Erika Moser and
Raymond Lee Owens. Mulk Raj Anand says The sources of folk
art of Madhubani lie on the dim areas of silence, of the
approximation to the heightened moments of creation itself.
will be followed by a talk by Manisha Jha
Jha is a self taught artist who learnt by watching her mother
and grandmother doing traditional Madhubani paintings on the
walls of their village home.
Living in an urban setting and under the influence of many
artists her traditional Madhubani paintings started acquiring
a contemporary look. She is a graduate of Architecture with a
Masters in Urban and Regional planning and a diploma in
Interior Design. She has exhibited her paintings in many
cities in India and has received awards from the Deli
Government and The All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society.