Exploring artforms and handicrafts from Eastern and Southern India
By: Aditi Iyer
The Palkhi’s diverse collection of works and art pieces is sourced from various states, moving from Odisha in the east to Tamil Nadu in the south. Paintings on palm leaves, paper handicrafts, and stone and wood carvings are some of the many handicrafts of the region.
Odisha’s two necessary art forms have been carried by The Palkhi- Soura and Pattachitra. Soura is an art form that focuses on repetition and recurring patterns with figures, shapes and colours. It is usually confused with the Warli art form predominantly seen in Maharashtra, as they both employ a similar drawing style. Another factor differentiating the two art forms is that Soura is done on Tussar silk. Soura pulls in the observer through its repetitive patterns, with each repetition looking like a replica of the last. Pattachitra is an art form created on a chitra-pothi (a blanket of leaves). They are a collection of painted palm leaves stacked on top of each other, held together between painted wood covers, using a string to tie it all together. Pattachitra depicts scenes from Hindu epics and takes weeks to make. The paintings are done on the leaves, and the details are carved by removing the top layer of the palm leaf, leaving no room for error. The paintings use elaborate colour palettes, and the rich designs mesmerise the onlookers.
Karnataka is widely known for its wooden toys, also called Channapatna toys. They are named after Channapatna in the Ramanagara district, also called the town of toys. Artisans use traditional ivory wood, giving the products a shiny, glossy texture. They are painted using vegetable dyes to ensure that the toys are non-toxic. Along with toys, stationery, tableware and even sindhoor holders are made by artisans.
West Bengal has an abundance of wooden carvings, from entrances to homes and entry gates to household items such as trays, tools and even toys. Every carving has its special significance and is widely popular in the state. The Palkhi has various beautifully carved platters, trays and cutting boards; some items are in the shape of fish, giving a delightful spin to mundane kitchen items.
Andhra Pradesh has a flourishing leather puppetry industry; the Nimmalakunta district is popular for the art of leather puppetry craft. The artisans use sheep or goat skin for their crafts, and many artisans have diversified into making lamps and lampshades. The Palkhi displays handmade leather lamps, with beautiful, vibrant designs painted on them.
Pondicherry is famous for its Bommai handicrafts, dolls made of paper mache, plaster of Paris or terracotta. A lesser-known handicraft is a handmade paper, a signature craft of the region, aiming for an eco-friendlier society. Lanterns, lampshades and even photo frames are made of this handmade paper. The Palkhi’s collection has a variety of paper lamps with simple designs and an airy look and feel.
Tamil Nadu’s stone carvings have a distinct identity due to the patronage of religious architecture by the rulers of South India. Stone carved figures of gods, animals, religious depictions, and statues are common, especially in temples around the state. The pieces from Tamil Nadu are cut from a single stone and are carefully given details using paint, helping accentuate the features in the idols or figures.