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As Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Tokyo to attend the Quad Summit, he carried with him gifts for leaders of the US, Australia and Japan showcasing India’s rich cultural heritage and art forms. A look at those gifts and their cultural roots.
Sanjhi art panel for US President Joe Biden
The intricate sanjhi panel that PM Modi gave US President Joe Biden is based on the theme of Thakurani Ghat, which is one of the most famous ghats on the banks of the holy river of Yamuna in Gokul. The traditional art form that originated out of the cult of Krishna, involves creating stencils based on incidents from the life of the deity and then hand-cutting these on thin sheets of paper using scissors. In olden times, the stencils were made using rough paper or banana leaves, but now this has changed to handmade and recycled paper.
Radha, according to Hindu mythology, used to paint sanjhi patterns on the walls for her beloved Krishna and later the gopis of Vrindavan followed suit. Later, the form was used to make ceremonial rangolis in temples dedicated to Lord Krishna. In fact, the term ‘sanjhi’ is derived from ‘sanjh’ or dusk and is related to the practice of making rangolis in temples at dusk.
In the form of painting, sanjhi was popularised in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Vaishnava temples and was practiced by Brahmin priests. During the Mughal period, contemporary themes were added and several families have continued to practice the form to this day. During the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the pictograms were inspired by traditional Sanjhi art.
Gond art painting for Australian PM Anthony Albanese
A form of painting practised by one of the largest tribal groups in India, the Gond community in Madhya Pradesh, the art in its visual form is often traced to Jangarh Shyam, who in the 1970s and ’80s began drawing the largely oral myths and legends of the tribe onto the walls of homes in the village of Patangarh. His talent was spotted by artist J Swaminathan, who invited him to work at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal in the early ’80s. The dotted patterns, jagged patterns, dots, waves and squiggles told the tale of their gods and goddesses and as well as the flora and fauna of the deep forests in Madhya Pradesh.
As the form received global recognition, several Gond artists have gained prominence and recognition. The prominent names include Bhajju Shyam, Venkat Shyam, Durgabai Vyam, Ram Singh Urveti and Subhash Vyam, among others.
PM Modi’s gift to PM Albanese depicts a popular motif in Gond art — the Tree of Life, with intricate patterns and lines that are a trademark of Gond art.
Wooden hand-carved box with a Rogan painting for Japanese PM Fumio Kishida
PM Modi gifted PM Kishida a hand-carved deep brown wooden box with a gold and white Rogan painting on a green cloth as its central motif. Rogan is a form of cloth painting that is considered to be more than four centuries old and is primarily practised in Kutch district of Gujarat.
The word ‘rogan’ comes from Persian, meaning varnish or oil. The craft uses paint made from boiled oil and vegetable dyes, where castor seeds are hand-pounded to extract the oil and turned into a paste by boiling. Coloured powder is diluted in water and mixed to make pastes in different colours that are stored in earthen pots. Artists place a small amount of the paint paste into their palms and twirl it with a rod for a textured appearance on the fabric. The rod never really comes in contact with the fabric and by moving it above, the artist sketches thin lines on the fabric. Usually, only half the fabric is painted and it is folded to create a mirror image. While originally only men used to practice the art form, now several women in Gujarat also pursue it.
PM Modi had also gifted a Rogan painting to the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, during his three-day visit to Europe earlier this month.
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