Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'Crafty' Animals

Ever since prehistoric days, man has always depicted animals in his drawings -

And now through his craft . 

Handcrafted in Kashmir, this quaint tea cozy is embroidered with wool fibers. Legend is that the first cozy was crafted of wool by a farmer's wife. When coming in from work, her husband threw his woolen cap on the table and it landed on the teapot. Much to their surprise, the cap kept the tea steaming hot for some time. 

Leather craft from Nimmalakunta, a village from Andhra Pradesh.  The craft of making leather puppets or Tolu Bommalu, which they practice, is quite an old craft.  Because of low demand for the puppets, most of craftsmen have shifted to making lampshades and other decorative artefacts.

Gujarat applique is mainly based on patchwork , has a distinctive style of its own.  Coloured and patterned fabric is finely cut in different sizes and shapes and sewn together on a plain background . The stitches in gaudy colours are not hidden and add to the beauty of the patchwork.

And the wooden animal figurines with brass inlay work.

And Madhubani paintings from Bihar. Cotton is wrapped around a bamboo stick to serve as a brush, which is dipped in colors and applied on to the fabric. The outline is done with double lines. No shading is done. The gaps between the two lines are filled with cross or straight lines.

Wrought iron figures - Bastar Tribal arts               

Papier-Mache figures
Only a few ..... the list is endless.
Pictures taken at Dili Haat, Delhi and Shilparamam, Hyderabad.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When The Days of The Trees are Numbered

In my childhood, holiday travel was mostly by road. And all along the drive,  were trees which had numbers etched on them. I would count as we went along, looking for missing numbers. I was told that was how various government departments made sure trees were not felled by unscrupulous elements.

And to think that presently trees are being numbered in the Delhi University Campus to facilitate their cutting to make space for events in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. While the construction of stadia is a matter of concern, the cutting of trees is not.

It is probably the sight of barren land that has awakened my love for nature. I gush with delight when I see trees, flowers, birds ….  

( pic courtesy - VP )

The Banyan Tree, that is fast disappearing,  brings back vivid memories of the pages in my science book. Illustrate the parts of a tree was an oft repeated question and we would invariably reproduce the diagram of the Banyan Tree, neatly labeled. These trees were most visible as we drove along the highway, and constantly served as a bus shelter where district buses would stop to pick up their passengers.

Remember the famous lines by Joyce Kilmer?

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

This poem, so popular was/is thought to be  simplistic and lacking in substance. 
There is even a parody by Odgen Nash "Song of the Open Road" with more than an ounce of truth

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all

( replace billboard with apartments/malls for Indian scenario)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Imagine All the People Living Life in Peace – The Bahá’í Temple

Was John Lennon inspired by the Bahá’í Faith when he penned the lyrics of the song ‘Imagine’. He and the Prophet founder of the faith Bahá’u’lláh, who said “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,” seem to have a lot in common.

I was in Delhi for a short visit and made a visit to the Bahá'í Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, better known as the "Lotus Temple" ( Kamal Mandir as the auto drivers of Delhi know it). As you approach the temple, one gets the first glimpse as the road takes a curve, and you gasp. Then it goes out of sight till you are almost there.

As you walk into their premises, every step, seems to be the ideal photo op. Cameras, mobile phones all work overtime. People who may otherwise be camera shy request you to take their picture with the temple in the background.

Constructed to resemble a lotus flower, the temple made of marble, cement, dolomite and sand stands on 26 acres of land, . The Persian architect Fariborz Sahba from Canada, created the beautiful structure composed of 27 free-standing marble clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. Nine pools encompass the building and nine doors open on to a central hall.

The structure is slightly more than 40 metres tall and it took 800 engineers, technicians, workers and artisans almost ten years to complete the task. At a lecture at Yale, the architecht is reported to have said that the temple was built with primitive methods, but the dedication of the workers more than made up for the lack of technology available at that time. The doors of the temple were thrown open to the public in December 1986

As we approach the temple, we are requested to remove our footwear and maintain silence within the main inner hall. Volunteers of different nationalities guide the tourists. ‘You may sit as long as you wish. You may belong to any religion, but you are free to pray ’ . Photography is not permitted inside and therefore one could not capture the beautifully structured dome. No idols, no noise, no bells, no chants. It is so peaceful and the silence unconsciously nudges you into closing your eyes in prayer. What is more amazing is that the average Indian known for his noisy demeanour is silent without being monitored. Such is the effect of the magnificent structure .

The building uses natural light that streams through the inner folds of the petals of the temple, and the construction is based on the Mughal ventilation technique and has an amazing inflow of fresh air and therefore banishes the need for an AC – that is conspicuous by its absence.

As we walk out, we are asked if we have the time to visit the museum at the other end which houses literature of the faith and pictures of the Bahá’í places of worship in other parts of the world. It is worth a quick visit, and if you have more time, view the video that shows the construction of the temple at different stages.

I did not feel the need to be a Bahá’í to appreciate their ideology. I guess all peace loving individuals feel that way. I wish all places of worship were like the Bahá'í Mashriqu'l-Adhkar temple – clean surroundings, peaceful and quiet – conducive to meditation and prayer.

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
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