Monday, November 1, 2010

The lost arts of India

Yesterday, our class went to the 18th Dastkar Mela, for an assignment shoot. The mela was better than any fair I have seen in Delhi before. Besides beautiful artistry, the artists themselves were a treat to watch and talk to. Each one of them had a tale to tell and I felt like spending the whole day with them, just listening. These artists have come from across India - Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and so on. And apart from their creations on display, you could see live performances of dancers, puppet shows and painters painting in front of you. Here I am posting some pictures from the fair. Hope you enjoy them!

A manipulative puppet "The Magician" bows. Manipulative puppets are those that have a fixed identity and cannot be used for any other role in the story. At times, it costs Rs 10,000 and takes about a week to make a manipulative puppet.

Kerala dancers perform Kavadiyattam, balancing 6-10 feet tall wooden structures on their heads.

One of the puppeteers from a gypsy family that has traveled to 16 countries showcasing their art. Their troupe was the one that had made the giant puppets for the CWG Opening Ceremony.   

Rajasthani Bhelpuri, an Indian snack- tempting colors.

Paintings by Bengali artists. It takes a week to complete a painting that costs Rs 600.

The colors used for these paintings are made from flower extracts. The pictures are based on mythology and folklore.

More puppets from Rajasthan

An interesting pair of pixie boots belonging to a member of the puppeteer family. For them, puppets are a part of their family.

Big elephant puppets from Rajasthan

Animal wall hangings made of paper. The mela was based on the theme of going back to nature.

All kinds of dolls made of recycled material

A visitor tries her hand at pottery

A common thing every artist said was that these arts are losing their importance and respect in India. Nobody seems to care about them anymore. These craftsmen are not just traders, but original artists who don't get a fair price for their beautiful creations. Visitors say the fair is expensive, but before you go on to believing that, ask the craftsman how much time, money and effort he put in to make an item. The fair is a mirror of India's lost arts. So, if you missed it this year, don't forget to go in the next!


  1. Thanks Arjun!
    @ Shivam: I wish the 'true' India gets back the respect it is losing.


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