Kumhar Gram

Kumhar Gram of Delhi – will its art and tradition die out soon?

Kumhar Gram of Delhi is perhaps the last surviving art eco-system of the city and may die out soon.The potters of this ‘village’, who make lamps, diyas and other pottery items for the city folk are on the verge of extinction. Can we reverse this culture ‘extinction’?

Kumhar Gram
These creations from Kumhar Gram fetch very high prices in the foreign markets

Last Sunday, I took a trip to this enclave that lies within the somewhat ‘ modern’ colony of Uttam Nagar. Accompanied by some researchers from the Sharda University, I was astonished at seeing the mental inertia of the potters of the Kumhar Gram.

Kumhar Gram- where time stands still

 

Translated into English, Kumhar Gram means ‘ Village of Potters’. The word ‘village’ here stands out like a sore thumb for, this habitat is very much a part of the thriving metropolis of Delhi. But once you step inside this enclave, you can’t stop yourself thinking how much its residents have fallen behind the rest of their fellow Delhiites in terms of adoption of modern management techniques.

Pottery pieces
Drying out!

The Alwar connect

 

It was difficult tracking the Village headman, Harkishan Prajapati. He is not only the most noticeable face of this potter’s village, he is also a National Award winner. A master of this ancient craft, Prajapati is also considered as the founder of this village.

Kumhar Gram
Gods take shape

He came to Uttam Nagar in the early 1970s, and since then, this colony is now home to more than 500 families. Some of the residents of this village also belong to Haryana, which is a neighboring state of Delhi. Almost all the residents of this quaint area sport the surname, Prajapati.

The word, Prajapati, means Lord of People. This community of people believes that they are descendants of Lord Bramha, who is the Creator and the Master of this World.

Alwar is approximately 150 kilometers and is best known for its tigers.

Kumhar Gram
The girl and the clay

Ever since Prajapati made Uttam Nagar his home, he has been followed by several other potters who wanted to strike gold in the pottery making business.

Maybe you would like to read this article from Hindustan Times on this community- http://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/this-diwali-visit-kumhar-colony-and-light-up-a-potter-s-life/story-KjpBmBLy3fOYHt8MzfQ0BI.html

Initially, they did well, but with the numbers of potters in this colony swelling, competition among themselves is hurting them real bad.

Kumhar Gram
The finished product

Tough Competition

 

The potters here live cheek by jowl and this is perhaps the greatest barrier to their success. Buyers of their products who come from Dwarka and other neighborhoods from Delhi are able to drive a hard bargain with these sellers.

kUMHAR gRAM
Perfect Circles

‘There is little differentiation on offer here,’ rues Prajapati. People here are used to making the same style of diyas and other forms of pottery, he explains.

Kumhar Gram
Playing the game-A young boy takes a shot with his marbles.

Even though the potters spend a little fortune on making their superbly designed products, their average price realization is very low. Interestingly, the demand for these products shoots up during Diwali or the Festival of Lights. Domestic buyers don’t find value in what we lovingly make, laments Prajapati.

But the silver lining is that foreign buyers find these products delightful and reflective of Indian culture. The price that they get from international travelers coming to this part of Delhi is very attractive.So, the obvious strategy is that the potters of Kumhar Gram should look out for foreign buyers.

Too lazy

 

It is not that the Government of India has not encouraged the potters of this village from adopting new marketing practices. Prajapati’s wife is also a National Awardee. He has been sent abroad by the Government on several sponsored trips several times to showcase his products.

Kumhar Gram
Whiling away the time by gambling!

But Prajapati and his wife are exceptions here. Most of the people whom we spoke to were reluctant in taking part in Government sponsored workshops and training sessions.

‘There is little value in attending these sessions,’ says Ram Prakash. ‘We will have to shut down our factories for a day or two and we will lose business, ‘ he says.

Kumhar Gram
One of the ‘factories’ in Kumhar Gram

I think it is more about their mental inertia. Perhaps they think that the village headman will teach them this art and craft and make money. After all, Harkishan Prajapati is like the Moses of this community.

Modern Times at Kumhar Gram?

 

If you thought that the youth of this colony will take up this ancient art and craft of their ancestors, then perish this thought. Many of them want to join the swelling ranks of IT workers, Uber drivers and government employed peons. For them, pottery is a dying art with little revenue potential. It isn’t glamorous either for a generation that is very much into mobile phones, internet, cricket, and movies.

Kumhar Gram
Waiting for the customer!

Fortunately, several organizations are offering their helping hands to the Kumhar Gram community to make pottery more relevant and profitable in these modern times.

Monica from Sharada University wants to change the community’s attitude toward this dying art. Armed with a sheaf of papers and a pen, she goes from house to house in this village, convincing elders and youngsters to join a training program.

Kumhar Gram
That is Monica from Sharda University

‘The training program will help you find new markets and earn better profits, ‘ she explains to a bunch of curious onlookers. She repeats these lines many times as she visits houses and speaks to the ladies and men of this community. Monica is fairly successful in her efforts. More than 100 people consent to attending that training program, but she has doubts.

Kumhar Gram
Sonu and I

‘I wonder how many will actually pick up the phone when I call them up, ‘ she says. But, she is hopeful, nevertheless about the success of her mission.

Sonu, in the picture above, represents a young breed of potters who can revive this ancient art by making use of technology and new marketing platforms like Amazon and Flipkart.

His village has turned into a mini-tourist attraction for all those Delhiites who want to explore the city and move outside their air-conditioned cubicles. And therein lies another profitable opportunity.

Meanwhile, the potters of Kumhar Gram are still waiting for their Messiah to come and deliver them from their self -inflicted poverty.

Kumhar Gram reserachers
The team researchers from Sharda University

Would you be interested in contributing towards the welfare of the potters of Kumhar Gram?

Or would you like to buy some good quality pottery from this place? If yes, please write me an e-mail and I will connect you with some of the better-known potters here.

Thanks for reading this post.

 

Rajasthan offbeat destination

Rajasthan offbeat destination- Mesmerizing Menal awaits you

Rajasthan offbeat destination
                                                             Magnificent Menal

This  Rajasthan offbeat destination at Menal will simply floor you with its delights.

Dear readers, I have written  about another Rajasthan offbeat destination in one of my earlier posts as well but Menal is simply out of the world.

Menal is located roughly 90 kilometers from Chittorgarh  on the road to Bundi. It is also known as ‘Khajuraho of Rajasthan’. There is another great  Rajasthan  destination that has the same title- Jagat. When you reach Menal you will understand why this place makes you remember Khajuraho, this place is astoundingly beautiful.

Rajasthan offbeat destination

 

Menal is the corrupted form of ‘Mahanal’ or the ‘Great Gorge’. As you drive on the road from Kota towards the temple complex at Menal, you can hear the sound of a river rushing alongside. You simply cannot escape its roar. The river follows you as an invisible friend , hidden in the jungle that lines the road.

At Menal, the river descends 100 meters down with a deafening roar.After the descent, the water splits into a number of small streams that run over the granitic floor.

Rajasthan Offbeat Destination

At this Menal be prepared for a visual feast of verdant hills, water and a temple complex that is more than 1000 years old!The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva.

Rajasthan offbeat Destination
Nandi, the loyal secretary of Lor Dhiva

Experts say that this temple complex was built by the Chahmans or Chauhans. This was a dynasty that ruled large parts of Central and Western India. The king who made this temple was Someshwar. The main part of this temple complex is on the left bank of the gorge and was built by the king. His wife had a monastery built for the monks on the other side of the river. Her name was Suhavadevi and she belonged to the Shakambhari dynasty.

Rajasthan offbeat destination

 

The Menal complex has some amazing images of young ladies such as this one.

Rajasthan offbeat destination

The Khajuraho connect can be seen here

Rajastha offbeat destination
Carvings at the Mahanal Temple in Menal, Rajasthan, India, Asia

The Chauhans were ferocious fighters and were most of the times engaged in fratricide with fellow rulers. The most famous Chauhan was Prithviraj Chauhan who is considered by many as the king of Delhi and Ajmer. I have written a post on his fights with the king of Bundelkhand. Read it, you will like it.

What is the story of the ageless warrior of India

Menal is not known as a popular destination on the Rajasthan travel circuit. But I am sure that this quaint and pretty place gets its due attention from the travellers.

Rajasthan offbeat destination
The facade of the temple

How to reach Menal

Menal can be reached only through road. When you drive from Udaipur to Jaipur, take a detour to Kota from Chittorgarh. 10 kilometres from Chittorgarh, you will encounter another offbeat Rajasthan destination. Click here to know more about it. 

If you want to book hotels on the way, click on this Rajasthan Tourism website http://tourism.rajasthan.gov.in/ .

 

Delhi this December

Delhi this December- Discover the artist in you

Delhi this December
Can you see yourself here?

Delhi this December and for the rest of the winter season throws open its creative aspect to the numerous travelers coming to the city. If you are planning to visit India and stay in Delhi for a few days, this post will help you in exploring the unknown facets of Delhi.

While you can visit several bazaars, palaces and tombs in Delhi this December, you will be pleasantly surprised to know about the several gigs that help the artiste in you to surface. I was myself unaware of these literary ‘watering holes’ in Delhi till last year. To discover these places all you have to do is keep an eye on the events calendar- it is that simple.

1.Caferati at Antisocial- Budding poets and writers converge here every month’s last Wednesday and lay bare their souls and emotions to the assembled crowd. Participation is free but every participant must wrap up her gig in 2 minutes. For the literary inclined , it is a ‘must visit place ‘ in Delhi this December.

Delhi this December
Antisocial, Hauz Khas Village

Most of the guys here are novices and this gig in Delhi provides a platform to budding poets and writers to demonstrate their craft to Delhi. Antisocial is located on the second floor of the Hauz Khas Social restaurant in the HKV.

By the way guys and gals, this place gives an awesome view of the Hauz Khas lake.

  1. Chai Aur Chakallas- We went to this event last November and are longing to go there again. Chai aur Chakallas is definitely on our radar in Delhi this December  as well and we are just waiting for the dates to be announced . Last time the gig was hosted by Kunzum cafe and it saw more than 60 people turn up. Again, the time allotted was 2 minutes and the list of speakers was limited to just 20.
Delhi this December
Chat, sing, make friends- Kunzum Cafe

One of the travel poets is in full form here;

  1. Delhi Literary Festival- Last year, this event was hosted at the eponymous Dilli Haat. It saw several interesting speakers , publishers and even diplomats share their experiences, writings and other creative aspects. Publishing company representatives spoke about the opportunities for newbie  writers and novelists in an age of self publishing. Let us see what is the venue of this event in Delhi this December.

Watch this participant share her perspective of life in this presentation.

 

  1. The Great Indian Film and Literature Festival- This one promises to be an exciting event this December.Please note it is not being organised in Delhi. The venue is DLF Cyberhub. I hope to be here on December 3 this year. Are you planning to head here? Let me know.

 

Delhi this December
Poetry on Wheels

 

Do you know some other places where you can exploit your talent? Let me know. I shall feature those places in my next post.

 

Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds- Shortly at Regal Cinema in Delhi

Madame Tussauds
Credits- Youtube

Madame Tussauds, the eponymous wax museum in London that celebrates success by installing wax figurines of celebrities  comes to India in 2017, April. In India, it will be Delhi that will have the privilege to host the museum. It is interesting to note that one of the oldest buildings in New Delhi, the Regal Cinema will house the museum. India Travel Blog takes you through the history of Madame Tussauds  and Regal Cinema in this post.

History of Regal Cinema

The Regal Cinema building in Delhi is an apt place for Madame Tussaud’s for the simple reason that both the  two institutions are eminently British in origin and heritage.

Madam Tussauds
Regal Cinema, Delhi ,credits- India.com

The Regal cinema building came up in Delhi in 1931, a few years after the Connaught Place was set up by the English architects. The designer/ architect of Regal Cinema was Sir Sobha Singh. This Singh was once described as “adhi Dilli ka Malik” or owner of half of Delhi. Do you know that this cinema came up  right after the introduction of talking movies in the early 1930s?

Sobha Singh was quite a an influential person in his heydays. Besides being the creator of the Regal Cinema , he also made some parts of The Rashtrapati Bhawan, South Block, India Gate , Modern School, Dyal Singh College and the National Museum. Madame Tussauds has no less an impressive history. The originator of this world famous wax museum, Marie Tussaud  was born in 1761 in Strasbourg, France . The lady has the honour of making the wax figurines of people like Voltaire , Benjamin Franklin and Rousseau.

The history of Connaught Place, now Rajiv Chowk is no less interesting. The site of this famous Delhi landmark was earlier occupied by jungles and villages. It was only after several rounds of persuasion and force that the villagers left their homes and settled elsewhere. Today, the site is covered with colonial styled buildings and stores. Connaught Place is ranked as the fifth most expensive market in the world.

Not surprising that Madame Tussauds is coming to Delhi and occupying a piece of the bygone British era architecture.

 

 

 

Indian music

The Amazing All Sanskrit Rock Band

So, you thought Sanskrit is a dead language?Think again.

Last week, I had the opportunity of sitting through an amazing performance of an all Sanskrit rock band.Yeah, you read it right.The young people in the troupe sang in Sanskrit with the accompaniment of guitar,tabla, dholak and the synthesizer.

Indian Music
Dhruva- World’s one and only Sanskrit band

This is the only band in the world that sings in Sanskrit and is led by Dr. Sanjay Dwivedi who is all of 31 years of age.The name of the band is Dhruva and the word is Sanskritic.The term ‘Dhrupad” owes its origin toi the word Dhruva.Dhrupad, as we all know is as old as the Vedas, probably more than 4000 years old and as we all know, is a world famous music style.

The band sung a couple of compositions of Adi Shankaracharya and I hope you will like it greatly.I must confess I am a video amateur so, the video here is somewhat shaky.

Ah, here is the youtube link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU6Uk5FAS6M&feature=youtu.be

In the mean time, please enjoy the pictures.

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Pragati Maidan Sanskrit Jam
The response was enthusiastic

 

I am sorry for the extremely short length of this post.

Thanks for reading this post.

Great places to hangout in Delhi

Wondering which place to hangout in Delhi?Welcome to this post that takes you through some of the amazing events of Delhi.

Your India travel itinerary would be incomplete without touching base in Delhi and heading off to a marvellous place called Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts on the Janpath.

Janpath is a short distance away from Rajiv Chowk or Connaught Place, the heart of Delhi and you will have to take a cab to reach that place.Else, put up your backpack and simply walk down to this amazing place.

As part of my India Travel Blogs, this post is dedicated to the art and craft of India.

Fun, all the way

Have you heard about  Swang? Well, it is a dance cum drama form that tells a short story and the participants or characters are dressed in disguise. Often, the stories are mythological in nature or are legends. However, of late, the stories have become more social oriented.

This dance   is about a young married woman who is unhappy because her husband is away. She is not interested in her worldly possessions. Notice the riot of colours in this dance performance.However, I must admit, the dance is so full of vigour that the lady does not look disappointed!

A Canadian woman joins in the fun!

swayamt.wordpress.com
A young visitor from Canada cannot hold herself from having some fun!

 By the way all the characters are all men! Enjoy the dance by clicking on the link below;

I had my own share of fun when I decided to have a selfie with a participant.Click on the link below this image to enjoy some thrilling dance moves!

Hello, world!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXWdd5HNOxk&feature=youtu.be

Swang as a dance form is immensely popular in North India.

From Nagaland with love!

From North India let us swing to the North Eastern part of the country.Featured below is a Naga dancer in his  attire.Click this link to enjoy the performance.In fact, some of our people like the Nagas resemble the Native American people !

Nagaland is famous for its own Hornbill festival, so if you plan to stay on in India for a very long time, Nagaland is the place to go to!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hBSED-nE5c&feature=youtu.be

#HauntinglyBeautifulIndia
A Naga dancer in his costume

Colours of Rajasthan

Northwest India, though a tough place to live in , has some very colourful people and one of the states that I am taloking about is Rajasthan.I wandered into an artiste dressed up as Ravana, one of the central figures of Ramayana, one of the greatest epics of the world. This Ravana is sporting some really cool shades.

You also run into a serene  but smiling Krishna, the central figure from Mahabharata, the other great epic of India and the world. Mr. Akram, from Jaipur plays the role of Lord Krishna and is waiting for his performance to begin.Even as I speak, he doesn’t abandon his beatfic smile, probably that is why, he has landed up this plum role.

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The Indian Classic

If I did not share with you the breathtaking performance of of our South Indian people, I would be doing injustice to this post.An image  of the popular dance form of Bharatnatyam!Bharatnatyam

Bharatnatyam is one of the ancient dance forms of the world.

Enjoy this dance by clicking on this link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-jJp-TGEp8&feature=youtu.be

And speaking of Rajasthan, how can we miss out talking about its puppets and their stories.Meet Mr. Raj Kr. Bhat who runs Shahil Dance Group and is a traditional folk artist.He is available at 8860747834.His youtube link is 49281welcomedance_anilbhatt .Here is him. I wanted to photograph his entire family but, traditions got the better of them and they refused to get photographed!

#HauntinglyBeautifulIndia

He is a kind soul and I wish him all the good luck in this world.040

Also, savour this; a group of young children trying to recycle used paper and stationery into something useful!

#HauntinglyBeautifulIndia

A mannequin bings life to a saree

The Indian Monalisa |Painting |Fashion

A gripping tale of an Indian queen who launched a thousand ships of fashion conscious Indian women!

 

Dear readers, I would like to thank Mr Dayal Singh Silari for inspiring me to write this post. Thank you , Mr Singh!

Coming to the subject directly, the state of Rajasthan of India has not just contributed towards the rich history of the country in terms of heroic and hauntingly beautiful tales of valour and romance. It has had a rich heritage of cultural past too in terms of art, music and dance.

This post is about our own Indian Monalisa who has inspired a line of jewellery and sarees.

The kings of Rajasthan were Rajputs and like many other kings of India had several maids as well. Most of these maids were girlfriends or concubines, actually. Called dasees or golees, these  ladies had a significant influence over the affairs of the state and they have left behind some really hauntingly beautiful, often tragic , tales of their lives. One such take has been shared in my earlier post on the Mughal emperor Jahandar Shah and his girlfriend, Lal Kunwar.

Today, we will talk about Bani Thani. She was the mistress of Raja Savant Singh of Kishangarh, a small kingdom in Rajasthan sandwiched between Ajmer and Jaipur. We are talking about the mid 18th century.

Let us understand the historical context of this period to appreciate this context.

After a relentless struggle spanning 7 centuries against the Turk and other Muslim invaders, the Rajputs had exhausted their physical vigour and one Raja after the other was constructing some extremely luxurious palaces like in Jaipur and Udaipur. Their principal foes, the Mughals were also decaying. It was a period to celebrate life for the well off Rajput Rajas.

It was in this context that Satwant Singh picked up the paint brush and made Bani Thani as his muse. As is evident from the picture, the lady had sharp facial features and prominent  and expressive eyes. The Raja went on to paint extensively on his subject Bani Thani.

Bani Thani means in Hindi bejewelled and bedecked.

The subjects of Kishangarh started to see the Raja and his muse as Lord Krishna and Radha ji. Lord Krishna is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

The Raja became known by various names like Nagari Das and his muse by Kalawanti.

Over a period of time, this style of painting came to be called as Kishangarh style of painting.
The name Bani Thani today is much popular among the North Indian ladies. Shops selling wedding trousseau call their products Bani Thani.  Today, this noun has become an adjective! So much so for the popularity of the Kishangarh school of painting!

This Bani Thani is our own Indian Monalisa and has inspired a line of Bani Thani sarees and jewellery, over the years.

 

Is’nt it a hauntingly beautiful tale of romance?