One of my favorite blog post on TRHS; I have read this many a times and each time I imagine the situation I control my thoughts of picturing Sensei wiping off the hard work. I just feel reluctant to picturize it.
However, this Diwali, on my trip to Baroda I met a group of Rangoli artists who reminded me of the the well trained monks and carried a zestfulness that is rarest to find. During my stay there, my relatives mentioned to me that there is this very famous Rangoli exhibition in a hall nearby and that we would be going there. They spoke of it very highly and that it was something that they didn’t miss out from past 5-6 years. With a mix of curiosity and eagerness and a tinge of confusion I readily agreed. I had seen a variety of rangolis since my childhood and didn’t quite understand how this particular one was exceptional.
However, that evening upon entering the hall, what held my eyes as I entered was simply breathtaking. I stood still upon sighting the first picture that welcomed me; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I literally went blank for a few seconds. Unique, impeccable and brilliant rangoli design adorned a 6×4 wooden board slightly raised by around twenty degrees. There were a total of about 15 such boards each on different themes. Mesmerizing rangolis of human figures; evident of giving life to a dying art! Each of them had articulately captured human emotions so beautifully that one could actually feel the designs come out live. They depicted intricate aspects such as creases on the shirt and the wrinkles on the face that could blow off one’s imagination. Recalling the 2D effects like the shadow falling on a person’s face or a slightly raised carpet, I seriously fall short of words to describe the eye candy. (Reminder, these are done using only color powders.)
So, before I made the final exit, I was deeply convinced that I needed to write about this. I decided to meet the artists to understand their work better. A bunch of super talented individuals from humble backgrounds, their love for their work left me highly impressed. Following my conversation with Mr. Abhay Gadkari (Hon. Secretary & Treasurer) below is a synopsis.
Established in 1985, this group of Rangoli artists decided to form the Swastik Rangoli group. Gifted with a brilliant colour sense and an inborn talent of twisting their fingers to produce wonderful images all of them had almost nearly 3+ decades of experience in this field. Starting out at very young age all of them greatly enjoyed putting rangoli designs in front of their houses on a routine basis. Their handiwork always stood out and got them a lot of appreciation. As is believed, birds of the same feather flock together; these 6 folks came across each other and gradually decided to work collectively to start exhibiting their work. They had noticed that the art was getting forgotten as large courtyards in front of houses were being replaced by large apartments. They wanted to keep alive the Rangoli tradition while also making art understandable to the general public. Initially to showcase their work they faced a lot of monetary issues and shelled out money from their own pockets. However, of late they have been getting sponsorship advertisements. They have also gone international including New Zealand, London and Dubai and have returned with a lot of acclaim. The New Zealand government had given Abhay an all expenses paid trip invitation twice (in 2002 & 2003) to display the Rangoli art during Diwali Festival organized for the Indian community there, apart from also asking him to conduct workshops in Wellington & Auckland.
The designs are made using coloured river bed sand and marble scrap powder as a medium. First, they draw the picture using a glass marking pencil and then start filling it in with different hues. The only tools that they use are their fore finger and thumb! In the market there are 22 major colors available, but after mixing in various proportions they get 100+ shades to bring out the required effect.
In 1993 they met the then Maharaja of Baroda Late Ranjitsing Gaekwad seeking for a place to show their rangoli paintings. And since then have been regular exhibitors during Diwali at Kirti Mandir, the cenotaph of the Gaekwads. This place has been attracting huge crowds now to the tune of around 4000 visitors daily making it very popular and synonymous with Diwali festivity celebrations. Unlike others for whom Diwali means going out on vacations and enjoying with families, for the Swastikites it simply means to bring smiles on people’s faces via their creations. They receive whole hearted support from their own kinsmen who come along and help them with managing and organizing the whole thing. They volunteer at the ticket windows and also for crowd control. I can’t forget the pride in the daughter’s eyes when she mentioned that she is so happy and grateful to be celebrating the festival of lights in a manner that not everyone can.
Two months prior to the annual exhibition, there is a brainstorming session to zero down on what each of them would be depicting for the current season. They usually pick up trending topics and subjects that common people can relate to. With images from magazines or other media as reference they then transfer the images on the boards. Using the rough surface of the board for their work they sit in the air tight room for around 17-18 hours daily to get out their master pieces of the year.
It takes approximately 70-80 hours to make one piece of art.
Hearing this made me pop up the subsequent question regarding the removal process to which he candidly smiled and said “4 seconds.” One has to simply raise the board a little and the (un)desired result is got. Destruction is always easier than creation! However, he was quick to mention that they make the whole process a celebration involving their near ones and ask the children to go around creating the much needed mess.
The whole process in 3 pictures
Unlike other paintings, this form of art cannot be sold because of the temporality of the medium. Therefore the economics just doesn’t work to make it their bread and butter profession. And, despite that they have been at it religiously for 29 years now purely out of the bliss they derive from seeing people enjoy. They also charge a minimal entry fee of Rs. 20 to help cover the rent, electricity and security expenses.
Abhay swears by his 3P formula; Practice + Patience = Perfection
In one of his previous exhibitions, Abhay had made an image of Hrithik Roshan. Amidst our conversation, he showed me the hero’s picture in his mobile and asked me to find what was wrong with the same. Obviously apart from just admiring the green eyed’s handsome face and the artists wonderful remake I was clueless to find a fault. I answered nothing and said – “maybe you asked the wrong person.” (Come to think of it, I always thought I was one of the craziest fans of that Bollywood Greek God).
Now I throw the same question to all the readers. Have a look at the picture and let me know if you can spot the error. (P.S. – answer will be updated after 3 days; till then throw your guesses while I look around for a prize)
(31 Oct. update – Answer in the comments.. u can keep guessing till you reach that section)
My Biggest Lessons
- Getting family support almost always makes it easier to pursue one’s dreams or entrepreneurial ambitions. So it becomes essential that first you win the trust of your immediate family while being 100% honest and then enjoy the huge difference you see in your life, both emotionally and practically. Selling the idea to them on their terms and keeping in mind their perspectives is perhaps the key.
- Be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies. The minute aspects are always taken away than the major ones. We were accompanied by two elderly members and just as we joined the long queue awaiting our turns, we suddenly saw one of the artists approaching us. He came up to us and gently mentioned that for the aged there are no queues and guided them directly inside the hall.
- Every artist comes with an expiry date but the dedication to his art flows seamlessly through many generations.
- Passion goes beyond everything – beyond criticism, rejection, mood swings, likes & dislikes, and every other emotion that can interrupt.
My diary that day ended with these letters in BOLD – If you can’t embrace failure happily, then you probably still haven’t found your passion.
Their cherished wish is that this art be taken to the UNESCO to be considered as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of India.
You can check out their website.
Mr. Abhay Gadkari can be also be reached on +91 9925048961.