Across India’s craft clusters there is one thing common – variety, and then some more. Raghurajpur is an Artisans Hamlet, just outside of Jagannath Puri, Odisha. Here, every home is a crafts workshop where artisans are practicing generations’ old craft forms such as stone carving, wood carving, pattachitra painting, papier mache toy-making, palm leaf engraving amongst others.
Amidst the verdant mango and coconut groves, Raghurajpur almost looks like a step back in time. As we walked past each home, we were pursuaded by artisans to come take a peak and pick up souvenirs.
Some of the craftspeople had a highly skilled level of expertise and others were wanting for more finesse and attention to detail, some of the objects were utilitarian, others had old-world charm and some others were totally out of sync.
Undoubtedly, a lot of these craft objects need to be made relevant to today’s times to make the artisan’s livelihood and the craft heritage itself, sustainable. Historically, artisan communities developed objects of daily use by inferring the utilitarian and aesthetic needs of their customers as they all lived in close vicinity.
Over the years, the artisan and the consumer have moved further away from each other and today there a lacuna in understanding the utilitarian needs and aesthetic sensibilities of the modern day customer.
Here are a few pictures, they do little justice to the variety of craft forms at Raghurajpur, but is representative.
Miniature stone-carving temple of Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra step 1
Miniature stone-carving temple of Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra step 2
Miniature stone-carved temple of Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra… ready!
Tribal paintings on a Tussar silk saree: intricate and painstaking
The pallu of the saree
Work in progress: wooden deities
The exterior walls of homes decorated with murals