Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Master-Craftsmen of Kotpad

Still on the way to Kotpad weekly tribal market... we stopped at the village of Kotpad, not far from the market itself. This was the home of Govardhan Panika, master weaver of Tussar Silk. Panika is a tribal weaver, weaving cloth from wild silk cocoons (tussar) collected from nearby forests. He has won the President's Award for excellence in hand loom weaving. Here he is, working at his loom...
Tussar silk is quite unlike traditional silk - it is coarse and colored. It is produced from a variety of wild cocoons collected in the forest, not those of the cultivated silk worm, which I covered in a previous post. Panika showed us his raw material... here is a tussar cocoon (the small hard, brown, round thing, very different from the elegant soft white things we had seen previously at the Ramnagram cocoon market). The brown ropy stuff is the wild silk produced from those cocoons, the white stuff is raw cotton, which is admixed with the silk for patterns, and those rock like things are solidified resins from trees, which are crushed and used as dye.
Here are another couple of pictures of Govardhan Panika at work. Here, he is demonstrating how he uses red-dyed cotton to produce knots in the weave, which produces the patterns.


And here is Panika showing us his latest work. The red work on the left is what fetched him his President's Award.
That awarded cloth was a little too pricey for our budget, but Blandine bought two other pieces...


Here is the master craftsman, showing a treasured picture of him receiving the award from the then President of India, Abdul Kalam.
We also stopped at another village, a village of jewelers. Here they produce the trinkets which we were to see in the tribal markets.
Blandine bought some trinkets here... we also spent time talking to them about their life. They don't speak English or Hindi, just Oriya and a tribal dialect. Luckily, Oriya is sufficiently close to Bengali, my mother tongue, that I could converse with them. I spoke to them in Bengali and they replied in Oriya, and we understood each other more or less perfectly.

 The lovely lass in the picture is the jeweler's daughter. She surprised us by speaking perfect English and Hindi! She had been going to Kotpad school until some years ago, when her father made her pull out because of all the maoist incidents. We urged her to continue studying, taking help of correspondence course if necessary.

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