Sunday, 13 March 2016

O N C E  U P O N  A  T I M E ...

by Hina Nitesh


Who doesn't like stories especially when they start with 'Once upon a time...' There is so much that can happen after this short introduction... Stories that remain with us for long are often ones that are told in an interesting manner. Picture book, puppets, animation, enacting, voice modulation etc are the many popular ways in which children enjoy stories. Are the stories only for children? Maybe today, but there was a time when stories were told to a big group where age was not an issue.

KAVAD

Source: www.theindiacrafthouse.com


One of the traditional forms of story telling from Rajasthan, India is the Kavad. This 500-year old tradition uses all the nuances of story telling that the present day story tellers use. Two people were involved in this form of narration. One is the Kavadia Bhatt, the wandering priest who would go from village to village to recite the stories and the other is the craftsman who would make the Kavad. 


Source: www.maaticrafts.com

Kavad is a painted wooden box made to look like a temple and is carried by the story teller - it is like a mobile temple. The story teller would use this as a prop to tell stories of popular characters like Gods and Kings and their bravery. The interesting thing about this hand crafted box is that it is in layers with  multiple panels are joined together with hinges. There can be as many as ten panels in one kavad.

Source: www.womenexclusive.co.in

The scenes of the story are illustrated with bright natural colors. The performance starts with a small prayer to Gods and Goddesses asking for blessings for a long and prosperous life. After this the Bhatt starts singing the story and open the panels slowly one after the other as the plot is revealed. A peacock feather is used by the story teller to point at the story which he is reciting at the moment. How the story unfolds and what the kavad holds in its panels is a big mystery for the audience and the cause of attraction. 

Source: www.lokalart.com

This craft form finds its origins in the Kumavat caste of Bhilwara in Rajasthan. The box itself was made of the soft mango or adu wood which was carved and painted to make it look attractive. The inner most panel often has the image of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Kundana bai the patron Godess of the community is always illustrated hidden somewhere in the painting. 

Source: www.indianroots.com

The audience is taken on a spiritual journey with the Bhatt singing stories of the Gods and Goddesses. There are always morals and values to be learnt from these tales. These acts of story telling shaped and reinforced the religious beliefs of people and guided them on the right path.


Source: www.whatshot.in
Story telling was also the source of income for the Bhatts so at the bottom of the kavaad was a small drawer which he would open for money and people would put in whatever they could in it. 

Source: www.indianroots.com
Like many other craft forms, Kavaad too is dying. There are a handful of practitioners of the art left today. The craft which was passed on from father to son does not have many takers today. There are many reasons for this like since the coming of the television, there is little demand for these forms of entertainment.

Source: firsteditionarts.com

The only way the craft can survive is if it can be given a contemporary touch both in terms of the story that is narrated and the visuals that accompany it. An artisan from the community, Dwarka Prasad Jangid, is  trying to keep the art alive by giving it s contemporary twist. Meena ki Kahani, story of an educated girl who improves her family's standard of living and Jungle ki kahani based on eco-friendly living are the themes he has worked on. 

Source: www.google.com
Another example is Satyanarayan Suthar who has designed a kavad as a multipurpose cupboard which became an art piece too. The story it tells is that of the artist's journey. It uses the same colours as in a traditional piece but in a more contemporary manner leaving the bright blues and greens only to convey special actions. Kundana Bai is there as a symbol of  integration of past and present.

Source: www.kalaghodassociation.com

These are some of the efforts that are done to help this traditional art form can survive. Kavad can be adapted to contemporary style and be used as an engaging and interesting story telling medium.



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