Channapatna toys to Ghewar: Meet Hunar Haat artisans who have kept centuries-old artforms alive

Hunar Haat presents a look of a mini-India. Dance, music, and sumptuous food from various states add to the fervor. On the other side, stalls with over 700 artisans are selling various handicraft items.

By Amrutha Kosuru  Published on  3 March 2022 6:07 AM GMT
Channapatna toys to Ghewar: Meet Hunar Haat artisans who have kept centuries-old artforms alive

In a bright lip corner at the Hunar Haat expo was Shiva's eye-catching leather puppetry, paintings, and lamps heads. Hailing from Nimmalakunda Village of Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur District, Shiva was selling the lesser-known leather puppetry items.

"The art was first introduced by Krishna Devarayulu in the 15th century. The art of leather puppetry (tholu bommalaata) was used in puppet shows- especially to tell mythological stories. "However, puppet shows have decreased drastically. Only a handful of people know then," Shiva explained.

Although Nimmalakunta's Leather Puppetry got a Geographical Indication Tag in 2008, there are very few people who are even aware of the art form. Once a thriving art form, now only a handful of the families in the village can make it, Shiva said.

"Even though the art forms' specialty is puppetry, our income mainly comes from wall art and lamp heads," Shiva said.

Nevertheless, Shiva and his family continue to make mythological puppetry designs.

The art form is made using synthetic leather. The leather is dipped in water and dried in the sun for days together to soften it. "We try to incorporate parts and pieces of mythological stories and characters on all the art form we do. It often takes a month to take make one A4-sized wall art. However long it takes, the result is worth it," he said.

A Class 12 dropout, he opted to continue his family's artwork due to his love for it.

Hunar Haat is a cultural exhibition that is currently ongoing at the NTR Stadium. The place is home to several affordable and exquisite items. From clothes to furniture, toys to food, the place is full of artisans from across the country.

It presents a look of a mini-India. Dance, music, and sumptuous food from various states add to the fervor. On the other side, stalls with over 700 artisans are selling various handicraft items.

Eco-friendly furniture

On another side, an environmental-friendly cane and bamboo products shop from Assam makes it a unique fare. "This art form and trade has been a part of our family for generations. My mother taught it to me and I taught it to my daughter," said Ruby Ahmed (53) a craftswoman who excels in the art of cane and bamboo.

Ruby explained that due to the abundant availability of cane and bamboo in Assamthis art form is popular. Her shop has a plethora of cane baskets, bamboo woven bags, mats, and cane furniture. "Every single item takes several days and at times, more than a month to make," she explained.

Ruby said that a lot of synthetic material bags are being manufactured at different places. "These products look like cane or jute material. But they are not," she explained.

She said that those products are priced cheaply and hence when she is asking for a nominal price now at the Hunar Haat exhibition, her customers feel like it is too much.

"People keep bargaining and ask the products for a very low price," Ruby explained adding that many people fail to understand that all her products are intricately handwoven.

Channapatna Toys

Channapatna toys were a favorite at Hunar Haat. Syed and Rehman, brothers from Ramnagar in Karnataka, deal with handmade toys. While the two do not have much formal education, they have dedicated their entire life to making and selling the famous Channapatna toys

. "No matter how old we are, toys will keep playing a huge role in our lives," Syed explained.

Syed said that thanks to the GI tag, a lot of people place bulk orders.

"As per local stories, this art form dates back to Tipu Sultan's rule. He had brought foreign toymakers to train trained local artisans," Syed said.

Syed said that Channapatna toys now specialize in making Russian dolls as well.

The most sought-after item in their shop wasn't a toy or a decorative item, but the dice game which Krishna and Shakuni play in Mahabharat. "We around 50 pieces and almost all of them are sold out," the brothers said. The game set consists of a dark green and blue cloth along with mini-wooden soldiers and a pair of dice.

Contemporary Art

A few shops away from Syed's was Jaribana Art by Vipool Jepiwala

Vipool is an interior designer who began making his form of contemporary art during the pandemic. He uses 'zari', one that is finely powdered as his art medium. "I am from Surat. And I have always been into art since I was young," Vipool said.

He explained that he had always been a fan of the contemporary art form that uses unique art mediums. "I have experimented with various mediums throughout my life. During the pandemic, I got more space and time to experiment. And then one day I thought of using Zari powder. I think this kind of art is the first of its kind," Vipool said.

Vipool first outlines his art- which is mostly portraits, which charcoal pencil. After this, he carves some areas out and applies glue. The zari powder is used as an alternative to paint or any other medium. Ranging from Rs 600 to Rs 2000, several of his paintings were put up on display.

A taste of Ghewar

Greeting you with a sumptuous 'Ghar ka ghee' aroma is a Gujarati food store run by G Kalpesh and others. At Hunar Haat, he is selling Ghewar, Jalebi, and several other food items.

Ghewar is a traditional Rajasthani dish that is popular in several parts of North and West India. Even though Kalpesh is not from Rajasthan or a Marwadi, he loves Ghewar so much that it became a crucial part of his food and catering business in Surat.

"Usually, people back in my home are used to having Ghewar's that are the size of an adult hand. But around 30 years ago, I began making small Ghewars that fit in a pani puri cup," he explained.

Kalpesh said that his small Ghewar cups became so famous that everyone would insist to have the sweet on any occasion.

Ghewar is a crispy, porous sweet. Firstly, a good amount of ghee is fried in the oil. This crispy form is dipped in sugar or jaggery syrup before garnishing it with rabdi or malai.

The Hunar Haat expo will continue till March 6. It is a platform for local artisans to showcase their products.

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