January 18, 2010

A rare devotion ………………

In India, paper cutting art  is popularly  known as Sanjhi .   Sanjhi is an ancient art  originated from a traditional customs  of  Vaishnav sect of Hindu’s prevailing at that time (15th –16th century).   It is a traditional art of cutting stencils on paper used to make rangolis  in the worship of Lord Krishna in Braj Bhoomi ( Vrindavan, Mathura)  in Uttar Pradesh .  The predominant focus of the art has always been  “Leelas of Lord Krishna “ in its various forms.  The delicacy , intricate  craftsmanship of the art exhibits the artist’s supreme devotion and infinite  love for the lord.   It is believed that Radha and her friends (Gopis) used to decorate the aangans ( front yards ) of their houses  with Rangoli’s  to glorify their love towards Krishna . It seems that Sanjhi got its name from the word “Sanjh – ( Twill hour in english)  when these colorful rangolis made from paper cut stencils  were unveiled in the evening prayers  offered to Lord Krishna in the temples .  Every  morning  new depiction from Lord Krishna’s life was made  and unveiled in the evening . 

Even today, the Sanjhi art  is practiced in some of the temples in Vrindavan and Mathura .   One of the famous temple is “Radhavallabh Temple Vrindavan” . The traditional Sanjhi art involved sketching of the theme and  then cutting. These are mainly cut with very fine and slightly curved scissors.  Once the stenciled pattern is made , it can be filled with colorful stones, flowers , piece of mirror or dry powder color . 

                                                         Filling of colors with Sanjhi Stencil”


                                                                     (Image source : Craft revival trust)

The  most popular sanjhi  is filling with dry colors . The filling of colors in Sanjhi and lifting of the same has to be meticulously and impeccably done as the process  is as critical as cutting of the Sanjhi .   These intricate stencils are used in  many ways  - Rangoli on the mud platform ,  The submerged Sanjhi – i.e. rangoli  made  is viewed under the water , Rangoli floating on the water , etc.

                                                                          Sanjhi “ Sakhiyan”Sanjhi Utsav

                                                                            Sanjhi  “Jhula “Sanjhi Utsav

                                                                                    Sanjhi “Ras LilaSanjhi Utsav                                                                         Sanjhi on water - “Harivansh ji”  Sanjhi Utsav                                                    Sanjhi’s   Image Source : Radhavallabh Sanjhi Utsav

Would it not be  interesting to meet one of  the artist who is part of making amazing piece of art?  Vijay Kumar Soni , who has won the State Award for Craft Excellence in paper cutting/  rangoli making is   a Sanjhi cutter from Mathura  belongs to the family whose  seven generations  have been engaged in this  paper cutting art , making sanjhis for temples and houses as an offering to lord. Vijay works on his designs  with his family in the morning and around /after 4 pm , he leaves for an exclusive location  near the Mathuranath Mandir where his forefathers used to cut  Sanjhis . He uses papers, Copper sheets and plastic sheets depending on the need of his buyers for  Sanjhi stencils. Once  tradition , then passion and now also the profession for him,   He feels paper cutting art has come a long way. As per him , this paper cutting art has moved from temple craft to decoration craft now ,  Apart from making Sanjhi for temples , he makes wedding cards, Bindi, serving trays , etc using this art .  His passion remains the Sanjhi devoted to God as “thakur ji’s seva” .  As he said “ Sanjjhis are native to this soil, uski mehak kucch aur hai” Vijay’s traditional sanjhi’s are:

                                                “Radhe Krisha – Ras lila Paper cut Rangoliradhakrishna

                                                                                             “Kesh Lila “ keshlila

                   “ Sanjhi – Yamuna Ji”                                “Sanjhi – Vishnu Laxmi ji” yamuna ji wiht garland vishnu ji on sheshnag

In fact, now  Sanjhi art form again becoming popular and has found new  place in Commonwealth Games, New Delhi , 2010. The pictograms for all the 17 sporting segments of Commonwealth Games have been inspired by Sanjhi art. Bangalore-based design agency, Idiom  has created  these pictograms:


My post on Sanjhi would be incomplete if I do not mention about Shri Prabal Pramanik. He  is  a distinguished artist from  Bhamlada – Punjab, India specializes in various facets of paper art.  The passion for art brought him to Bhamlada leaving behind  life of luxury and comfort .  He is  a versatile artist in many medias ,- paper cuttings, color works , poetry  ,drawings and film making.  He is also an author of number of  books  on art .  Paper cutting art-works made by Prabal Pramanik are without any  tracing , sketching and complete theme is made out of single sheet of paper. He  has not only explored the Sanjhi art but also mastered the art through  his own efforts  thereby completely giving it modern look : An incredible style all his own.   His love for paper cutting art has gone one step further, he has animated paper cuttings thereby making animation movies from them.  He is the first person to use paper cuttings made without any drawing or tracing to make animation movie. His devotion and dedication has kept the dyeing paper cutting art of India alive  in modern times and brought many laurels and accolades from all parts of the world.   He is also running an academy in Bhimlada for the promotion of this art. 

Sanjhi art incorporated into his work in different ways:

                                                                     Gita GovindaGitagovinda2Rasa                                       

            Buddha at Saranath with his five disciples setting the wheel of Dharma rotating


                                                                   Mahishasuramardini Durga

document30 Silhouette paper cutting – Ladies with birds


                             The artists at Banaras ghat                       


Some of the  movies made by him in this unconventional aspect of paper cutting are :

                                                                              The Enchanted Palaceenchant                                                                   The cockroach and the lizardlizd                                                                                        PREM SETU

Radha                                                                    Hari prema gagane chira raka

haripremTo know more about his paper cutting works , pls visit his site :papercuttingart

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