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.
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:
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:
Buddha at Saranath with his five disciples setting the wheel of Dharma rotating
The artists at Banaras ghat
Some of the movies made by him in this unconventional aspect of paper cutting are :
To know more about his paper cutting works , pls visit his site :papercuttingart