“Art Is Craft, Not Inspiration”
Chandua is an art culture that came into being around the 12th century, under the reign of Maharaja Birakshore of Puri, who ordered the local people or artisans to make stitched cloth or garments to offer Lord Jagannath. They started creating apparel, cloth, and even paperwork in their style, which gave rise to a new type of art culture in the town of Pipili.
The town of Pipili is located around 40 kilometers from Puri, Odisha. It is a small town whose income is based on the sale of these accessories. The irony is that the village derived its name from the Pir (the holy Muslim saints) but the work they do is used for Hindu temples. This shows the diverse culture of the Indian Artisans. Before, they used to make only umbrellas or chhatti and canopies which were used during the Ratha Yatra. Later, the culture evolved and they made their new arts a part of their lifestyle.
They patented making embroideries, a craft that consists of creating colorful decorations using ribbons, glass, mirrors, paper, cotton cloths, velvet, thread, and more, which they started selling not only for rituals but also as household products. They used their skill to create works that resemble flowers, birds, patterns, and stories of the Oriya history, all of which was reflected in the variety of products, such as lampshades, bed sheets, wall hangings, shamianas, purses, wallets, sarees, etc.
Even though the town is small and remotely located, it has become a major tourist attraction as people across the world come here to get to know the people and their work. Some of them have largescale workshops where they are produce works of art to send abroad, while others have a combined workspace and shop where they make and sell products. The area of the town is not much in square kilometers, but it has both kaccha and pakka houses, which creates the feeling that people have been living in the place for many generations and they are truly skilled in what they are doing.
One can easily identify the houses where the work is going on, as they have decorated the outside walls in and unique and colorful way, either with paintings of flowers or sculptures. The shops open at 10 or 11 am and closes by 8 or 9 pm. There are a few sweet shops in the locality where Goja and Chena Poda (traditional sweets made in Odisha) are widely available, but the main area is filled with applique and embroidery shops.
Due to the current situation caused by the pandemic, the economy of this unique market has been ruined. Most workshops are now closed and there aren’t many shops left open. Even the number of tourists is less, thus the market area is not congested. Through this series, I just wanted to show a glimpse of the artisans’ lives.
Today this art can be seen in weddings, shopping malls, and other consumer products. For generations, the Pipili people have dedicated themselves to this and they are still embracing the culture, which depicts folklore and mythologies. It is deep-rooted with Indian tradition and heritage. Its historical origin with the depiction of religion and customs are a part of the Indian legacy. It is one of many nearly extinct art forms, which is still alive thanks to its impeccable nature and beauty.
Pipili holds the 2004 Limca Book of records for the world’s largest thematic applique work at 177 feet long that represents India’s struggle for independence. It is my pleasure to be one of the many, who could showcase its beauty.