The objectives of the Akshara project are: To enable craftspeople to appreciate a new facet of being literate by exploring their own scripts and cultural stories through their traditional craft skills. To use calligraphy in design to encourage non-literates to embrace literacy and explore the idea of crafting the written word. To develop a series of artistic works, in a variety of materials, embellished with regional scripts, through a collaborative process between experienced designers/guides and expert craftspersons.To demonstrate how the marvels of a computer and the principles of graphic design can combine with indigenous alphabets to highlight their many dimensions.To promote appreciation and interest in the diverse regional scripts of India.
Each is part of one wedding, connected by the tree spreading through all three pieces, but the characters of bride, groom and others perform different ceremonies on each table. The words of three different songs, sung traditionally on these three occasions, are hidden within the leaves of the tree on that particular table. The words of these songs in the Maithili dialect are recorded here in Ambika Devi’s personal Devanagari style along with her art. For a woman to write is in itself a new development in Bihar’s rural areas. That the writings can be merged seamlessly with the painting is a new discovery for the artist.
The State of Assam claims to have the largest number of home-based looms in the country. The graceful tradition of honouring a guest with a handwoven scarf sustains the skill of handloom weaving and helps it to retain its relevance. The typically red and white gamcha, as it is locally known, has many uses. It is a shoulder scarf, a headscarf, a towel, a garland and, as in this exhibit, a prayer scarf. The words woven in an unusual geometric layout are hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare / hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare. These kinds of sacred textiles are part of an ancient namavali tradition in which the repeated name of gods on a cloth imbues it with a sacredness that allows the user to visibly express their devotion. These cloths can also be used to cover prayer tables and are regularly used by priests and pilgrims.
He created scenes rooted in the culture of Bengal and in the daily chores of all rural women. The sequence lent itself naturally to a simple story for a child to read and enjoy. Bahadur had earlier believed it was enough just to know how to sign his name. He had studied till the fourth class and found no use for the written word.
A little-known narrative expresses the sentiments of the people of the Mithilanchal belt of Bihar - the birthplace of the goddess Sita. It traces the agony, grief and emotions of the common people as they lament the series of tragic events of Sita’s story from her birth to her return to the womb of Mother Earth. The narrative is based on a Maithili folk song sung by the people of this region that cuts across communities. It echoes the deep-rooted sentiments of a fisherman, a shepherd and a potter who wish Sita had been born in their families. It describes how they would have nurtured and cherished her and would have got her married to “a good man” who would have kept her by his side forever - in trust, respect and love, none of which they feel she experienced in her marriage to Rama, the king of Ayodhya.
The Madhushravanifestival or puja is an important festival observed in Mithilanchal, Bihar. It is celebrated in the month of Shravan (July - August) for 13 consecutive days and ends on Shravan Shukla Tritiya with elaborate prayers and feasting. It represents the arrival of the monsoon season and is observed by married women of this area. During this festival, women worship Gauri, the Shanti Kalash, Surya, Chandrama, the Navagraha and several Nagas such as Nag dampati, Bairasi along with his hundred brothers, Chanai, Kusumawati, Pingla, Lili, Gosauni nag with seven sisters, and lastly Shasthi or Sathi. An elaborate aripana is an integral part of this puja. Legendary stories are an important part of the rituals usually recited by the older married ladies of the household. The layout of the embroidered piece dedicated to this festival was first done on paper after which small pieces of cloth were cut into the required shapes and appliquéd on to the base cloth. The Maithili song sung at this festival is embroidered along the lower part of the line of images.
In Swain’s story in a series of nine modules, the astrologer releases a caged parrot and teaches it how to select cards that add up to telling a person’s fortune, rather like Chinese fortune cookies. ”. The pictures convey the message that education is liberating and can help in earning a good livelihood. A humorous subtext is in the lighthearted mocking of most popular forms of astrological predictions, which are reassuring clichés that insecure people seek.
In one, she reproduces Tagore’s bird with needle and thread. She replicates through embroidery the bird drawn by Tagore in a notebook when he was Buenos Aires in 1924 along with a poem that begins, hey bideshi phil meaning "O foreign flower" and ends with the word prabhat, "dawn". The blue sari with the bird and human face woven quite unintentionally in reverse, by Ramanand Basak, has parts of Tagore’s poem titled Chadibhati meaning "picnic”, written in 1937.
Image: Jaya Jaitly, Charu Verma, Kabambari and the artisans featured.
Text: Jaya Jaitly
Video and Film Editing: Anupa Dasgupta