“All these trust to their hands:
And everyone is wise in his work.
Without these cannot a city be inhabited.” – Ecclesiasticus
The first thing that comes to mind when we think about the famous Rath Yatra, held annually in Puri, Odisha are the brightly coloured chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, the colourful umbrellas or chhati that is used to protect lord from the sun and the rain. That is how the saga of Chandua art (Appliqué) began.
“Appliqué”, which is a French term, is a technique in which the decorative effect is obtained by superposing patches of colored fabrics on a basic fabric. What actually began as a craft among a small set of people to serve and decorate the lord during festivals evolved into one of Odisha’s top handicrafts. Today, one can see them in temples, at weddings and even at shopping malls and centres as commonly used consumer products. And the place that functions as the headquarters of this traditional Indian Appliqué work is Pipili, a small village that is situated in the old route connecting Bhubaneswar to Puri and Konark.
The village of Pipili derives its name from “Pirs”, the holy Muslim saint who lived in the region. Both Hindus and Muslims participate in the making and trading of appliqué craft. But, the craft was used in Hindu Temples, especially the Puri Jagannath Temple. Therefore, Pipili has went on to become the fountainhead of secular kinship and communal harmony. Be it for Car Festival, Snana Jatra, Chaitra Festival, Ekadash or the Darji Seva, these artisans weaved their creative magic almost everywhere. And it was for this growing importance, the then Kalinga Emperor awarded a piece of land at today’s Pipili to these artisans so that the art could flourish.
These artisans and craftsmen have flourished through some eye catching designs and beautiful products. Gods, animals, birds, flowers, leaves, circles and triangles… think of anything and the adept artisans will stitch your imagination onto fabric in no time. Be it wedding canopies, umbrellas, shoulder bags, hand bags, wall hangings, lamp shades, bed sheets, wooden products or more, their traditional motifs and designs are quite popular with locals and tourists, alike.
The work is mostly designed by the women in the villages. The finished products are sent to local tailoring units in Pipili and then to wholesale dealers. It ends up as a beautifully designed stuff in shops. The market place appears as a distinct heaven of colours.
The traditional work includes Shamiana or Canopies that are extremely popular at Indian weddings and during festivals, the Chhati or the big umbrella also used during religious festivals. The traditional colors include red, green, black and yellow and the traditional motifs are sun, moon, flowers and other elements of the nature like elephants, peacocks, lotus, among others.
This famous place has also etched its name in the Limca Book of Records to have manufactured the “Longest Thematic Appliqué Work” of 54 meters in the 2004.
So, the next time, you see an interesting appliqué work at a wedding, shop or on the television or internet, do think of Pipili. And if this place really fascinates you, you should definitely visit the quite village located close to four hotspots of Odisha, namely Bhubaneswar, Puri, Konark and Chilika Lake.
You never know, it might become one of your cherished holidays, ever.