Bhubhaneshwar, my trip in a nutshell – a jist of all that I did while in Odisha

About 30 kms from Bhubhaneshwar, I noticed the streets lined with shops on either side showing off beautiful colourful art pieces made of cloth.  I knew I had arrived in the town of Pipli. 
 Infact, this village was established by the King of Orissa/Maharaja Birakshore of Puri
 to accommodate the craftsmen who made appliqué work pieces – umbrellas and canopies for the annual Jagannath Yatra. 

This appliqué  work dates back to the 10th century and continues to thrive in this small village. Over time, the craftsman fell into tough times because of loss of Royal patronage and since then have begun expanding their product lines. Today, these are more of show pieces and have become part of home/office/hotel decor. Mohan, one of the guys who had a shop said his wife is the one who does most pieces, men handle the cutting and sourcing of materials. He went on to share concern about how things were changing with time and was not sure if the next generation would continue this tradition. The pieces took between few hours to few days to complete, depending on the complexity of the design and the intricate details that went into it.  Some are embellished with mirror or additional thread work adding to the appeal. Most of the pieces featured animals (the elephant and peacock mainly), flowers, birds,mythical and mythological characters with some form of geometric pattern woven within them..

Today, we find not only umbrellas, but also wall hangings, sling bags, pouches, cushion/pillow cases, and bags [across sizes] as well.  They are quite chic and smart, for regular use.

When I dug deep about this whole process, I discovered that the word “Appliqué” was of French origin, meaning  “appliquer”[meaning-“put on”, “apply”].  In this art of appliqué work, the craftsmen use a piece of fabric as the base and then another piece on top which is sewn into place. The designs are all patches of sorts kept on top and added in. So, they basically build layers of cloth. 

Apart from Applique work pieces, you will also find mats and other pieces made with banana & coconut fibre in the stores around the region. They make for good gifts as well.. 
I remember watching the Rath yatra on TV and being amazed at how beautiful the cloth covering the Rath was..
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The appliqué work is used exclusively on the cloth to cover the three chariots made for the presiding deities during the Ratha Yatra or Car Festival. 

Going with the tradition, the colours are predetermined- 
green & red for  Balabhadra, 
black & red for Subhadra and 

yellow & red for Lord Jagannath…

More stories from my trip to Orissa coming up… stay tuned~!!

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