BRIEF HISTRY OF LAC
In India lac has been stound since time immemorial. However, it is first recorded as historical documentary evidence in ‘Atharva Veda’. ‘Jatugriha’ made of Lacquer in “The Great Mahabharat age” proves its use and applications in archeology. Buddhists’ ‘Vinaya’ text , poet ‘Kalidas’s works describes various use of Lac.
LAC IN INDIAN ART AND CULTURE
The Lacquer art is enthusiastically associated and inextricably linked with the Indian tradition, folk culture and rituality since time immemorial, which needs many research and studies. Lacquer art is popular in many parts of India. The poems of Kalidas the famous Indian poet of mediaeval age writing during the reign of Vikramaditya describes the use of Lacdyebased cosmetics in making up the women’s lips and feet-known as Alta. The Alta is used by Indian women now-a-days too where many costliest lipsticks are made of Lac based dye. Lac is being used in filling up the hollow type gold ornaments and designing the Lac bangles in most part of India. In marriage ceremony and many ritual and festive occasions Indian women use the Lac bangle. The ball made of shellac as well on material filled with colored liquids are being used in playing colors during Holy festival in Rajasthan of India.
LAC: THE NATURAL RESIN AND DYE
The term lacquer originates from the Portuguese word Lac, a type of resin excreted from certain insects.  In modern usage, Lac-based varnishes are referred to as shellac, while lacquer refers to other polymers dissolved in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as nitrocellulose, and later acrylic compounds dissolved in lacquer thinner, a mixture of several solvents typically containing butyl acetate and xylene or toluene. About 50% of the world Lac Production comes from Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and a part of Andhra Pradesh. Orissa Produces 25% out of India’s total Lac output. Rest 50% is produced by China, Indonesia, Thailand etc. Orissa has a major wild source of Lac host plants i.e. Kusumi (Schleicher Oleos), Palas (Butia Monosperma), Ber (Zizyphus Mauritian) and many other minor host plants. The Advanced decorative techniques of using additional materials such as gold and silver powders and flakes (“makie”) were refined to very high standards in Japan also after having been introduced in China. In the lacquering of the Chinese musical instrument, the guqin, the lacquer is mixed with deer horn powder (or ceramic powder) to give it more strength so that it can stand up to fingering. True lacquer -work is Chinese or Japanese in origin. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, varnish resin derived from a tree indigenous to China, species Toxicodendron vernicifluum (formerly Rhus vernicifluum), is commonly known as the varnish tree. The manufacturing process was introduced in Japan and remained secret for centuries. These lacquers produce very hard, durable finishes that are both beautiful and very resistant to damage by water, acid, alkali or abrasion. The active ingredient of the resin is urushiol, a mixture of various phenols suspended in water, plus a few proteins.
INTRODUCING JAUKANDHEI: LAC DOLL
“The bangles, ornaments, bamboo boxes, wooden crafts, terracotta and dolls decorated with Lac mixed with different attractive color” are popularly termed as lacquer art. Here, generally the dolls made of Lac are known as ‘Jaukandhei’. Actually, it is not made of only Lac particularly the dolls. They are made of fired clay and painted with various colors of Lac and artistically designed with colored Lac thread. It is associated with folk art and culture in different parts of Orissa.
JAUKANDHEI RELATED TO ANCIENT TRADITIONS AND CULTURE OF ORISSA
The lacquer art of Orissa has a correlation with the streams of ancient Indian art and culture though a clear-cut study could not be done as yet about its genesis. The use of Lac bangle and Lac dolls in marriage and other celebrations goes back to ancient days. The Laccoated bamboo boxes and Lac bangles are more popular in southern Orissa. Many researchers say; “‘Jaukandhei’ is the reformed art and craft of Dhangra-Dhnagri- male- female clay dolls worshiped by primitive tribes of Mayurbhanj in Orissa. Due to its creative and delighting Touch, the inhabitants of Balasore Who are physically and culturally so close to Mayurbhanj have incorporated it into their art and cluture. By way of believing in the piousness of Lac in Hinduism, this couple-Lac dolls have been accepted by the mass. The folk artists of Balasore have reformed this Dhangra-dhangri clay dolls by innovating the firing and designing with colored Lac in hot-process technology. Later on the ‘Shankhari’ and ‘Jaura’ communities of Balasore had introduced in their craft Lac bangles or fired clay dolls designed with coloured Lac which is known as ‘Baleswari Jaukandhei.’ This craft could easily grow up in Balasore because of the easy availability of Lac host plants in the dense forest of Mayurbhanj and Balasore. The clay on River Budha Balang basin is suitable for terracotta works. Therefore, the Shankhari community of Balasore continued this trade in maintaining their livelihood. Later on, the ancient port town of Balasore could transport the Lacbased crafts which led to the flourishing of the trade.
Others say; “it is contemporary to the mailing of Lord Jagannath, because its forms and designs have many similarities with Lord Jagannath-the prime God of Orissa. ‘Jagannath’ means the lord of universe who was culturally and ritually integrated from the faith of Anarya – a tribe i.e. Sabara into Hinduism in Orissa. The Surveyor General of India has also placed this craft in the Surveyor Map published for the Department of Tourism, Government of Orissa in 1986.
BALESWARI JAUKANDHEI’S USE IN FESTIVITIES AND FOLK CULTURE
By and by the couple male-female Lac dolls known as ‘Jaukandhei’ was popularised as the bride and bridegroom in the cultural tradition of the people of Balasore. Rich or poor, they celebrate their wedding on various festive occasions. Their Even the children of the locality play with Lacdolls couple celebrating their weddings in their childhood days. Mostly, the people celebrate this wedding wishing the wellbeing of the friends and neighbours especially with a view to bringing conjugal peace in the family. Some of the well up people had used Sabari & Palinki – the palanquin – arranging grand feast in such wedding ceremonies. This tradition was seen with the residents of Sunhat, Patrapara, MansingBazar, Makalpur, Puruna Baleshwar, Ranasahi, Tapsi, Rasalpur and many parts of Balasore. Consequent upon the changes in ethical values in the society, this traditional practice disapeared day by day and now the ‘Jaukandhei’ remains in the ‘Jagatpedi’ offered to the brides in bridal ceremony. The ‘Jagatpedi’ means Jagat-universe and Pedi-box i.e. universal-box a large box made of bamboo containing clothing, grocery, ornament, cosmetics and other consumables to meet the day-to-day need of the bride for a long period after marriage. Especially, the married women of Balasore offer traditionally designed Lac doll and Lac bangle to Land Laxmi-Narayan on the auspicious occasion of Maha Sabitri Brata wishing the long life of their husbands and peace and prosperity in their the conjugal relationship.
STRIVING ARTISANS OF LANGUISHING FOLK ART: BALESWARI JAUKANDHEI
After 1980s, due to the onset of modern technology and popularization of plastic dolls, ceramics etc, this trade started declining day by day. Besides the craft families of Shankhari community started shifting their occupation to other unorganized sectors because of acute poverty posing a threat to their trade. Moreover, the artisans were unable to cope with the modern science and technology in upgrading the quality of lacquerbased craft product as well as being unable to developing the designs according to the contemporary art and market trend.
Mrs. Basanti Sen wife of Hari Sen of Olandaj Sahi, Barabati Balasore had tried her hand in manufacturing and selling Baleswari Lacquer Craft till the nineties. Her business declined due to lack of diversified products and commercialization of craft in modern days. Mrs. Sabitri Nandi is the last in exponent the line and has to flag of such a languishing craft. Flying She is the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Basanti Sen and the daughter of Late Gadadhar Sen, elder brother of Hari Sen who belongs to the traditional craft family and was married to Late Sankarshan Nandi of Barabati. Mrs. Nandi learnt the Lacquer Craft traditionally, exhibited her artistic talent at national level, and won the national merit award in 2006. She has been participating in several exhibitions at state and national level. Baleswari Kala Kendra has adjudged her as the “Baleswari Kala Rani” in 2005. Mr. Alekh Sahoo a young terracotta-lacquer artist of Nalamganj learned lacquer craft from Mrs. Sabitri Nandi. Mrs Kanak Lata Das – a growing lacquer artisan learned lacquer crafts from Mrs. Nandi in a Skill Development Training and is promoting this art. Pioner Silpi Kesudas – an eminent artist of Orissa has started a revolution in Baleswari lacquer art since 2004.
A RENAISSANCE OF LANGUISHING FOLK LACQUER ART AND CRAFT OF BALASORE
Silpi Kesudas founded an art organization in the name of Baleswari Kala Kendra (BKK) in 2004 and started a mass movement in revitalizing this languishing art and craft, working as the Executive Director. He has united a few eminent personalities and organizations like District Industries Centre (DIC), Balasore, Directorate of Handicrafts & Cottage Industries (DHCI), Orissa, Bhubaneswar, State Institute for Development of Art & Craft (SIDAC), Orissa, Bhubaneswar and Rural Development Foundation (RDF), Balasore for catalyzing this movement.
>> STUDENTS’ ARTISTIC MOVEMENT
About 2500 school students of Balasore district showed their interest in revitalizing this languishing lacquer art by participating in different art workshops, seminars and competitions organized by BKK involving the experts and philanthropic organizations like Bharadwaj Social Organisation, Educare, Fakir Mohan Art & Craft School, Fakir Mohan Sahitya Parisad etc.
>> CRAFT WOMENS’ TECHNOLOGICAL AND ENTREPRENEURIAL INITIATIVE
59 female and male artists started a development initiative in reviving this craft from 2005 to 2006 at Balasore forming 4 Self-Help-Groups (SHGs) at Barabati, Nalamganj and Arad Bazar at Balasore Town and Kalipur in Sadar Block. Technical trainings on lacquer design and Lac bangle were conducted for them for six months involving the experts like Sk. Moniar Hossain, Mrs. Fatima Begum- Rajasthani traditional master craftsperson on Lac Bangle of Cuttack, Mrs. Sabitri Nandi- traditional lacquer craftsperson and Silpi Bhaskar Behera – a traditional terracotta artist of Panchalingeshwar. They were provided with the managerial trainings on SHG, Book Keeping, Marketing and Entrepreneurships. After that, Baleswari Kala Kendra conducted skill development training on lacquer craft for 10 women at Gudipada of Balasore Town and for 10 women at Tartari of Nilgiri CD Block in Balasore district with the support of Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Nilgiri. Now, total 79 women artisans and 8 men artisans in Balasore district are involved in this craft. In addition to that, Baleswari Kala Kendra conducts “Skill Development Trainings” and “Design Development Trainings” on lacquer crafts for the interested artisans and art-lovers.
>> PRODUCTION ENHANCEMENT AND MARKET DEVELOPMENT
Local banks like Balasore Gramya Bank presently known as Kalinga Gramya Bank, Balasore Branch and Balasore and Bhadrak District Central Cooperative Bank, Mahila Branch have supported those SHGs of artisans for production enhancement. The artisans have participated in various trade fairs and festivals from local level to national level for market exposures.
>> THE SACRED MAHA SABITRI BRATA BREATHING LIFE INTO LAC CRAFT OF ORISSA
The auspicious occasion of Maha Sabitri Brata creates an opportunity for the lacquer artists of Balasore and Raygada in displaying Lacquer Crafts and other lacquer toys and models in the local market. This is because traditional Lac dolls and Lac bangles are offered to Lord Laxmi-Narayan by married women. This tradition boosts up sales of lacquer crafts as an annual clearance returning a lump sum financial gain. It has been made possible by the initative of Baleswari Kala the Kendra since 2006. Thus Sabitri Brata is the best time to introduce promotion of this languishing craft if sellers of this craft become more visionary.
NEED FOR R & D INITIATIVES
1. This languishing traditional folk craft could be revitalized through the intervention of the S &T Institutions and R & D Organisations for wide research and development including design development, product development, and quality control and marketing mechanism etc in this field. The attention of the government organizations and the non-government organizations concerned should come forward in solving these problems,
2. The lacquer artisans need to be provided enough support to build up and strengthen their own organizations.
3. The proper know-how on appropriate technology on lacquer craft and such other allied cottage industries or small industries products based on lacquer should be imparted to the artisans to make them highly skilled,
4. Skill Trainings on Design Development, Product Improvement, Quality Control, Salesmanship, Entrepreneurship development, Accounting, Stores Management, Packing, Branding, Patenting, Licensing etc. should be given to the artisans along with training for operation of equipments for production enhancements and quality up gradations,
5. Exposures and participation in different national and international exhibitions and fairs may be arranged.
6. Efforts should be made for their self-sustenance as well as making them capable in mobilizing the resources for the development of the craft and economic standards.
7. All sections of the society including the promotional agencies, financial institutions, government organizations and philanthropic organizations should come forward whole-heartedly to share ideas and resources for sustaining such languishing craft to preserve the cultural heritage of Orissa.
Now it is time to involve all sections of the society including the promotional agencies, financial, government organizations and philanthropic organizations to share ideas and resources for sustaining such a languishing crafpt so as to preserve the cultural heritage of Orissa.
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