‘Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha
Dravida, Utkala, Banga’
When Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore composed India’s national anthem he preferred the name Utkala, instead of Orissa, the anglicized name of Odisha or Kalinga, an ancient kingdom from the times of Ashoka. An art connoisseur and an artist himself, Tagore’s choice indicates his appreciation for Odisha’s unique art and crafts for Utkala means ‘Utkrustha Kala’ or the ‘land of finest art and craft’.
Odisha’s landscape is blessed with a diverse topography. While the Eastern Ghats dominates its interiors with its rolling hills along with the Chotanagpur Plateau, the east is a long stretch of coastal plain formed by the deposits of alluvial silt carried by the rivers from the mountains during flood. From east to west and north to south, each of the 30 districts of Odisha are a treasure house of art and craft, like the intricate silver filigree work of tarakashi art, the 5,000 years old Dhokra art of metal casting, terracotta wonders and delicate ikat weaving.
25% of Odisha’s population, which is more than 10 million people are indigenous hill and forest tribes who live close to nature and have in part sustained 5000 years of Neolithic culture. In contrast, the coastal delta and river valleys have been a strong hold of Hinduism, the cult of Jagannath being the essence of Odia life. Prior to Jagannath Cult, the coastal plain was a major center of Buddhism and Shaivism. Jainism too had its presence under the patronage of Emperor Kharavela in 1st century BCE.
Throughout history, Odisha has maintained a close cultural contact with Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia through trade. However, unlike Mughal India and Deccan, Islamic influence was limited and confined to Cuttack and its surrounding districts without political patronage.
Being far away from India’s power centers, the art and craft practices of the region have retained much of its originality. With a vast repertoire of cultural resources and art and craft practices with many on the verge of extinction due to modernization and pressure from the market economy, it was important for the state to have a central place, aesthetically built to showcase what can be aptly called as Odisha’s soul. This is how Kala Bhoomi, a sprawling museum of 13 acres, with built-in space of 8 galleries, a cafeteria, library, resource room, audio-visual auditorium, workshop areas and an impressive open air amphitheater was conceived and built.
Bhubaneswar is the capital of Odisha and a vibrant metropolis. Also known as ‘The Temple City of India’ Bhubaneswar hosts the largest concentration of Hindu Temples built in Kalinga School of Architecture between 7th and 16th centuries CE. The city also has been known for its incredible Jain (the caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri) and Buddhist heritage (Dhauli Hill). Detour Odisha, a Bhubaneswar based culture and travel company in collaboration with Odisha Tourism and local civic bodies organize various heritage walks on weekends (see https://www.ekamrawalks.com/). The Museum Walks at Kala Bhoomi is the latest addition which is held on every Sunday afternoon. The museum also organizes a number of thematic walks both in Odia and in English on daily basis, besides workshops and cultural programmes. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Bhubaneswar is well connected by air, rail and road with all important cities and other state capitals of India. The city has a plenty of choices for accommodation of various categories, from budget to high-end. The city is best known for its seafood delights, Pahala Rasagola and a variety of snacks and street foods.
A brainchild of Shri Naveen Patnaik, honourable Chief Minister of Odisha, himself an art connoisseur, Kala Bhoomi is a world-class facility built to showcase the craft diversity of the state. The museum was inaugurated recently. From 1st June onward, photography has been allowed (for personal use) with a fee of INR 50. So, here is a visual journey of the crafts museum.Later, I shall write posts on each gallery elaborating on the specifics.
For more on Kala Bhoomi do visit the museum’s website www.odishacraftsmuseum.com
A Potter’s Journey – Tulasi Vrindavati
Votive Offerings and Storage Jars
The Gallery of Textile Weaving Process
Finished Fabrics – Ikat and Silk Saris of Odisha
Tribal Material Culture
Folk Odia Crafts
Author – Jitu Mishra
He can be contacted at email@example.com