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Applique Craft of Orissa

Applique craft of Orissa'Applique', is a French term that refers to an art form of superimposing patches of colored fabrics on a piece of basic fabric/cloth to give it an altogether a new look. Though this form of art is not unknown in other parts of India, it is Orissa and especially in Pipli that the craft has a living and active tradition continuing over centuries. In fact applique works are a vivid expression of Orissa Crafts. It is generally accepted that appliqué works of Orissa date back to more than 850 years. The process of making the products has remained unchanged over the past few centuries. However during the last two to three decades, both the applique products and their style have undergone a tremendous change.

Among the traditional applique work, Chandua,Chhati, Trasa, Alata,Adhoni, Mandant and Bana, used at the time of Dola Jatra for deities are quite well-known. The use of all these products are associated with the religious ceremonies of Lord Jagannath. So it can be safely concluded that this art form ascribes its origin to the Jagannath cult. Patronized by kings and nobility of Orissa, appliqué work at one time had reached the artistic heights of excellence. The kings of Puri engaged craftsmen in the service of Lord Jagannath and set up village Pipli for them to live in. They were specially skilled in designing the canvas cloth that is used to cover the chariots of Lord Jagganath,Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra.

Applique craft of OrissaOver a period of time, however the art form evolved to include other products as well that were prepared both for domestic and individual use. Two such products are Batua and Pasa-Pali. Since betel is commonly chewed in Orissa, a special type of bag called Batua is prepared to carry betel leaf and accessories. It is very much popular among the tourists from Eastern parts of the country. Pasa Pali or the dice-mat is another popular ancient products sold among the natives. All these products are today being replaced from the main menu of appliqué art. Instead, wall hangings, garden umbrellas, lamp sheds, cushion covers and letter bags are now prepared as they are very much in demand by the tourists.

The art form typically depended on four basic colors - red, white, black and yellow to produce a striking effect. In recent years, green too has been applied vigorously enlivening the craft even more. Temples and other religious institutions extensively patronized this art. In fact the basic inspiration for the art form was mainly religious in nature.

How It Is Done

Applique craft of OrissaThe craftsman first prepares the base material in the shape of square, rectangle, and circle or oval which forms the background for the pieces of art. Appliqué motifs in contrasting colors are then cut in the shape of animals, birds, flowers, leaves, celestial bodies and geometric shapes. These motifs are then stitched into the base cloth in aesthetic arrangements. Raised motifs are prepared by giving several folds. The actual grace of appliqué craft lies in its intricate stitches namely, bakhia, guntha, turpa, chikan and other very delicate and esoteric embroidery techniques. Nowadays, small mirrors and bright metal pieces are used to enhance its beauty. After attaching the appliqué patches to the base cloth, the borders are then stitched. The piece of art is now ready for sale.

Almost all the family members get involved in this craft. Skilled persons of the family go for beautiful intricate designs while the less experienced take up the simple works like stitching the borders and making the base clothes.

Pipili: The Applique Shop of Orissa

The Pipli village in Puri district of Orissa is the main center of appliqué work. Rows of shops in Pipli flaunt appliquéd handbags, bed sheets, wall hangings, purses, cushion covers, letter cases, pillow covers, canopies and garden umbrellas. Visits to Orissa are incomplete for any tourist without undertaking a trip to this colorful village and carry with him an appliqué work as memorabilia.

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