From the land of Temples: Odisha

Odisha, on the east coast of India, is one of those quiet underestimated states, with not only a centuries-old cultural and historic heritage, but a galaxy of extraordinary crafts – mostly centred around the temple towns of Konark and Puri, with others in the tribal hinterland. Everyone knows the splendid Sambalpuri and Bargarh ikats, with fish, elephants and birds dramatically interspersed between their geometric patterns, but there are many other striking traditional weaves as well. Among Odisha’s other crafts are the stone carving traditions of Konarak, the tribal dhokra lost wax metal casting, the colourful Pipli patchwork, once used for ceremonial pageantry, coir grass and golden grass, coiled into basketry and animals and mobiles. Patachitra paintings and palm leaf etchings, mixing religious iconography, erotica and flora and fauna, tribal beadwork, painted lacquer boxes and toys are other intricately ornamented traditions, uniquely Odissi in style.

In a largely rural, relatively poor economy, often struck by floods and cyclones, both men and women still practice these crafts for a living. Family occupations are an important addition to agriculture, animal husbandry or fishing, boosting family incomes. The AMEX grant recognises that, and the role of women.

To lessen the blow of COVID-19 on the craft sector and craft persons of Odisha, some relief was provided American Express funds via Dastkar’s Artisan Support funds. One such organisation that benefited from the grant was Naryani handicrafts. It is a registered initiative in Bhubaneswar in Odisha. They make various jewellery pieces using the Dhokra technique using brass, white metal, copper, colorful threads. They work towards women empowerment and to create more employment opportunities for rural women to strengthen them further economically and socially. Just as many other craft organisations, the basic skill sets of women are utilised further to create marketable products. During Covid-19, the situation for the artisans became dire, due to no sale and no work, they had to resort to various other jobs and means to an end. The American Express and Dastkar’s Artisan Support Fund helped this organisation plenty, they not only employed additional 10 more artisans who were suffering the repercussions of the pandemic and made stock worth 1.5 lacs to be exhibited and marketed at various Dastkar’s bazaars. They also worked on new designs and added the new motifs into their jewellery pieces that were received very well at Dastkar’s Basant Bazaar 2021.