KOCHI: Back in the days of yore, when one had to write, palm leaves were the only option. They had to be bathed in sunlight, soaked in water for four to five days, dried again in the shade and strung together. Be it prose, poetry or a missive, the words were carefully etched on the soft surface of the leaves using a sharp stylus and a sort of ink was rubbed on the contours of the script to bring them to life. Pretty tedious work, right? Now, here is a chance to view some exquisite palm leaf etchings from Odisha and have a peep at history.
At the handicrafts exhibition at Kairali showroom on MG Road, Suryanarayan Satpathy - an artisan from Puri in Odisha - has brought ancient palm leaf engravings. The etchings include Drishti Ganapathy (108 Ganeshas depicted within a large drawing of Lord Ganesha), Dasavathaar, the story of Lord Krishna and other stories and characters associated with Hinduism along with the depictions of Jesus Christ, flora and fauna, symbolising Odiya culture.
"For the longevity of the artefacts, once the engravings are made, soot from burnt palm leaves is applied to the etchings," says Satpathy. The Soura tribal signature paintings - another item at the exhibition - are done using vegetable ink and other natural ingredients. These paintings are made by certain families who get subsidies from the government for wide-scale production, says the artisan.
The expo also includes a wide collection of Kerala's traditional artefacts, exuding an aura of nostalgia to visitors. They include the iconic Nettoor box or Amadapetti used to keep jewels, walking sticks and other carvings. “The wooden items on display are captivating. This expo is a visual treat and expresses the diversity of Indian culture," says Fernando from Chile.
On an average, more than 100 people visit the exhibition a day, according to the staff.
A government initiative sponsored by the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) and the Ministry of Textiles, the exhibition is a conscious effort to bring back culture-specific art forms that have been replaced with mass-produced factory items. The exhibition will conclude on May 15.