Leather shadow puppetry of Andhra Pradesh locally known as Tholu Bommalata, (Tholu – leather, Bommalata – puppet dance) is one of the oldest form of performing arts. The leather puppets, because of their transparency and jewel like glow, are very popular.
In the dark of the night, loud beats of the drum and cries of the war horn fill the sweltering air, while glowing kings and demons fight across the flickering light. As early as the 12th century, the art of puppetry flourished in Andhra Pradesh, narrating stories of divinity, sometimes taking the divine dimensions itself. Stories from the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were performed and went on for several nights. The puppet shows had something for everyone – divine epics for the devout; and comic relief for the distracted. Puppetry is still practiced today, especially during festivals, although not many puppeteers practice this art nowadays.
The leather puppet, which was traditionally crafted from deer skin, is made from goat hide now. After a two week long process of cleaning, the skin becomes translucent and ready to work on. As with most crafts, in the painting of leather too, chemical colours are replacing natural ones. But apart from the translucency and vivid colours, what gives these puppets their brilliance, is the perforated pattern on the puppets. Today, with design intervention, the puppeteers have diversified into different products using the same craft; as puppet shows are not a mainstream medium of entertainment anymore. The transparency and durability of the material makes it perfect for lampshades and screens, filling life in dull surroundings.
OUR ASSOCIATION WITH THE CRAFT
This cluster in the village of Nimmalkunta in Anantpur district of Andhra is a family of six people that we work with and develop our product range with them. Initially when we started working with them they were only making the lamps and some wall hangings but with our design intervention and training they have diversified in terms of product range and quality of their products. Alongwith working through our product range, they work through other platforms as well and exhibit at different forums.
FROM LAMPS TO BAGS…
“To sustain something that has lost its relevance we need to add perspective, redefine and recreate into a product that gives a sense of history and a piece of future, making it truly timeless.”
When we started working with The Leather puppet craft, making custom designed lamps, there was a continuous thought running throughout as to how we could do more with such a beautiful art form and such skilled artisans. Leather and bags is the first obvious combination one could make, but the material as it was being used for lamps was not really suitable for making bags. And most importantly the artisans were not trained to make bags.
And hence the journey began, with a lot of testing, training, planning logistics and after over a period of six months we came with something exclusive, a true labour of love that is a masterpiece and a confluence of sorts.
Shining bright with peacocks and high on foliage love, this collection is sure to be the harbinger of good luck and kick start the festivities!
HANDWOVEN BENGAL COTTON SAREES
A saree is an attire that can let you Be. Bring in your own style and charisma to our handcrafted Laal Paads with a twist. Tradition is also about expression, an expression of YOUR own self.
A mark of tradition and good luck charm in Bengalis, Laal Paad sarees (white body with red borders) are a calling for new beginnings and joy,worn on all auspicious occasions by Bengali women. It is the most simple of sarees which is a must have and is available in all types of combinations of fabric and weave like cotton, silk, jamdani etc. In earlier times women used to weave these at home for themselves and as gifts in the family. There are a lot of clusters across Bengal weaving these beauties some of which are Burdhwan, Phulia, Shantipur , Shantiniketan etc.
Our collection of the Bengal cotton sarees are a contemporary take on the traditional Laal Paad, handwoven in cotton with a broad satin weave in silk as border in red and blue, it offers just the right sheen to the otherwise subtle saree. The block prints adds a unique charm to it perfect for an all day long affair.
A small village near Kolkata, Chakda weaves this enchanting story in red and white. On a personal note, I had fallen in love at first sight (along with my Bengali beau!) with these beauties!
Some years ago during my random visit to the villages around Kolkata I came across this village where every house had a loom weaving only these laal paad shada saree. Most of these weavers were supplying it to the local shops in Kolkata, at very meager prices just to make ends meet. Each of these sarees take about 5-8 days if only one person is weaving, but generally it is the whole family doing it. With very poor returns, some of them had already moved to the city in search for better jobs and opportunities or moved to power looms for a faster turnout. Initially it was a challenge to be able to convince them to do what I envisioned. If you have ever worked in Kolkata and you are not a Bengali, and not speaking Bengali you’ll know what I mean! Anyhow, I speak as fluent Bengali now like any other born Bengali would J
We worked closely with the weavers getting them back to what they did best and created this collection of Laal Paads which stand apart with their Satin Silk borders . On a regular basis the Laal Paads are woven in all kinds of fabric bases like silk, cotton, chanderi etc. with plain and myriad weave patterns. We wanted to create a range which had the lightness of cotton but with the richness of silk. The body of the saree is in Bengal cotton and the borders are in satin weave with the silk coming on top adding the sheen to the neutral off white base. The temple and floral motifs and a splash of gold zari here n there highlight the uniqueness of the saree. The combination of block prints on the saree is a confluence of two unique styles of adornment.
There is fun, there is quirk, there is charm and there is drama…For me these sarees are like my first love, quite literally! Discover them yourself, make your own stories with them, make your own conversations because there is always a little bit of You that you add when you wear a saree.