Monday, August 10, 2009

Taste of Indian Heritage

Everybody talks about India and its heritage, culture, etc. Even though we talk about it, we tend to ignore the character of all the little things that make this country so versatile. I think I am a part of this negligence but things changed a bit when I visited this place called Choki Dhani in Pune. This place takes you back to who we are and how we have changed through the years. It is a fantastic combination of entertainment hand in hand with reminder our skill and tradition, long lost and forgotten.

It all started with a fanfare of the traditional dhols and a folk dance from Rajasthan. Just the grand welcome made such a difference to the entire visit to this place. I loved the beats of the traditional drums; they did make the audience move. Not only that, the rhythm got so many people on toes which ended up being a huge parade of dance and music! That was the very moment I realised how much of our own art is lost and hardly valued. I did make up my mind to see, study and observe each and every form of art and understand much more than what we actually see.

After the grand greeting we went to see the puppet show. I’ve always loved the vibrant colours of the puppets. They sure look charming with their string moves in their little theatre. While talking to one of the performers, he added that puppetry started off as a custom to ward off evil and to bring rain and prosperity in the lives of villagers. The play was based on the story of Amar Singh Rathore narrated by the members of the show. The performers produce sharp, trembling and shrilling sounds as a part of the dialogues of the play. Though I’ve seen this so many times, this time was different because I did not watch it for entertainment but as an art, so creative! I also came to realise that puppetry must also be an expensive form of art or entertainment. My curiosity did make me ask the puppeteer about the elements involved in the process of the show. He started off with a long list which in no doubt surprised me to the core. The art involves drawings, paintings, wood carving, carpentry, plaster cast making, clay modelling, costume designing, story, script writing, dramatization, song and music composition. It surely was beyond imagination!

Our next halt was an astounding performance of a rope walk done by a boy not more than 13 years of age. He was an antic entertainer who performed on the beats of the dholak. It was stunning to see the little boy balance, sleep, jump, sway and do all sorts of antics of the one inch rope. Later after the show, he said he came from a small village in Rajasthan where most of the people have ropewalk as their profession. He also said that for generations they have been performing and hardly remembers anybody who had not mastered the art of rope balancing. He got the maximum tip and appreciation from a lot of people. He certainly did steal the show. It was so unfortunate to see this art almost completely lost in time.

Followed by the rope acrobats, we entered a small theatre where a group of women presented the Bhavai dance. In this dance the veiled women move to the beats with nine brass pitchers over their head. They also have unusual skills like balancing and dancing at the edge of a sword or glass. It is so fascinating to see colourful dance which looks even more graceful due to its spectacular attire and dazzling ornaments.

And hence the evening of unusual events continued with mehendi and tattoo, followed by the chudi wala where he made lacquer bangles in the colours and size we wanted. The potter also stole the show by letting us make miniature pots. The whole evening was a blend of art and crafts, special and interesting in its own way. By the time we finished visiting all the affairs, it was time to have dinner. Our day ended with a sumptuous Rajasthani food of dal bhati, kheer, bjre ki roti with lasan chutni and a wide range of sweets. I wish I could write more and more about that evening but I will leave it to some other time. For now, the rope walk, dance and puppet show really impressed me above the rest, hoping to remember this day that opened my eyes to something so age old and prized.


  1. Lovely place...I have been to Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur- it was a great fun and lively representation of arts and culture of Rajasthan

  2. India has a rich culture in furniture too.I like their old designs.Thanks for sharing here.

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