>> Chitragara Gombay (Making of Lacquer Idols and Toys)s
1.0 Craft Identity
1.1 Name of Craft: The Making of Lacquer Processional Idols and Toys
1.2 Vernacular equivalent: Chitragara (Gombay)
1.3 Craft description: Chitragara (also called Chitrakara or Bannagara) are a class of Oriya painters originating from Ganjam. They are also decorators and gilders, and make lacquer toys, processional idols and other religious paraphernalia.
2.0 Locations (within survey boundary): Kanakagiri
3.0 Historical overview
Chitragara are considered synonymous with Gudigars and are traditionally Hindus. Women are traditionally allowed to part-take in this craft, but the most important aspect of the idol i.e. giving vision to the idol (bringing it to life) is restricted only to the men, who paint it on as the last stage of the process.
“The idol-maker’s craft, like most calling in this country, is a hereditary one, and a workman who has earned some reputation for himself or has had an ancestor of some renown, is a made man” (Madras Mail, 1907).
4.0 Works Process
4.1 Seasonality: fairly steady through the year but peaking during festival times where there is demand for idols.
4.2: Materials and their origins: wood powder, hunsay bija (tamarind seed) paste for finishing and fig wood and five kinds of wood for devi vigrahas (goddess idols), while any wood can be used to create idols of less prominent gods. Cloth and paint are used to create accessories like parasols.
4.3 Tools: Tools similar to a carpenter’s tools and brushes are used that are now readily available in markets. Traditionally, squirrel hair brushes were used.
4.4 Work Pattern: Ganesha Puja is conducted at an auspicious time before the commencement of Devi Vigraha work, and other smaller jobs are begun with a simple puja. Idols of Gowri and Ganesha are made for festivals, but all other work is undertaken only on order.
4.5 Method of Production: Work for Devi idols takes place only on order. Idols of Gowri and Ganesh are more popular, and sell-out quickly. It is of prime importance that particular idols are worked on only during certain times of the day, and auspicious seasons have also been specified for individual deities.
4.5 Products: Idols of Gowri and Ganesha, and other smaller gods and goddesses, umbrellas and decorative parasols.
4.6 Pricing range: Rs. 50 to 6000.
5.0 Craftsperson’s perspective
The Chitragara interviewed believed that the value of the artist has reduced because of of the ease of printing flex banners using graphics software. He has donated the last set of costumes he made for Byalunataka performance to Kannada University Museum ten years ago, since there was no interest or orders forthcoming.
6.0 Lister’s comments
6.1 Uniqueness (in material / tools / products / location etc): The group of Chitragaras, while all Hindu, also make parasols for festivals of other religions, such as Muharram.
6.2 Socio-economic data based on field interviews: Only Hindus can be allowed to do this work. Specifically, the worker must belong to the Arya Kshatriya Chitragaras.