GI tags for Odisha’s tribal art: Govt's effort to project age-old cultural practices

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | January 09, 2024 IST

GI tags to Tribal arts

Bhubaneswar, Jan 9: Making the people of Odisha proud with their rich cultural traditions, two beautiful tribal products — Kapadaganda  Dongaria Kondh Embroidered Shawl and Idital Painting of Lanjia Saura — both from Rayagada district, have received the prestigious GI tag from the Registrar of Geographical Indications, Chennai. 

This, in a way, epitomises the Odisha Government’s commitment to uplifting and popularising tribal cultural traditions, art and craft.

The unique achievement reflects the dedicated efforts of the SC and ST Development Department as it has come forward to support and document the GI-tagging process and simultaneously work for the protection, preservation and promotion of tribal languages and culture.

The Kapadaganda shawls, hand-woven by the Dongaria Kondh tribe, have received the recognition following the application by the Directorate of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) (application number 773), under the directive of the Department, marking a significant step for preserving the tribe’s cultural and economic aspects. 

The application for the GI of the Dongaria Kondh Shawl (Kapadaganda) was submitted jointly by the Niyamgiri Dongoria Kandho Weavers Association and the Directorate of SCSTRTI. Similarly, the application for the Idital Painting of Lanjia Saura (application number 871) was filed by the Idai Idital Association and Directorate of SCSTRTI. 

Expressing happiness over the historic achievement, Commissioner-cum-Secretary Roopa Roshan Sahoo said, “This proves the determination of the Odisha Government in the preservation, curation, and continuation of the beautiful tribal cultural traditions as Odisha is home to 62 tribal groups including 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).” 

Dongaria Kondh embroidery shawl

The Dongaria Kondh tribes are popular for their art of embroidery. The Kapadaganda shawl exemplifies the rich heritage of the Dongaria Kondh community. Embroidered mostly by the unmarried Kondh women, the shawls symbolise “their heritage and ethnic identity”.

The different motifs that are depicted in the shawls represent the “socio-cultural relationship” that the Dongaria Kondh community shares with the Niyamgiri hills – their homeland and the abode of Niyam Raja. The colour of the Dongaria Kondh shawl also symbolises their attributes and nature. It reveals their socio-cultural significance and unravels the philosophy of life. 

The tradition of using the Kapadaganda design cloth among the Dongaria Kondh dates back to the mid-17th century, during the reign of King Vikram Dev in the Jeypore area. Initially crafted as a distinctive attire to catch the King’s attention, it served as their exclusive new dress in the elevated regions of the mountain. The Dongaria Kondh prepared every aspect, from yarn and dye to the intricate weaving, using the resources available to them at that time.

Idital Lanjia Saura painting

The Sauras are one of India’s oldest tribes, inhabiting the southern part of Odisha. With a history that has been mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Sauras are known for their distinct tribal culture and their art. 

A tribe deeply connected to nature, their art on the surface seems to be a simplistic depiction of everyday village life. But the art of the Sauras is rich with symbolism and meaning. The style, customs, and traditions of the Lanjia Sauras, one of the PVTGs, are sketched in artwork created by the tribe. Lanjia Saura painting is a style of wall-mural painting. Those paintings also called “ekons” or popularly, the Idital, that has a lot of religious and spiritual importance for the tribe. 

Today, the Lanjia  Sauras are an economically disadvantaged society, diligently preserving their rich culture. One significant aspect of their cultural heritage lies in their cherished “Iditals.” Renowned for their beauty, allure, iconography, aesthetics and ritualistic significance, these artworks are veritable treasures in the Lanjia Saura culture. They serve as repositories of traditional knowledge, understanding and folklore, embodying not only their literature but also the philosophy of their existence.

The essence of these artworks becomes clear when interpreted by the divines or the picture men, as they are commonly known. The intricate details of the paintings also mirror the everyday lives of the Lanjia Saura community. Cults and myths play a significant role in shaping the artistic expressions of the Lanjia Sauras.

The GI tag not only ensures the preservation of traditional techniques but also contributes to the cultural legacy of the tribes and enhances the standard of living for the weavers. The Kapadaganda shawls, meticulously handwoven by the Dongria Kondh, have found their way into the studios of leading designers, committed to infusing an organic touch into their creations. This has sparked a growing interest among the general public and design enthusiasts, anticipating a promising market demand in the future.

Similarly, the exquisite Lanjia Saura paintings have transcended from government spaces to corporate offices, public murals and art studios across the country. They have also become popular choices for gifting, providing unique and artistic ideas. The GI tagging promises to elevate this form of art into a new-found realm, carving a niche segment for these paintings to grace living spaces in homes across the nation.

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