MATHURA, UTTAR PRADESH | ALVAR |
Sanjhi art practised across Mathura and Vrindavan is a traditional form of stencilled paper cutting. Handmade papers are cut into exquisite designs and intricate motifs depicting various Indian Mythological stories, especially those of Lord Krishna.
These stencil cutouts were traditionally used to make ritualistic and ceremonial rangolis in temples dedicated to Lord Krishna. The stencils were placed on flat surfaces or water and dry colours were sifted onto them to leave behind imprints of the design. The art form derives its name from the Hindi word sajja meaning decoration or sanjh meaning dusk when rituals and ceremonies were held in temples and the Sanjhi rangolis were revealed.
The origin of the craft is obscure with various folktales associated with it. It is said that Sanjhi art appeared about 400 years ago in Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna where the temples dedicated to him were decorated with the artform. However, folklore tells us that the origin of this art is linked with Radha who made Sanjhi rangoli with natural colours to woo Lord Krishna. The artform is even mentioned in some of the episodes of the Indian Epic- Mahabharata.
Even though Sanjhi art was traditionally used to create rangolis, it has evolved throughout the ages. The stencil cut-outs are used in various forms to create textile patterns. It is also used extensively in interior decor pieces. Items such as lampshades, mirrors, wall hangings, coasters, etc are made with Sanjhi art. The stencil cut out themselves have become framed art pieces too.
However, what makes Sanjhi an exquisite artform is its inherent spiritual implications that reach beyond the immediate aesthetic appeal. Sanjhi art is the expression of love and devotion for the divine in general. According to Ram Soni, one of the few artisans still practising the art form and a national award-winning craftsman from Alwar - the most crucial part of this craft is not cutting the stencil but capturing the emotions of the scene. It is truly one of the finest forms of spiritual expression.
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