Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, India...
As with many other handicrafts of Odisha, the roots of the appliqué art/craft form are intertwined with the rituals and traditions of Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of the Puri temple. The appliqué items are mainly used during processions of the deities in their various ritual outings. Items like Chhati (umbrella), Tarasa – a heart-shaped wooden piece covered by appliqué cloth and supported by a long wooden pole, and Chandua – an umbrella-shaped canopy are usually seen during the processions. ‘Jhalar,’ another popular item, is a sort of frill used as a border to canopies and also independently as a decorative piece. It is also used in making seats and pillows for the deities and their ritual dresses.
However, the appliqué work in its colorful best is most prominent in the cloth cover of the three chariots of the presiding deities in which they travel every year during the Ratha Yatra. As per tradition, the color scheme of the three covers is predetermined. The chariot of Balabhadra, known as Taladhawaja, has a cloth covering of bright green and red, while that of Subhadra, known as Padmadhwaja or Darpadalana, has a cover of bright red and black. The chariot of Lord Jagannath, called Nadighosha, has a cover of bright red and yellow.
Apart from temple-based products, there are many local traditional and modern products in production, like small pouches. They are very popular among village folk for keeping materials for ‘pan,’ such as betel leaf, areca nut, lime, etc., as well as for keeping money. Another traditional item is ‘Sujnis’ or embroidered quilts. Through the intervention of design workshops, artisans are producing many of today’s need-based products, like hanging lamps, big umbrellas, a variety of bags, cushion covers, bed sheets, file folders, etc.
It was a common practice for kings and rulers in India to patronize traditional crafts and skills by selecting renowned and talented artists from various fields and housing them in their respective capitals. Due to religious devotion, people also provided services to the temple, serving different purposes for the artisan community to innovate products or materials. In Puri, earthen pots are uniquely designed to cook special foods, while appliqué work can be used for canopies. The significance of Pipli appliqué lies in its strength, allowing it to withstand strong sunlight, wind, or rain. The unique appliqué patterns and colors later add character to the craft. While in other traditional applique, artisans utilize old leftover fabrics, in Pipli, artisans always use fresh fabric as the purpose of the product is noble.
Puri Rath Yatra has great significance, and two main crafts involved in making the chariots are one woodcraft (to build the strong working structure) and two applique (to cover the structure and give a unique identity). We can understand the significance of the applique craft because to fulfill this requirement, in the 11th century, the village of Pipli was set up by the King of Puri, who also engaged many of these craftsmen in the famous Jagannath temple of Puri for exquisite applique work, encouraged by the nobles of the state.
Applique craft has become an identity of the entire village. The village is occupied by craftsmen, small huts, shops on the main road, all selling appliqué articles. The by lanes lead to various houses where people work in their homes. Originally started by providing items of religious and ceremonial importance only, today artisans explore a variety of products for daily use.
It is said that a Badshah (Muslim emperor) of Delhi (the people do not remember the name) once ordered a resident Darji to make him two pillows. The result pleased the tailor so much that he thought it would be better if the pillows were given to Lord Jagannath of Puri, as only he ought to own things of such exotic beauty. The next morning, when the Darji came to resume his work, he was surprised to find that one of the pillows was missing. When the emperor was informed about the missing pillow he immediately imprisoned the Darjj, thinking he had stolen it. But Lord Jagannath appeared before him in a dream and told him that the Darji was innocent and that he, Jagannath, had performed the miracle in which the pillow had transported itself overnight to Puri. The next day, the man was released and resumed his work. After completing it he came to Pipili and taught his craft to the people of his caste, so that the art spread to many other parts. Ultimately, good artisans were selected to render service to Lord Jagannath atPuri.
Another legend says about the origin of the rath (chariot) te1ls that the Lord’s chariot was in heaven for a long time. It originated on earth from the battle between Indra and the demon Bhuturasura, during which Indra violently flung lightning on to the body of the demon. This weapon broke into four parts, the third of which took the shape of the rath. From that day on, the name rath was heard on earth, and gradually its construction was undertaken. In Hindu mythology Indra is the king of heaven, rain, and thunder. As the rath originated as a part of his weapon, the fact that the Rath Yatra Festival takes place at the beginning of the rainy season is mythically justified.
The first historical account of the appearance of Lord Jagannath is given in the Skanda Purana and the Padma Purana. In the past, the place of the present Jagannatha temple was called Purusottama Kshetra (Puri). The sanctity of the place of Purusottama (Jagannatha) exists from the prehistoric period, where tradition cannot reach. In the Mahabharata, Vanaparva, there is a reference to the site of Purusottamakshetra, mentioned as the place of Yajnavedi near the sea in Kalinga. Jagannatha is found mentioned in the chapter titled ‘UttaraKhanda‘ of the epic Ramayana, where Lord Rama asks Vibhisana to worship Jagannatha, the family deity of the Ikshyavaku dynasty. The glory and sanctity of Lord Purusottama and its kshetra also find mention in many works.
Most probably, the earliest literary evidence for the existence of the Rath Yatra/festival at Puri occurs in the period of Somavamsa rule (8th to 11th century) over Orissa. This was the first dynasty connected by legendary accounts of the temple. The oldest iconographical evidence of the festival and its temple ratha comes from the later Ganga period (13th/14th centuries). A frieze of a dilapidated temple at Dhanmandal in Northern Orissa depicts a sequence of three rathas, each drawn by a large number of devotees. The best-preserved relief contains several interesting iconographical details.
There is written evidence to show that the applique craft was present in the Jagannath temple as far back as AD 1054, as sevaks were appointed by the king at that time. The duty of members of the Darji caste in Pipli, Puri, to supply the requirements of stitched articles for Lord Jagannath and for festivals was later laid down in the Record of Rights for Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri, under the Orissa Act of 1952. The craft, locally called Chandua, is related to the rituals and traditions of Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra.
The appliqué craft reached its peak in the 11th century AD, under the patronage of the king and nobility, locally known as Chandua. The craft is traditionally practiced by a community of professional tailors, known as ‘Darjis,’ whose surnames are mostly Mahapatra and Maharana. ‘Darji’ is an Urdu word for a professional tailor and indicates a group of people who previously earned their living by tailoring. Pipili was later seized by Muslim rulers, and some Muslims settled there. In the course of time, the essentially Islamic word ‘Darji’ seems to have been applied to the Hindu Suchika caste. Their beautiful work is considered service for the Lord, or “seva.” The community, led by a chief, is well-organized, with annual meetings to resolve any social or other problems.
Appliqué comes from the French word “appliquer,” which means to “put on.” In appliqué, one piece of fabric is placed over a base layer and sewn in place. Another technique is reverse appliqué, in which one layer of fabric is placed on another layer, and a shape is cut out from the top layer, exposing the lower layer. These two are then neatly stitched together.
The Pipili Applique Works Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd., a registered organization of the Directorate of Handicraft and Cottage Industries, came into existence in 1957. The Orissa State Co-operative Handicraft Corporation Ltd., established in 1959 to market the products of the artisans in the state, has two main objectives. The first is the procurement of the products of the artisans, and the second is to expose them to market channels in different areas through its sales emporia known as Utkalika.
Pipli in Puri district is considered the hub of craft where hundreds of craft persons practice the same and maintain their livelihood. The craft has flourished in many villages like Kanasa, Kadua, Kanas, Puri Town,
Satyabadi, Rajas, Banamalipur Delanga, Gop, Nimapara of Puri and Khurda district and gradually spread over to other districts of Orissa. At present, appliqué is considered one of the major prospective crafts with a lot of diversification.
A craft that originated as a temple art now finds its application in a wide range of household, decorative, and ceremonial products. This handicraft is unparalleled in its flexibility and versatility, permitting experimentation and encouraging innovation. Artisans, with their skillful blending of myths, symbolism, and imagination, provide the craft with an appealing dynamism.
The appliqué work in its colourful best is most prominent in the cloth covers of the three chariots of the presiding deities in which they travel every year during the Ratha Yatra or Chariot Festival. As per tradition, the colour scheme of the three covers is predetermined, green and red for the chariot of Balabhadra, black and red for that of Subhadra and yellow and red for Lord Jagannath’s chariot.
The main items are listed below:
The motifs used consist of stylized representations of flora and fauna as well as a few mythical figures. Of the more common of these motifs are
Flowers: (Malli – Mogra, Padma, Tarup, Guntha Surya Mukhi)
Birds: Sua – Parrot, Bataka – Duck, Hansa – Swan, Mayur – Peacock
Animals: Hat – Elephant, Singho – Lion, etc.”
The basic design is a combination of narrow and wide stripes while on the four sides above the openings, there are appliquéd mythical motifs like Rahu, Chandra as well as motifs from nature. It is these eye catching appliqué covers which help identify the chariots of the three deities from far away when thousands of pilgrims throng the main road of Puri on which the gods make their annual sojourn in the chariot festival.
Phula patti (flower motif)
Sadha patti (plain red strip)
Nahara patti (cone pattern)
Kalaso patti (pitcher strip)
Beliri patti (strip from left to right)
Mooda patti (strip from right to left)
Gula patti (wavy strip)
Hirana patti (mogra flower strip)
There are many more strip designs available in Puri. To maintain consistency, these strips also follow spacing, color, and guideline standards.”
Flat motifs are first cut from cloth and then superposed on the base cloth in a predetermined layout and sequence. The edges of the motifs are turned in and skillfully stitched onto the base cloth or stitched by embroidery or without turning as necessary. Craftsmen use straight stitch, blind stitch, satin stitch or buttonhole stitch for attaching the pieces of cloth. Sometimes they also make use of decorative stitches and mirror work for more elaborate pieces.
A characteristic style of the Orissa appliqué involves three dimensional patterns made by folding of the upper piece of cloth into triangles and attaching them to the base. The stitching process varies from item to item and come under six broad categories, namely, (1) bakhia, (2) taropa, (3) ganthi, (4) chikana, (5) button-hole and (6) ruching. Sometimes embroidered patterns are also used and in a few items mirror work is also incorporated.
While there has been very little change in the use of motifs, there is a trend towards greater experimentation in colour for non-ceremonial items such as bags, cushion covers, bed sheets etc. Appliqué items are also being used in combination with other crafts to produce composite products. An interesting new use is the superimposition of appliqué on grass mats and used as partitions.
From grand sanctified ceremonial items in prescribed colours and designs, to small souvenirs and utility products for an urban dweller, the craftsmen of Pipli have mastered the art of creating the most attractive objects from simple pieces of cloth.
At Pipli, when you travel to the main street, you see hand skills are completely shifting towards machine-made products. Local tailors are stitching appliqué by machine, and even repetitive motifs are being replaced by machine-made laces. Tourists who come to these shops need economic products, whether machine-made or handmade. The unique quality of Pipli appliqué lies in the skill of the artisan and unique aesthetics, but if they use readymade laces and machine-stitched elements, anyone can make such products. Artisans or sellers should focus on demonstration, traditional themes, and stories so that they can convince buyers about the legacy, as most visitors are actually tourists of Puri.
The craft industry in India is facing a decline in demand, compounded by the influx of foreign brands. Additionally, the challenges intensified with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as shops remained closed for months, further impacting the craft sector.
Artisans used to buy cloth from the state-owned Orissa Textiles Mills (OTM). But after the shutting down of the mill, they have to depend on private mills or manufacturing units of other states, which increases the price of raw materials.
The basic material for applique is cloth. Flat motifs are first cut from cloth and specially prepared motifs are made separately. If more than one of the same cut motifs is required, a stencil is used.
These cut and specially prepared motifs are then superposed on a base cloth in a predetermined layout and sequence.
Fabric – serves as the foundational material for creating patches.
Needles and threads – are essential tools used to sew the patches onto the fabric.
Mirror/ Buttons – To further decorate the appliqué work, artisans use mirrors or buttons to create visual balance. For example, they will place a round mirror at the center of the appliqué flower.
Frames: Various frames crafted from metal or bamboo to support structures such as umbrellas or rings for hanging lamps.
They are imported from Kolkata and Surat. This includes water proof cloth or umbrellas, velvet for shamiana’s, cotton and DCM cloth which has a cotton base for all the other products, mostly cotton is purchased from the Orissa mill. Tissue, silk, satin, denim and other exclusive fabrics are rarely used, hence it’s not purchased in bulk. Threads known as SUTTA are also imported like cotton, polyester and wool from Surat. Whereas the basic items like the hand sewing needle (straw or sharp) as well as the thread to match the applique design fabric are purchased from the local markets.
Needles – are essential tools used to sew the patches onto the fabric.
Sewing machine – apart from stitching the edges or specific forms, nowadays artisans use sewing machines to do the patchwork.
Scissors – play a crucial role in the process by enabling the cutting of specific designs or shapes for the patches.
Tracing Paper – Used in crafting process by providing a medium for transferring and replicating designs onto various surfaces.
The art of appliqué involves a meticulous process that unfolds in distinct steps.
Various pieces feature embroidered patterns, with some incorporating intricate glass beadwork. The arrangement of motifs and patterns is tailored to the shape of the item. For instance, a square canopy typically boasts a large central piece, possibly in a square shape, surrounded by multiple borders of varying widths, extending outward until reaching the edge. In umbrellas, the inner field is organized in circles, each circle comprising patches of a single motif placed adjacently.
The district is named after its capital city, Puri. In Sanskrit the word "Puri" means town or city. The city is an important seat of Vaishnavism, and is home to the noted Jagannath Temple built by Anantavarman Chodaganga in the mid-12th century CE. Under Mughal Rule (1592–1751), Odisha was divided into three circars for the purpose of revenue administration, Jaleswar, Bhadrak and Kataka. Current-day Puri was part of Kataka circar. After the Marathas occupied Odisha in 1751, they divided Odisha into the Pipli, Kataka, Soro and Balasore chakalas. The chakala of Pipli included major portions of the modern district of Puri.
Pipili, the heart of the colorful art work called appliqué, is located at a distance of 20 km from Bhubaneswar on the NH 203 connecting Bhubaneswar with Puri. Pipili is located at 20.12° N 85.83° E. It is at Pipili that one takes a turn and moves eastward to proceed to Konark, the site of the Sun Temple. As a legend would have it, the Pipili derived its name from Pirs (holy Muslim saints), many of whom lived in this area.
Orissa is known to have some of the magnificient temples for which the decoration is transported from Pipli. Pipili was set up as an artisan’s village during the Somavamsi dynasty rule in Odisha somewhere in the 10th Century AD. The art exemplifies the perfect syncretisation of the culture of Odisha. Pipli is village which does not have agriculture or any any animal husbandary business as their primary bread making occupation. The economy of Pipli is maintained by its craft, which has been a traditional work for the villagers since we can imagine. During the Pujas, the decorations for the deities and for their carrier are all handmade and sent from Pipli.
Most of it has been urbanized. Fancy houses and lot of shops have started coming up in Pipli. Majority of the old houses have been renovated and many more have been build. The roads have become more crowded and street have become narrower. The village is home to around 150 craftsmen and there are 500 girls who are involved in needle work, besides the shopkeepers and salesmen who procure the products.
The Puri district lies around the latitudes 19° and longitudes 84°29'E. It has a geographical area of 3051 km2 or 264988 Ha. It has varied geographical and geological divisions defined by rock types, soil, vegetation, water bodies and climate. The primary geological division is between the littoral tract and the level alluvial tract.
Pipili is located at 20.12°N 85.83°E It has an average elevation of 25 metres (82 feet). Pipili is best visited when traveling between the capital Bhubaneshwar and Puri. Pipili is located in the coastal region of Odisha, and its topography is characterized by flatlands and sandy soil. The town is surrounded by lush green fields and is in close proximity to the Bay of Bengal.
The number of rivers flowing through the District helps in sustaining the agriculture. Being in close proximity to the Bay of Bengal, this District has tropical climate. The summers are from March to June, monsoons from June to September and winters are from October to February. The minimum temperature of the District is approximately 16. 45 degrees Celsius and the maximum 33. 9 degrees Celsius.
Pipili is a Notified Area Council (NAC) town covering an area of 6.4 square kilometers. Positioned strategically on the highway connecting Bhubaneswar and Puri, this small town plays a pivotal role in the transportation network. The majority of shops line the road, while artisan residences are situated behind them. Pipili town boasts essential facilities, including banks, schools, and hospitals. Given the high tourist flow on the road, the town and its vicinity are equipped with good hotels and restaurants to cater to the needs of visitors and locals alike.
The district's architectural splendor is most notably showcased in its temples, including the Jagannath Temple, Sun Temple, Gundicha Temple, Lokanath Temple, Jambeswar Temple, Mangala Temple, and Sakhigopal Temple. These structures attract people from far and wide due to their cultural allure.
Upon exploring the local residences following a visit to these grand temples, one encounters simple brick walls with mud plaster. Roofs are crafted from paddy grass or industrial metal sheets, and the sloping roofs serve the purpose of collecting rainfall in tanks or ponds. Traditional Odishan homes often foster a sense of community and facilitate social interaction.
In Pipli, the landscape has evolved over time, witnessing significant urbanization. Concrete houses and numerous shops have emerged in Pipli, with many old houses undergoing renovation and new ones being constructed. The streets have become busier, and the lanes have grown narrower. The village is home to approximately 150 craftsmen, alongside 400-500 girls engaged in needlework, in addition to shopkeepers and salesmen involved in procuring and selling the products.
Puri's recorded history dates from the third century BCE, and the district has varied religions and cultures. Hindus are in the majority, with monuments to Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism, Ganapatya, and Mahavir. Other important communities include Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Christians.
The most notable art form of Pipili is the applique work, which involves stitching colorful fabric pieces onto a base fabric to create intricate designs for religious ceremonies. Pipli celebrates various festivals with great enthusiasm and respect. Some of the major festivals include Rath Yatra, Diwali, and Durga Puja. These festivals are marked by colourful processions, traditional dance performances, and feasts.
The role of dance and music in temple rituals in Puri was important enough to set aside a separate enclosure, the Nata mandira, as a focal point. Nata mandiras are typically decorated with figures in various poses of dance and musicians playing a variety of instruments.
The current estimated population of the Pipili Notified Area Committee in 2024 is approximately 24,900. According to Pipili's population religion data, the town comprises Hindus (67.63%), Muslims (29.06%), Christians (3.18%), Sikhs (0.03%), Buddhists (0.01%), etc.
Out of the total population, 5,822 individuals were engaged in work or business activities, with 4,979 being males and 843 being females. In the census survey, a worker is defined as a person involved in business, a job, service, cultivation, or labor activity. Of the total working population of 5,822, 85.73% were engaged in Main Work, while 14.27% of total workers were involved in Marginal Work.
Nestled by the captivating shores, Puri stands as more than just a picturesque beach destination; it holds profound significance as a major pilgrimage center in India. The city boasts the esteemed Jagannath Temple, a 12th-century marvel founded by Adi Shankara. The Sun Temple in nearby Konark, known as the Black Pagoda, stands as a 13th-century architectural wonder.
Jagannath temple - The temple has contributed the word ‘Juggernaut’ to the English language. The fame of Puri is mainly due to this 12th century temple. The annual Rath Yatra is a considerable tourist attraction. Within its precincts are the smaller temples of Vimala, Lakshmi, Vishnu and of innumerable gods and goddesses.
Sun Temple - The Temple Chariot at Konarak of the Sun God (Black Pagoda is a 13th century architectural marvel. Designed as a celestial chariot of the Sun God, it sits on twelve pairs of wheels and is ‘drawn’ by seven horses. The main sanctum is in ruins, but the Dance Hall and Audience Hall are intact. This legendary temple has sculptures of great beauty, covering all aspects of life.
Another attraction of the district is the world-famous Chilika Lake, rich in biodiversity. This natural lake attracts millions of tourists every year for its habitat of Irawadi dolphins and Migratory (Siberian) birds.
List of craftsmen.