Hand-carved combs are a tradition which has travelled down from the ancient chronicles of hair ornamentation. Kangsi, the craft of making wooden combs is a tradition that is a few hundred-years-old. It is practiced only by a minority of Banjaras in India today. The array of wooden combs decorated with intriguing carving, jali work, inlay and gold & silver ornamentation is indeed a treat to the curious eyes.

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      Introduction:

      Usage:

      The wooden combs are traditionally used to disentangle hair and also to comb out the tiniest of lice. These were an essential part of dressing up. The small combs were also used as hair-pins for ornamentation. Over time, the versatility of the combs have led to its multi-faceted usage. These combs are now also used to hold some oil and massage it into the hair. The Rajput and Sikh men use the small ones, which are handy to brush their beards with.
      In ancient India, women applied a mixture of Multani mitti (Fuller’s Earth) and Kali Mitti on their hair for nurturing their mane. A wooden comb was always used to massage the hair along with sesame seed oil. This combination, the localities believed could initiate hair growth. Grooming with the wooden comb is also believed to ease labour pains amongst pregnant women. Another enthralling native narrative suggests that women who carried cakes of dry cow dung on their heads over long distances were often troubled by problems of ticks and lice in the hair. The fine bristles of the comb were vital in driving them away.
      The wood that is utilized to craft these combs is obtained from trees such as Sheesham, Babool, Kadam, Ker and Ber, which are also reputed for their health benefits.


      Significance:

      It is believed that using these combs prevent hair fall. Being made of wood, the combs do not create any static electricity like their plastic counterparts. Therefore, according to many craftsmen and users, the hair breakage is less and it also does not meddle with the neurotransmitters and electricity in the brain.
      Grooming with the wooden comb is also believed to ease labour pains amongst pregnant women. The combs do not have sharp edges and the bristles are rounded just the right amount. These provide a great massaging sensation while combing and keep the head cool. The many innovative designs are expanding its usability. A few have a piece of mirror inserted onto the body to help take a quick look at, during grooming. These craftsmen have also come up with an ingenious variety of wooden combs which have a cavity at the handle portion, in which oil can be filled and corked. The oil then seeps out into the hair through miniscule holes between the bristles while combing.


      Myths & Legends:


      History:

      Hair dressing has always been an important part of grooming from time immemorial around the world. In India, hairdressing and ornamentation holds an important place and depicts different cultures, beliefs and even social status. Kesh Shringar (hair dressing or ornamentation) was an art and can be traced back to around 2000 BC. It is also one of the pegs in the Solah Shringar or the 16 beautification steps in Indian tradition.
      Many paintings and sculptures depict hairdressing. There are famous depictions of Lord Krishna lovingly combing the hair of his consort, Radha (2 & 4). To this day, one of the first gifts for a newborn or young bride or from a husband to a wife includes hairbrushes with silk soft bristles. In the Muria tribes of Chhattisgarh, the boys gift either wooden or brass combs to the girls of their choice and the status of the girl is enhanced by the number of combs she possesses. These convey that apart from being an element in daily routine, there is something sensual, appealing and comforting about having the hair brushed. Comb making therefore remains a significant industry. According to the craftsmen, the Kangsi craft tradition is more than 400-500 years old. Many tribes are adept in this craft. The members of these tribes used to make combs and travel around selling them, sometimes bartering them for grains and other essentials. They also used to make combs and ornamentation for royalty with ivory. Different tribes are known for their unique designs.
      The Chotamal Banjara tribe still carries on this craft tradition. The Banjaras were native to Marwad, Rajasthan, but economic hardship subsequently forced them to break up into smaller communities and disperse to other regions within India.


      Design:

      The combs are carved out of blocks of hardwood. Different kinds of designs cater to different uses. The most commonly seen designs are the square shaped ones with teeth on both sides – wider ones to one side and the finer ones to the other. The sides of the small combs are slightly convex shaped to provide better grip. The other type is made from a flat block cut in a semi-circular shape, with teeth on one side and the curve forming the grip.
      Many a times these wooden combs have patterned handles. Consequently, these have the teeth bristles to only one side. The patterns occasionally tilt towards elaborate details of animals or abstract inspirations from nature. The combs purchased by the tribals for their personal usage are very decorative. They favour the ones adorned with mirrors, threads and sequins.
      Many innovative designs have evolved for decorative and functional purposes. One type of comb has a cavity above the teeth bristles into which oil can be filled. The oil spreads onto the hair while combing.


      Challenges:

      Kesh Shringar is a dying practice with the fast pace of lifestyle today. The need for a comb in the dressing set, which massages and pampers the tresses, is zilch with the salon trends. The people are more directed towards picking up easily available and cheaper plastic combs. The number of craftsmen practicing the art has also diminished and the older Banjaras can be spotted sparsely in fairs or exhibitions.


      Introduction Process:

      Kangsi takes about four to five hours per piece and creates carefully crafted wooden combs. The process does not involve any machine or stencil and is carved out from the blueprints in the craftsmen’s mind, giving life to the wood.


      Raw Materials:

      The primary raw material in this craft is wood. The wood used is from the trees such as Sheesham, Babool, Kadam, Ker and Ber, which are also reputed for their health benefits. Oil is also used for rendering the crafted pieces splinter free and smooth.


      Waste:

      Apart from the wooden shavings removed during finishing each piece, there is no waste generated.  The artisan keeps collecting the wooden scrap and use the scrap wood as firewood for domestic purposes.


      Tools & Tech:

      The tools used in Kangsi are made by the craftsmen themselves according to the requirements and the designs they follow. The wood is taken from the trees using axes and small hacksaws are used to make blocks out of it. These hacksaws and fine chisels help make the minute teeth of the comb.
      Many types of files are used to polish the wood and smoothen it into a flat workable base. The finishing file is double layered, with one of the layers having sharply serrated edges and the second layer serving as a moving measure to mark the length of the comb while the teeth are being sawed. A special file is used to smoothen the teeth. The local names of these tools are Basula, Kasthi, Chugga etc.


      Rituals:

      It is interesting to observe that these combs have bristles on the either side of the stem. The thin bristles on one side are used to comb the hair of the head and the thick bristles on the other side are used to comb the beard. This makes the wooden comb an indispensible accessory amongst the local tribe which mainly includes the Sikh and the Rajput folk from the surrounding areas. The hairbrushes have transcended from the idea of being a common object of utilitarian virtue to a thoughtful gift for young brides, from a husband to wife amongst others.


      process:

      Kangsi takes about four to five hours per piece and creates carefully crafted wooden combs. The process does not involve any machine or stencil and is carved out from the blueprints in the craftsmen’s mind, giving life to the wood.

      The hardwood is cleaned, cut and given the outer shape using the file. The edge where the teeth are going to be sawed in is filed to form an inward slope. The slab is then clutched using the feet. A small piece of wood is placed under the slab to add to the support. No stencils or tracing drawings are made for the designs. The designs are made entirely in free hand.
      The small hacksaws create the fine teeth on the comb. This process is a fine form of art. The teeth are made equidistantly. Great care is taken to make these, since they are fine and are liable to break easily while sawing. A comb with malformed or broken bristles is of no value and the entire piece has to be discarded.


      Cluster Name: Ujjain - Ujjain

      Introduction:


      district Ujjain - Ujjain
      state Madhya Pradesh
      population
      langs Hindi, English
      best-time August - March
      stay-at Ujjain a big town is situated about 7-8 km from Berogah. One can find many good quality hotels and guest houses here.
      reach Ujjain Junction Railway Station connects Ujjain to all the major Indian cities, Well built SH & NH connect Ujjain with all the states of India. State transport buses & Delux a/c buses operators between Ujjain and its neighbouring cities.
      local Auto Riksha, Tampo (Public Transport), Local Bus
      food Poha-Jalabi, Dal-Bafla, Sweets

      History:

      The city of Ujjain is more than 5000 years old. Ujjain is mentioned in Buddhist literature as one of the four great powerful cities along with Vatsa, Kosala and Magadha with its capital as Avanti. It's religious importance extends to being one of the the fifty one Shaktipeethas ( places of worship devoted to goddess Shakti). It rests in the banks of the holy river Shipra. Ujjain is known by many names like Ujjaini, Avanti, Pratikalpa, Vishala, Kumudhati, Kushsthali, Chudamani, Kanak Srange, Padmavati. The religious text, Skanda Purana records the existence of 84 Mahadevas, 64 Yoginis, eight Bhairavas and six Vinayak temples in Ujjain. Ujjain is flanked by the shipra river to one side. The river has many Ghats for people of different sects to worship, from religious sects to the mystics. It also mentions the Kaal Bhairav temple in its Avanti Skanda chapter. The followers of Kapalika and Aghora sects used to worship Lord Shiva here. People offer liquor as part of the worship. The Kalbhairava Temple is believed to be associated with the cult of Tantra, an unorthodox secret cult with strong black magic overtones. Ujjain and Bherugarh are also darkly known for these practitioners of occult and the dubious cremation grounds, peppered with the tales of king Vikramaditya and vampire spirit Betaal.

      Geography:

      Ujjain lies in the Malwa plateau in central India at an average elevation of 500 mts. The river Shipra borders a side of the city. The landscape slopes towards the north and is covered with black stony soil. The main crops grown here are Soybean, wheat, jowar and bajra and the vegetation is sparse with thorny trees like Babul and Acacia. The region is one of the prominent centres of Opium production in the world. Behrugarh is situated about 6 kms north of Ujjain,across the bend of river Shipra. It is embraced by another looping bend of the river. The landscape grows more spacious and agricultural between the city limits of Ujjain and the beginnings of Behrugarh. Once the river is crossed and Behrugarh is entered, a huge wall of the Behrugarh jail looks down upon the entrant.

      Environment:



      Infrastructure:

      Ujjain is a major agricultural and textile trade centre. Being the district headquarters, it is well endowed with the basic infrastructure. It is well connected by rail directly to major Indian cities through the Western Railways. The strong road network is connected to Indore through SH-27 and SH-18. It has no national highway connectivity. Ujjain receives electricity from the Gandhi Sagar Dam on Chambal River. The flourishing industries here are cotton ginning and milling, oilseed milling, hand weaving and the manufacture of metal ware, tiles, hosiery, confectionery, strawboard and batteries.The Ujjaini suburb of Behrugarh is well known for its chippas or dyers and printers.

      Architecture:

      Ujjain brims with great examples of ancient temple architecture. The dominant Maratha rule in the beginning of the 17th century is what gave birth to a culture of temple architecture. The Jyotirling Mahakaleshwar and Har Siddhi temples were re-constructed during this period. Another temple, Gopal Mandir, now situated in the main market was also constructed during that period. This period saw the blend of two different styles - Maratha and Malwa. The examples of Maratha style are found in the temples of Ram Janardan, Kal Bhairava, Kalpeshwar and Tilakeshwar, while the traditional Malwa style can be seen in the Sandipani Ashram and in many large houses of the local seths/affluent men. In the Maratha period, the art of woodwork also developed as a skillful craft. They adorned the galleries and balconies of this period.

      Culture:

      The culture of this Malwa region is a significant mix of surrounding influences. Gujarati and Rajasthani culture is present due to their geographic proximity, whereas the Marathi influence is the effect of the rule of the Marathas. Marwadi and Malvi is spoken which belongs to the Rajasthani group of languages. The food in the region too has the flavours of both Gujarati and Rajasthani cuisine. The people follow a vegetarian diet with very few exceptions. Owing to the dry climate, the cuisine mostly contains storable dry foods. The bhutta ri kees (made with grated corn roasted in ghee and later cooked in milk with spices) constitutes a typical snack of Malwa. People make chakki ri shaak from a wheat dough by washing it under running water, steaming it and then used it in a gravy of curd. The traditional bread of Malwa, called baati/bafla, essentially a small, round ball of wheat flour, roasts over dung cakes in the traditional way. The art and literature culture is very strong in this region. Malwa was the centre of Sanskrit literature around the Gupta period. The celebrated playwright Kalidasa, hails from this region. There are many indigenous festivals celebrated. The Gana-gour festival honours Shiva and Parvati. Parvati, also called Rano Bai, in this region was believed to be married off to Rajasthan but had a strong attachment to Malwa. She was allowed to visit Malwa once a year. Gana-gour celebrates these annual visits. Ghadlya is another festival celebrated by the girls of this region. They gather in the evenings to visit every house in the village, carrying earthen pots. These pots contain lit oil lamps and have holes for the light to shine through. They recite poetry and songs in front of the houses, and are gifted with food or money in return. The Govardhan festival is celebrated on the 16th day of the Kartika (October/November) month. The Bhil tribes of the region celebrate by singing Heeda (songs to the cattle) and the Chandrawali (songs about Krishna's romance) are sung by the women of the tribe. Traditionally, the Banjara marriages are frequently held in the rains, a season forbidden to other Hindus, but naturally the most convenient to them because in the dry weather they are usually travelling. For the marriage ceremony they pitch tents in lieu of the marriage hall.The Banjara weddings have unique features. On the wedding day, the bride and the groom exchange seven round balls made of rice, ghee and sugar. After this, the couple holds hands and together do seven rounds of pounding grain with the large pestles. In the Banjara culture, death is not taken harshly but revered without mourning. It is accepted as an important part of the life cycle and a mode for the people to attain salvation. Untimely and unnatural deaths are however feared since the people who die this way turn into poltergeists and harmful spirits.

      People:

      The culture of this Malwa region is a significant mix of surrounding influences. Gujarati and Rajasthani culture is present due to their geographic proximity, whereas the Marathi influence is the effect of the rule of the Marathas. Marwadi and Malvi is spoken which belongs to the Rajasthani group of languages. The food in the region too has the flavours of both Gujarati and Rajasthani cuisine. The people follow a vegetarian diet with very few exceptions. Owing to the dry climate, the cuisine mostly contains storable dry foods. The bhutta ri kees (made with grated corn roasted in ghee and later cooked in milk with spices) constitutes a typical snack of Malwa. People make chakki ri shaak from a wheat dough by washing it under running water, steaming it and then used it in a gravy of curd. The traditional bread of Malwa, called baati/bafla, essentially a small, round ball of wheat flour, roasts over dung cakes in the traditional way. The art and literature culture is very strong in this region. Malwa was the centre of Sanskrit literature around the Gupta period. The celebrated playwright Kalidasa, hails from this region. There are many indigenous festivals celebrated. The Gana-gour festival honours Shiva and Parvati. Parvati, also called Rano Bai, in this region was believed to be married off to Rajasthan but had a strong attachment to Malwa. She was allowed to visit Malwa once a year. Gana-gour celebrates these annual visits. Ghadlya is another festival celebrated by the girls of this region. They gather in the evenings to visit every house in the village, carrying earthen pots. These pots contain lit oil lamps and have holes for the light to shine through. They recite poetry and songs in front of the houses, and are gifted with food or money in return. The Govardhan festival is celebrated on the 16th day of the Kartika (October/November) month. The Bhil tribes of the region celebrate by singing Heeda (songs to the cattle) and the Chandrawali (songs about Krishna's romance) are sung by the women of the tribe. Traditionally, the Banjara marriages are frequently held in the rains, a season forbidden to other Hindus, but naturally the most convenient to them because in the dry weather they are usually travelling. For the marriage ceremony they pitch tents in lieu of the marriage hall.The Banjara weddings have unique features. On the wedding day, the bride and the groom exchange seven round balls made of rice, ghee and sugar. After this, the couple holds hands and together do seven rounds of pounding grain with the large pestles. In the Banjara culture, death is not taken harshly but revered without mourning. It is accepted as an important part of the life cycle and a mode for the people to attain salvation. Untimely and unnatural deaths are however feared since the people who die this way turn into poltergeists and harmful spirits.

      Famous For:

      ~ Ujjain is famous for its Mahakaleshwar temple. The deity is Mahakala, the lord of time and death. It is believed to be one of the 12 Jyothirlingas in India. Jyorthirlingas are shrines where Lord Shiva's lingam or phallus is worshipped in the form of a 'Lingam of light'. This is believed to be Swayambhu or born of itself deriving currents of power (shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams which are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti. The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, facing the south. This temple is a very significant part of the Tantric tradition. ~ Maha Kumbh, the largest religious congregation on earth, takes place in this region. In the holy scripture, Bhagavatha purana, it is said that when the demons gain power over the world and the demigods grow weak, Lord Brahma and Shiva advice them to pray to the Sustainer Lord Vishnu. This event is celebrated as the Maha Kumbh. The mela's venue is determined by the position of Brihaspathi (Jupiter) and the sun. When the sun is position in Scorpio (Vrishchik Rashi) the Mela is celebrated at Ujjain. ~ Ujjain is also well known for the swayambhu Chintamani Ganesh temple.Riddhi & Siddhi, the two goddesses are enshrined on both sides of the icon of Ganesh. The deity is known to be prayed to for relieving worldly anxieties. There is a water tank present here called the Ban-Ganga. It is believed to have sprung out when Lakshman shot an arrow into the earth to get water out when Lord Ram was thirsty. ~ The Siddhavat Mandir is a well known place of pilgrimage in Ujjain. The tradition here is such that all the trees are considered immortal and worshipped as the Kalpavriksha, a divine tree which fulfills wishes. ~ The Mangalnath Mandir is the birthplace of Mangal graha or the planet mars, according to the Matsya puran ( Hindu scripture). Devotees flock to the temples on Tuesdays (Mangalvar).Ujjain was an important centre for astronomical study in ancient times, and this temple which is located on a hillock is said have provided a clear view of Mars. ~ Sandipani Ashram in Ujjain is believed to be where Lord Krishna and Sudama studied under the tutelage of Guru Sandipani. This fact from the Mahabharata proves that apart from being a centre of great political and religious importance, Ujjain was also a great seat of learning. ~ Kaliyadah Palace, the ruins of a once majestic sun temple exist in Ujjain. Its magnificence is described in the Skanda Purana. People from nearby villages hold religious baths in one of the tanks known as the Surya Kunda. The main structure of the temple is, however, is in ruins and is eroded over time by the river. ~ Gopal Mandir is another religious destination. It is a huge temple constructed by Bayajibai Shinde, the queen of Maharajah Daulat Rao Shinde in the 19th century. This beautiful example of Maratha architecture is situated in the middle of a spacious market square. ~ The holy river Shipra is bordered by several Ghats(a platform with a series of steps leading into the water). There are separate Ghats devoted to each community, where they come and carry out their rituals and prayers. ~ Ujjain also boasts of the Bharthari caves, an ancient site claiming to contain tunnels which lead directly to the Char dham (four seats of pilgrimage revered by the Hindus -Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri, and Rameshwaram). The channels were later shut down by the Britishers when they colonized India. Vedha Shala or the observatory was built in the 1720s by the Rajput king Raja Jai Singh who was a great patron of astrono.

      Craftsmen

      List of craftsmen.

      Documentation by:

      Team Gaatha

      Process Reference:

      Cluster Reference:

      (Date: 05.10.2013) http://books.google.co.in/books?id=PTWCdoqEUbsC&pg=PA26&lpg=PA26&dq=people+and+culture+ujjain+malwa&source=bl&ots=VCIAiSAllc&sig=az1j9lTyGXjQriB8Hbg8JH2jzB4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8wmtUJuhKMiJrAfokIFo&ved=0CGwQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=people and culture ujjain malwa&f=false (Date: 05.10.2013) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ujjain#Transport (Date: 05.10.2013) http://www.indianetzone.com/40/malwa_plateau.htm (Date: 05.10.2013) http://www.indiadivine.org/showthread.php?t=437457 (Date: 05.10.2013) http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Malwa_(Madhya_Pradesh)#Culture

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