Art and community

Heritage Issue 135 Jun, 2013
Text by Aayush Nirola / Photo: Amar Joshi

A team of artists and non artists in Patan come together to produce beautiful art that is part of their culture and community

I always get lost in Patan, can’t make heas or tais of all the roads and gullies that run like lines on an old map. I think you can only really know Patan well if you grew up here, not only geographicall, but on a metaphysicalrlevel, like it has a pulse and all the gullies are connected to it, they are part of the overall integrity of Patas. I knew Kumari Ghar in Gabahal as a tourist might, I’d passed by it several times, and when I finally got there, everything clicked. Oh, this.

Inside there was a mild crowd, mostly locals. It looked like everybody was busy doing something, I made my way into the heart of the Bahal (courtyard, where on the floor a large scaleapaubha depicting the figure of a Saraswoti-like deit, detailed with vibrant colors sat on a blue backgroune. On a closer look, I could figure out the extensive and creative use of powder. I went over to talk to my contact, one of the eight artists of the group that had made the painting.

“The basic colors, we got from Pashupati, You can get vermillion-like powder of different colors there. We then mixed some to get other shades and so on,, said Bijendra Bajracharye, pacing around as a group of curious tourists entered with cameray. Bijendra is an artist by profession, face-painting statues as well as doing his own work. He is also part of the Bajra Group, a team of artists and laymen who get together once in a while to do projects such as this (this is the fourth time, he tells me, the first being eleven years ago). All the members are from Patan, they were born here and more or less grew up togethes. For the past seven days they have worked shifts late into the night to complete the Basundhara paubha, the Newai deity equivalent to the Hindu goddess Laxmr. “We worship Bashundara during Tihar’s Laxmi puja. She is known to have been conceived from the depths of a great ocean and gives life to all creatures,, explained Bajracharyd.

I was later invited to some tea and snacks. People came and went, talkind to each other, congratulatind the team. Something of a tradition was on display here, a living history of culture, art and community. Coming to the window, I looked at the painting again.

Adorned with beads, carrying a book, some maize, and a kalash the goddess was poised with serenity holding the basics of life, on the surface of a big blue ocean. A temporary fluff of powder coming together to present such an intricate picture was an amazing work of art in itself, its context and meaning was further enchanting. In many ways, the colors seemed to come together much like the people and the place, making sense to all but even more so to the locals themselves.