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The Sand Art of Odisha

The Sand art of Odisha

photo courtesy: mattbuck

If you happen to be in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha and are strolling on the beaches of the temple town of Puri do not be surprised if you see a spectacular palace arising out of the sand or perhaps a beautiful mermaid enticing you with her curves out of the sand. Welcome to the hub of sand art in India.

Somebody had once said, " Art is free" and nothing epitomises that more than the sand art of Puri where the only materials required to paint a masterpiece is the sand on the beach and the water from the ocean.

photo courtesy: Dr.Rohit choudhary raj

Nobody knows how sand art came to be so popular or unique to Odisha but an interesting legend is quoted about the origin of sand art in Odisha. In the 14th century Odisha, there lived a poet called Balaram Das . A great devotee of the Lord Jagannath, it was Das's great desire to climb aboard the rath(chariot) of Lord Jagannath during the annual Rath yatra. However, due to his lowly caste, he was denied permission to do so by the priests and insulted and humiliated. In his anger and frustration he went to sea shore and started drawing images of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra on the sand and started praying. So strong was his devotion and fervent his prayer, that all the three gods left their original chariots from the yatra and appeared before him.

photo courtesy: Os Rúpias

Although there is no concrete historical evidence to prove this story, it nevertheless shows the familiarity of people of Odisha with sand art since a long time.

With the advent of tourism and newer forms of publicity, sand sculpting as a form of art soon came to be recognised and more so due to a zealous and master craftsman called Sudarshan Patnaik. Starting in 1995, Patnaik's work is world famous today and his current work spans global issues like terrorism to global warming. He also runs a Sand Art Institute which is an open-air learning school right on the Puri beach. Due to the time required in sculpting a sand structure and the perishable nature of sand art few people persist with it as of now but there is no denying the popularity of this form of art across the world which can be gauged by the sand art competitions organized at a global level.

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