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Raghurajpur Craft Village: Heritage on Sale !

"All these (the developments) are meant for the comfort of the tourists visiting the village. As they contribute to the revenue earning, Government is more concerned for them instead of the villagers who have made this village famous and a major tourist attraction."

HNF Bureau : May 30, 2007

A small village on the banks of river Bhargavee, Raghurajpur is widely known for its cultural heritage. Fifty kms from Bhubaneswar, the village has been declared a Craft Village since more than a decade because almost all the villagers are engaged in various crafts such as Patta Painting (A special type of mural painting on canvas), Palm leaf etching, making masks and wood craft. The village is now cited prominently in the tourist map of Orissa.

Keeping in view the growing inflow of tourists into the village, Government of Orissa, Government of India and even many NGOs like INTACH and NORAD have taken interest in development of this village. To make the tourist travel smoothly for the village and provide them with better comfort and luxurious stay facilities, Government has taken up various programmes for the infrastructure as well as development of village periphery.

The village road that is connected to the Bhubaneswar-Puri main road has been renovated. Provisions for drinking water supply are made. Department of Tourism has developed betel-leaf farming just at the village entrance to give it complete rural look. INTACH and NORAD have jointly made a guesthouse with all provisions of western comfort meant mainly for the outside tourists.

There are further plans to make an operative karmasala or regular workshops just in front of the guesthouse where the village artisans will work for the observation and pleasure of the tourists. Some foreign tourists would also come to learn the art of Patta Painting and palm leaf etching for what the village is famous worldwide.

When asked about all these developments in the village and the benefits that must have come to the villagers, famous Pattachitra artist and national award winner Mr. Gopal Maharana gave a frustrated smile and said, “All these (the developments) are meant for the comfort of the tourists visiting the village. As they contribute to the revenue earning, Government is more concerned for them instead of the villagers who have made this village famous and a major tourist attraction. We are working throughout the year and producing 3-4 paintings. But there is no way to market them at their deserving price. So, many times we are selling them to the tourists at a lower price to fulfil our requirements”.

Selling of these paintings and other artworks has really become a tough job because replica of these artworks are produced in various other places of the state as well as outside the state and marketed in a large scale. “Although they are not quality works, they are available to the tourists at a much lower price. They are not made with herbal colours as we villagers do it. The canvas is not processed properly as we take 3-4 days to get it done. Outsiders use chemical paint and so they can sell the artworks at a much cheaper price”, said Mr. Abakash Nayak, another young artist of the village, adding that, "we the village artists are starving here whereas, people who have little knowledge about it and who have learnt it from somebody of us is thriving."

"Like many other handicrafts, our art should be taken under patent and duplication or illegal production should be banned. The plight of artists has forced many village artisans to go out of the village and make this traditional art their second profession", says Abakash.

It’s really astonishing to see the houses of most of the artists including many national award winners in their old thatched fashion and without any imitation the innocent artists show their inability to make a concrete roof with their low earning.

The worst fact of the village comes to notice when one visits the house of Gurusri Maguni Das, the living propagator of Gotipua Dance honoured with a Padmasri title. He is now building a hall to teach the dance form inside, with all the money he has earned throughout his career. Of course, government has contributed a part for it. Sitting with his young students in the courtyard Gurusri Das asks, “Why the government didn’t provide full support? Is the project not worth getting total support? I have been conferred with a Padmasri award. But the dance form will not survive with my awards. I need support to keep this mission on at least for the shake of art restoration and dissemination.”

It seems the developments are intended for the business and revenue making and the village has been treated as a tourism product. Even if it's a product, the artists are its soul. Now, it is high time to change the focus towards these artists, because they, only, can conserve the heritage of this famous village if not diverted to any other profession.



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