Archive for July, 2011

Jagannath Mohaptra : The Man Who Draws on Shell

Jagannath Mohaptra: The man who draws on Shell

Jagannath Mohaptra: The man who draws on Shell

Orissa has been a land of many unique art forms. Ingrained in its culture and tradition are many forms of arts that are not only unique but unheard of in any other parts of the world. Shell art is one such art form.

Shell art celebrates the beauty of nature. Unfortunately for most people who don’t see beyond the visible, shells provide an innate opportunity for artists to encapsulate the world in them. This is where people like Jagannath Mohapatra come into picture.

An artist who has not only succeeded in giving the rare art form a voice of its own but also in the process has single handedly held the torch of this dying art form, Jagannath is a revered person not only in his home town of Puri but also in India.

The master craftsman with his unique ability to eke out lively figures of Lord Jagannath and other pictures on shells has not only managed to make out his living practicing this art but draw the attention of people and government towards this art form. His efforts have been recognized by one sundry and he has also been felicitated by state and central government. He was in news recently for having received the national award from the President of India.

Jagannath who has been diligently practicing the art since his childhood says rapt attention and steadfastness are two attributes that are needed to carry on with the art of shell painting. Ability to concentrate is a must because a slight distraction cause shells to break and disintegrate. Jagannth who has been the champion of this form of arts since decades rues the fact that there are hardly any enthusiasts who are willing to practice this form of art now days. And hardly anything worth its name is being done by the government to let this form of art survive from dissipating.

Nila Madhab Panda: Emerging Film Maker From Orissa

Nila Madhab Panda - Director of the movie I am Kalam

Nila Madhab Panda - Director of the movie "I am Kalam"

The much acclaimed film “I am Kalam” has won as many as 12 national and international awards including the Yong Jury’s Best Feature Film Award and the Best Feature Film Award at the Lucas International Film Festival in Germany. Apart from this, the film has been screened at number of film festivals around the world.

And as” I am Kalam” basks in rave reviews the world over, the man behind it, maintains a low profile. Hailing from Sonepur district of Orissa, Nila Madhab has 70 documentaries, short films and television drams (including two mega serials) and corporate and advertising films to his name.

The much acclaimed film of Nila Madhab has storyline based on Chhotu, who works in a tea stall and is inspired by Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam to go to school and educate himself. Nila Madhab Panda, who himself had to struggle a lot during his younger days had his primary education in the village school which didn’t have proper building and then for upper primary education , he had to walk 8km daily. He studied at the Ulunda High School which is 9km away from his home, so he had to go by cycle.

I am Kalam

I am Kalam

Nila Madhab, who enrolled for the entrepreneurship program at IIM later, went on to found Eleeanora Images, a multimedia production house producing diverse and cutting edge films from India in 1998. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the India Screenwriting Lab, which focuses on creating quality scripts for Indian Cinema, with the British Council, Saregama, the European Union Media International Program, EON Productions, Goethe Institute in Germany, Cinekid in Amsterdam, Children’s Film Society, India. It’s a result of his focused efforts that has started off a sort of a movement towards creating New Wave Indian Cinema, which is changing the very face of Bollywood. He also is the Indian Creative Associate for the UK Arts Council funded ‘Moti Roti 360 Degrees’.

The current film produced by Smile Foundation was inspired by Panda’s encounter with a young boy ten years back which has been superimposed with the life and character of former president APJ Kalam. Kalam’s . The film celebrates the survival of the human spirit against overwhelming odds like poverty, child labor, illiteracy, class system, etc. It is like a fairytale about how a child reacts to things, with a positive tone despite the serious issues it touches. The movie marks the debut of Delhi-based 12-year-old underprivileged child Harsh Mayyar in the lead and French theatre actress Beatrice Ordeix. Gulshan Grover and child actor Hussan Saad play pivotal roles.

Mythology Slowly Vanishing from The Menu of Oriya Films

Oriya Mythological Films

Oriya Mythological Films

The society is evolving and so are the media that recount stories. So while greed, sex and crime form the crux of most films in Bollywood, the same is happening back here in the Oriya film industry. Though both Bollywood and Ollywood are poles apart in many ways, it’s not difficult to draw an analogy between both on one ground – the way they have evolved.

Walking down the memory lane one can find the birth of film industry both in Mumbai and back here in Orissa to astoundingly similar story themes – Mythology. Raja Harischandra , the first Indian film directed by the legendary Dada Saheb Phalke had drawn its story line from Mythological anecdotes of Indian Scriptures. Similarly the Oriya Filmdom started its trek towards the celluloid glitz with Sita Bibah , a film based on the popular Indian scripture Ramayana. The film was directed by Mohan Sunder Dev Goswami and released in 1937.

After a streak of mythological and historical films, the Indian Film industry took on to social story lines. The same thing happened down here with the Oriya Film industry. A streak of mythological films formed the crux of most films that were made in Orissa after the launch of the first one.

The second Oriya Film to be launched in Orissa was Lalita in 1949 which was based on the popular Oriya deity Lord Jagannath. Though the film crashed, surprisingly it was another film on the same storyline that went on to create records in Oriya filmdom. Shri Jagannath released in 1950 was, in fact the milestone of Oriya Film industry as it inspired a generation to take film making seriously.

What followed next was a slew of social and formula films. However mythological films kept on coming in between. It was in the year 1962 that mythological films came to fore once again as two films with storylines drawn from Indian scriptures went on to become run away hits. Dasyu Ratnakar and Jaya Deba were both smashing hits and again prompted film makers to explore Mythological Subjects. Sree Sree Patitapabana, another film based on Lord Jagannath was released the next year and was again able to get a favorable response from the audience.

In the seventies, Nitai Palit directed chartbuster  Krushna Sudama which created box-office record. He repeated the success with BandhuMohanty Though, in 1978 another mythological film Sati Anusaya was released, it failed to be a crowd-puller. Sree Krushna Rassalila, Sri  Jagannath. Mathura Bijaya and Nila Madhab were released in 1979.

But, barring Sri Jagannath which created records, rest three films flopped at the box-office. Jaya Ma Mangala hit the theatres next year, but it was more social in nature than mythological. Seeta Laba Kusha, a south Indian movie dubbed in Oriya, released during that period also had very little success. Debajani directed by Byomkesh Tripathy and released in 1981 faced a similar fate.

The mythological films clicked again with Bhakta Salabeg. Directed by Radha Panda in 1983. It created history and broke all previous box-office records whereas Mahasati Savitri released in the same year failed to create an impact. Raja Harishchandra and Basant Rasa, which were also released in 1984 earned moderate success. But in 1993, a remake of Naga Panchami was able to earn a record collection.

After that there has been a decline in the number of mythological films that were made. Though films like Gojabayani released in 1998 were runaway success, these were more of social film that revolved around power of a Local Deity. After a long hiatus Sabyasachi Mohapatra directed Jai Jagannath” was released in 2007. The film had an extraordinarily impressive cast that included Sadhu Meher, Sarat Pujari, Sritam and Jyoti Mishra and was released in 13 languages simultaneously including English and Hindi and was released all over India. Despite the crew and hype that surrounded the film, it could not pull crowds in the theatres. The film wa the last of mythological films to be made in Orissa.

To see the Hindi Film industry in the same lens, one can find that mythological and historical films have already taken a back seat in the Bollywood. Though a slew of them in the formative years got good response from audiences, the last mythological film in true sense was made in the year 1986 . Veer Ekalavya was a low budget film and vanished from theatres even before people could know. Social and Formula film today rules the roost in Bollywood. And it would not be misnomer to say that as on today’s date Ollywood is just a meek follower to what the Bollywood does. Sleaze, sex and crime have become the most preferred subject matters of directors in Ollywood.

Cinema is a powerful mode and wields tremendous influence on people. It can be used to favorably disseminate correct moral among the masses. Orissa in Particular and India in general has a huge repository of mythological stories that can be used to deliver the message among the people. It’s the right time when mythological films are taken in right earnest in film industry.

Kanwariyas and the month of Shravan in Orissa

kanwariyas walking on their way to Shiva temple

kanwariyas walking on their way to Shiva temple

Shiva Temples experience unusually high footfalls; Roads and streets are painted saffron; the air ricochets with the chants of Bol Bhums and worshipping and fasting become an order of the day – Well this is a regular feature of Shravan Month that coincide with the rainy seasons in India. And walking on the lane, particularly on Mondays , which are considered the most auspicious of all days of the week in the month of Shravan, you can see the multitude as though they have got omnipresent.

The first Monday month of Shravan that begins on 18th of July this year is expected to make the city a teeming point of Kanwariyas. Devotees throng in multitudes carrying water from the Gadgadia ghat of Mahanadi in Cuttack to Lingraj Temple of Bhubaneswar walking down the entire stretch in bare foot. The Kanwariyas – as they are called move in groups chanting “Bam Bam Bhole” carrying the pitcher filled with the sacred water slung on a bamboo stick on their shoulders as they trek their way to the Temple city.

It is an act of devotion and a feat of endurance, for the journey must be made by traveling on foot taking only one meal per day and making sure that the water or “Kanwar” is never placed on the ground during the entire trek. The water is never to touch the ground until it is used in the consecration of the Shivalinga. Dressed up in saffron clothes, sporting tilak on their forehead and applying tattoos of varied designs , the devotees offer oblations to Lord Shiva and seek his blessings.

Legend behind the Month of Shravan and Kanwariyas

Lord Shiva Drinking Poision

Lord Shiva Drinking Poision

Mythological anecdotes refer to the story of churning of Ocean ( Samudra manthan) by the demons and gods. The churnings reveal 13 types of jewels and a pot of Ambrosia (Amrit ) and a pot of Poison. While the Gods and Goddesses eagerly tasted the amrit (if consumed was to provide immortality), none ventured forward to have a taste of the poison. The toxic poison named Halahal or Kalkuta was finally consumed by Lord Shiva on the supplication of gods and demons. While Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat, it caused tremendous heat in his body and changed the color of his neck, he was offered with Gangajal (water from the Ganga) to pacify Him. Lord Shiva got the name of Neelkanth (in Sanskrit “neela” means the color blue and “kanth” means neck) after this event. Shivalingas have thus been worshipped by pouring waters over the Shivlingas, a process known as JALABISHEK.

Since this happened in the month of Shravan,it has become a tradition to offer water to the Lord in this month.

Shravan – A month of penance and devotion

The month of Shravan is symbolic with praying and fasting, it being a month dedicated to practicing self restraint and exercising control over all worldly desires. The fasts done in the month of shravan on Mondays are known as Shravan Somwar Vrat. It is believed that by observing Sravan Somvar Vrat all desires gets fulfilled. It is believed that if unmarried women keep fast on Mondays of the month they would get a good husband. Apart from Monday’s, women keep fasts on Tuesdays and Fridays of the month too. On Tuesdays newly married brides keep the Mangala Gauri Vrata to get rid of bad omens and married women keep Varalaksmi Vrata on Friday (Shravan Shukravar Vrata).

Each day in the month of Shravan has a special significance and other deities are worshiped too. Mondays are dedicated to Shiva, Tuesdays to Gauri, Wednesdays to Vithala, Thursdays to Mercury and Jupiter, Fridays to Lakshmi and Tulsi, Saturdays to Shani and Sundays to Sun. Many do Pujas of Lord Vishnu on Saturday. Those who have complications in their birth chart due to the planet Saturn observe fast on this day of Sampat Shanivar .Praying to Goddess Lakshmi is also considered auspicious in this month. Some other auspicious occasions in the month of Shravan are Hariyali Amavasi, Hariyali Teej, Nag Panchami, Tulsi Das Jayanti,Putradaikadashi, Shravani Purnima, Rishi Panchami, Krishna Janmashtami and Raksha Bandhan.

The Man who Never Lost Hope

Trilochan Nayak - the Man Who Never Lost Hope

Trilochan Nayak - the Man Who Never Lost Hope

Where there is a will, there is a way. It has been aptly said that for  a determined person nothing comes as as a hurdle – not even age. Same holds true for Trilochan Nayak, a 55 year old farmer from Parikheda Village in Dhenkanal district or Orissa. For Trilochan who showed unusual courage and determination in clearing Matriculation after 42 attempts and the intermediate exams after 10 attempts, the adage – Nothing is Impossible – is but a misnomer.

After each failure, his determination only grew stronger and he was finally able to clear the 10+2 exams this year at the age of 55 securing 48.5% marks. Though a farmer by profession and the only earning member of his family, he still manages to find time for studies.

The resolute man first appeared for the Matriculation exams in 1972 from Banasingh high school. And though he failed in the examination, he never lost hopes. He kept on trying until he finally cleared the Matriculation exam in the year 1999. He then took admission in Dhenkanal Junior college to pursue his 10+2 in Arts stream.

To add to his woes, his son was already admitted in the same college. Embarrassed at the prospects of bringing his son to a uncomfortable position, he withdrew his name from the college and got himself admitted in the evening session of the same college. After continuously trying for 10 long year, he was finally able to clear the intermediate exams this year by securing 291 marks of 600.

The resolute man has now enrolled for a five years integrated Law program and hopes to complete it soon.

The Shiva Temple at Goghardham , Orissa

Ghoghar Temple of orissa

Ghoghar Temple of orissa

Rich in foliage and flush with minerals, Sundargarh district is one of the largest districts of Orissa. The district is also host to one of the oldest tribal communities of the world – the Gonds. It is these tribal community that bring with them an unmatched heritage of religious activities and colorful tradition.

There are many temples in and around Sundragarh that validate its active association with the past. Vedvyas temple near Rourkela for example draws crowd in multitude not only from Orissa but from neighboring states of Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand. The place is famed as the spot where the sage Vedvyas composed Mahabharat.

Similarly Goghor temple near Rourkela carries its own historic importance. Situated at just 25km away from Vedvyas, the place is a significant seat of Shiva worship. Nestled amidst deep foliage, Goghor has a history that can be traced at least 5 centuries back. The temple was constructed by the king of Sundargarh Raghunath Sekhar Deo.

Shiva Linga At The Ghoghar Temple

Shiva Linga At The Ghoghar Temple

There is an interesting story associated with the construction of temple over here. It is said that the king’s cattle were taken to to graze in the field where the present day temple is placed. It was then a thick jungle that was inhabited by wild animals.Once, one of the favorite cows of the king went missing. When the king was apprised about this, he ordered the cowboys to assist him into the jungle to track down his cow.

After searching the jungle thoroughly, they discovered the cow near a stone and to everybody’s surprise sprinkling milk over it. The curious king thus orders to drag out the stone with his elephant. But to everybody’s surprise, the elephant fell dead the very moment it is tied to the stone. Feeling frustrated and exhausted, the king camped nearby to rest for the evening and at night he dreamt the same stone (Linga) as Lord Shiva. The next day morning he rushed to the place and to his astonishment there he found a stream of water flowing from the foot of the stone . And soon the Stone (Linga) was submerged.

The king, amazed at the God’s miracle built a temple on the spot and donated 590 acres of land to the Bhuyan community for maintenance and Puja offering. Since then, Lord Shiva is worshiped here. The uniqueness of the temple is that till date it is the priests appointed by the people of Bhuyan community that perform worship here.

The temple was revamped to a bigger one with the donations from devotees and in 1987, Jagat Guru Swarupananda Saraswati Maharaj inaugurated the new temple. Now in this temple Puja is offered by Dehuri families.

This historic temple celebrates majorly 3 festivals, in rainy season Sravana month, Kartika Purnima and Shiva Ratri. In rainy season more than lakh of devotees from neighboring states visit this place carrying water to pour on the Linga every Monday for the whole month of Sravana. Local administration takes all necessary steps in coordination with temple’s trust for a better management.

A Marriage Made in Heaven – Deaf and Mute Couple tie knot in Orissa

Oriya Marriage

Oriya Marriage

In a real life enactment of the soul stirring bollywood movie Kosish where the lead players portray the parts of a deaf and mute couple, a deaf and mute couple from Cuttack has recently tied the knot. Nili Barika and Trinath Sahoo , the young newlyweds who can neither speak nor hear, but are now bound together in matrimony and love.

Though the bride and groom could not hear the sound of the shehnai being played at their wedding venue and neither could they express their emotions through words, the joy on their faces was unmistakable. Happiness was writ large on bride Nili’s face, as is the case for all women on the threshold of starting a new life.

Nili and Trinath tied the knot in a simple ceremony at a temple in Mohhamadia bazaar. Nili is a resident of Mohammadia bazaar while Trinath is an orphan residing in the Ranihat area.

What’s even more interesting about this wedding is that it was fixed by a deaf-and-dumb person,Ajay Panda. Panda, who is a common friend of both the bride’s and the groom’s families, acted as a mediator in fixing the wedding.

Hordes of people of the deaf-and-dumb community in the city visited the wedding venue to bless the newly- wed couple.

Nili is the youngest of seven siblings, five of whom are deaf-mute. Her father, Narayan Barik, who runs a barber shop, could not get them treated for lack of funds. “Today is the happiest day of my life as my daughter has found the right man. I had lost all hope of her getting married but God has been really kind to her,” said Narayan.

Study centre for Berhampur jail inmates

Inmates of Berhampur Jail

Inmates of Berhampur Jail

In a gesture that is meant to provide education to inmates of various jails in Orissa, the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) under the ministry of human resources is going to start a study center soon in the Berhampur Jail. This is the first NIOS centre inside a jail in the state.

Those who have crossed 14 years of age can now enroll in the study center to clear their Class X examination. No formal educational qualification is required to enroll in the center. The course can be completed from one to five years . The step is welcome as many of the prisoners languishing in the jails can utilize their time by completing their formal education. The NIOS would conduct the examinations and also provide certificates that are equivalent to certificate given by the Central Board of Secondary Education ( CBSE).

The NIOS which already runs eleven such study centres in different states of india including Punjab, Haryana,Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have announced 50 per cent subsidy on the enrollment fee of the jail inmates in the study centers. Another advantage that the study program offers is that of Vocational training at the time of the regular classes. The inmates can choose from among 86 different trades of vocational training.

Pala: A dying Dance Form of Orissa

Pala - A unique dance Form of orissa

Pala - A unique dance Form of orissa

Orissa’s 400 year old folk theater form, Pala is much more than just a form of art. For years the dance form has been a symbol of cultural amalgamation of the two predominant religious sects in Orissa – the Hindus and Muslim.

Pala is a long musical narrative of mythological anecdotes punctuated with explanations rendered by a “Gayak” (Main Singer) accompanied by a band of four or five persons. It originated from the Skanada Purana in the form of 16 Pala (narration of 16 stages of life of lord Vishnu). Among the group of five persons, one plays Mridangam while others play musical instruments like taala and cymbals.

The Gayak describes episodes from Mahabharat and Ramayan in Sanskrit. The musicians who accompany him join at appropriate moments in a chorus of semblance of dialogue. The Gayak who takes the lead in singing, is highly innovative and establishes a rapport with his audience. The tale is interspersed with loud music of drums and Cymbals.

The origin of Pala dates back to the Mughal periods where there were efforts to bring amity between the Hindus and Muslims. Pala troupes worshipped ‘Satyapir’ – Satyanarayan of the Hindus and Pir of the Muslims thus leading to peaceful coexistence of both the religions in Orissa.The form originated in Bengal but flourished better in Orissa. A popular poet has scripted 16 different stories in verse form about the worship of ‘Satyapir’. As the folk tradition gained popularity on Orissa soil in the course of time, it had a transition from the pure musical genre to an ideal combination of music and literature, thereby enhancing its mass appeal

Pala is a unique art form combining elements of theater, odissi music, highly refined oriya and Sanskrit poetry coupled with wit and humor and is a dignified folk art form that teaches moral to society. Palas is presented in three ways. These are Baithaki (seated pala) – where performers sit on the ground throughout the play; Thia Pala (Standing) – This is more popular and aesthetic in which the group stand while performing; Badi Pala – A kind of thia pala in which two groups vie for excellence. This is the most interesting of all three.

The pala singer begins his performance by invoking the blessings of a deity, Sarala- the muse of poetry in the beginning and briefly states the theme of his song as he continues his performance , another singer ask him or requests him to elucidate a point.

Pala end with lines repeated again and again propitiating a deity and giving romance an air of sanctity. The singer also uses prose now and then to lines of verse in order to make the narrative simpler.

The singer is an excellent actor with multi dimensional talents. While singing or explaining he brings in drama to heighten the appeal. He uses his Chamara (flying whisk) to suggest different properties. At one time it indicates the thunderbolt of Lord Indra, at another it defines the lyrical movement of waves. The singer wears a costume similar to the formal dress of erstwhile royal nobility.

To be a good Gayak, one has to devote years of studying and practice eof epics. He needs to gain mastery in Sanskrit while cultivating the art of singing and dancing at the same time.

Sandwiched between lack of State support and dwindling public patronage, pala, is fast losing ground today. It has got marginalized with the advent cinema and television, besides changing taste of people with rapid urbanization and is today in grave danger of losing itself completely.

Bhubaneswar: Emerging Banking Business Hub of India

Orissa on Rise

Orissa on Rise

The latest RBI quarterly report on the top banking centers in the country has just confirmed the rising influence of Orissa in the economic circuits of the country. The report on banking business turnover places Bhubaneswar among the top twenty financial centers of India.

Placed at No.17, the growth of deposits in Bhubaneswar is far higher than cities like Baroda and Kochi. The brisk business in the city is evident from the fact that it has pipped down even Gurgaon and Noida in the total credit volume disbursed in the country.

Bhubaneswar sees 70% of its deposit being converted into credit portfolio aiding the growth in the gross city domestic product by over 10%.The per branch mobilization in the city stood at a whopping Rs 121 Crore and the per branch credit disbursal has been Rs 86 Crore. The business volume growth is among top-5 in the country. The rate of credit disbursal has grown by 45% last year against 28% growth rate notched up by the top 100 banking centers in the country.

Based on the report, it is being forecasted that the City would soon break into Top 10 banking centers of the country if it is groomed properly and its service sector encouraged. Hospitality, IT and real estate are the emerging investment destinations in Bhubaneswar. If these sectors are properly nurtured and export based industries are encouraged, the City will soon soon be one of the bese economic zones of the country.