Odisha or Orissa as it is commonly known is a state in India that has had a rich and vibrant heritage. Apart from the Odisha dance which is a world renowned art form, there is no dearth for creative avenues in the state. Dating back to centuries, ‘Applique craft’ has been an integral art form of the state. Pipli, a town in Orissa is where the craft form has an active tradition.

Derived from the French word appliqué, the craft involves superimposing patches of colored fabric on a basic piece of cloth to transform its look. Even though the tradition is believed to date back to 850 years, the last few decades have brought about tremendous change in the craft.

Trasa, Chandua, Adhoni, Alata and Bana, products that were used traditionally in Applique work and had its origin in Jagannath cult. At a time, due to the popularity of the art form amongst kings and nobility of Orissa, appliqué work had reached heights of excellence.

Pasa-Pali and Batua, two products that were later used in the art form has gained tremendous popularity among locals as well as tourists. A special bag called batua has become a raging sensation with tourists and locals who chew beetle. The ‘batua’ allows them to carry beetle and accessories. Pasa-Pali is a dice mat which is another popular product sold in Orissa.

Applique’ techniques:

Applique’ is based on stitches, strips and patchwork. A base cloth or fabric is converted into works of art by either stitching, patching or through strip work. Traditionally designs of plants, animals or celestial bodies are most common on works of Applique’. The secret lies in the amalgamation of colors and structural patterns forming a vibrant new look.

Applique’ Uses:

Applique items made from the technique are mainly used in ritual outings. In India, during festivals, it is a tradition to take sculptures of deities on an outing of sorts in chariots known as ‘yatra’ or ‘Ratha yatra’. The chariots can be seen covered with works of appliqué during these processions, giving the whole parade a colorful and vibrant experience. Also, the three main chariots that carry the deities during ratha yatra viz. the Balabhadra, Subhadra and  Lord Jagannath’s chariot are covered with Applique’ works made particularly for each. The pre-determined color schemes of each Chariot: green and red for Balabhadra, black and red for Subhadra and Yellow and red for Jagannath’s chariots helps thousands of pilgrims identify the deities from far away with ease during the procession.

Modern Applique work is being used to create products such as bags, covers, cushions, bed sheets and the like which has also gained tremendous popularity among the masses. The appeal of Applique’ craft probably lies in its simplicity of creating a colorful work of art from common piece of cloth and fabric.

The work done in Orissa with regards to Applique crafts is commendable. It is not often that tradition merges with urbanization to provide for a competitive market in terms of creativity and urbanization. The craftsmen of Applique elite have shown that they can adapt to modern trends keeping the sanctity of tradition in place. The government of Orissa is taking all measures to ensure that the art form propagates itself and gains the recognition it deserves.

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