‘Sanjhi’ is a word derived from words like ‘Sajja’, ‘Shringar’ and ‘Sajavat’
which all means ‘decoration’.
Sanjhi art is rooted in the folk culture of Uttar Pradesh (Mathura).
It was taken to its glory by the Vaishnava temples in the 15th and 16th century.
Sanjhi came to be regarded as a highly refined art form practiced by the Brahmin priests.
For hundreds of years this peculiar art persisted and flourished mainly in the community of the Vaishnavs. Ustads, or Masters plied scissors and sharp cutting blades creating amazing art-works to decorate temples, nat-mandir and kirtan sabha at the time Vaishnav Festivals such as Rasa, Holi, Janmashtami and Jhulan.
The speciality of this art that produced superb creations was that the paper cutting were made without any previous sketching or tracing.
At Mathura, Vrindavan, Bengal and Orissa, where Vaishnav communities lived enriched Indian culture with Radha Krishna lore in visual and performing arts, this rare art manifested itself in different schools depicting silhouette and stencil forms.
It is interesting to note that the Ustads of yore not only depecited Radha Krishna Leela but also scenes from the daily life at their time.
Perhaps the most unique way in which these paper cutting were sometimes used was for the impression on water.
A large vessel was filled with water and then a paper cutting was
carefully placed on the surface of it.
Then it was covered with powdered pigment called abir, and the paper cutting was removed very carefully so the picture was stenciled on the surface of water.
The effect, though transitory, was entirely other world.
The forms cutout in Sanjhi Art are produced in very short time but it requires many years of patience and practice to attain the skill of cutting out complete balanced
compositions without the aid of drawings.
beautiful work by Emma Van Leest
Even in Commonwealth Games 2010, the branding, the logo and the entire look of the Games were designed keeping in mind global standards but all with a traditional Indian touch.
For instance, the pictograms were inspired by the Sanjhi art.
Today, the art of Sanjhi has become rare and is practiced by
very few people in very few temples only.
Sanjhi practice is among the most ancient and most beautiful branches of this tradition, which somehow remains in the temple of Radharamana at Vrindavan (UP).