We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give ― Winston S. Churchill

Antima Khanna

Handmade Stories

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Stories could be memories or mediation between the reality and aspirations
that reflect what a society wishes to express about itself.
Story is perhaps the oldest form of communication known to humankind.

It has a way of mesmerizing the listeners into silence
and the tellers into expressing the deepest desires and anxieties of their society,
directly or through subversive means.


Storytelling brings people together,
whether it is a street corner or a darkened cinema hall.
While the essence of story remains the same, the way of telling stories
has been influenced by the kind of tools and technology of the times.
From telling stories with the help of voice and gesture alone to using painted scrolls
and boxes, text, dance, music, performance or a combination of all,
storytelling in India is a rich heritage.
It defines our culture and our identity.

kaavad 1

Associated with  legendary historical background the craft of Kaavad making
is more than 400 years old.
It is said that when Shravan Kumar was taking his blind parents for a pilgrimage,
Raja Dashrath accidentally killed him by his arrow.
Extremely apologetic on his deed Raja Dashrath fulfilled his last wish
of somehow to bring the holy shrine to his parents as he couldn’t take them to pilgrim.
Kaavad for his parents symbolized as the gateway to God and
for all those who cannot go for the pilgrimage.


Since then, it was embedded in the tradition of Rajasthan.

The dictionary (Apte, 1996) defines Kaavad as either a ‘Kavaat’ or ‘Kapaat’ or ‘Kivaad’ meaning half a door or panel of a door, or as ‘Shruti’ which is audition, hearing or relating to the ear. Bhanawat (1975) subscribes to the term ‘Kivaad’ meaning door and the shrine consists of several panels that open up like many doors.


The Kaavad is a portable wooden temple/shrine that has visual narratives
on its multiple panels that are hinged together.
These panels open and close like doors simulating the several thresholds of a temple.
The visuals are those of Gods, goddesses, saints, local heroes and the patrons.
It is made by the Suthar (carpenter) community in Mewar for the itinerant
Kaavadiya Bhat (storyteller) from Marwar who brings
it to his patron’s houses in Rajasthan.


The Kaavadiyas (storytellers) and their jajmans (hereditary patrons)
consider the Kaavad as a sacred shrine which demands certain rituals to be followed,
listening to genealogies, epic stories and making donations.
It is believed that listening to stories purifies the soul and reserves a place
of entry for the devotee in heaven.
Kaavad Sorytelling


At Bassi, artisans of the Kumawat caste make a range of carved and painted objects,
among which is the kaavad, the portable shrine with
multiple folding doors, each of which is painted with
representations of epics and myths.





These are used by the Kavadia Bhatt,
the itinerant priests who narrate epics whilst simultaneously pointing
to the appropriate illustrations on the kaavad with a peacock feather.
The reading proceeds from the frontal panels to the inner until the tale is completed
and the last panel is opened to grant the gathered viewers a darshan, glimpse,
of the deity represented.


The basic structure of the kaavad is made of medium soft, low density wood,
usually adusal, meetha neem or salar-the surface defects
of which are filled with a mixture of sawdust and adhesive.
The object is then dried and sanded and coated with khaddi,
a type of soil found in Bhilwara district,
which acts as a primer and gives the object a shell white hue.
Previously, naturally derived colours were utilized but they have now been replaced
with powder or poster colours that are mixed with gum and water
and finished with a coat of transparent varnish.




Read here all about the Kaavad and its making

If you are interested in knowing more about this tradition,
you can visit Kala Ghoda, Mumbai on 10th Sep 2014
for a book launch by Niyogi Books India
“Kaavad Tradition of Rajasthan”

Note: Source of pictures are linked with each photo, just click on them.

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