: Puri, Cuttack & Bargarh Districts, Orissa
Over the centuries, Puri has preserved a superb tradition of carving, dating back to the Kalinga School. Craftsmen in Pathuriasahi at Puri use soft soapstone and hard kochila to carve replicas of temple sculptures. At
Mangalpur near Balasore, skilled craftsmen carve utensils of rare beauty from the semi-grey stone of Khiching.
In addition to stoneware, stylised animal and bird toys meticulously carved out of wood, and painted wooden masks, once used in plays based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana are a feast for the eyes. The craftsmen of
Khandapara in Puri are masters at carving plates, bowls, jugs, flower vases and other decorative and functional articles from a creamy white wood.
Carving in Puri is not confined to stone and wood alone. The porous roots and stem of a water plant are being used since ancient times to carve miniature statues of gods and goddesses, temple replicas, animals, decorative hangings, garlands. Known as Sholapith work, the carved articles, if left in natural off-white, look like ivory. When painted, they acquire a distinctive sheen. The papier-mâché art of Puri, Chikti Barpali, Parlakhamedi (Ganjam district), and a few villages around Cuttack has unusual features. The papier-mâché toys produced by the craftsmen have detachable limbs and nodding heads.
Plain Wood Carving
The plain wood carvings are mostly done on a soft creamish wood called "Gambhari" or white teak. While the features in the painted wood carvings are usually less defined and blunt, those in the plain carvings in
Gambhari are not only sharp and fine but attain exquisite needle work finish and are more akin to the workmanship of the sculptors.
Well proportioned and finished to great smoothness these items are fit for a connoisseur's including Konark wheel besides other items based on myths, legends and folklore. Indolent damsels, Krishna,
Radha, Sakhis, Haraparvati. Konark horse, Konark elephant are popular but the scene from 'Mahabharata' depicting Krishna teaching 'Arjuna' the tenets of the 'Gita' when the latter shies away from the battle, with the grand chariot with its divine charioteer and the valiant rider depicted by the wood carver is most captivating.
This variety of wood carving is mostly practiced in Cuttack town though a few craftsmen are also found at
Bhubaneswar and Puri . Wood turned articles using the creamish
Gambhari and the harder and darker 'Sisu' or rose wood is a specialty of the artisans from
Daspalla area in Puri district.
Popular items are small pitchers with mango leaves and coconut, glass, bowls, and incense stands. It is interesting to note that although the process of wood turning with small hand operated wooden lathe is also used else where in India, the
Orissa artisans prefer to leave the surface plain and they do not lacquer it like the famous toy makers of
Chennapatna in Karnataka .
Wood Carving Excellence In Temples
Samples of the excellence of the wood carvers of Orissa can be found in temple ceilings and carved wooden beams and doors in places like "Birnchinarayan
temple" at Buguda, "Charchika temple" at Banki, "Shiva temple at
Kapilas, and "Laxmi-Nrusingha temple" at Berhampur.