Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nepura after Endogenous Tourism Project

At the start of the tourism season, the women's cooperative of Nepura  is ready with a new range of Sujuni and home furnishings. Nepura women's cooperative is popular for their traditional stitch work called Sujuni. Sujuni was traditionally made by rural women, and Sujuni based quilts and bedsheets were traditional gifts exchanged in marriages and for festivals. The stitch pieces are inspired by dynamic and diverse motifs, stories from daily life, and historical and contemporary social issues. At Nepura, the artisans have made an effort to create sujuni using Buddhist motifs, recreating the life and stories of the Buddha with needle and thread. 

 Sujuni Wall Hangings

The Buddha preaching in Pavarika Amravana

As per the Pali literature, the Buddha spent his 11th Vassa (rainy season retreat) at Pavarika Amravana. The Remains of Ancient Nalanda University was developed at the site of Pavarika Amravana. Nepura is 4 km west of Ancient Nalanda University. Lusho, the artisan, has stitched this beautiful piece depicting the Buddha sitting under a mango tree in Pavarika Amravana (Mango forest) giving discourse to the Sangha.
Sujuni as  wall hanging

Xuanzang celebrated Chinese monk scholar, came to Nalanda in 7th century CE. As per the story he was given a royal welcome at Nalanda by the Monks and the lay people.
Xuanzang being welcomed by the Monk community of Nalanda Sangharama

Deforestation, firewood carrying women and dying trees....
This is how it looks on the wall.....

The Buddha with his Sangha

Three women gossiping....

Bedsheets with hand embroidery work...
Rashmi devi and Lata devi with their work

Bed-sheets with stitch work are very much in demand by the visitors, it normally takes around 10 days to prepare one bed-sheet with hand embroidery work.
Bed-sheet with Eternal  Knot stitched

The Eternal knot iconography symbolised Samsara i.e., the endless cycle of suffering or birth, death and rebirth within Tibetan Buddhism. The Knot overlaps without a beginning or an end, symbolizing the Buddha's endless wisdom and compassion. The placing of the endless knot on a gift or greeting card is understood to establish an auspicious connection between the giver and the recipient.The products with this motif are very much appreciated by the patrons and buyers

The Eternal Knot
Manju devi with Eternal Knot based Bed-sheet

Malti Devi with the  Bed-sheet prepared by her
Pooja Kumari is youngest member of the cooperative with her creation

Cushion Covers
Cushion Cover Set with hand Embroidery

Hand Bags with  Bodhi Tree motif

A handbag with Bodhi Tree Motif

Bag with the Bodhi Tree Motif

Kurta with Embroidery design work

Kurta stitched by Nepura cooperative Artisans

Artisan and the Kurta prepared by her

Khatwa- Traditional Applique work
Khatwa is traditional applique work popular with rural women. Traditionally it  started with using old, torn pieces of cloth sewn or fixed over another. In the recent past, Khatwa has gained much appreciation from the patrons of art. The traditional use of motifs and pattern from day to day life are very popular with the buyers. At Nepura, Buddhist motifs, too, are used by the artisans.
Fishes, Water, Lotus flowers, Bodhi tree all in one 

The Bodhi Tree motif

A Quilt with Applique work

A Hand bag with Deer Park motif
Bag with colourful leaves

A Khatwa Cushion Cover  Set with Floral Motif

Khatwa and hand embroidery work on Cushion cover set

  Cushion Cover with Eternal Knot motif

Nepura in "India Calling!" Event in Los Angeles
September 19 & 20, 2009
Smt. Renu Devi, President of Anchala Ladies Cooperative, Nepura, participated in the event at Los Angeles.

Renu ji with her product at Nepura Kiosk

It was the second time that an artisan from Nepura was invited by the Government of India to participate in an International event. Last time, two artisans, Sushilaji and Maltiji, participated in "India@60", held at Singapore in 2008. Renuji had a nice experience interacting with the visitors at her stall.

Artisans' Contingent with Tourism officials

Visit of   R. K. Anil and Mayura Balasubramanian 
and "Home Stay"

In Feb 2010, Anil and Mayura, visited Nepura. Anil and Mayura were associated with the Endogenous Tourism Project of which Nepura was also a part. Anil and Mayura have a strong bonding with the community of Nepura. Both of them have contributed a lot in shaping the project since its inception in 2005.
The community was very happy to have them once again at Nepura.


Anil trying Bihari Folk Music....

Mayura with Narendra Ji (Secretary, Nepura Village Tourism Development Committee)

Home stay is an integral part of rural tourism. Nepura, also will have a home stay soon, the process has been initiated. A traditional house in the village has been identified for this and the owner is willing. 

Nepura's  "Home Stay"

Weavers' unit (Pit Loom) at Interpretation center

Nepura has around 50 traditional weavers unit. Nepura is also famous as "SILK Village" for its traditional Tasar weaving craft. "Nepura Village Tourism Development Committee" and The Nepura Weavers Cooperative have together started a weavers unit at the Interpretation center.

Secretaries of the Cooperative and Tourism development committee with the Pit Loom
With decrease in production of  tasar cocoon, the cost has increased many folds in last 5 years.  Weavers  are gradually moving from  tasar weaving to weaving other varieties like cotton and China silk. The over all scenario of weavers and weaving is very sad in Bihar,  but nepura is still surviving on its own because of its traditional marketing networks. Nepura Tourism Development Committee has made this initiative to link the weaver's products with the women cooperative raw material requirements. Some such efforts were made earlier but that didn't work. This initiative by the new team is a well thought out and neatly executed.

Ven. Dhamdipa in Tasar Jacket prepared by the weaver cooperative

Nepura Participation in Rajgir Mahotsava-2009

Artisans from Nepura have participated in many exhibitions, events and craft melas. All the events during the project time were sponsored by the project. Even after the project (Endogenous Tourism Project) had come to an end, the enthusiasm of the female artisans is still high. They leave no opportunity to put stall at any given opportunity. Though response in such fairs is still less than expected, this will improve as more awareness is reached through publicity.  Now we need to grow the community participation for tourism.

Artisans taking turns at Nepura stall....

Horse cart Race in Rajgir Mahotsava.................

"On the Footsteps of Xuanzang" Circuit

Bihar has many villages which has rich Buddhist remains. Most of the remains are unprotected at the mercy of the Community living by the heritage. This heritage is of immense importance to the Buddhist all over the world. The biggest contribution of the Endogenous Tourism Project to Nalanda and Bihar is that it has set a path for the heritage villages by establishing a link between the heritage and rural tourism (Heritage/Cultural tourism).

Nepura lies exactly between the Rajgir and Nalanda, and any ancient path linking the two must have passed through Nepura. This path was once walked by the Buddha and his followers. This idea led to the design of "Footsteps of the Xuanzang" trail.  Xuanzang mentions about 30 odd places associated with the Buddha and his eminent disciples. A brochure was designed accordingly, and was presented to the Chief Minister Shri. Nitish Kumar.

The CM took interest in this heritage trail and he stayed at Rajgir for 1 week (24th Dec to 31st Dec 2009). He took this ancient pilgrimage trail as mentioned by Xuanzang. During his stay, it was announced that the revival of this ancient trail will link these heritage villages  and develop them as Rural tourism sites.

CM on way to Saptapanni Cave, site of 1st Buddhist Council

CM at Jethian with the community

The Brochure with the Trail Map

General Meetings and Events
 Republic Day Celebration-26th January

Nepura Village Tourism Development Committee has to grow as an democratic institution  acceptable to the community of Nepura. Nepura Village has three institutions facilitated under the project (Endogenous Tourism Project) and after two years of persistence all the three institutions got registered with appropriate government authorities.

Computer Classes for the Cooperative members

Computer literacy is very essential in the long run for the women artisans and the weavers as well.

A computer was purchased under the Endogenous Tourism Project. At least 5 women artisans can start the  computer, see design files and play music. Though this is a good beginning, the target now is for them to be able to access e-mails. Keeping this in mind, a weekly computer training classes is arranged and the response is encouraging.

Inaugural function

Weekly Classes ( Sundays)

Women artisans working with Computer machine

The never ending work of the Physical Infrastructure

Development of the physical infrastructure for tourism at Nepura is a long journey that seems to never end. 50Lacs was the money given by Ministry of tourism, Government of India. It was desired that the community participate in the design process of the physical infrastructure requirement. The community took lots of interest and a report was submitted to concerned departments. UNDP provided us an architect who would help us design the physical infrastructure using the local material and that goes with the local theme. Shri Anjan Mitra, the panelist architect made many visits and gave required inputs.

In spite of all efforts by the NGO partner, ADITHI, to involve the community in the decision making process  for hardware work, the district administration  halfheartedly welcomed the idea. The contract work was offered to a local goon to intimidate the community from raising any voice against the ongoing physical infrastructure work. But still the community people raised thier voices and it was ignored by the district administration. All this happened in 2006 and 2007. Money was siphoned off by the administration and the department engineers.The project was supposed to be complete by December 2007 , but all the inordinate delays at most of the ETP sites led the project to extend for one more year untill December 2008.

In 2008, we had a change in district administration and the new district magistrate took notice of the complaints. But by then, the damage was already done and the Nepura is still bleeding. The 2008 tourism season was approaching and  the project was supposed to be officially over. The unfinished work was a big cause of concern among the community of Nepura. They staged dharna and a protest march against the irregularities in the work. CM took notice of this and State tourism department was asked to do the necessary.

Anjan Mitra and R.K Anil with the community discussing physical infrastructure issues (2006)

Village implementation committee with District officials (2006)

The Engineers, Contractor and the Village Implementation Committee(2006)

Village Implementation committee staging  protest in 2008

Visit of  Smt. Rashmi VermaTourism Secretary (Government of Bihar)
Chief Minister at Nepura- Dec, 2009
Capacity Building workshop for the Guides (2008)

Anupam Kumar (DM, Nalanda), Kuldeep Narayan (SDO, Rajgir) with the Village Implementation Committee (2008)

Anupam Kumar (DM, Nalanda) making an Inspection of  work

Malti Devi and Sushila Devi at India@60, Event , Singapore-2008

Enthusiasm of the community at the start of the Project- April-2004

C. Sridhar (SDO, Rajgir), Dr. Panth (Director, NNM) and the team from Adithi at Nepura-April-2004

Photo Shoot at Nepura

Capacity Building for Guides Workshop -2008

Inspection by Engineers in 2008

Promotional Material for Nepura

CM announcing Tourism Infrastructure Development Plan for Nepura- Dec, 2009

New Road under construction


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