Friday, December 30, 2011

Rajgir Mahotsava-2011

Rajgir Mahotsava- 2011 In Pictures

Rajgir Mahotsava-2011 was very successful in many ways. Learning from past experiences the Department of Tourism (Government of Bihar) and District Administration, Nalanda, provided many more opportunities to small enterprises owned by SHGs, NGOs and Cooperatives to showcase their produce through the Gram Shree Mela. Many sports and cultural events were also planned throughout the day to encourage local schools and artisans. 

During the prime time (6 to 10 pm), there were a galaxy of top stars with lively performances. I share with you a few glimpses of the mega show,

Seating arrangement for the audience
The entrance gate

Hon' CM and other dignitaries releasing the souvenir  "VIRASAT", a compilation of heritage places of the Nalanda District
Alka Yagnik

Roop Kumar Rathod and Sonali Rathod enthralled the audience with their performance

Echoes of the Footsteps of the Buddha by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University)

Dr. R. Panth, Director, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara and others at the exhibition

Gram Shree Mela

Hon' Chief Minister Shri Nitish Kumar Ji Inaugurating the Mela

Hon' CM with the Artisan's Products

Local talent display
Tanga Race was one of the major attractions

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baavanbuti Sari now in Nepura

The plight of handloom weavers across the country is apparent and it is worsening every day. In the 1990s power looms became increasingly common, producing many times more product than handlooms, which can take months to produce specially designed woven fabrics thread by thread
Chinese products of finished fabrics with synthetic yarns have further aggravated the situation.  Many macro- and micro- social and economical issues have complicated the process and thousands of handlooms in the Nalanda district alone have fallen silent.
In spite of these limitations, there are some rays of hope; efforts by individuals and organizations to promote handloom work that keeps the hope alive. If you visit Baswanbigha and Nepura in the Nalanda district, you can still hear the harmonic and rhythmic picking sound of a fly shuttle in the lanes of these villages. Efforts to upgrade the skills of the weavers and introduce new designs were made by the late Shri Upendra Maharathi. Now his daughter, Smt. Mahasweta Maharathi, is following in his footsteps. She feels that handloom products from India enjoy an international reputation with a good demand in the international market. She has impressed upon the weavers the need to develop new designs and patterns based on the ancient motifs of this land. 
Select weavers of Nepura and Baswanbigha are currently engaged in producing fabrics based on traditional Baavanbutti pattern of weaves. I had an opportunity to talk to one such weaver in Nepura, Shri Akhilesh Kumar. He is so proud to be associated with this initiative and proudly showed us a newspaper article in which his woven Baavanbuti fabric was offered to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion of the inauguration of the Buddha Smiriti Uddhyan (Buddha Memorial Park) in Patna. Akhilesh expressed continued interest in learning new patterns of designs and said that he is grateful to the team of Maha Sweta Maharathi ji for giving him this opportunity.
Narrative about the Baavanbuti Weave 
Weavers at Nepura preparing the Weft
 Baavanbuti  Weaving in progress at Nepura
A proud moment for Akhilesh- His hand woven Baavanbuti fabric being offered to H.H. Dalai Lama
Akhilesh with his Baavanbuti design set on Loom
The finished product

Promotional Brochure for Baavanbuti Weave
Nepura is known for its Tussar Silk handloom weaving and I have worked with the weavers group here.  At Nepura, generally the whole family is involved in the weaving process. Most of the preparatory work like bleaching, opening of the cocoon for the silk, stretching and winding,  etc. are done by the women and children and weaving on the looms are done by the men, although one woman has learned this trade, too.

Development of Griddhkuta(Vulture's Peak) Zone (Circuit)

Griddhkuta (Also Vulture's Peak) is a very important pilgrimage site for the followers of the teachings of the Buddha. Griddhkuta Hill is surrounded by many other important places. Unfortunately, many of these places are currently inaccessible to pilgrims. The Chinese monk scholars,  Fahein (5th CE) and Xuanzang (7th CE), gave detailed descriptions about caves and rock shelters surrounding the base of Griddhkuta Hill. A meeting of concerned officials was called by Shri Sanjay Aggarwal, District Magistrate, Nalanda,  to prepare a developmental plan for Griddhkuta and its surrounding areas which would make these places of pilgrimage interest accessible again.

The objective of the meeting was revival of the link path between Griddhkuta Hill, Ashokan Stupa and Vishwa Shanti Stupa, (refer to Fig-1 and Fig-2)
1-Access to the caves on the southern side of Griddhkuta Hill (to create a circumambulatory path around Griddhkuta Hill)
2- Link path between Griddhkuta and the Ashokan Stupa on the north of Griddhkuta Hill
3- Staircase reaching to the Ashokan Stupa
4- Link path between  the Vishwa Shanti Stupa and the Ashokan Stupa
5- Circumambulatory path around the Ashokan Stupa

The idea is to create a Griddhkuta Circuit consisting of places in and around Griddhkuta Hill. A careful study of the Google Image (Fig-1 and Fig-2) suggests that there was some path connecting these hills, which was lost during the past centuries. This task required coordination among the officials of the Forest Department and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). We are grateful to Shri Rakesh Kumar Ji (Divisional Conservator of Forest), Dr. Pathak (Dy. SA, ASI) and Shri Keshto Ji (ASI)  for their kind cooperation to make it all possible.

Shri Baban Pandey (Asst. Engineer, Government of Bihar) and Shri Manoj Kumar took time out to do all the measurement work.
Fig-1- The places around Griddhkuta and the ancient path connecting them

Fig-2- The proposed link paths and circumambulatory path marked in colours
DCF Shri Rakesh Ji , ASI Representatives Shri Krishto Ji and others at Griddhkuta
Shri Baban Pandey and Manoj Kumar making the measurments

Close view of the uneven ancient path
Path flanked by dense bushes
Myself with Baban Pandey ji at Ashokan Stupa
Dhamma Flags at Ashokan Stupa
View of Vishwa Shanti Stupa from Ashokan Stupa

We look forward to the completion of the Griddhkuta Circuit and the revival of the ancient pilgrimage to these places.