Past Glory of Horn Crafts of Odisha Is No More
Withering Horn Crafts of Odisha
( Horn craft artisan Uttam Sahoo designed this Durga idol ) Image Source: Twitter
Odisha stands apart from different other states of India because of its unique handicrafts and the innovation of the local artisans . The horn craft is characterised as the moulding of several utilitarian and luxury items out of the horns of a few creatures ( particularly cows and bisons) and this has been practised by the local artisans for quite a long period of time.
History & Varieties of Horn Crafts
The Odisha Horn craft is otherworldly and looks different from the horn crafts of other places . Horn crafts of Paralakhemundi feature the rich social legacy of the place.
Horn crafts in Odisha is for the most part done by the artisans of Paralakhemundi(Gajapati District Headquarter). This has been around since the time of Sri Krushna Chandra Gajapati Narayan Deb ( at least from last one and half century) . At first when horn crafts became known everywhere in the last part of the 1800’s , largely combs were the significant items that were being made . During the Second World War, these artisans outfitted individuals with certain needs like razors,spec covers etc. Yet are presently for the most part restricted to the making of beautiful things like ash tray, pen stands , snuff boxes and lampshades etc . New items picked up in this trade are adornments ( especially earrings, bangles, necklaces etc.)made from horns.
Image source: Indianetzone
Some facts about horn crafts of Paralakhemundi
# The horn crafts of Odisha, particularly of Paralakhemundi got international exposure when Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati took some horn combs as gifts to London during his visit in 1931 to take part in the round table conference there.
Gajapati, the erstwhile king of Paralakhemundi, Odisha Craft Museum
# During the second World war the horn ware from Paralakhemundi was exported to Europe and America
# The Saura tribes of Gajapati district used to make a blowing musical instrument out of the horn and as a cover for knives and swords.
Horn trumpet of Lanjia Saura tribes, Puttasingi near Gunupur, Gajapati
# When I enquired about the origin of horn crafts in Paralakhemundi to some of the elderly people, one name called Shri K V Appa Rao came to the picture . He was the trailblazer artisan who is given the credit of popularising the horn work of Paralakhemundi with the imperial support from Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati.
The name of their establishment was ‘Durga Horn Work’ during those times. Two notable horn artisans , Shri Minaketan maharana and Shri Raghunath maharana were associated with this . When Minaketan had expertise in the preparation of animal figures ( cow and calf, deer, elephant,horse,lizard,snake, prawn, monkey, camel etc) , Raghunatha had expertise in the preparation of the figures of birds ( crane holding a prawn, crow sitting on a pitcher, dancing peacock etc)
Dinosaur, image source: The Hans India
# As of now 50 artisans are occupied in the making of horn craft under the cooperative society known as Biswakarma Horn Craft Cooperative Society.
Procedure followed to prepare horn crafts
The preparation technique can be summed up as follows: crude horn is absorbed in water for a couple of hours to mellow it. The artisan surveys from the state of crude horn with respect to what eventual outcome to be planned out of it. Exploiting its pliancy the ideal shape is given with the assistance of little hand devices and with fire. Wooden clamps , chisels, hammer , hand dies with socks , stamping gauge and sharpening tools are some of the implements used . The final cleaning and polishing is finished with the assistance of coal ash, charcoal, chalk powder and moringa leaves.
The most widely recognized horn crafts are combs , which are made by parting the hollow portion of horns longitudinally. Other solid things like buttons are produced using the solid portion of the horn towards the sharp end.
Combs,Image source: swadesi.com
Critical Analysis of the Present Status
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: D’source
Drinking horn mugs, image: Indiamart
Nowadays , only a handful of horn craft artisans are active in this trade and they are mostly elderly artisans because the younger generation are quitting this career because of a blinking future . Raw material accounts for 5 to 10% of the cost of a product , wages account for 70 to 75% and overhead around 20% . This itself makes it clear regarding the amount of labour being put in for a decent horn craft. However, today the artisans need to contend with the less expensive and more tough substitutes like plastic combs and buttons . The horn crafts are being subbed and supplanted by indistinguishable looking polymer items . This has been the situation with numerous other customary crafts/ artworks. Consequently as a matter of first importance the strength of the horn crafts should be expanded and the designs ought to be fashionable and modern and for accomplishing this, the artisans should make crafts with less joints and utilize synthetic substances . For instance, polymer tar glue ought to be utilized rather than vegetable pastes. Laboursome work such as cutting, cleaning and polishing of the horns has to be avoided and more advanced machinery has to be put on use so that the rate of the final product can come down.
The industry promotion offices at the district level have to provide loans with subsidies to the artisans and develop markets (with aggressive promotional efforts) for their finished products. Another essential imperative is the consistent stock of raw materials ( horns of cows and bison) which is continuously turning out to be scant.The artisans are purchasing horns at the rate of Rs 200/- per kg, which is really not affordable . The government should provide these raw materials to the ground level artisans at a subsidised rate so that we can ensure a healthy growth of this withering traditional craft . Here I am submitting two news reports in this regard for my readers’ kind perusal.
Horn Crafts of Paralakhemundi
Please never forget to give your opinions in this regard in the comments section.🌹🙋♂️🙏
Dr. Manoj Mishra