The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Leafy lore takes centrestage
- Unique art competition to enhance traditional folk craft

Bhubaneswar, July 1: It was a novel competition that left judges undetermined regarding the results and parameters.

Things, however, were soon sorted out as “Transcription of Palm Leaf Manuscripts of Orissa” began. The judges included some senior manuscript artists and officials of the state museum, who attended a pre-meet sitting where probable parameters were discussed at length and in details.

It was decided, at the pre-meet session, the candidates would be judged by their style (of writing), spelling, pagination, inscribing, handling and copying skills, explained Arun Nayak. of Aitiha, an organisation working for the preservation of heritage which had organised the competition. “This is the first time that such a competition in India was held and we’ll see that this becomes an example for other to follow,” claimed Nayak. But it was not enough for the judges to know the rules, they were also explained to participants that included a good number of girls.

Each participant was handed a palm leaf and was asked to write a script from Ramayana using individual accessories. “We have a good experience in this art. Our inscriptions usually relate to art, religion, astronomy and medicines,” said Binodini Jena, a 15-year-old participant. Binodini and others like her have travelled from villages across Raghurajpur, Nyakpatna, Khashraposhak and Damodarpur in Puri to take part in the meet.

“There is so much work available these days. We earn around Rs 3,000 per month,” said Sabita Jena from Damodarpur. Inscribing on a leaf take up to 10 minutes for each leaf, which fetches a minimum sum of Rs 8. “We sell a set for Rs 800 approximately,” said Sabita. Girls from her village were so inundated with work that they decided to discontinue with their studies.

“Such meets would encourage participants to enhance the subtlety in their designs. They will develop a will to excel That was the main idea,” said the assistant curator of the state museum, P.K. Singh. The competition continued for six hours. The results would be announced tomorrow.

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