Nestled amongst the verdant hills of the Aravallis, just three kilometres from Udaipur is Shilpgram,the rural arts and craft complex that replicates the rural lifestyle of the states of Rajasthan,Maharashtra,Gujarat,Goa and UT of Daman,Diu and DNH that are covered by West Zone Cultural Centre,Udaipur.
Entering Shilpgram through the majestic traditional Toran Dwar, one is enthralled by the singing and dancing women and girls dip and swirl in an age old pattern on a raised platform.On display is a huge attractive Indra Viman that belonged to the royal family of the erstwhile Jhalawar state. On the occasion of festivals the royal family rode the Rath that was driven by elephants.
The thirty one traditional huts from the member states incorporate the traditional architectural features and designs of the different ethnic groups.They are built with the traditional building material brought from the concerned region and built by the same people using them to preserve their authenticity. Exhibited in them are household articles of everyday use -whether terracotta or textiles,wooden or metal,agricultural implements or craftsman’s tools.
Two huts represent the weaver community of the desert region of western Rajasthan named after the sand bound villages of Rama and Sum.The third hut represents the potter’s hut of Mewar named after the village Dhol,seventy kilometers west of Udaipur. Two huts each of Bhil and Sehariya represent the tribal agricultural community of Southern Rajasthan.Gujarat is represented by two huts each belonging to the Rebari tribe, Meghwals and the Maldharis,a Muslim community, famous for weaving,embroidery, bead and mirror work.Equally well known for its terracotta horses is the potter’s hut from the village Lamadiya.Nearby is weaver’s hut from Vasedi village in Chota Nagpur district of Gujarat..The Rathwa hut from the same region exhibits the traditional Pithora paintings of this tribal community.The tribal agricultural community of Southern Gujarat is represented by the Dang hut showing the typical tribal lifestyles.Pethapur Haweli is an ornately carved wooden house dismantled and brought from Pethapur near Gandhinagar and reconstructed to its original form.The Bhojudi hut from the wasteland of Kutch represents the life style of Rebari community.
Out of the seven huts from Maharashtra,Koli hut was selected from the seashore hamlet of Rajgarh district. Nearby is one hut from Kolhapur representing leather chappal craftsmen. The Worli hut from Thane district is replete with traditional wall paintings.The next two huts belong to the Gond and Maria community of eastern Maharashtra known for Dokra work.Kunbi hut represents the tribal agricultural communities of Bhandare district. One hut is from Wardha district. From Goa, there is a Potter’s hut from Bicholim village and a traditional Brahmin hut made of laterite stone brought from Goa.A fisherman’s hut from the Mandori riverside and Christian hut from Margaon area depict their respective lifestyles. From the lush green Concona area of southern Goa is the typical hut of the Kulumbi tribal agricultural community.
A new attractive feature that has been added recently is the traditional hut of Nagaland.Till now there have been the huts of the four member states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Daman Diu and Rajasthan. For this,a thirty by forty feet and thirty feet high hut of Bonsam wood that is 150 years old has been brought from Nagaland.In it is displayed the traditional crafts of the state such as spears.
Displayed in the traditional Art and Craft Museum are various objects used in everyday life depicting the aesthetic sense of the rural and tribal lifestyle.The Terracotta and Mask museum exhibits various terracotta items and masks representing different art forms of the entire country. The Kothi Museum displays beautiful varieties of granaries used for storing food grains by different communities of Western India.The Tribal Museum set up by Tribal Research Institute exhibits various photographs, tools,implements, costumes, music instruments and other objects belonging to Bhil,Sehariya, Kathodi and Garasia tribal communities of Rajasthan.
Built to the ancient classical style, Muktakashi Rangmanch – an open air amphitheater with a huge mud ,plastered stage on the slope if a hill can accommodate 8000 persons. It becomes alive with the performances of hundreds of performing artists from all over the country during festivals like Shilpgram Utsav.
Sculpture Park on the Shikhar- the sunset point, has the masterpieces of international sculptors strewn around the Devras,worship places of the village community, are spread all over Shilpgram.The Shilpgram Dhaba serves traditional food to visitors while children enjoy camel and horse ride and play on swings and merry -go -round.
Throughout the year ,Shilpa Darshan programme attracts folk artists and craftsmen who come here from different parts of the member states.They reside in Kala Niwas and demonstrate their art and craft interacting directly with the visitors.The craftsmen occupy the Thadas,stalls, laid out in the village Haat pattern and sell their masterpieces,while the artists present their performances in different venues like Chaupal,Angan etc.every day.
Visiting Shilpgram, a mini rural India,provides a complete picture of the vast mosaic of unity in diversity of different communities and their culture and lifestyle.