• Rashmi Nair

Meena Ki Kahani - Unbox Festival Series

Listening to stories has always been a delightful experience. It takes me back to the glorious childhood days of listening to grandmother tales. At the core of her, every fascinating story would lay the epic world of Mahabharata  Ramayana or any other Puranas. Storytelling is a popular tradition and one of the oldest art forms of India. Each community and region has its own style and manner of narrating the stories illustrating the richness of their culture. Today the traditional art of storytelling is vanishing from India and losing its place in our fast-paced modern lives.

During my visit to Unbox Festival 2013 - at Zorba, I was particularly drawn towards the Artisan's Node. This is one of the series of the Unbox Festival which I am posting today. The story 'Meena ki Kahani' and the detailed art reconnected me with some forgotten tales, the fading art form and a few of these captivating artisans who keep this tradition alive.

Above Picture: Is the beginning of Meena ki Kahani. This particular story is about a girls education and narrates her life journey as to how she got educated and how her family supported her and she lived a well balanced happy life.

Made By : Dwarka Prasad Jangid a KAWAD Artist

A Kawad is an amazing wooden painted temple, with lots of panels and secret compartments that fold out to tell a story that's narrated in a rhythmic pattern by opening successive doors and pointing towards the next painting.

Above Picture: This is Meena's Village where she was born.

The Kawadia Bhat (the artist) opens up the Kawad, one panel at a time, and describes the scene in the panel. As each subsequent panel is opened, the story progresses. Fascinatingly, the story does not make sense unless the panels are opened in the correct sequence. This is because a fair bit of tricky carpentry has gone into the Kawad - some panels slide out, some swivel on a stick, some open out like drawers, and still, some others are fold-outs... And of course, only the Kawadiya Baht knows the secret sequence!

Above Picture: The above scene depicts Meena's Home. Her House in the background along with the Cow resting in the lawn area. Her Mother cleaning the house and her brother playing with a cycle tyre. A Teacher came to her home to speak with her Dad, who is peacefully sitting under the tree, requesting the family to send Meena to school. He speaks with them at length making them understand the importance of education for girls.

As the story develops, the Kawadiya too progresses towards the inner-most central panel, and the story comes to its logical climax with the final image of the God or Goddess in full regalia, very much like a temple sanctum. as the narration ends, and the audience is required to put money into the Kawad-there's a little box for it, a slit in the kawad, specially designed for this!

Above Picture: In the above picture (from right to left), Meena goes to school on the request of the teacher and turns out to be a fabulous student. She completes her school education and as expected, is forced by her family to sit at home and work after her school level education. Her teacher again comes to the house and convinces the family to send her off to college - where she pursues Computer Science Grad as her specialization. (Next Pic) :)

Kawad Artists usually prefers the Ardu or Mango Wood. Firstly, all wooden panels are constructed and then chiselled and processed to make it's surface fine and smooth. Panels are joined with each other, attached with the main body of Kawad.

Above Pic: She goes off to her college in City and studies with dedication. She turned out to be the topper of her batch in college and was awarded and praised by her teachers.

Above Pic: She further pursued her education and pushed off to abroad for her studies in the field of Computer Science. Got busy with her day to day to study and worked hard. (According to the artist Dwarka ji, the train and metro depict London!)

Above Pic: After her completion of studies with excellent merit, she returned home. She got back to India and instead of taking a big job in an MNC, she travelled back to her village.

'Khadia' earthen colour is painted on the panels. The red colour is applied to make the base foundation strong for rough sketching on it. The subtle black lines made by 'syahi' give the fine finish.

Above Picture: Meena returns to her village - becomes a teacher herself and starts teaching all the women, young or old, they all came to her school to study.

Above Picture: After a few years, when she found her suitable partner - she married and lived happily ever after and continued teaching the women of her village. Her dream of making every woman in her village educated is in progress!

Traditionally Kawads are based on Rama's & Krishna's stories. But with the change in times, they also make stories on contemporary, festivals, historical and social issues. 

Above Picture: Dwarka Prasad Jangid holding the Kawad Story of ' Meena ki Kahani' He belongs to Jangid Brahmin Family of Bassi town and was born in 1953. He and his family are traditional Kawad makers. He learnt this art from his father ( Mohanlal Jangid) & his Grandfather (Guruji - Bhuralala Jangid). This tradition has been in their family for over 500 years and is being carried on by his son and daughter - in law now. He does carvings along with painting in Kawad and he's been experimenting a lot with new contemporary styles while keeping the traditional art intact.

A big thanks to Unbox Festival for the invite to capture their crazy fun festival! I have endless pictures of the festival - will be uploading them series wise.

#UnboxFestival #Kawad #Carvings #KawadMakers #TraditionalArt #DwarkaPrasadJangid


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