Torchbearer of traditional, cultural wealth

Torchbearer of traditional, cultural wealth
Highlights

It is precisely to address such concerns that Dokka Srinivas, a resident of Kakinada, who graduated from the Pithapuram Rajah Government College, has painstakingly built his eclectic, mind-boggling collection.

Kakinada: At a time when traditional means of communication, artworks and handicrafts are on their last legs; here is a man with a never-say-die attitude who wants future generations to be abreast of the nation’s cultural legacy from his fabulous collections of rare specimens of vintage post cards, telegrams, Republic Day medals, leather puppets, coffee-table books, paintings, leather puppets, Kalamkari art, Madhubani art, palm leaf pata chitra and more. You name it, he has it!

When was the last time you or your parents sent a post card? Have you ever watched a Leather Puppet Show (Tolu Bommalata) or ever touched any of the wonderful creations on strings? Have you feasted your eyes on a Madhubani painting or Kalamkari artwork? How about Cheriyal Paintings? No many know how they are painted? Fewer still know what exactly is being conveyed through the traditional arts.

It is precisely to address such concerns that Dokka Srinivas, a resident of Kakinada, who graduated from the Pithapuram Rajah Government College, has painstakingly built his eclectic, mind-boggling collection.

Srinivas has spent a major part of adult life and a significant portion of his earnings towards collecting and preserving these vanishing treasures of India’s invaluable cultural heritage. He longs for official steps to revive the dying art forms so that future generations get to see them and know about them.

It appears that Dokka Srinivas has been influenced by the Rajah of Pithapuram who was known as ‘Andhra Bhoja’ for his peerless works of art and literature. Srinivas has a consuming passion for traditional Hindu crafts. He has been collecting for over two decades.

Presently, his collection includes postcards from pre-Independence era, Raja Ravi Varma painting replica postcards, vintage lithograph posters and exercise notebooks, terracotta lanterns, Midnapore’s pata chitras, Dokra metal crafts, Cheriyal paintings and masks, palm leaf pata chitra, jute wall hangings, West Bengal’s Sholapith crafts, Kondapalli toys, Kovad portable shrine, telegrams, tokens, medals and many more items of memorabilia.

Although he has been collecting items since 1993, it was only in 2000 that he started developing contacts with directors of leading museums, historians and archaeologists across the globe. His collection of a wide variety of telegrams was featured by BBC.

While showing his collection, Srinivas makes it a point to explain the specialty of every item. On Tolu Bommalata, Shadow Puppetry or Leather Puppetry, he says it saw its heyday in Andhra Pradesh when the theatre tradition was in vogue.

These puppets are generally made of skins of a goat or an antelope. The puppets are made so that they can freely move their hands and legs to simulate walking, jumping, swaying and even flying in the air. Generally, Tolu Bommalata performers entertain spectators with a series of stories from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.

They even sing ballads from famous Kings and Queens. Gradually this theatre form disappeared because of lack of patronage from the government and the puppeteers shifted to some other professions.

The Cheriyal paintings belong to Cheriyal village of Siddipet District in Telangana State. Srinivas’s collection of Kalamkari paintings come Srikalahasti. Generally, Kalamkari is hand-painted cloth. Kalamkari artisans use natural colours on cloths. The colours are derived herbs, roots, leaves and mineral salts. Most of the Kalamkari cloths and wall hangings depict stories of Rama and Krishna.

Madhubani paintings (also called Mithila paintings) are believed to have originated during the time of Sita, daughter of Mithila’s ruler King Janaka. The art form prevailed not only in Bihar, but also in Nepal. The speciality of these paintings is that they are drawn with fingers using natural colours and pigments. All these paintings are drawn on a handmade paper. The painters of Madhubani art also paint the walls of their homes with their hands and fingers.

Patachitra is an ancient folk art of Bengal that is appreciated by art lovers all over the world for its effortless style of drawings, colours, lines and space usage. The world ‘Pata’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Patta meaning cloth.

Srinivas also possesses palm leaf pata chitra collection sourced from Odisha. This is a unique form of art, which involves engraving pictures and scripts on palm leaves, dating back to 12th century AD. In ancient times, palm leaves were used to write on it. The tradition palm leaf painting is closely related to the worship of Lord Jagannadh.

Dokra toys, which also form part of Srinivas’ collections, are made from a non-ferrous metal using wax casting technique. It is one of the oldest forms of wax casting dating back to nearly four thousand years. Srinivas told The Hans India that he would continue to collect rare and fine specimens of traditional craftworks, cards and other things related to history until his last breath.

He has his own blogspot (http://indian-heritage-and-culture.blogspot.in) where one can find a lot of information on his collections with pictures.

By Srikanth.Peri

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