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Know How This Man Has Helped Palm Leaf Etching Retain Its Glory In Odisha


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25 August 2019

Snigdha Chandan Das


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Bhubaneswar: An invitation card is a status symbol in itself. Some have chocolates or sweets in a separate compartment while some open up to music. But in the age of fanciness, traditional palm leaf etched cards continue to retain their glory and aristocracy in Odisha. OMMCOM NEWS brings to you the man behind the story.

Meet Saroj Rath. A middle-aged man with a passion to keep history alive, Rath began his endeavor in 1982. “I made a simple card with palm leaves and received a lot of praise. Whoever saw it, asked me to keep going. That is when I decided to boost the traditional art form of ‘palm leaf engraving’ by turning it into invitation cards.”

“When I started taking orders, there was no looking behind. People were interested after seeing this new technique. As the business grew, the art form also began reaching more houses and gained popularity. I also started expanded into printing ‘Pattachitra’ on Tassar cloth and palm leaves,” he added.

Palm leaves are first cut into the required sizes and treated with turmeric solution to ensure longevity of the painting. After drying, layers are stuck together to create a scroll. Ink or pens are not directly used to apply colour on palm leaves. Instead, an iron stylus is used to etch the drawing on to the surface, making sure that the leaf doesn’t break. Once the drawing is inscribed, color is applied to the etchings.

The cards can cost anywhere between Rs 15 to Rs 250 and the price is quoted according to craft. “The work is a perfect example of best out of waste. It includes excruciating hours of manual work and provides employment to many rural women. Procuring raw materials is not a Herculean task as palm leaves and grass sticks are available in abundance,” elaborated Rath.

Rath and his team work out of a small house in Kedar Gouri area and have not given any name to their business enterprise. “This is an exclusive job and requires several hours for perfection. Once there is a name and brand attached, the orders will sky-rocket and we will not be able to keep up with the production. We do not want to compromise on the quality of the intricate art work in any way,” concluded Rath, while his workers nodded in agreement and continued to race against time to etch intricate designs.

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Exclusive Chat With Saroj Rath