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He started when he was just 11 and now, more than three decades later, Mohan Kumar Verma is one of the few remaining custodians of Sanjhi, the centuries- old craft of turning paper into objects of art.
The fourth generation craftsman from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh is attempting to give the ancient art a contemporary twist by using mirrors, frames and more intricate designs. He also hopes to create a platform for the young to learn the craft.
"Being a tradition in our family and the only source of income, I was bound to learn the art form. I learnt it from my grandfather? In my childhood we didn't have many resources to revive the art form," said Verma.
"But I decided later that I would mould the art in various forms and create a contemporary version for present art enthusiasts," added the 46-year-old artist.
After discussions for over a year with the Delhi Craft Council, Verma along with other artists created a series of artworks exploring the theme of architecture.
The result was "Sanjhi Revisited: A splendid exhibition of a unique paper art", a showcasing of multi-coloured paper cuttings crafted to depict Mughal architecture, temples and the ghats of Mathura. The exhibition is on at the India Habitat Centre until tomorrow.
Sanjhi, which evolved in the 16th and 17th centuries, was particularly used to decorate the walls and floors of temples. As it originated in Mathura, the paper cuttings were widely used to depict Indian mythological stories, particularly with Lord Krishna as the focus.
The walls of the Visual Arts Gallery at Habitat Centre were adorned with motifs of architectural imagery seen in miniature art as well as traditional architectural themes from religious Sanjhi designs.
Inspired by the decorated marble panels of Rajmahal Palace, Amber, Verma also recreated the flower motifs widely used in palace interiors.
He has also recreated the domes and minarets, typical of Mughal architecture, and delicate line drawings in the syncretic styles of Persian, Central Asian and Indian art.
For the artist, the only source of income has been exhibitions and workshops. Although Verma is happy that the craft is back on its feet thanks to initiatives by groups like the DCC, he also wants the government to intervene to preserve the art form.
"Exhibitions happen once in a while so it is not a regular source of income. But I am not worried about that because for me this is the best I can do and I also want my children to carry on with the profession," he said.
According to Radhika Bharat Ram, honorary general secretary of DCC and curator of the show, promoting the folk art is an important mission.
"When we visited the Indian Art Fair in the city we were really disappointed to see that there was no works by Indian craftsmen displayed at the fair. Our first brush with Sanjhi happened 30 years ago when DCC gave a fresh perspective to this ancient art form. It has been a process of revival since then," she said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)