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A melting pot of cultures, the quaint Kannal village in Koppal district of Karnataka is known for its treasures of folk music and dance, and art and craft traditions that date back to ancient India. One such art form popularly known as "Gombe" or the wooden sculptures is being showcased at an ongoing exhibition at Art Konsult gallery in Hauz Khas here. Titled, "Gombe", the show organised by MATI (Management of Art Treasures of India) has on display sculptures that are replicas of the traditional Hindu temples and idols in southern India. Locally known as "Gaarudi Gombe", which means magical dolls in the Kannada, the art form has evolved over the years, says Anindya Kanti Biswas, assistant professor at Delhi college of arts. "With the help of various communities, the art and craft of this area has evolved with time. Like other parts of the country, artisans in this area have been randomly practising their own traditional as well as creative ideas," he says. The walls of the gallery are adorned with colourful sculptures of door jambs and Hindu gods and goddesses, which are identical to the intricate carvings on the temple walls. One of the sculptures titled "Brahma -- the creator" showcases the idol placed inside a door jamb. "If we go through the past phases of these idols' history then it is clearly visible that they are similar to the traditional Hindu temple idols made of wood.
Ever since their inception they are being prepared individually for different purposes," says Biswas. Gombe, in many ways, is similar to Odisha's traditional art form 'Pattachitra', and the 'Warli' art from the Gujarat- Maharashtra border, where the tiger is worshipped. The art form is also a significant contributor to the folk dance performances in the region, as it supplies giant doll-suits made of bamboo sticks which are worn by dancers. Talking about the origin of the 'Gombe', Kanti narrates a short story from the epic "Mahabharata". "When Krishna's wife Satyabhama was angry with him, he is said to have pacified her by wearing a 'Gaarudi Gombe' doll. There are several such stories which establish the relevance of the art form." The exhibition, the third in series on tribal, folk and contemporary art by the gallery, aims to promote the richness of such traditional art forms. "As time has passed the figuration of these wooden puppets has evolved from being religious to socio-political. With this show, we hope to ignite a spark of interest in others to research on this exceptional art form," says gallery director, Siddharth Tagore. The exhibition is set to continue till July 22.
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