Tamil Nadu villagers in an annual ritual make terracotta offerings to their village guardian diety Ayyanar to assure the well being of their families, their cattle and the harvest. The preparation of these offerings, which range from a few centimeters tall cows to life size horses, begins after Pongal and takes about a month before they are baked in brick kilns. Capturing the inception, conception and culmination of these offerings at the shrines are 100 odd photographs by Julie Wayne in her two-week long exhibition underway at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts here. In an attempt to honour the last generation of the potters producing terracotta offerings, Wayne's exhibition "From Earth to Earth: Devotion and Terracotta Offerings in Tamil Nadu" presents a visual documentation of the living cult to Ayyanar. "These potters hold hereditary charge for creating the offerings but the craft is no longer being transmitted to their children.
As the older generation dies, so disappears the ancestral knowledge," says Wayne, who has also curated the exhibition. Divided into three sections -- Potters and Creation of Offerings, Festivals and Rituals in Honour of Ayyanar and Shrines, the exhibition is a narrative about this little known, multi-faceted tradition highlighting the labour of artisans. Approximately 300 of select photographs out of Waynes collection of 1400 are being showcased. The process of preparation of the terracotta statue after being shaped and baked in a kiln and finally painted is described elaborately in the first section. The photographs are supported with detailed captions. "The first section not only traces the stages of creation of these offerings, but also pays homage to the devotion and dedication of those making them," says the photographer.