Being Women

Witnessing The Sand Art Of Odisha: An Enchanting Experience

Aditi Lahiry gives us a glimpse of the popular sand art in Orissa.

Sand Art: A distinctive form of art

The name, Odisha resonates with the images of the Puri Beach, the mighty Jagannath Temple, the ruined caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri, the marvellous architecture of Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneshwar, the white tiger safari at Nandankanan, the serene Shanti Stupa at Dhaulagiri located near the banks of the Daya River (where the famous Kalinga Battle was fought), the massive temple dedicated to the Sun God in Konark, and the thrilling boat ride at Chilka Lake. This state is also the birthplace of eminent artists like the Late Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra (issi dance), Pranab Narayan Das and Dilip Kumar Maharana (Patachitra artists), and many more. The vastness of Odisa’s art forms and artists is something to be proud of.

Among the other forms of art that uniquely highlight this state are the silver filigree work used for making ornaments, the uniquely woven Sambhalpuri sarees, and the Pipli work done on umbrellas, lanterns, and bedcovers.

Besides the above, there is another distinct art that is practised by world-renowned artists like Sudarshan Pattanaik and Sudam Pradhan. It is Sand art or the art of carving on the sand. There is a story behind this art.

In the 14th century, there was a poet Balaram Das who lived in Odisha. A devotee of Lord Jagannath, he nurtured a deep desire to climb atop the Lord’s Chariot during Rath Yatra, which is held once every year. But he had no access to the Lord for he hailed from a lower class. Deeply insulted and angered, the poet sat on the beach and drew images of the holy trio on the sand. The devotee also chanted while drawing. Such ardent prayers made the Gods leave their chariots and appear before him. Though there is no historical evidence to prove this, it’s a popular story that goes around.

I was introduced to this form of art on the Puri beach during the winter vacation of 1996–97 when I visited the place for the first time. I saw the various sand sculptures kept on display. Enthralled, I stood there watching the sculptures of gods and goddesses and of various monuments, like the Taj Mahal take shape. They were all made with sand by the famous artist, Sudarshan Pattanaik. Since then, I have made it a point to visit these sand sculptures whenever I am in Puri.

On my last visit to Puri, during the Sankranti vacation of 2023, I got the chance to visit the Sudam Sand Art Museum, located on the Puri-Konark marine drive. This museum was inaugurated on February 4th, 2018. It is spread over an area of 500 square feet and has a temporary structure. Some of the prominent and popular sculptures on display are the colourful sand sculpture of Lord Jagannath at the entrance, the Konark Sun Temple, the Taj Mahal, Lord Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Captain America, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Dolphin. Some sculptures are about 15 to 20 feet in height, and they stand without any external support.

Sudam Art Museum: A paradise for sand art lovers

Sudam Sand Art Museum is located approximately 4.9 km from Puri Railway Station. It is 5 kilometres away from the Puri Bus Stand. Private taxis and autorickshaws can be rented easily from the railway station and the bus stand to reach the museum within a few minutes. The entry fee is Rs 30, and the place remains open from 7 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.

A notable thing to notice at the museum is the number of plants kept inside to create a sense of greenery. Each of these sculptures, which is regularly changed, is made using sand, water, and a bit of glue.

Apart from this, any tourist who has a keen interest in learning this form of art can enrol themselves for the live training sessions as well and get the opportunity to meet the artist himself. Sometimes, if you are lucky enough, you may get a chance to witness the sculpting of the idols.

So those of you who are interested in witnessing a different form of art in Odisha apart from the traditional art form must visit the Sudam Sand Art Museum. It will be a great opportunity for art lovers to visit this place and get a hands-on experience in learning this unique form of art directly from the master artist himself.


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