A day well spent at Orissa museums

If you are like me who thinks museums are some of the best places on earth. Then visit to Orissa is a must. It has two very well managed museums. First, The museum of Tribal Arts and Artefacts and second, The Orissa State Museum. You can find so much of information about different topics in these museums, that it is always possible to find your place or that little piece of art, culture or history that you need to see in your life.

I was interested in the weaves and saree traditions of Orissa, so I spent almost an entire day at both the places exploring the Handlooms and still had so much left to see.

The museum of Tribal Arts and Artefacts

“Museum + Free” is definitely one thing that makes me really happy while travelling. My happiness increased multi fold when I saw that it was all women run and managed show. The staff of 8 women and 1 male anthropologist acts as guide for people who visit the museum. Anthropologists acting as guide was a first for me!

At the entrance I was greeted by Mrs. Kavita Patnaik, who has been the team lead at the museum since 30 years. She offered to take me around, within few minutes we discovered that we have lots of common interests and exploring about different weaves is one of them.

Kavita maโ€™am is in white printed saree and Abhijita was the anthropologist guide for the ornaments section

She told me that Orissa has 62 tribes and 13 out of them are most vulnerable. Since 1953, they have been working intensively with all the tribes to gather information and artefacts from them. Earlier, they had an in-house team of researchers who used to visit the different tribes and collect items.

With changing times, the collection methods have changed too – Now they buy items from Integrated Tribal Development Agency, their students stay with the tribes at various blocks and collect information. ITDA and some private agencies bring collectable items to them which they buy after going through different verification levels. Mrs Patnaik said ” what you see at display is just half of items, rest are kept in store…we keep replacing items every quarter”

One section in huge store which is a gold mine for art and history enthusiasts

The museum has a footfall of almost 100 visitors everyday. There are about 9 different rooms that exhibit different tribal groups – their dresses, ornaments, arms, kitchen utensils, musical instruments etc… as I shared each room has an anthropologist as a guide who are well informed about the exhibits, they take you around and share lovely snippets of information. Also, rooms have screens connected with ear phones, you can see videos on exhibits too. I was impressed by the display, team, use of technology and the cleanliness at the museum.

For the next two hours Mrs. Patnaik showed me the museum, explaining the details about the exhibits. Tribal life in Orissa had amazed me totally! I was lost in the beauty of the exhibits and Mrs. Patnaik’s narration. I tried to compress all the narrative and the visuals through photos. Hope you enjoy reading and looking at it as much as I did!!

We started with our favourite room- textile and tribal belongings

Textile, tribal belongings and paintings
Dongria Kondh Shawl and mobile Pouches

I showed some Dongria sarees in cotton and silks on The Saree Story group to Mrs. Patnaik, she didn’t know Dongria’s were making sarees too. Next time when the tribal fest will happen then she promised to get sarees for display at the museum.

Santhali tribe wedding attire for women
Santhali tribe wedding attire of men
Kandha Tribe wedding saree

Kandha tribe wedding saree is with the museum since 1953. Mrs. Patnaik says ” this saree is at display since then and it still looks as good as new. The yarn used for weaving is organic cotton, colours are vegetable dyes. So many international and national collectors have approached us for selling this piece. They don’t make such type of weave or material anymore.. with pride she says – it’s our prized possession ๐Ÿ˜Š

Close up of Kandha weave intricate border
Kotpad sarees in two colour combinations
Another tribal weave Kutia Kandha Weave
A daily wear Kandha saree

Prototype of Kondh Tribe huts
Wooden combs and clips used by various tribes
Gond art techniques used to paint glassware

Gond art is used on various items by artisans to make products for selling. I loved the bowls and glasses. They can be excellent Diwali gifts , don’t you think ?

Another amazing craft I saw was the bamboo and paddy craft, which is done by Bothada tribe in Orissa. Listen to Mrs. Patnaik sharing the details of the craft

Bamboo and paddy sticks explained in video

The live demo of the bamboo and paddy craft.

Lanjia Saora paintings

Paintings done by Lanjia Saora Tribes are very similar to the worli art done in Maharashtra. The major difference is that lanjia Saora paintings have border and a particular theme around which it is made. I was told the tribe decorate inside wall of their huts with these paintings. There are 62 themes and most of them revolve around festivals. Some craftsperson are doing it on sarees too.

I spent almost 4 hours at the Tribal museum and still had lots to see, but I also wanted to visit Orissa state museum to see their efforts towards encouraging Handlooms. So, left the museum with the promise to come back again.

Orissa State Museum

I had just couple of hours left to visit the state museum. To do justice to this museum you need at least 4 hours, so I decided to focus on the government initiative to promote Handlooms. Mrs. Patnaik connected me to the chief curator Mrs Suchismita Mantry at the state museum. Ms. Mantry and I hit it off immediately, we had so many common friends from the saree world. She exactly knew which section to take me to.

Ms. Mantry introduced me to the weaver Santosh Patra and his wife, who are from Maniabandh district. They have set up a loom at the museum to regenerate interest amongst the locals. I really loved my interactions with them.

Mr. Patra, Ms. Mantry and Mrs. Patra

Mr. Patra and I had an interesting discussion on difference between Sambalpuri and Khandua, he had no hesitation in saying that Sambalpuri designs are more intricate, defined and need skilled weavers. Also, the quality of cotton and silk used is better. The cotton used is 120 to 140 count and silk is 3 ply mulberry.

Sambalpuri designs on cotton
Sambalpuri designs on cotton

Patra added ” The Khandua Saree, which is woven at Nuaptana district of Orissa is no less special, our lord Jagannath drapes it everyday ๐Ÿ˜Š the cotton thread we use is of 100 to 120 count and silk is 2 ply from Bangalore. That’s why Khandua is cheaper than sambalpuri silk”

An old picture of me in my first Khandua

Another weave we discussed in length was the latest craze kargil Sarees – my first question to him was why do you call this weave as kargil? Mr. Patra shared ” the weave was first made around kargil war in 2000. The temple border looked like the big guns used to defeat Pakistan, therefore as an ode to Indian soldiers some weavers started calling it kargil “

He showed me two more variations of Kargil Sarees popular nowadays.

3D border in Kargil Saree
Kargil Saree with checks

Mr. Patra also showed me some of his other special designs.

The special day ended with some home cooked lunch which the museum staff shared with me …

If you are a handlooms and handicrafts lover then plan your trip to Bhubhaneshwar between 26th January to 9th February. Every year more than 500 artisans gather for a big handicrafts mela…

#OrissaStateMuseum #Handlooms #SareeTraditions #Sambalpuri #Khandua #KargilSaree #TheMuseumOfTribalArtAndArtefacts


Ningol Chakkouba~ the festival of Meitei community of Manipur


My first blog post is on Ningol (daughter) Chakouba ( invitation for lunch) at Amy Aribamโ€™s place.

#NingolChakouba, is an important festival of Manipur, which celebrates the bond of love with married daughters. The #Meitei community of Manipur invite married daughters and their kids to the parental homes for a feast. At home- parents, brother and everyone else gets together to prepare the feast for the beloved daughter. After the feast, she is sent back to her husbandโ€™s house with lots of gifts and blessings.

Amy invited us home for the festival, she followed all the customs to the T, which means we were not only fed with love but also given gifts๐Ÿ˜Š

The executive chef for the lunch was Chef Malem who had started preparing for the feast a night before.

Chef Malem

The head chef for the day was his sister Indira, who was also the ring master in the kitchen ๐Ÿ˜œ the other two sisters – Amy and Biaki were the sous chefs… it was a sight to see all sisters standing in the kitchen and chopping the vegetables for Chef Malem.

Chopping is done for the cooking

Indira chopping lotus stem for Singju

After almost 6 hours of labour of love the grand thali of the #Metei community was ready to be served-

The thali had ( description from left to right)

#Ooti– boiled white peas with simple tadka of chives

#Eromba-mashed Banana flower and potatoes with fermented fish and raja mircha ( Bhut Jolokia- is the second hottest chilli in the world ) , topped with Manipur herbs toningkhok

Indira talking about Eromba

#Singju: a Manipur version of vegetarian salad, which has thinly chopped cabbage,lotus stems,fresh herbs,roasted besan and thoiding(local black sesame seeds) mixed with fermented fish/fish sauce for taste


#Makokmaru Ngouba: Meiteis dont like to waste any part of fish , so this dish is generally made of fish scales,discarded fish heads and bones ,fried until bones are crunchy with potatoes.

Makokmaru Ngouba- dish made of fish head

#Pakoda thongba: chives pakoda ( made of besan) cooked in runny lentil soup

#Rohu ataoba thong : fried rohu curry

Fried Rohu Curry

#Rohu atoiba thongba : mashed rohu curry with thick gravy

#Sagom Kheer: white rice kheer with dry fruits and fresh cocunut , however traditionally its black rice kheer(chakhao kheer)

Along with the food, ningols celebrated the festival in traditional Manipuri attire, which is a two piece set – Phanek and Innaphee. 6 of us wore the attire and did the mandatory photo shoot ( as no get togethers with Amy is complete without a shoot ๐Ÿ˜‰)

Photo shoot in Innaphee and Phanek

Amy writes about the attire –

Innaphee, is a cloth used as a wrap for upper body, it can be worn like a dupatta or shawl or half saree over phanek and blouse. The fabric used is semi-transparent muslin silk, woven in soft pastel colours . Weaving innaphee requires special skill and craftsmanship to bring out a royal sheen and finesse in the final product.

Innaphee in soft pink & orange colours
Biaki and Amy in Innaphee & Phanek

Phanek is just like a sarong or a wrap around skirt. Phaneks are hand woven on loin looms using cotton and silk. For everyday wear Manipuri ladies wear phanek in solid cotton colors.

Indira in solid colour phanek

On special occasions or festivals Mayek naibi phanek is worn with horizontal stripes. The bottom of the Mayek Naibi is adorned with heavy embroidery work and embellished with studs in different designs.

Bhawana in Mayek Naibi
Chef is thrilled, he fed all the Ningols ๐Ÿ˜Š

Manish– our photographer is checking out the perfect angle for the photos.. His daughter number two – Amaia is tied behind his back when he is hard at work๐Ÿ˜Š

Our photographer with his daughter Amaia

Navin was there with a single point agenda~~ To Feast ๐Ÿ˜œ

A day full of laughter, happiness, camaraderie and scrumptious food! I am waiting for the next year to eat Manipuri food and know more about this festival.

Thank you #AmysPhotography for hosting us and the beautiful photos https://instagram.com/amysphotographhy?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=1145uppmz2fyt

Date: November 9, 2018