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Surguja

I experienced various shades of green, blue and maroon throughout as against the boring blue, tarpaulin covered rooftops of Mumbai, where I hail from.

- Sukrit Nagaraj

I experienced various shades of green, blue and maroon throughout as against the boring blue, tarpaulin covered rooftops of Mumbai, where I hail from.

- Sukrit Nagaraj

SHOWCASE

  • OFF ON AN ADVENTURE

    I knew very little about Sarguja district or Jamgala village when I first set out, and even lesser about Godna, but the idea of learning more about this waning tribal tattoo art had me hooked.

    • 9350
      LASTING SPRING
  • COME BACK LATER?!

    Being farming season, the villagers were out inspecting their crops and most of the village doors were locked. Was I going to have to return another day?

    • 7888
      GINGER ROOT
  • DRIVING AWAY THE BLUES

    The sight of these colourful doors in Jamgala though, kept me going. Apart from the vibrant design on the door, the beautiful door frame is what caught my attention.

    • 7342
      WAIKIKI
  • WOMEN ON TOP

    At last I was lucky to meet up with Ram Keli, one of the leading artists in Chhattisgarh region, who along with her group, is responsible for reviving the dying art of Godna by transferring the tattoo designs onto sarees,bedsheets and other merchandise.

    • 4198
      ROAST BROWN
  • BEJEWELED FOR LIFE

    The word Godna is derived from “gehna” or jewellery, with these tattoos made usually made around body parts where jewellery was worn, in the belief that this jewellery will be adorned till the end of life and beyond.
    Tattoos were made once a girl hit puberty and the artists were mostly women.
    Typically tattoos are made around the ankles, toes, fingers, the wrists, palms, thighs and breasts. For men, on forearms, back and shoulders.

    • 7381
      AUTUMN SHOWER
  • This painting on the wall of Ram Keli’s abode, summarises the “ceremony” of Godna. Once the female hits puberty, she gets her first tattoo or Godna. It takes about 8 days for the tattoo artist to finish the design. This young girl is taken to secluded part of the farm or village and she has to live there, under a tree till the entire process is done with. This is done so her family doesn’t see her bleeding and doesn’t hear her screams, while the needles do their job on her skin.

    • 9285
      PLANTATION
  • HEALING POWERS

    A stack of three needles is bound together tightly by a string and used to make the tattoos or Godna. Though unfamiliar with the term acupuncture, the tattoos are also spoken of as having healing powers with a specific Godna for a bad back or painful joints. While Godna differs from tribe to tribe, this practise also made it easier for them to recognise their own.

    • 8017
      PEACH CARNATION
  • LEARNING FROM THE EXPERT

    Ram Keli makes a temporary tattoo on another lady’s forehead to demonstrate the process of this ancient art form.

    • 9413
      PINK SILK
  • TOOLS OF THE CRAFT

    Godna is done only during winters, where the flowers of a specific tree from the jungle along with ash/soot obtained from mitti ka tel (kerosene) are used to make the traditional Godna tattoo colours.

    • 0578
      VOLCANO
  • FROM HEAD TO TOE

    With every life event more tattoos are added and the elderly women can be seen covered in several tattooes on their forearms and legs.

    • 9312
      GREEN POND
  • FADING ART

    Increasingly over time the newer generation has begun to stop this body tattooing tradition and only few are now seen with these on their arms.

    • 7197
      RARE ORCHID
  • PASSING IT DOWN

    Safiano bai, is another artist, who not only like Ram Keli trains and help out villagers preserve this art, by finding new canvasses for this art form, but also conducts workshops on it across India

    • 9326
      LEMON LEAF
  • ART IN REAL LIFE

    The wall art in Ram Keli’s house also showcases the different festivals and culture of the place. Seen here is one of the dholak players of Jamgala village, against an image of him playing the dholak and mingling at the fanfare during Baisakh celebrations.

    • 9237
      NIGHT SKY
  • BACK TO BASICS

    Ram keli’s husband sits against the decorated walls of their house that she herself has painted with motifs and stories about the festivals they celebrate.

    • 0427
      TERRACOTTA
  • NEW CANVASES

    To keep the art alive, Ram Keli and the other women of the village have started drawing these tattoos now onto sarees, amongst other things, using the familiar to create yet another art form that they can adorn.

    • 7158
      ROYAL ROBES
  • WORKING FROM HOME

    The work on these sarees invariably is done within one of the ladies’ houses itself. In this case, the work is being done at Ram Keli’s house, as the children play around.

    • 7505
      AQUA FUSION
  • EXPERIENCE IS THE ONE TRUE GUIDE

    The artist lady here is drawing an imaginary line from her right to left, to understand the correct distance and alignment between the two motifs just as she would while making a tattoo. No ruler or any other geometrical device is used while designing.

    • 8045
      Centre Stage
  • THE ART LIVES ON

    While the canvas may have changed, the motifs and forms used on the sarees are still the same or inspired from the original tattoo form.

    • 8253
      RAVEN SONG
  • BRINGING IN COLOUR

    The original tattoo work is minimalistic in nature, and to bring in vibrancy to the sarees they now embellish, colours are filled in the empty spaces between the simple lines

    • 7541
      MEADOW PATH
  • FLOWERS IN BOOM

    Ram Keli delicately paints a thin red border over a painted flower. It takes any time between 7 days to a month to complete work on one saree, depending on the complexity of the design. These sarees are then priced between Rs.2000 and Rs.10,000.

    • 8093
      PURE RED
  • CHANGING CANVASES

    The ladies display a bedsheet painted using the Godna motifs that they had been working on. The art is being revived by transferring this asset on to bedsheets, sarees, pillow covers as also on walls and other handicrafts.

    • 9468
      LOVELY LAVENDER
  • OF MANY COLOURS AND SHADES

    While not at the farms, the ladies work from 10 to 5 everyday, to create several masterpieces like this saree.

    • 0526
      SUNRISE
  • EMBELLISHED ACROSS

    In the town of Ambikapur, Sarguja disticts headquarters, the art form is prominently on walls across, in a bid to raise awareness and drive tourism.

    • 9405
      RICH TOMATO
  • PAINTING THE TOWN

    Detailed Godna artwork can also be seen on the walls of Chhattisgarh Handicraft Development Board’s Ambikapur office.

    • 8253
      RAVEN SONG
  • GOING PLACES

    Sarees created by Godna artists are proudly displayed at the Chhattishgarh Handicraft Development Board’s Ambikapur office, in a bid to promote this new canvas and to keep the art alive.

    • 8165
      ROYAL SATIN
  • SPREADING KNOWLEDGE LIKE THE BREEZE

    A hand fan decorated with Godna motifs is another merchandise offered to the outsiders as means to spread knowledge on this art form.

    • 8029
      RED EARTH
  • Through the town of Ambikapur, Godna motifs can be seen proudly displayed .

    • 9461
      Black Currant
  • While waiting for the flowers that form the base of the Godna ink to bloom, the tribals are involved with farming through the monsoons. Outside the temple of Bhoramdev (Shankar) while several Hindu devotees throng the gates, tribals from adajcent areas come to these settlements to sell their farm produce.

    • 8669
      MAROONED BROWN
  • DIFFERENT STROKES

    Tattooing, at the market, is now practised using modern needles and mechanised tools on locals, outsiders and tourists alike: needles that are rarely changed and unsafe, and motifs that are all too different from the original art form. Thanks to new canvases though, the art hopefully will continue to survive.

    • 8395
      SLEIGH BELLS

    PALLETTE

    Surguja
    • 7934
      Grains of Sand
    • 7430
      Dream Scapes
    • 0587
      Copper
    • 8333
      Midnight Oil
    • 8646
      Java Beans

    PROFILE

    Sukrit Nagaraj
    Photographer

    Starting off with a career in designing and eventually getting lured by the world of images on the web, Sukrit found himself quickly taking up photography as a passion. His inherent love for storytelling and making things that are beautiful to look at got him shooting everything from travel to music gigs and even food and fashion.

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