Every autumn, during the two weeks of Pitr Paksh, the Sanjhi festival is held throughout Braj. This ancient local art form is created in temples and homes throughout the region as an offering to Shri Krishna.
On the 7th, I got a chance to observe the Sanjhi-making process at the Sanjhi Art Festival at Vrindavan’s Brahma Kund.
Temple Sanjhi is an extremely long and complex process, and the finished product is worshipped, then wiped away. Furthermore, it is only made for two weeks of the year. For thse reasons, fewer young people are taking the time to learn how to make Sanjhi. Sanjhi has thus been labeled a “dying art”.
Considering every moment spent with a living Sanjhi Artist precious, we have attempted to document the art and the artists in as much detail as possible. In the coming days, we will share artist interviews and a look at temple Sanjhi. For today, we present the Sanjhi-making process behind the exibits at The Braj Foundation’s Sanjhi Art Festival at Brahma Kund.
For those interested in attending, the festival continues through September 10th.
Sanjhi depicts scenes from the life of Shri Radha and Krishna. Intricate stencils are used to create images using fine colored powder (gulal). The Sanjhi artists at the Brahma Kund festival each had their own portfolios full of fascinating stencils, which are truly an art form unto themselves. Many of the artists make their own stencils.
Sanjhi on the Surface of Water by Shri Sumit Goswami
There are different types of Sanjhi. The most well-known form of Sanjhi consists of colored powder arranged on a bed of raised earth. However, other materials can be used to make Sanjhi, including cow dung, flowers, colored stones or jewels. There are also types of Sanjhi that are made underwater or on the surface of water.
Here Shri Sumit Goswami of the Shri Radharaman Temple is making Sanjhi on the surface of water. First he creates the base layer using a simple sieve and very fine white powder, which he says is marble dust, or something similar.
Next he selects a Sanjhi stencil from his portfolio.
And carefully lays it on the powdered surface of the water.
Goswami Ji applies the colored powder by making a cone of very fine cloth, filling it with powder and using his finger to push color through the material. He is careful not to let color fall outside of the stencil.
Then with great care, he removes the stencil.
The piece is complete.
Multi-layered Sanjhi on a Solid Background by Shri Rasikvallabh Nagarch
Meanwhile another artist is making a more complex Sanjhi with multiple stencils and a variety of colors, on a solid background.
The artist is Shri Rasikvallabh Nagarch from the Shri Priya Vallabh Temple in Chhipi Gali.
His finished piece.
Underwater Sanjhi by Shri Vishwajeet Das
A few steps away, an underwater Sanjhi is being created by Shri Vishwajeet Das, an artist from the Shri Radharaman Temple Sanjhi Team.
First he prepares the surface with a coating of linseed oil.
Then he chooses his stencil and places it in the thaal (dish).
He then adds the colored powder
…and removes the stencil. Then water is carefully poured in the plate (we missed that part).
The finished product: Sanjhi under water.
Sanjhi on the Surface of Brahma Kund by Shri Sanjay Soni
Nearby, another team of artists is making a flower sanjhi on the surface of the kund (lake) itself.
The team leader is Shri Sanjay Soni, a Sanjhi Artist from Mathura.
The team created a network of strung garlands, which kept the piece together. The entire process took several hours.
The finished product!
For more information or to get in touch with the artists, please email us at [email protected]