“Prajapati”: The Wooden Block Carvers of Pethapur
(Image Courtesy: daily.indianroots.com)
Pethapur a village in Gandhinagar, Gujarat is a hub of wooden block makers and craftsmen who supply’s customized blocks to the centers of block printing. Block Printing the name itself says a lot about the art. The block makers of Pethapur believes that many centuries ago, women got tired of their plain colored clothes and began using their bangles dipped in colour to pattern their garments. The carpenters noticed this and decided to provide the women with various designs and so gave rise to the tradition of hand block printing on textiles. Like hand block printing, block making is an endangered craft. “Pethapur is a national hub for woodblocks used for textile printing. The four or five workshops in the village supply carved wooden blocks across the country from wherever the art of block printing or textile printing is done using hand-held blocks is still practiced.
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Among the surviving craftsmen of this endangered craft is the Prajapati family; wooden block makers of Pethapur known as ‘The Prajapati Block Makers.” Pethapur has been a centre for carpentry for centuries. The carpenters realized the potential for making wood blocks for printing and since then it has been the main source for wooden blocks.
- Govindlal Prajapati carving wooden blocks!!
(Image Courtesy: Gaatha)
Govindlal Prajapati, one of the craftsmen from Pethapur says “I have been making blocks from the age of 12 working under a master craftsman, the late Hiralal Gangaram Gajjar. Hiralal’s descendant, Ganshyamlal Popatlal Gajjar, is a good craftsman and runs a block making unit.” Maneklal Gajjar has won a National Award for his wooden blocks.
There were about 300 craftsmen working along with Govindlal during his youth, but with the growth of modern occupation opportunities many families gave up this handicraft. Today, there are just 12 craftsmen in Pethapur who follow this tradition. These talented craftsmen similar to many other craftsperson and artisans of India are facing the same problem of situating themselves within the contemporary market economy in attempting to create and develop products which might curb the widening divide between greater supply and decreasing demand.
Govindlal who is in his mid-60 and his son Satish are still working under the same profession. He also encourages his nephew and other kids to learn the art of wood carving. Mukesh Prajapati, nephew of Govindlal is one of the India’s finest wood block makers.
(Image Courtesy:Judella Conquet)
The process of making these pretty wooden blocks is explained in detail by Govindlal. He says, the surface of the teakwood block to be used for printing is planed and smoothed to be completely flat. The drawing is transferred by means of sticking a paper on it. “For geometric patterns we use graph paper while for symmetrical, floral and other designs we do it on regular paper. The pattern is then carved out on the block with holes created to let out air at the time of pressing the fabric on the fabric. When ready, the pattern on the woodblock appears like a high-relief carving.
(Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Pethapur, is the only whole and sole surviving centre of wood block carving. Blocks are ordered and sold directly between the printer and carver with no middlemen or agents. Either the block maker travels to the printers with his design catalogue and the design is finalized or the printer asks for some designs to be carved on the wooden block.
There are many such villages like Pethapur in India which is working hard to bring back its endangered art and crafts!!!
- Neeraj Shah