Looking back into a tradition of craftsmanship going back generations National Award Winner Ashok Kumar Mohapatra, 37, speaks with pride of his craft and vocation of wood carving. Born into a family of traditional stone carvers at Basti Pathuria Sahi in the historic town of Puri (Odisha) he received his first lessons and training from his father and uncles, who in turn had learnt their consummate art from Shri Giridhari Lal Mohapatra his talented and distinguished grandfather. The Mohapatras have earned a name for excellence in stone carving, statue making and temple building. They trace their ancestry to the builders of the acclaimed temple of Lord Jagganath at Puri.
A smile of satisfaction touches Ashok Kumars face as he reminisces how as a child he enjoyed polishing stones on way to school and even at that young age earned a little money selling small images of Lord Jagganath near the beach. The excellence in his craft came later under the careful guidance of his father Madan Mohan Mohapatra who recognized in his son talent and capability to take on the family inheritance. While the older generation had mastered the craft of carving granite, sandstone and red stone Ashok Kumar made a niche for himself as an entrepreneur carving in wood. Interestingly this happened when a businessman marketing his fathers carvings suggested that he try his hand at wood as many Japanese tourists were looking for crafts in a lighter medium.
The wood’s he chose to work on are ‘pani gambhari’ a soft creamish white teak along with the harder ‘phula gambhari’ and the darker sisu or ros...
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