Terracotta offerings with devotion from Tamil Nadu

PTI New Delhi | Updated on February 25, 2015 Published on February 25, 2015

ayyanar kovil - clay horses   -  The Hindu

clay-horses   -  The Hindu

ayyanar-4   -  The Hindu

ayyanar-3   -  The Hindu

Tamil Nadu villagers in an annual ritual make terracotta offerings to their village guardian diety Ayyanar to assure the well being of their families, their cattle and the harvest.

The preparation of these offerings, which range from a few centimeters tall cows to life size horses, begins after Pongal and takes about a month before they are baked in brick kilns.

Capturing the inception, conception and culmination of these offerings at the shrines are 100 odd photographs by Julie Wayne in her two-week long exhibition underway at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts here.

In an attempt to honour the last generation of the potters producing terracotta offerings, Wayne’s exhibition “From Earth to Earth: Devotion and Terracotta Offerings in Tamil Nadu” presents a visual documentation of the living cult to Ayyanar.

“These potters hold hereditary charge for creating the offerings but the craft is no longer being transmitted to their children. As the older generation dies, so disappears the ancestral knowledge,” says Wayne, who has also curated the exhibition.

Divided into three sections — Potters and Creation of Offerings, Festivals and Rituals in Honour of Ayyanar and Shrines, the exhibition is a narrative about this little known, multi-faceted tradition highlighting the labour of artisans.

Approximately 300 of select photographs out of Waynes collection of 1,400 are being showcased.

The process of preparation of the terracotta statue after being shaped and baked in a kiln and finally painted is described elaborately in the first section. The photographs are supported with detailed captions.

“The first section not only traces the stages of creation of these offerings, but also pays homage to the devotion and dedication of those making them,” says the photographer.

The second section talks about the rituals that take place in, what the artiste calls the “intermediary grounds,” where life is breathed into the statues by dropping a rooster’s blood in the eyes.

“Here the eye opening ceremony of the hitherto terracotta statues take place, after which they become worthy of being taken to the shrines,” Wayne says.

The journey, she adds, is punctuated with ceremonies during which God is summoned.

The Shrine or Ayannar’s sacred abode is the destination of the offerings and the third section of the exhibition. The diversity of the shrine only increases with the new offerings adding to the old ones.

“Within the shrines lie the accumulation of these offerings as they age, deteriorate and decompose to ultimately return to the earth from which they were born,” says Wayne vindicating the title of the exhibition.

During the course of the exhibition, a slide show presentation and a 35 minute documentary film is also being screened with potters from Tamil Nadu offering live demonstrations of making the terracotta statues.

The exhibition, a joint initiative between IGNCA along with Sanskriti Pratisthan, a registered public charitable trust is scheduled to continue till March 24

Published on February 25, 2015
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