Saraswati Puja Decoration

Debasmita Goswami, Freelance Writer


Saraswati Puja in Eastern India has a broad impact on young minds. This is not just a ‘Puja’ (worshipping ceremony) to please the Goddess, but is also a scope to relish together the mirth and cheer of early spring. Devi Saraswati is probably worshipped in many countries in Asia but with different acquaintances. In Burma she is Thurathadi, in China she is Biancaitian, in Thailand she is known as Surasawadee and in Japanese as Benzaiten. As the country differs the appearance of the image changes, but the purpose of her worship remains the same, to please the deity of knowledge and wisdom. Again, Devi Saraswati combines in her single embodiment all the qualities of the nine Muses of the Hellenic tradition.

In India Devi Saraswati is depicted as a beautiful woman attired in a pure white saari and seated on a white lotus that symbolizes the absolute truth. There always remains a swan just next to her feet which is considered as a vehicle of the goddess. For this reason she is also named as ‘Hangsha vahini’ or ‘Maral bahana’ (someone who travels by swan). Devi saraswati holds a ‘Veena’ (a musical instrument) in her hands symbolizing her sway over art and technology together. An all over white appearance of the idol including the swan represents the purity of knowledge.

In Eastern India, mainly in state of Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal Devi Saraswati is mostly worshipped by the students. They feel much enthusiastic to decorate the arena around the idol where that is placed. They are not artists, nor are they superb craft-persons, but they all enjoy working together in a team to do something precious. Apart from decorations they participate in drawing exhibitions, some other cultural programs, or some sort of charitable works.

Students of schools and colleges get involved in creating numerous decorative items on this occasion. A few years back the decoration used to be only of colourful paper crafts. But now the students are experimenting with newer thoughts within a moderate amount of budget.

In the process of decoration first and foremost comes the item of ‘Rangoli’ or ‘Alpona. The floor decoration in Saraswati Puja festival is almost an inevitable part in India. Working with ‘aabir’ (coloured powder) brings out colourful rangolis, where as paint, brush and chalk paste are used to draw alponas. Swans in Alpona make it more appropriate to put before the idol.

The decoration with pottery is a common practice all over the India. Decoration with earthen bowl, earthen lamp, lamp stand, wooden spoons, stuck on a mat base provides decorative yet cool look. The style and color of the statue complement the whole arrangement.

Sometimes the students try to think something bigger. Students of a college have tried to create a homely atmosphere of a village.  One of the house women is seen lifting up water from a well, one is busy in worshipping on the ‘Tulshi  Mancha’ (basil plant),and  another is busy in singing  who the Devi is herself.

Devi Saraswati in all over ‘Daaker saaj’ (a variety of paper craft) looks much graceful.

People also try their experimentations with the pandals.  Some have tried it only with the news paper rolls which are technically simple, but conceptually awesome.

In another place total structure of the temple is made of cow dung which itself is considered as an auspicious element in India.

The invitation cards of the schools and colleges are also worth mentioning as each one is a specimen of art. If one is from folk culture another is in a form of fine art. No one can be considered inferior to other.

This Puja festival is not only significant for its decorations, but it has some other aspects that give it a different identity.

Often the parents of their little children get a sacramental attempt to begin their studies before the Goddess. The children are taught to write down the initial letters of their alphabet to begin the lessons with her blessings.

As Devi saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, keeping an ink-pot is a compulsory process in this Puja. Generally an earthen inkpot is kept before the Goddess that is filled with milk instead of ink. A pen or ‘Khager Kalam’ (a reed of a tree) is placed there which is used to write down the ‘pronam mantra’ (worshipping words) with the milk on the leaves of wood apple. This is almost a must-do task for every student to please the Goddess.

In this occasion the girls are often seen in yellow saris, which is a symbolic colour of the mustard flower that blooms in this spring season. It also resembles the marigold that blooms in this time in abundance. With a rejuvenating spring, with an essence of love, with an energy for creativity, with an atmosphere of festivity the Saraswati Puja gets its greatest height to be enjoyed by the charming young boys and girls throughout the day.



All the photos (except the first one) by Debasmita Goswami.


Debasmita Goswami is a freelance writer. She loves documenting various Indian festivals.

Artist’s Space: Sarawut Chutiwongpeti

Independent Artist, Thailand


About the Artist

Sarawut Chutiwongpeti graduated from the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, in 1996. Since then, he has been working as a media artist with Cyber Lab at the Center of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University. He works in the area of contemporary art and likes to reveal the unexplored facets of experience. In 1998, he secured funding and travelled as a visiting artist/researcher to several countries such as Canada, the United States of America, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and Japan. He contributes to the development of the media arts through his artistic and research practice. He is associated with a number of international organisations and centre and actively participated at the Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), ImaginAsia Project,

Smithsonian Institution (The Freer Gallery of Art and The Arthur M.Sackler Gallery, United State of America), ZKM Project, (Institute for Visual Media, Germany), Designskolen; Biennial Theatre Festival -Sight ‘n Vision, Nordic Theatre Union (Denmark), Fukuoka Asian Art Museum; Collaboration Art Network In-Between; Waseda University; Kobe University of Design (Japan),

Central European University (Hungary), International Cultural Centre Jeunesses Musicales Croatia Groznjan (Croatia), The TOU SCENE Contemporary Centre of Art, The Nordland Kunst 0g Filmskole, The Trondheim Electronic Arts Centre, The Kunstakademiet Trondheim (Norway), Luleå Winter Biennial, The Beeoff/Splintermind, The Ricklundgården and The Royal University College of Fine Arts (Sweden), Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, The Pro Artibus Foundation and Art Centre Saksala ArtRadius (Finland), Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea and Drodesera Centrale fies (Italy), MAAPMultimedia Art Asia Pacific, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Rimbun Dahan and ABN AMRO-Malihom (Malaysia), Designing Your Future, Berlinale Talent Campus 2005, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Germany) and Biennale Bibliotheca Alexandrina 2005, Arts Center, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt), Gyeonggido Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Danwon Arts Museum, Arko Museum, Songsan Art Hall, Alternative Space Loop, Soeul Art Museum, Hankuk Art Museum , Korea International Art Fair (Korea) , ADCNI Biennale 2009 (Reunion, France) and Flaxart Studios (United Kingdom). Sarawut has organised many international solo and group exhibitions of his works. He has won many national and international awards for his original works.

He has directed his energies towards exploring the phenomena of interdisciplinary of art and culture and “searching for answers that can help reverse the subordination and objective materialism, which are prevalent in today’s society. What are the thoughts, doubts, fears, uncertainties, and reflections that we have and experience as we head towards the new material and immaterial territories, which we are to inhabit in the future?”

The Artist’s Statement

     “The project works, selected here, focus on the mechanisms of perception and dreams, the private world of the world of fantasy and unconscious, the conditions underlying the system by which mind and spirit operates. At the same time, the (in)-visibility of the structure creates a confusion on the viewers’ perception of the work and of the space where it is placed, thus provoking and ambiguous relationship between the object, its function and its appearance. Thus a mysterious force field is generated on the border of truth and lie, a force that is able to create unexpected angles of approach which in turn force the viewer to take up a new position in the observation of the surrounding world.”


Selected Works by Sarawut Chutiwongpeti

Designer’s Profile: Tulip Sinha

Founder, FolkUs Design Interventions, Bangalore


Greetings from FolkUs Design Interventions!

We are a Bangalore based start-up that deals with everything arty and crafty!

Started by me, Tulip, a Product Design graduate from the National Institute of Design, once I realized that nothing excited me more than village-hopping and getting my hands dirty with any possible craft and a day well-spent with the true designers, the karigars.

FolkUs happened by chance; it all started with providing a platform to aid a couple of Patachitra artisans of Midnapore district of West Bengal.

From then on to now, we at FolkUs are committed to Preservation, Intervention & Propagation (PIP) of the wide variety of handicrafts and folk arts that adorn our country, some known, some unknown and a few more that have been long forgotten.

We strive towards skill diversification for dynamic marketability, livelihood generation, craft documentation and retail point-of sale.

Everything—from documenting a lost art, to product development and to strategy-building—that provides a way forward to these assets is the thing that delights us the most.

Clearly, force-feeding these arts/crafts into the contemporary milieu is not the best way of keeping them alive. At the same time, cashing in on the increasing ‘counter-urbanization’ mindset seems like a pool of opportunity that we want to explore.

So far we have been working with providing a contemporary appeal to the Patachitra, Warli and Mithila folk paintings.

Some consultation work in the field of organic (lacware) lathe-turned toy-design, meenakari work, bamboo product development and banana bark-fibre crafts have been our focus at FolkUs for the past couple of months.

Our inaugural exhibition-cum-sale in Bangalore, Oct 2010 was a good testing ground for our range of products. As was evident, art does not sell by itself, not for the non-connoisseur at least! It opened my eyes to the two new kinds of target groups; the uninformed/misinformed on one hand and the inquisitive type on the other hand.

The former types usually are clueless as to why such a big deal is made about art and term them as useless expenses! The insight here being, that art/craft when made utilitarian has far more takers, irrespective of their knowledge levels and can penetrate a wider audience.

The latter bunch on the other hand, comprise of people who have some exposure to the indigenous flavours, albeit second-hand and if something manages to catch their eye, they would not mind investing as long as they have an impressive story or cause to support their purchase, which duly imparts a sense of pride.

It is these insights that have become a preamble for us to generate newer product ranges that cater to any/all these needs or aspirational purchases, as the case may be.

So, here’s inviting all the crafty minds to come together and make FolkUs a success story!


Tulip Sinha is the Founder, FolkUs Design Interventions, Bangalore, India. Tel. 919845.31.9497. Email:

Unapologetically Improper and Unkempt: Elvis’s Style of Sex Appeal in 1954 and 1955

Matt Shedd

Rock and roll culture has always carried with it a lifestyle to accompany the music—an attitude and a fashion that changes over the years, depending on the artist and period. Elvis, the figure often cited as the founder of modern rock and roll (not without dispute, however), serves as America’s most pervasive icon from20th century popular culture.

Elvis is no longer a single person, but a multifaceted image reflecting the most highly-prized American ideals, even if they contradict each other: freedom and economic mobility; patriotism and youthful rebellion; Hollywood superstardom and small-town rural America.

Elvis’s great ability was to synthesize—the most significant accomplishment was his success in bringing rural American music and black American music together for a mainstream audience. In Dead Elvis, Greil Marcus notes Elvis’s uncanny ability to hold all of these seemingly contradictory dreams together for so many different audience members. Marcus writes the following of Elvis’s mythic presence:  “I understand Elvis not as a human being…but as a force…the necessity existing in every culture to lead it to produce a perfect, all-inclusive metaphor for itself” (3).

And Elvis, America’s perfect metaphor of itself, continues to live on in various sanitized and family friendly forms, such as the soundtrack of Disney’s children film Lilo and Stitch, the barrage of flash advertisement and Elvis-based attractions that fill the screen when you visit the Official Website of Elvis Presley, and, of course, in the shrine called Graceland—the temple for the various sects of Elvis devotees. Elvis’s image and name are so widespread, that he continues to be a financially profitable brand more than thirty years after his death.

After years of Elvis Presley laying claim to the status of the most pervasive American icon—and all the contradictions that role entails—it’s hard to access just how shocking and really quite downright nasty many people found this upstart young kid jumping around wildly on stage in 1954 and 1955. Across Peter Guralnick’s accomplished biography Last Train to Memphis, many acquaintances recall that Elvis had a dirty neck, generally poor hygiene, but made sure to grease up that famous hair. All these things gave him the appearance of being unkempt and low class, but Rodgers recalls, “I asked him why he used that butch wax, and he said that was so when he performed his hair would fall down a certain way.” Why was this important to Elvis? “He thought that was cool” (qtd in Guralnick172).

This recorded moment is theater mixed with instruction. Elvis, not yet a television star and global icon, performs Coolness for his primarily teenage audience. “Milk Cow Blues had been a hit by Bob Wills with versions performed by others. Elvis and the boys start what became the “Milcow Boogie Blues” as a subdued, half-time version of the song. But Elvis calls it to a halt, and then says, “Now, wait a minute, fellas. That don’t move me. Let’s get real, real gone for a change.” And then the song kicks into its double-timed version of the song with its suggestive lyrics. Post-war American white suburbanite teens with disposable incomes, were looking for somebody to show them how to break away from their stifling values of their parents, and figures like Presley and Brando were the ones offering these options to them.

Elvis helped define cool by embracing what seemed dirty and vulgar, and this authentic and celebratory embrace of typically described low-culture and base impulses produced a spectacle that brought him the nation’s attention. Chick Crumpacker recalls one ’55 performance “frequent belches into the mike, and the clincher came when he took his chewing gum out and tossed it into the audience” (qtd Guralnick in 190). He would even spit on the stage to the thrill of the hormone-flooded onlookers. These instances bring to light some surprisingly crude element to Elvis’s initial art of seduction. Rather than pretending he came from some rich background he knew nothing about, Elvis played up his image of being low-class.

Although Elvis records had been selling phenomenally already in the Southern U.S., something qualitatively different happened at the performances, provoking a response that extended far beyond the music to a cultural style. When audiences (particularly young girls) saw Elvis Presley perform, no number of record sales sold could prepare people for the chaos that Elvis reigned over while touring with the Louisiana Hayride and elsewhere during that time. Female sexuality was given room to be expressed publicly in those concerts, and Elvis knew exactly how to draw it out of teenage girls and the crowd in general in the form of screaming, fainting, and general unruliness.

But with this rebellious style was his simultaneous innocence and naiveté. “He didn’t drink,” Snow recalls, “he’d carry a cigarette around in his mouth, one of those filter types, never light it because he didn’t smoke, but he’d play with it” (qtd. in Guralnick 172).His style and charisma is so irresistible to many precisely because he straddles these contradictions of unbridled sexuality on the one hand and wide-eyed innocence on the other. What set Elvis apart from the way we traditionally think of rock and roll rebellion was that he always showed respect to adults in public and was pretty shy. He loved singing spirituals, and even maintained his belief that his voice was a gift from God. His gritty image was thoroughly punk in many ways, like Johnny Rotten. His sexuality depended on an earthiness the audience was not receiving from the more pristine acts at the time like Perry Como.

Elvis remains a fashion icon, marketable both economically and good tender in the marketplace of ideas, as I’m using him in this article. But I think if we look closely at the performances that started his career, he embodies an affirmation of life: he was not ashamed of the poverty he came from, he embraced it. He also wasn’t ashamed of his sexuality.  He remained a good ol’ boy with the sly charm, that half-smile that suggested something you know you shouldn’t be doing without admitting it. No matter how shocking his performance, Elvis always remained in the realm of plausible deniability, claiming that the performance was misunderstood, but that half-crooked smile always seemed to suggest that he knew exactly what he was doing. He provided the release of rebellion without the consequences of world where rebellion is a game, and sexuality is fun, and serious things need not be revalued by this type of rebellion. In fact, Elvis’s sexually infused performances of 1954 and 55 serve as a rebellion against seriousness in any form.



The images here have taken from various sites on “fair use” policy. Here the links to them:

Picture 1:

Picture 2:

Picture 3:


Works Cited

Guralnick, Peter. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co, 1994. Print.

Marcus, Greil. Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Print.

Bottom of Form

Top of FormSpencer, Clark dir. Lilo & Stitch. Burbank, Calif: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2002.


Matt Shedd is Graduate Teaching Fellow at University of Oregon, a featured contributor for No Depression: The Roots Music Authority and freelance writer.


Fair-y Tale: Designing with Glass Bangles

Subhasis Maity, freelance writer

India has always celebrated the joy of colours through several festivals by several means. The passion for colour is reflected everywhere in every sphere of life of this tropical country. From a hard-core utility item to a mere trifling thing the presence of colour is worth noticing. The glass bangles, adorable to Indian women are not also an exception to this colour fondness. They have successfully resisted the pressures of time and are thriving in new forms.

Glass bangles in India are much popular accessory among the women folks. Several coloured bangles wearing with a same colour attire is a traditional fashion for many women in India. But this piece of writing is going to be on another creative use of this ornament, which lies far away from its original functionality.

A very big fair, known as Dantan Grameen Mela, is organized at Dantan, a rural area on the border of West Bengal and Orissa. Apart from usual purpose of a fair, this has gathered larger socio-cultural purposes like arranging various cultural programmes of artists from various parts of India, arranging local cultural functions, promoting art and crafts, spearheading awareness camps etc.

The organizers put in a lot of efforts in creating a beautiful fair arena and the entrance gateway to the fair-ground bears a lofty conscious of the people. In January, 2011 they constructed the gateways and the stages with glass bangles as main decorating elements in a remarkable artistic way. The artists and craftsmen, entrusted with it, showed remarkable aesthetic sense and creative skills in decorating the gateways. At first they chose the base colour in pastel orange, a colour which creates a cool appearance and elicits a warm reception. Somewhere they added a trace of pure orange leaving it more vibrant. The vast and architecturally complex canvas encouraged them to play with darker colour glass bangles to decorate the portal.

The glass bangles played the key role in filling the canvas. Various motifs were created with bangles, cut or uncut. They created floral patterns, stylized rectangular designs, flower vase with leafy flowers, ethnic percussionists and many more eye-catching motifs.

Every minute detail of the figurines were taken care of, and it could be noticed in the drapes of the dhoti of the drummer, the curve of his chest, the partings of his turbans and moreover in the finishing perfection of the edges despite the bangle’s curved nature.

In most of the cases the artists chose the tassar fabric as base material to stick the craft on it. It complemented the base colour of the frame and also enhanced the beauty of the craft bringing it into more prominence.

Thus it was an exhibition of patience, a new idea, courage to work with something unusual that left the people gazing on the beautiful designs for about a month.

Call for Papers: Special Issue on the Pictorial Tradition of Bengal

Call for Papers for Volume III, Number 1, 2013
Special Issue on the Pictorial Tradition of Bengal


Bengal has a great pictorial tradition. Unfortunately however, any ancient evidence has not survived, perhaps mainly because of the medium used in those times and partly because of humid environment of the region. But one early medieval evidence has survived in copied forms—A??as?hasrik? Prajñ?p?ramit?, illustrations on palm leaves, which proves that Bengal had reached a high level of sophistication in painting during the Buddhist period. Evidence can also be found in Bengal’s rich folk tradition of ground and wall decorations, and they indicate a peculiar mixture of art and ritual. After the British intervention in the country, we find the tradition once again entering wide spectrum of intense creativity. Mainly it started with European influence but slowly it absorbed its local traditions and moved much ahead and flourished in various schools and branches.

In the next issue of Chitrolekha we like to explore this tradition in order to approach it from holistic points of view and see it in relation to the larger history of Bengal. We also invite submission of art-works from artists of Bengal.

Topics may include on anything relating to the pictorial tradition of Bengal, both West Bengal and Bangladesh. For authors’ convenience we are specifying certain areas (which are not exhaustive but rather suggestive):


  • Exploring ancient and medieval traditions of Bengali paintings, decorations etc.
  • · Pictorial art in A??as?hasrik? Prajñ?p?ramit?
  • · Pictorial art as found in literature and historical documents
  • · Pictorial Folk art of Bengal
  • · Patas and Patuas of Bengal
  • Kalighat paintings
  • Growth and rise of Bengali painting during the British period
  • Discussions on Great Masters of Bengali art
  • Experiments in Bengali art
  • Bengali art after the independence
  • Experimental art, installations etc.

Creative Works: Please submit 5 artworks in Jpeg only. Size: 1500 pixel on the longest side.

Contact: Please contact us at chitrolekhamagazine [AT] for any query. Read Submission Guidelines at

Submission Deadline: May 15, 2013.

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