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Tribal Art of Orissa
During this fabulous tour you will be visiting remote tribal villages on the east coast of India. This is a very rare opportunity to visit indigenous peoples in their heritage villages, making their cultural crafts for their livelihood. Please note, when booking this holiday, you must send us a colour photocopy of your passport which we need for applying for an entry permit. We will be travelling into remote heritage villages which require a special entry permit
Highlights of the Tour:
NB. All our tours require a minimum number of 6 passengers to go ahead. In the unlikely event there are insufficient numbers for the tour to proceed all monies paid will be refunded in full.
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Kantha embroidery workshop
This traditional kantha workshop is an opportunity to learn the traditional kantha techniques which informed the more modern, mass-produced West Bengali kantha techniques that have become so popular worldwide recently. The opportunity to learn this ancient textile art from practitioners who have learned it from their mothers, grandmothers and a line of women going back into antiquity is not to be missed! As sarees, dhotis and even bedding become torn or too worn to use, they are layered together, and yarn or cordage salvage form other pieces are threaded between the layers, binding them together in a unique ‘crinkly’ manner. This Kantha stitching is used to decorate the new textile pieces with large, repeating motifs of various kinds.
Konark Sun Temple
One of the jewels of the Golden Triangle of Orissa (bounded by Konark itself, Puri and Bhubaneshwar) is the fabulous ruined temple known as Konaditya. It was built in 1278 by a king of the Ganga line named Narasima Deva. It was once referred to as the Black Pagoda, but modern scholars take more care to call it by its original name. The temple was originally dedicated to the sun god Surya. Some time long ago its tower and dome collapsed, and tradition has it that the idol to Surya inside was relocated to nearby Puri.
Beyond its staggeringly majestic ruins themselves, Konaditya is known for the amazing examples of classical Indian stone sculpture it still contains. The temple itself was decorated as the chariot of the sun itself, and the main temple structure boasts 24 gigantic stone wheels twice the height of a man. 7 stone horses of equally Herculean stature appear to pull the temple and two stone lions guard the main entrance, standing on the bodies of defeated stone elephants.
Three separate stone images of the Sun God remain, one catching the sun’s rays at dawn, one at noon and the last at sunset. All the surfaces of the temple are covered with intricate carvings of plants, animals and people in erotic poses.
Orissa plays host to some of the world’s most beautiful wetlands, including the thriving Chilika Lake. Chilikia is the largest brackish water lake in Asia, and as such it supports a huge diversity of tropical species. On the shores of this lake lies the beautiful village of Mangalajod. This village is the chief settlement at the edge of the bird and wildlife sanctuary of the same name, one that is beginning to rival the region’s tiger sanctuaries as a popular eco-tourism destination.
A boat tour through the sanctuary will let you see thousands of tropical birds and other animals, including moorhens, stilts, lapwings and godwits. The sanctuary is particularly well populated in the winter months, when it plays host to migratory birds fleeing colder weather. In all, there are over 150 species of birds living in the region year-round, and at least 40 migratory species winter there.
Only 20 years ago, this intense biodiversity was the sole domain of poachers and hunters. Just a generation later the birds are protected and the people of the region have learned to derive an income form this tremendous natural resource that protects it rather than consumes it.
Tribal and Textile Museum at Koraput
It is the treasure of this incredible diversity that Orissa’s leadership are trying so hard to protect and preserve. As more and more of the region’s people adopt modern ways of life, the Orissans themselves realised that they needed to preserve examples of tribal arts and crafts in various ways, to protect them for future generations. The traditional ‘artist’s villages’ are just one way – the other is a series of museums dedicated to displaying and interpreting the cultural heritage of the many local tribes.
The museum at Koraput is one such. It displays examples of the handicrafts and cultural materials of these peoples, as well as recordings of their dances, music and stories. Of particular note are the museum’s collections of metal work, stone sculpture, terracotta sculpture, wood carvings, traditional textiles and paintings, as well as historical documentation of all kinds.
The Tribal Museum at Koraput was established to preserve the cultural heritage of the local tribes and promote their arts, crafts, dances and music. The museum has on display a collection of stone sculptures, metal images and objects, terracotta, wooden objects, paintings, documents, rare objects and textiles among other things. It is free for visitors.
The museum is free to visit, but you will be politely asked to make a donation on the way out. 100 Rs (just over one pound) is considered quite generous.
Tribal arts and crafts
You’ll tour several villages dedicated to one or more traditional art forms:
Traditional Orissan sadhi weaving is a unique form of a continent-wide tradition. The Indian saree is called a ‘Sambalpuri Sadhi’ locally, and the tradition of making these is unique to the region. The warp and weft are separately tie-dyed before weaving begins.
At the traditional potter’s village of Bapaniguda, you will see how local clays and minerals have been used to make both sacred and practical vessels since the first stone age peoples migrated to the region, long before recorded history.
The basket weaving tradition of Eastern India is at least a sold as the pottery tradition. Orissa puts a unique spin on both the bamboo basket weaving techniques usually associated with Bengal, and the ‘moonj’ monsoon grass weaving techniques of Utar Pradesh.
Dokhra metal art
Dokra metalworking techniques that date back to the prehistoric civilisation of Mohenjo-Daro are the specialty of villages like Devrai Art Village. Dokhra metal work is a unique example of ‘lost wax casting’ and it is produced in the manner handed down for thousands of years today.
Stone carving village
The most ancient Orissan stone carving techniques are still practiced in villages like Bhubaneswar, Puri and Lalitgiri. You will have the opportunity to see how some of the most beautiful statuary and architectural decorations in the region were produced.
Hand painted textiles
Orissan Applique workshop
This technique began as a religious observance. It was first used to decorate awnings, umbrellas and shades for statues, effigies and shrines to spiritual entities like Balabhadra, Jagganath and the goddess Subhadra. Whilst the finest examples can still be seen in this traditional context, the technique is also widely used to decorate non-sacred items with the same motifs, primarily animals and birds, flowers and leaves, and other designs inspired by nature.
Colour choice is also important to traditional Orissan applique work. The vast majority of traditional pieces are produced from only four colours – black, white, red and yellow. The striking effect is achieved by stitching highly contrasting colours together.
Recent centuries have seen the inclusion of green to the traditional 4 colour scheme, and the addition of embroidered decorative elements. In this workshop, you will have a chance to practice both the most ancient techniques as well as the more modern variations.