One traditional technique on the verge of extinction in India is the “Sanjhi” art form. Sanjhi, also spelled as “Sanjhhi” or “Sanjhee,” is a meticulous and intricate form of paper cutting art that has its roots in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the Mathura and Vrindavan region. This traditional craft is characterized by the creation of intricate stencils and paper cutouts used for various decorative and religious purposes, often in temples and during religious ceremonies.

Technique of Sanjhi Art


Sanjhi is primarily created using specially prepared stencils and handmade paper. The process involves the following steps:

  • Design Creation: The Sanjhi artisan begins by sketching intricate and detailed designs on a special type of dark red or black handmade paper known as “Sanjhi paper.” These designs often depict scenes from Hindu mythology, particularly the life and adventures of Lord Krishna.
  • Stencil Cutting: After the design is sketched, the artist carefully and skillfully cuts out the intricate patterns, figures, and motifs using small, sharp scissors or knives. The cut paper is known as “sanjhi.”
  • Layering: The cut paper stencils are layered on top of one another, creating a multi-dimensional effect. The layering allows light to pass through, casting intricate patterns and designs on the ground or a surface when illuminated from behind.
  • Decoration: Sanjhi artworks are used as decorative items, often in temples, especially during the festival of Diwali, and for other religious occasions. They can also be seen in various cultural and religious processions.

Challenges Leading to the Extinction of Sanjhi

  • Lack of Skilled Artisans: Sanjhi requires a high degree of skill and patience. Few artisans today possess the expertise needed to create these intricate designs.
  • Declining Artisans: One of the primary challenges facing Sanjhi art is the dwindling number of skilled artisans. Younger generations are less inclined to pursue this labor-intensive and time-consuming craft, which requires years of training and practice.
  • Lack of Patronage: Sanjhi art was traditionally patronized by temples and religious institutions in India. However, changing religious practices and preferences have reduced the demand for Sanjhi decorations in religious contexts.
  • Commercial Reproduction: Inexpensive, mass-produced imitations of Sanjhi designs have flooded the market, making it challenging for traditional artisans to compete and earn a sustainable livelihood.
  • Environmental Impact: Traditional Sanjhi art relies on handmade paper, and the materials used for stencils are often sourced from natural products like the bark of the “Sangwan” tree. Overharvesting of these materials and concerns about deforestation raise environmental and ethical questions.
  • Lack of Awareness: Many people, both within and outside India, are unaware of the cultural and artistic significance of Sanjhi. Without awareness and recognition, it’s difficult to generate interest and support for its preservation.

Efforts to Preserve Sanjhi Art


Despite the challenges, there are ongoing efforts to preserve the art of Sanjhi. These include:

  • Artisan Training Programs: Some organizations and initiatives are providing training and support to young artisans to ensure the transfer of knowledge and skills.
  • Cultural Promotions: Cultural festivals and events showcase Sanjhi art to a wider audience, helping to raise awareness and appreciation for this traditional craft.
  • Collaborations: Collaboration with contemporary designers and artists to incorporate Sanjhi motifs and designs into modern products and fashion has helped generate interest and financial support.
  • Government Initiatives: Government agencies in India have recognized the importance of preserving traditional art forms and have initiated programs to support artisans and create markets for their work.

In conclusion, Sanjhi art is a prime example of a traditional technique on the brink of extinction in India. While it faces significant challenges, the dedication of artisans, awareness-building efforts, and support from various quarters offer hope for its revival and preservation.

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