Tezpur, April 3: Batadrava Than at Bordowa in gaon district of Assam is one of the best known Thans founded by Srimanta Sankardeva. Batadrava Than is also known for significant wood carvings that highlight many interesting facets of the Vaishvite Movement of Sankardeva. Many scholars regard such wood carvings as the ‘finest specimens of the entire range of wood carving in the sub-continent’. However, with time some of these finest wood carvings have faded away and urgently need attention.
On this backdrop, as a mark of social responsibility, Professor Robin Kumar Dutta, an expert in traditiol dyes and pigments along with Professor Swapan Kumar Doloi, an expert in adhesives and polymers, both from the Department of Chemical Sciences of Tezpur University (TU) with the active support from the TU administration, engaged themselves to restore the centuries-old priceless life-size wood carvings of Kirtan Ghar of Batadrava Than to their origil look with hengul-haital (vermillion and yellow arsenic, used traditiolly in Assam for colouring wooden instruments, walls and mukhasilpa ) and other traditiol pigments in the traditiol way.
The two professors were helped by Dr. ren Kalita, an expert in the traditiol art forms of Assam, in ensuring the sanctity of the traditiol art aspect of the sculptures with periodic visit to the work site. The work, the first of its kind, was driven also by a broader idea of reviving the unique but dying tradition of painting wood carvings with hengul-haital in Assam.
The largest of the wooden sculptures, a Gadur Pakhi, (a bird creature from Hindu mythology) about two metre tall and three metres wide painted with hengul-haital, was dated 1833. Another similar but slightly smaller sculpture of Gadur Pakhi and two wooden sculptures of Hanuma were set up subsequently. Though all these wood carvings were initially painted with traditiol pigments, all of them became dirty and uttractive in the course of time. The older Gadur and one Hanuman sculpture were later painted with synthetic emel paints too.
Resource persons from various places, including Majuli, gaon, Tezpur and Tezpur University, were involved in the cleaning, preparation of the paints by grinding and mixing with gum of elephant apple and water, application of the paints, the fil art works and application of a fil thin coat of tural sap (la charowa) in three phases.
Niran Kotoki and Prabin Bora from Auniati Xatra, Majuli applied the fil thin coat of sap on the sculptures after Badal Das and Dewan Singh of Tezpur had done the fil art works in the fil phase. Chitta Ranjan Bora and Mridu Moucham Bora from gaon joined the traditiol artists from Auniati in painting the sculptures with the traditiol paints prepared by them together with several others, especially Hari rayan Kowar and Ujjal Jyoti Dev Goswami from Batadrava.
A team of chemists, led by Pinku Gogoi and Rajkamal Mohan, PhD students of Tezpur University, supervised the entire work starting from cleaning to ensuring safety in handling the toxic pigments. Samples of the pigments at different stages have been collected for further research.