THE ART OF HAND CUTTING (OR STENCIL CUTTING) DESIGNS ON PAPER, IS TYPICAL ART OF MATHURA IN UTTAR PRADESH
SIGNIFICANCE AND HISTORY:
The word ‘Sanjhi’ comes from the Hindi term ‘Sandhya’ that means dusk, the moment of time which is related with the creation of different types of arts. Sanjhi is a special type of art of stencil or hand cutting designs on paper. It is a traditional art of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh that is known to be the abode of Lord Krishna.
The Temples of the Vaishnavas show glimpses of such a folk art and reveals that it was practised by them in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Later it became an advanced form of art by the Brahmin priests.
There is a folk tale related to the origination of this art of paper cutting. ‘Radha’ known to the lover of Lord Krishna made Rangolis by the use of natural colours. She also used stones of different colours, flowers and leaves to make such designs in order to draw the attention of Lord Krishna. The other Gopis also started to follow Radha and made complicated patterns by using different items to impress Lord Krishna.
Later, in the Mughal period this work of art showed it influence in making of the lattice designs.
There was a time when it was practiced by the people of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan but nowadays it is only restricted to Mathura or ‘Vraja’, the holy place of Lord Krishna.
THE ART OF SANJHI:
First of all drawing of the design or pattern is done on a paper to create a Sanjhi. The papers are joined together by using pins if there is any requisition of more copies.
Secondly, the cutting of the Sanjhi is done by using scissors of very fine quality that are somewhat curved at one point to ensure a meticulous cutting. The paper is turned around while cutting in order to get the design intact (the edges of the scissors are protected by wrapping it in a cloth and also as a mark of reverence to device).
Folding at the corners of the papers is done by the artists in order to help them in lifting it up after the colour has been applied.
The paper cuttings are place in a widened plain surface and different types of colours are filled in them. The colours can be substituted by coloured stones, fresh flowers, mirror pieces and metal foil, etc.
After completion of the filling work the lifting of the Sanjhi takes place that the artists do by holding their breath so that the pattern doesn’t get disturbed anyhow.
The designs of Sanjhi are used in the veneration of Lord Krishna as a ritual. The artists begin the work after prayers are being offered to their respective tools, the deities and their respective teachers by whom they were being taught such an art. The cutting of complicated patterns is done that depict the panorama of Lord Krishna. The cutting process requires huge attention and talent from the artists. These special designs are decorated in temples or places where the worship of Lord Krishna takes place during the festivals related to him. At the time of offering prayers to Lord Krishna in the evening of the festivals, the Sanjhi’s are uncovered and are accompanied by the recitation of various legends that are related to him.
In northern India these patterns were cut in the banana leaves and paper for the colourful powders that were to be induced to adorn the patio of the internal sanctum.