A True Shrine

A True Shrine

“Temple for Birds” by Pratul Dash

By Aditi Ghildiyal

Pratul Dash

As one takes a stroll alongside the pond, near the medieval temple of Brahma in Bhubaneshwar, one stumbles upon a pyramidal shaped structure made of earthen pots. Its shape resembles the ornate shikhara or vimana characteristic of Indian temple architecture. As you walk closer you observe minimalist geometrical patterns conceived just by a simple variation in the placement of the pots. It stands erect resplendent in its austere beauty. Engaging all passerby’s – humans, animals and birds – with its intriguing presence.

This is artist Pratul Dash’s latest installation titled “Temple for Birds”. Merging effortlessly with the pristine idyllic landscape, the 16 feet high and 8 feet wide installation stands at the intersection of the local and global, the traditional and modern.

The artwork is a tribute to the thousand-year-old tradition of making earthen pots called ‘kudua’ which are exclusively used for cooking the Mahabhoga/Mahaprasada for the Gods. The food is only prepared by a caste called Suaras within the temple kitchen upon fire wood. This is a medieval tradition that is still being followed in Jaganatha, Lingaraja and Anant Vasudeva temples in Orissa. These earthen pots once used are discarded because something that has been used for the Gods cannot be used by mere mortals again. Thus each kudua is only made once making it exclusive and unique.

Pratul Dash

The artist collected the discarded kuduas over a period of days and resurrected them with a new purpose. The idea behind this installation is sweet and simple – to provide a home to the birds visiting Bindusagar which was once famous for the annual visit of migratory birds. Sadly the number of migratory birds visiting each year has dwindled at an alarming rate.

The installation is an attempt to attract the birds to nest inside these earthen pots. Pratul hopes that after a while the installation be shifted to Ekmara Park nearby so that the birds receive a more natural habitation. His work is a true testimony to the ethics of ecological art practices. The genre seeks to preserve, remediate life forms, resources across all our eco-systems.

Pratul Dash

Pratul’s art practice has always focused on the dynamics between nature and man. Migration, displacement, urbanization have been the key concepts in his art practice. His paintings are beautiful, surreal and intricately rendered, ripe with visual metaphors. The works are replete with hard hitting truth about man’s reckless behavior towards preservation of our natural environment.

Thus the “Temple of Birds” becomes a shrine in a true sense. It is built to serve the purpose of habitation and preservation. The work is beautiful not just in its appearance but also in the sheer purpose of its existence,  inception and construction. It serves as an intermediary between the past and present, history and the contemporary times and most significantly between man and nature.

Born in 1974, in Burla, Orissa, Pratul Dash works across diverse media. He did his bachelors from B.K. College of Arts and Crafts, Bhubaneswar in 1995 and his Master’s in painting from College of Art, New Delhi in 1998. The artist has held numerous exhibitions and has participated in several art camps and residencies in India and abroad. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Inlaks award.

The “Temple for Birds” was part of Bat (Bhubaneshawar Art Trial) in 2018.

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