Balasore, July 24 (LocalWire): While the city, about 194 kilometers north of Bhubaneswar may be best known for its Chandipur beach, and as the center of India’s ballistic missile programme, Balasore is also a home to numerous hidden talents in the fields of art and culture.
Meet Urmila Dehuri, a simple middle aged woman from village Kudhia in Durga Devi Panchayat under Remuna block who is drawing attention for her beautiful, handcrafted mati shankhs or conchs made of clay.
A conch or shankh holds religious importance for Hindus. It is considered a sacred emblem of Lord Vishnu and is blown before starting any ritual or prayer for good omens. Since ages, conchs have been made from tropical marine gastropod molluscs and their price can range anywhere above Rs 500.
But Urmila has come up with a better and more reasonable alternative that she made from clay. She collects clay from the nearby river bank and crafts the conchs out of it.
“It takes me two hours to make a conch,” Urmila said.
After the conchs are prepared, she assembles them inside the house to let them dry under natural shade.
“The conchs will crack if dried under the sun. So, I let them dry inside my house which takes around 15 days,” she added.
Urmila never received training in this field. She used to make clay dolls and idols and sell them at village fairs. A neighbour once suggested that she should try making conchs out of clay.
Following this, she started making conchs from clay, but couldn’t make them durable enough and failed to produce sound from them.
Later, with some advice from a craftsman from Boulagadia, near her village, she started making conchs that sounded as vibrant as the shell-conchs and were durable too.
Her conchs are priced reasonably between Rs 60 to Rs 100. Although she received recognition for her crafting skills, she never received enough buyers for her conchs.
“I am making conchs for about a year now, but there are not enough buyers. Recently, Kesu Das saw my work and assured to help me sell them,” Urmila said.
Das is a celebrated artist and art activist from Balasore who runs Baleswari Kala Kendra in the state to provide a platform to the deprived or striving artists of the society.
“We are a state of authentic art and culture. I have come across a lot of terracotta artists, but Urmila Dehuri is one of a kind,” Das said to LocalWire.
“I realised that despite her hard work, Urmila was not being able to sell her conchs. To encourage her talent, I purchased all her conchs. I will paint them in Jou colours and help her sell them,” Das added.
On being asked about the Jou-touch, Das said, “I am trying to popularise her amazing clay craft with a touch of Jou art to it.”
Urmila lives with her son and daughter-in-law after her husband’s demise in 2012. A rare talent, with assurance from Das, she is now hopeful to make more conchs and sell them in the market.