“Stitch your dreams on to my pillow. I will make them come alive…”
Gods, animals, birds, flowers, leaves, rounds and triangles... think of anything and the adept artisan will stitch your imagination onto fabric in no time. This thread of creativity runs in the village of Pipili in coastal Orissa, where a vibrant community of craftsmen specialises in applique craft The process of cutting coloured cloth into various shapes and stitching them on a piece of bright coloured cloth. Applique motifs in contrasting colors are cut in the shape of animals, birds, flowers, leaves, celestial bodies and geometric shapes, and stitched onto the base cloth in aesthetic arrangements. Raised motifs are prepared by giving several folds. The actual grace of applique craft lays in the intricate stitches namely bakhia, guntha, turpa, chikan and other very delicate and esoteric embroidery techniques. Nowadays, small mirrors and bright metal pieces are also used for greater effect. After attaching the applique patches to the base cloth, the borders are stitched.
. In fact, the village owes its existence to this craft.
Patronised by the erstwhile nobility of Orissa, applique work had at one time reached the artistic heights of excellence. Consequently, the kings of Puri engaged the applique artists and set up the Pipili village for them. Today, the main village street flaunts rows of shops selling appliqued handbags, bed sheets, wall hangings, purses, pillow covers, canopies, garden umbrellas etc. In fact, Pipili serves as the centre of selling and exporting of applique items from Orissa.
Pipili serves as the gateway to many exotic destinations in the adjoining areas. Said to be named after a Muslim saint Pir Palli, Pipili falls on Orissa's Golden Triangle circuit connecting the state capital Bhubaneswar (20 km) and Puri (40 km) with the Konark Sun Temple - World Heritage Site (50 km), and to the famous wetland bird sanctuary at Chilka Lake (90 km).
Pipili is also the fountainhead of secular kinship and communal harmony. Hindus and Muslims participate in the making and trade of applique craft. On one hand, the village showcases the intense involvement of the men, and especially the women, in the applique production, and on the other, it fits the bill as a leisurely rural encounter.