Early man decorated gourds by cutting and scraping images using the sharp edge or tip of a hot stick. Many cultures in India have been and are still using gourds for bowls, vessels, hats, musical instruments and many other utilitarian purposes. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and vary in thickness from eggshell thin to an inch or more in thickness.
Why gourd art?
Traditional Gourd sold as vegetable fetches maximum Rs.50/per gourd to the farmer. Most of the Indian edible gourd varieties are quite large in size and the demand for them is very less due to the development of nuclear families in recent times who prefer smaller vegetables that they can consume without having to store. So gourds have failed in commercial cultivation. Parallelly, with the introduction of Hybrid gourd varieties and mono cropping system, the traditional bottle gourd varieties are becoming extinct.
Inspired by local gourd art in Kenya, we decided to give this vegetable a make-over in the market. Rather than selling it for cooking purposes, we decided to experiment with marketing it as a decorative item. When used for interior designing, they are priced 5-10 times higher depending upon the design. Seeds of the gourd also fetches 3-5 times more than the vegetable.
Gourds are easy to grow and need very less care. They offer food security to the farmer as it’s a source of vegetable for the family’s consumption. Now that its seeds and its art can be sold for a better price, it helps strengthen their livelihoods. Few wild non edible varieties are usually grown on the fence of farms and Krishikala buys them too, creating another means of revenue for the farmer.
Which gourd can be used?
Hard shell gourds, once dried can last forever and are essentially a soft wood. There are dozens of varieties of hard shell gourds and their varying sizes and shapes have provided man with a multitude of functional, decorative and spiritual uses, such as containers and utensils, boat floats, masks, musical instruments, jewelry, dolls and more.
Cultures from arid regions often associated gourds with water, and they appear in many creation myths. Since the beginning of their history, they have had a multitude of uses, including food, kitchen tools, toys, musical instruments and decoration. Due to the gourds versatility, just about any art medium can be applied. As gourds are a type of wood, they can be carved, wood burned and sculpted.
Gourds are an important part of cultural and regional identity, a critical part of India’s colorful geographical canvas. Today, the conservation of traditional bottle gourd varieties and their many art forms can act as a bridge from the past to the future. Without conservation, these bottle gourds will become lost.
For farmers, the diversity of traditional bottle gourds possess critical advantages: They are well-adapted to their local environments, making them more resilient to problems like pest, disease, and extreme weather common today such as droughts, along with being easier and less costly to grow. For village artisans, traditional varieties are well known to them, allowing for better processing, fostering stronger connections to their communities, and the creation of more beautiful products.