Cover Story: Serving the Cause of Rural Artisans
Guruji Ravinder Sharma of Kala Ashram, Adilabad
Intro: Kala Ashram includes local artisans and students of IITs.
Fondly called ‘Guruji’, Shri Ravinder Sharma is an inspiration for hundreds of artisans and artists from all over the country. They come to his Kala Ashram at Adilabad to learn more about various forms of arts. Well versed in 14 different art forms, he has redefined aesthetics which helped in understanding the relationship between the society and the artisans on the one hand and the artisans and nature on the other.
Shri Sharma is the founder of Kala Ashram, which is a melting pot of culture, heritage, India’s rural social-economics, art, science and anything that is associated with India and the way of life that was naturally led by people here. Though, his forefathers belonged to Dijkot in Punjab (now in Pakistan), he was born and brought in Adilabad. His wanderings around helped him get an in-depth knowledge of the culture, heritage and economy of that area. Along with like-minded people and friends he established the Kala Ashram in 1979. He says there is much for an artisan that survives even now. For example, there is a good market for articles made of bamboo or jute which needs to be tapped in the right manner. “The artisan should enjoy enough latitude for new designs to emerge. It is the variety in design that makes life so colourful,” he observes.
The 57-year-old Ravinder Sharma began studying the complexities and cohesion in rural life at a young age. He moved in villages and habitations within a radius of 20 kilometres of Adilabad for over 20 years interacting with various segments of the society. He earned diplomas in Fine Arts from JNTU, Hyderabad and MSU in Baroda.
Meant to rehabilitate old artists who had fallen on bad times, the Kala Ashram has become an informal centre for knowledge on the subject. Shri Sharma shares his experiences and the philosophy on relevance of artisans and craftsmen in society and on issues linked with their survival. His audience comprise not only the local artisans but the elite faculty and students of IITs as well. Rural artisans need enough space to exercise their creativity, believes the artist-philosopher.
The Kala Ashram has been founded on the four principles or four pillars of life—Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Here research is being continuously conducted to understand and implement the way of life led by people in India vis-a-vis economics, philosophy, culture, heritage and science. The Indian village was a self-reliant unit where every individual was living prosperously. The effort here is to understand how the people in the villages used to lead a life of self-reliance and honour. The secret according to Shri Sharma lies in the 49 Hindu samskaras. These unique processes which were part of life played a very key role in the way of life.
Andhra Pradesh Cultural Council honoured him with the ‘Kalaratna Award’ in the field of painting/sculptures in 2010.
The Ashram’s ongoing programmes include research and study of all ancient techniques and science, tradition and art forms; collection and preservation of all articles of use in and around Adilabad, workshops to introduce ancient technology and its usage in modern context and revival of folk dances and folk music. The Ashram aims to establish a museum of artifacts. It also intends to set-up ‘Homes’ that would function as museum, house, workshop and shop for twelve or more artisans, which would also include teaching of the techniques, lifestyles and economics of that particular art form.