Sunil Shasanker lives in a quaint area of Gangtok, the capital of the federal state of Sikkim, with a unique history and a myriad of colours that speaks for themselves. An artist, he belongs to the Dalit community and speaks Nepali as his primary language. While speaking to him, Sunil explained his passion for arts and the unique methods he uses to give life to metals. He primarily creates Buddhist arts that are also used in various rituals such as butter lamps, offering bowls, sacred water, and other sorts of paintings and engraved woodwork, which turn out to be quite prized possessions. As he explained, such a form of art existed long before the British Raj and mainly around Sikkim, North Bengal and the adjoining region. As he belongs to the Biswakarma community, it has been a family tradition to create such wonderful pieces of art, and as it turns out, this was their only source of livelihood.
On visiting Gangtok and these adjoining regions, one is welcomed with the sight of beautiful paintings, metals and woodwork items that throng the marketplaces. Curious tourists are often baffled at the sheer intricacies and magnificence of such displays. However, not many are aware of the immense hard work and passion for producing each work of art.
Sunil Shasanker explains that people have lost interest in producing such art forms and, with the availability of cheap products ostensibly industrially produced. Many originating from the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has made the things worse to continue this age-old tradition. Such artworks are part and parcel of this great nation, and every step must be taken to ensure that they do not die out due to neglect. As a 32-year-old entrepreneur, Sunil Shasanker is optimistic about the prospects of handmade products. They still occupy a prime position in the art world and are a collector’s cynosure. However, at this critical juncture, it is essential to provide such struggling but talented artists with all the aid that may be necessary to keep them going even further.
The process of creating such art is often long-drawn, risky and requires a lot of skill and patience, but the result is something that cannot be just whisked away, as it is indeed a prized piece. The artist desires that people take an interest in such arts and promote them on a larger platform. It is also imperative to know that such traditional arts do not have a formal education system, and hence promotion and support becomes critical at every step.