End of Last Witness!

Madan Meena 

Kaliwa Neelgar is no more. I met him six years ago while searching for block print designs in eastern Rajasthan particularly from Karoli region in Rajasthan which neighbours Uttar Pradesh in the north and Madhya Pradesh in the east. This place had a distinct design tradition unlike to any other popular printing centres of Rajasthan. While looking through his repertoire of abandoned wooden blocks I came across the ‘Nandana’ motif he printed for the Banjara women passing through his village. Previous I had seen it among the Balotra printers (Rajasthan) and those in Tarapur (MP), but was unaware that it was printed at many other places in distinct designs.
Kaliwa suffered poverty during his last years, he ran a small shop selling Beedi-Guthka which was shut down during the lockdown period. Today came a sad news from his grandson that Kaliwa is no more, Kaliwa’s wife also passed away a month ago. Last year while talking to him on phone he was excited to visit Adivasi Academy to teach indigenous Indigo vat technique. I was assuming that now he will be able to travel to the Academy in Gujarat but sadly he is no more. Passing away of such people is loss of a complete school of an indigenous knowledge.
Kaliwa shared an interesting story how he started block printing to challenge monopoly of the Chippa community in his village. He was an expert dyer as well as a block printer. Such are rare examples where the Neelgars have ever done block printing – he was the only one to my knowledge. Respect for the departed soul 🙏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *