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Arkhund – A Graffiti Art Village

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 By Jayprakash Panwar ‘JP’
Once upon a time, Arkhund village of Jakholi block of Rudraprayag was a prominent halting-place for Kedarnath pilgrims. At that time, there was no road network before Rishikesh and pilgrims had to traverse long distances on foot and in palanquins. However, after independence, most of these footpaths became redundant and the economy of such villages changed accordingly.

Today, Arkhund village is again in the limelight, but for another reason.
“Being a fine arts student, I always had the idea of making wall paintings in my village, but it has not happened for the last four years. However, when the Covid-19 lockdown started, all youths of the village were compelled to remain indoors. That was when I shared my long time dream with my friends. They all were happy to support my vision and the dream came true,” says Sumit Rana.

Sumit Rana born and brought up in Arkhund village and did his Master of Arts in Drawing and Painting from HNB Garhwal University. Since his childhood, he was inclined towards the creative arts but he had never taken this seriously till his graduation. When he enrolled for his post-graduate degree, an Assistant Professor, Shilpi Pal, recognised him as a potential artist of the future. She encouraged Sumit to sharpen his skills in drawing and painting. Since then, Sumit has taken up this as a serious job and become very active. During his PG course, he established a “Live Art Group” with his classmate Trilok Rawat and two other friends in 2015. Through this group, all four artists have started the exhibition and sale of their works at different locations of the state. Today, they are selling paintings and portraits online. So far, the group has succeeded in selling about 2500 paintings and 3000 portraits.

Let’s get back to Arkhund Village. They have divided wall painting works into three major parts. In the first part, they initiated work on wildlife, nature, arts and cultural depiction. The main problem was the money to purchase costly painting materials, brush, etc. However, the friends collected money from among themselves and supporters of the idea. Sumit’s job as the lead artist was to draw the figures and then he used to guide the village youths to fill the respective colours and paint. After ninety percent of the rough painting was completed, he gave the paintings the final touch.

Till today, Sumit and his team have completed two spells of village painting work and the third is underway. So far, they have made paintings of wildlife and nature, bagpipes, dhol and damau, mountain women, hand flour mill, Amar Jawan Jyoti, Tiger Hill, Water Conservation, Messages and Quotes of the famous folk songs of Narendra Singh Negi like “Na daud na daud tu undyari ka bata” (Do not run on the path leading out of the village), portraits of the village heroes like 26/11 Bombay blast martyr solder Gajendra Singh Bisht and Surendra Singh Negi, both belonging to Arkhund village.

“Now we are heading into the third part of the painting drive. In this part, we will make paintings of four prominent temples of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri, Ramman, Choliya, and Pandav dance performances, Nanda Raj Jaat and local gods,” says Sumit Rana.

However, such Graffiti art depiction is not new to the villages of Uttarakhand. Earlier, the same experiment had been done in Saud village near Chamba, Tehri Garhwal, which was totally abandoned. A tourism entrepreneur revived Saud village and repaired old houses and converted it into a home stay facility and called artists from outside to decorate the village. However, Sumit’s experiment is totally organic, his idea has been developed in his village and all the artists are from his own village.

Today, many art lovers and tourists are visiting Arkhund village to experience the charm of graffiti arts. Uttarakhand is a tourist destination for the world community, Sumit’s initiative has added value to it.

(The writer is a Freelance Journalist, Radio & Television Presenter and a Documentary Filmmaker.)