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To be developed as tourist destination, Bastar all set to promote artistic temperament

Bastar Art Gallery site
By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi* 
Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district, which is known for its vibrant tribal culture and rich history, is all set to become an artisans’ paradise. Two happening centres aimed at promoting local culture, the Bastar Art Gallery beside the famed Dalpat Sagar lake and BADAL or the Bastar Academy of Dance, Arts and Literature are almost at the last stage of completion.
According to Jeet Singh Arya of Unexplored Bastar, a travel startup to promote Bastar as a tourist destination, several attempts have made to clean up the 400-year-old Dalpat Sagar lake in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar, on many occasions. At present, the district administration has also initiated steps in this direction. “The water of the lake will be treated and efforts made to prevent dirty water from entering the water body,” he said.
As Dalpat Sagar is the largest man-made lake of Chhattisgarh, the district administration naturally wanted to develop an activity centre around it, and hence the idea of the art gallery. To promote famous crafts of Bastar like bell metal or dhokra, tuma or dried gourd art and wrought iron, existing buildings belonging to the colonial period are being renovated and new structures added. The place is beside Dalpat Sagar, which used to be the site of the city’s pump house originally. Now, the Bastar gallery is coming up here.
Bastar Academy of Dance, Arts and Literature (BADAL)
Arya said both the art gallery as well as BADAL will promote the artistic temperament. “Back in the British time, there used to be a pump house here. At present, work is on to conserve the existing buildings and new ones are under various stages of completion. The Bastar Art Gallery is mainly for artisans and BADAL will aid in the learning process.”
The most interesting feature of the Bastar Art Gallery site is the protection of an ancient peepal tree by Nagpur-based conservation architect Shivani Sharma. Sharma has planned, designed and protected the gallery site by drawing up a master plan which also includes the lake.
“Work is still going on. Its development was planned in phases. Initially, conservation started with the two main structures facing each other having the British-period look. After that the campus was expanded. In the process, an old well discovered during the renovation work has been kept intact as part of the master plan,” Sharma said.
The unique peepal tree
The unique peepal tree, which is perhaps 50-60 years old, has been protected. Currently, the tree clings on to a huge portion of the wall and is still growing. “We could not disturb it or else the entire structure would have collapsed. So, the tree load was reduced from the top by careful trimming,” the architect said.
Sharma said to retain the look of the past century, lime plaster has been used along with organic materials like jute fibre, gur (jaggery) and gum.
Gaurav Kushwaha, who runs an e-commerce platform called Lokabazar which sells Bastar’s famous handicrafts, said renovation and construction activity speeded up from the period of the second lockdown. “The Bastar Art Gallery will be used to organise exhibitions. Classes will be held related to arts and craft. Hutments will be constructed and live demonstrations of various art forms will be given to visitors.”
The BADAL site at gram panchayat Aasana outside the limits of Jagdalpur is a defunct property of the Chhattisgarh tourism board. Arya informed that discussions were held on how to best utilise the place.
It has been decided that the site will serve as a space where those interested can either learn local languages like Gondi and Halbi or pick up dance forms. 
Murals at BADAL
It will be an economic activity site developed on the lines of a university where people can come and stay back for learning and exposure. The place has been made attractive with bright orange walls sporting beautiful murals. BADAL is mainly for performing arts and language conservation and is being developed at a budget of Rs 3 crore.
The Bastar Art Gallery is being developed at Rs 60 lakh. To further give a push to local artisans, a company for promoting Bastar’s art, the Bastar Hastshilp Producer Company Limited, has been formed. Artisans will act as its board of directors.
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*All photographs by the author

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