Ganjam is named after the old township and the European fort of Ganjam situated on the northern bank of the river Rushikulya, which was the headquarters of the district. It were the Britishers, who ultimately defeated the French (who ruled over Ganjam previously) in the Deccan and took control of Ganjam in 1759. In the initial period of British rule, the district became part of the Madras Presidency which initiated the Patto(silk)saree weaving at Berhampur. Later the district was separated from the Madras Presidency and formed a part of the newly created Odisha Province. According to the encyclopaedia of Art and Craft Ganjam district earned the first position for its rich cultural heritage. The stone sculptures and Cow-dung craft of Mathura village of Ganjam are of high artistic and aesthetic values. Masks of different shapes, made out of trivial items like waste paper, tamarind seeds, and cow dung provide livelihood support to some the local people. Brass and bell-metal flexible fish craft of Belaguntha gives another identity to Ganjam district in the field of Art and Craft.
Berhampur: a silk city
Being a famous city for silk variety and quality, historically Berhampur was also a famous commercial hub for the British as well as the Kings. According to the historical evidence the silk weaver Dera / Devang community were invited from Rajmuhendry (currently in Andhra Pradesh) by the Mahuri king for weaving of Patto saree for Budhi Thakurani the istadevi of Berhampur. The particular colour(Jaou,rani,silk colour ) and patterns like Phada kumbha and Nadiya Phoola were the traditional design which are specific to the Patto Saree are now converted to different modern designs with tie and die according to the demand of local market. Most of the designs of the Patto sarees were borrowed from natural flower and other ornaments worn by the Dera women. There were 800 Maggum or Tanta (feet loom) working during the time of King which are now reduced to 100 in nos. The Dera community also served at the temple of Budhi Thakurani for regular worshiping. The weaving skill, technique and utilization of time of a weaver per Patto Saree and Joda(male garment) is very less in comparison to their wages which gradually forced them to leave this traditional handloom work. Now in collaboration with Govt. of Textile Department three co-operative societies are working for silk weavers. Whereas there are other co-operative societies working for cotton weavers like Rngani and Tanti communities in Pitala, Hinjilicut, Bomkai, Asika etc.
Flexible brass fish of Belaguntha:
Belaguntha , historically world famous from the time of British rule for unique flexible brass fish craft is now on the verge of extinction. From the historical evidence and according to the statement of Shri Pradeep Maharana, the senior artist of the Kansari community, late Bhikari Maharana was the first metal artist who started this craft and used to demonstrate his craftsmanship at Bhanja king’s court. After king’s patronage since from the time of British, the Kansari family is supplying fish to the Victoria Technical Institute, Madras for their livelihood.
The fish is basically divided into 4 parts like head, middle stomach, lower stomach and tail. The making of the fish starts with the collection of brass sheets and making of head portion. According to the size of head, the size of the body is decided. The body of the fish is divided into many pieces in order to provide flexibility to the fish. After making different parts, the parts are jointly stitched with each other in such a way that the fish can move easily.
The Cow-dung craft of Mathura and Chadheyapalli
Around 80 nos of families in Mathura village and 40 nos of families in Chadheyapalli village from Chitrakar community are living since from the rule of Bhanja King of Ganjam. The communities, since from the time of royal patronage, are preparing cow dung dolls for Kundhei Jatra, a local fair of dolls which continues from Bahuda Jatra(cart festival) to Asadh poornima. The community starts the making different images like Lord Jagannath and his companions, pigeon, parrot, crane, elephant, lion, tiger, snake, goat, sheep, the image of warriors, women with baby etc including Ganjapa and Sara(playing cards)before four months of this fair which they sell. Being holy as well as having eco-friendly properties these toys were very famous since centuries.