Fanush Making ~ Making of paper made hot air balloons
~ Making of Paper Made Hot Air Balloons ~
The following documentation is made at the Dutt family at Bholanath Dham, Beadon Street, Calcutta
Also see: My compilation on Fanush
Fanush (ফানুস, also spelt as Phanush or Phanus), paper made hot air balloon, was once the integral part of North Calcutta (Kolkata) “Babu” Culture. Today the art of Fanush making is a dying art as the new generation has shifted its attention into other sources of entertainment.
The Fanush operates in the same principle of a hot air balloon. The air inside the Fanush is heated by a cloth rag ball (locally called Luti) soaked in spirit. The Luti is attached to the base of the Fanush.
Apart from the conventional balloon shape the fanush also came in a host of different shapes, like pitchers, stars, footballs, ducks, kettles and even the planet of Saturn.
Tricks of the Trade: Paper is the basic raw material of fanush and the tricks of the trade are simple. Scale for measuring, pens for marking and scissors for cutting are the main tools needed. The pasting is done by wheat flour added with a dash of copper sulphate (locally called tunte).
The rim is fitted with a bamboo slice frame and metallic wires are used to fix the spirit soaked rag ball (locally called luti). Paper wights and clips also comes handy.
Planning: Planning is the integral part of fanush making. Stencils (locally called chant), preserved by the family for decades, are used for cutting the paper into shape.
Although the chant plays a integral part in fanush making but the fanush makers often used indigenous techniques and simple mathematics for creating the fanush. For example the football consists of hexagons and pentagons are drawn geometrically with the help of scale and protector.
Measuring, Cutting and Pasting: Measuring, cutting and pasting are the major three functions and it looks simple, but in reality the simple operation takes years to master, especially the art of pasting which require two skilled fanush makers.
The pasting is done by an home made glue made out of wheat flour and is made insect proof by adding a dash of copper sulphate (locally called tunte).
Fixing the Frame and Testing: A frame made out of bamboo slice is fixed at the base of the fanush by using the same glue, but a different composition. After which air is blown into the fanush by a table fan for checking of leaks. The leaks found are plugged by using the same colour paper.
After the checking is complete and leaks are plugged two metallic wire are attached diametrically across the circular bamboo frame. The wires intersect at the centre where the spirit soaked rag ball (luti) is attached moments before the take off.
Fanush Flying: Probably letting of the fanush requires more skill than making it. First a flaming torch is inserted into the fanush to inflate it. After the fanush inflates the spirit soaked rag ball (luti) is tied at the bottom. The pressure builds inside the fanush and several person holds on to it. who lets it off at the right moment.
According to tradition the fanush is let off from the courtyard (uthon). The fanush makes it way through the narrow shaft of the house, in lightning speed, up towards the heaven. However to add some variation few fanush are let off from the terrace.
- Special thanks to Mr. Ajoy Dutt of Bholanath Dham who allowed me to photograph and document the entire fanush making process.
- Also thanks to all the members of the Bholanath Dham Dutt family.
- Also thanks to Mr P K Mullick a friend and neighbor of the Dutt family, who plays an active role in fanush making.