Fanush Making Workshop, revival of a lost art
Fanush Making Workshop, revival of a lost art
Bholanath Dham, Beadon Street, Kolkata
In recent years Fanush (ফানুস, also spelt as Phanush or Phanus) has become an integral part of Kolkata’s Kali Puja celebrations. With the fast spreading concept of noise less Diwali, the fanush or the Chinese Lanterns have taken the night skies, of Kolkata, in large numbers.
In recent years several Fanush Festivals are organized in different parts of the city, where thousand of sky lanterns have taken the skies. Although the Chinese Lanterns are making a rapid progress in the skies of Kolkata, but Fanush have been an integral part of North Kolkata culture for over a century.
These traditional Bengali fanush differ from the Chinese lanterns in shape size and colour. These fanushes generally are made in the conventional balloon shape but they do come in a host of different shapes, like pitchers, stars, footballs, ducks, kettles and even the planet of Saturn.
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.
Fanush flying in Kolkata was probably initiated by the Gourishankar Dey of Darjipara of North Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1912 Fanush flying was a regular activity on the late afternoon of Kali Pujo in the Darjipara, Shimla and Beadon Street areas.
Over the years fanush making and flying became an integral part of Darjipara, Shimla amd Beadon Street area.
But with the passage of time and with introduction of other sources of entertainment the art of fanush making and flying took the back seat.
The Dutts of Bholanath Dham on Beadon Street is an exception and they have kept the tradition alive by flying a large number (about 10) Fanush every year on the afternoonof Kali pujo.
Lead by Ajoy Dutt it has been a grand spectacle and attracts hundreds of photographers armed with the latest gadgets like the drone and 360 degree cameras.
My association of the fanush started in 2010 when I photographed the event at Bholanath Dham, with a handfull of photographers. later on I shared my experience on my blog (See: Fanush, paper made hot air balloons)
The blog post became very popular and unknown to me Ajoy Dutt received a lot of enquirers.
As Ajoy Dutt had no knowledge of internet at that time, he was quiet surprised but he soon learnt internet and started sharing his fanush experience on Facebook.
Ajoy Dutt invited me for his fanush release on 2012 Kali Pujo, but I had different plans. I wanted to document the fanush making process.
With the cooperation of Ajoy Dutt the documentation was successfully completed resulting into my second blog post on fanush (See: Fanush making process)
Ever since it has been an annual ritual for me, to witness the fanush flying at Bholanath Dham on the afternoon of Kali Pujo and over the years the number of photographer have increased many folds. (See photo: Fanush at Bholanath Dham)
It was not only photographers who were attracted towards fanush but a group of young fanush makers also got into the art of fanush making and in the process revived the art from extinction.
Also in 2012 Ajoy Dutt introduced Sachin Mukherjee another master fanush maker. In December 2012 I witnessed his amazing creation take the skies in Bhadereshwar (See also: Fanush, Sachin Mukherjee’s Amazing Creation).
In the next two of three years several young men have mastered the art of fanush making and started flying their own fanush.
On December 2015, Debashis Mukherjee, grandson of Sachin Mukherjee arranged a get together of Fanush maker in his residence in Milk Colony, Belgachia.
Although Ajoy Dutt couldn’t make it, but it was the first physical attempt of getting the new and old fanush makers together (See: Fanush Makers Get Together). A similar get together followed in 2016 where the idea of Workshop on Fanush Making was conceived.
The Fanush Making Workshop was scheduled at Bholanath Dham on 4 & 11 Dec at 2:30 pm. First day was focused on cutting and pasting, while the second day focused on finishing aspects like luti binding and fixing.
The workshop was attended by about 25 participants, with a majority of women. On the first day Ajoy Dutt started with the tools of the trade.
It was followed by the measuring, cutting and pasting process. He was assisted by a a band of young fanush makers, who have just learnt the art.
Some of the enthusiastic participants soon took up the job of cutting and pasting. The day ended with the completion of the basic structure of the red & white fanush.
Next day, a few of the participants, returned with their partially completed fanush, while the experienced ones came with their complete fanush, which were ready to be released.
The second day of the Fanush Making Workshop started with the luti binding. Followed by the fixing of the bamboo frame and the metal wires. Finally the fanussh was ready to be released.
Starting from the the blowing the fanush to heating the inside air was explained in details with live demonstration. Finally the red and white fanush made it way up towards the heavens. Several other fanushes were also released.
The Fanush Making Workshop is only the beginning of aan effort to reevive the centtury old art of fanush making