Elephants can't fly... So they hang (?)




Bel-Totas. That's what they're called. Bel, meaning vine or creeper and Tota, meaning parrot. Roughly translated that would be- a parrot-vine. I know, I know these are elephants. White, at that. Not even remotely green. And no they don't have red trunks either. I can see that as well as you. Humour me please...

The villages around Pushkar have a thriving handicraft cottage industry. Today, that is. Wasn't always so. Was a time when the village women made parrot-vines in their free time. Yes, miniature, stuffed, cloth parrots hung on meters and meters of braided cloth. Decorated them with tassels and tinsels and sequins and bunched them up together to use as screens. To divide the living space inside the house, you know. Why parrots? I don't know. I'm not quite sure they know either or they would have told me. Yes, we asked.

At some point in time someone figured there might be people living in cities who'd want to use bel-tota screens too (don't ask me why, I don't know). And sure enough there were! And a thriving cottage industry was born. Eventually, I'm sure, some of these city dwellers got fed up with all the parrots hanging around their house (who wouldn't?). Couldn't we have something different, they asked. Like other birds, for example. Or better still- not birds. Camels or tigers or what-have-yous. No?

Obviously, the villagers complied. They probably figured they needed the money and I don't blame them. The long and short of it? This fascinating specimen- a vine of hanging elephants. White, at that I know...

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Nikon F75, 70-300mm, 1:4 Macro at 300mm
Fuji 400ISO
2005, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India.

4 comments:

Anonymous at: January 31, 2006 10:33 PM said...

bel-totas!!!we indians ve strange names for stranger stuff...but the knit texture on the rear of the last elephant looks the best; defined well.
saumya

as at: February 28, 2006 1:26 AM said...

okay - education time now, since am the blog authority on all things craft, let me enlighten - bel totas werent originally vines - they were simply a single stuffed toy hanging atop a cradle for the kid to be placated/distracted/ or be happy with. It was in tilonia - bunker roy's domain - that now forgotten original breeding ground of sustainable rural revolution - where they first made a bel tota and the rest is... well if not history , your post. and sasha, an ngo in kolkata has neat sequinned dragonflies and ladybird bels too...

Shivanand Velmurugan at: April 05, 2006 11:28 PM said...

Yo dude!

Nice picture, would touch the framing much, but a little change in the depth of field would have immortalised this one.... touch much focus on the rear elephant .. but good execution anyway.

Anonymous at: December 19, 2006 4:38 PM said...

love the last elephants cross knitted bum..!


nice photographs this time..
been long since i had visited..now ll be regular..!

saumya