Its wooden toys, bamboo craft, pottery art, traditional art paintings & carved bison horns are world famous and has been adding to the glory of Sawantwadi since 250 years, says Rohan Rao.
Lined by the golden strips of sun-kissed beaches on one side and bounded by the steep slopes of Deccan plateau on the other, the limited confines of the Konkan caters an unlimited vibrant space to its visitors. With a rich history, varied culture, authentic Konkani food, forts, temples and the untouched serene beaches, Konkan is a blessing bestowed on Maharashtra. Sawantwadi, an elite heritage destination nestled in these beautiful environs of Konkan is a standing testimony to our rich heritage and a sentinel of history waiting to be explored by the touristers. Thus, heritage tourism is an important component of Sawantwadi.
Established by the Sawant Bhonsale dynasty almost 300 years ago, Sawantwadi is basically a heritage town with several ancient heritage spots including Lester gate (1895), the Great Royal Palace (1790s), Chitnis wada (1836), Mathi , Atmeshwar Tali (1891), Vithal Mandir, Raghunath market and 200 years old Kolgaon darwaja.
As part of the Sahayadri hills, it has the second largest biodiversity in the whole of India. Sawantwadi is also known as a Handicraft Town with 250 years of tradition in the manufacture of wooden handicraft, pottery, gold and silver embroidery, lacquer ware and ganjifa.
Hand made Ganjifa Cards of Sawantwadi reminds everyone about richness of its art work. These cards are made from circular pieces of paper on which intricate designs of Dashavtar (Ten Avtars of God Vishnu) are hand painted. Each card pack contains 120 hand painted cards housed in equally colourful box. History says that these cards arrived in Sawantwadi 350 years ago, when Bhonsale, Royal Family of Goa settled here after fleeing from portuguese regime there. The Bhonsales brought several artisans who were versed in woodcarving & paintings. A clan of indigenous people, the Chitkaris, is skilled in the art of painting on playing cards, wooden and clay artifacts, jewellery and other embellishment. The paintings have intricate patterns depicting royal lifestyle as well as spiritual beliefs of the people in the region, dating back to almost the 7th century. This art has been preserved and patronized by the Royal family under the aegis of Sawantwadi.
Color lacquer is applied to the surface of the object to be decorated and the lacquered surface is polished using a ‘kewda’ leaf. Floral patterns are painted on the borders and surfaces. The final step involves painting mythological figures on the surfaces.
The mythological figures are painted with Chitrakatha, Temple or Ganjifa styles. Images belonging to the Chitrakatha style are of bold nature, with the figures depicting some action. Temple style usually portrays deities in a sitting position. Ganjifa is more stylish and depicts the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. This style is especially seen in the famous Ganjifa cards made during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Ecotourism is another major component of Sawantwadi. The town is blessed with natural beauty. Established around a beautiful lake, Moti Talav, it presents a panoramic view of Narendra hill in its background. A water sports center has been established at Moti Talav Lake. The area around the lake has been beautified and a Geneva Jet Fountain is installed at its center further enhancing its beauty. It is replete with ecological wonders providing a rich and unique biodiversity with interesting locations such as Kesari River, which provides water supply to the town of Sawantwadi, Nageshwar falls, Ragheshwar point, and the scenic village of Amboli .
Ecotourism is likely to fuel the demand for greener and eco friendly lifestyles, by catering not only to foreign tourists in search of simple and peaceful lifestyle, but also for the local tourists looking for affordable yet unique atmosphere distinct from urban concrete jungle. At the same time, Ecotourism provides opportunities for local people to improve their standard of living and preserve their cultural heritage, arts and crafts.
Despite the limited tourist amenities in Sindhudurg district, international tourists visit the remote yet well known hill station of Sawantwadi, known for its unique biodiversity, flora and fauna, which has 10 – 12 species of fauna and more than 59 varieties of medicinal plants. The Municipal Council of Sawantwadi has also undertaken a massive tree plantation program along roadsides and gardens. Local varieties of trees that are on the verge of extinction are being specially planted and propagated. These include Moha, Pangara, Palas and Bahawa.
Three unique projects that are shaping up in Sawantwadi are: Shilpagram, Environmental Awareness Center at Narendra Dongar and an Ayurveda-based health Center .
An Artists village, Shilpagram is a replica of the ancient Raghunath market built in 1891. Being developed on a lush green plot of 5 acres, it is built maintaining natural contours and with minimal damage to the surrounding ecosystem. The Shilpagram plan includes working areas for artisans to manufacture wood, clay and bamboo handicrafts as well as pottery and a very rare leather-craft known as Pinguli art. Local folk art like Pinguli puppet show, Dhangari Nritya (shepherd dance), Dashavtaar and Koli Nritya (fisher folk dance), shall be presented in the specially built Amphitheatre at Shilpagram. Cottages are provided for tourists staying overnight. The plan also includes waterfalls operated on solar energy, replicating the famous Amboli waterfalls. Waterfalls and streams have been planned to create a village ambience. The State Bank of India has sponsored the landscaping of the place. Large-scale tree plantation has been undertaken in the entire complex. All structures at the Artist village are constructed using locally available laterite stone.
Ayurveda Health Resort; Sawantwadi is also known for the practice of traditional Indian medicine called Ayurveda. It has one of the best Ayurveda colleges in the country. The center is proposed to be built using eco friendly techniques of construction such as laterite stones and mud walls.
The Environmental Awareness Center is situated on Narendra hill, with 11 acres of tabletop park site land demarcated by the forest department from the lush reserved forest area of the region. The Center will also serve as a demonstration center for eco friendly construction technologies as well as for renewable energy, watershed management, water and waste recycling. It will be a self-sustainable demonstration model for locals and tourists.
Indeed, places like Sawantwadi, with their natural marvels need to be preserved for their own sake. They provide inspiration and spiritual regeneration. They are a powerful representation of the forces of nature. Ecotourism must sustain these resources, not only because they serve as an evolutionary link to our future, but for the pure joy of experience
(source – 2006 archive of portal india-travel.co.in)