Mahesh Jangid cannot forget the hot month of May in 2000. The world had just moved to a new millennium and his own world was seeing changes he could never have imagined. Along with his family, including the two little sons, on May 20, they had moved base from Churu in Rajasthan to Jaipur, the capital of the state.
It was going to be a monumental event for the family. He was the third generation to have learnt the craft of miniature carving and was moving to the big city hoping to make it bigger. With the skill honed under the tutelage of his father and grandfather, some tools of the trade and dreams of making it big, the family moved to Jaipur. It was tough. It helped that there were some who admired his craft and were ready to buy the intricately carved products he made on sandalwood.
But since he decided to go ahead with making a name in a new city, Mahesh was ready to face the challenges. There was the comfort of recognition which he had earned from the government after a national award which was presented to him by President Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1993. Recognition from Lima Book of Records followed in 1994. But the challenge was in getting people to buy the amazing art.
In spite of the recognition, it was not easy for Mahesh to make his mark. Each of the pieces of art sometimes took several weeks to make, and realising the cash for it extended the cycle by a few more weeks. For a small, home-based business where he was the sole artist as well as the breadwinner for the family, it was indeed a challenge.
“With the education of small children and managing my ill health for several months, we did face challenges as a family. That is why my elder son, Mohit, started learning the craft early,” Mahesh said during a conversation at his Jaipur home.
Traditional craft showcased to the world
The Jangid family has its roots in Churu district of Rajasthan where their craft has been one of carving traditional art on wood. The agricultural land that the family owned added to the income. But that was not where they found their fortunes. “The family has traditionally practiced carpentry,” Mahesh said during a conversation.
Mahesh’s grandfather, Mal Chand, was an artist par excellence who was self-taught in the art of miniature carving on sandalwood. He had once told his children that he had seen a dream where God asked him to do miniature carvings to earn a living. He lived up to the dream and soon sat down to work. People in the sleepy town of Churu disregarded his words as that of a maverick. Soon afterwards, when his exquisite carving was ready, it caught the attention of a local businessman. Such was the impact of his skill on the businessman that Mal Chand was told that whatever he made would be bought by him. In the 1950s, for the first piece that he sold to the Nahta family, he got he got a princely (in those days) sum of ₹20 for his effort.
The businessman who bought his art pieces regularly set up the privately-held Nahta Museum which exists at Sardarshahar, some 50 kilometres from Churu. It is not open to the public, but it established the innate skill of Mal Chand, as people could see his amazing work being bought by an influential trader.
When Mal Chand found a ready buyer, the fortunes of the Jangids changed forever. Soon, his sons got involved in the craft.
National award from the President
Mahesh had been learning the art from his grandfather and father too. There were times he would just watch them use the chisel for hours on the wood. The tools used by them were miniature in size - not like the regular ones carpenters would use, which meant that they had to make these themselves too. It did not leave much time for a formal education. But the skill that Mahesh learnt was worth its weight in gold. “I was not interested in studies,” he says.
By the mid-1980s, teenager Mahesh had learnt the art from his father as well as grandfather and had honed his skills enough. But he now needed to work hard for perfection. As he worked with his tools at their Churu home, recognition was perhaps waiting. In 1993, President Shankar Dayal Sharma presented the national award to Mahesh, who visited Delhi for the first time to receive it in person.
After the formalities of receiving the award were completed, Mahesh decided to meet Vijaya Ghose, then Editor of the Limca Book of Records. In the few years that the record book had been around, it had caught the attention of the people and he wanted a mention in it. His name finally found a place in the Limca Book of Records 1994 edition for carving a delicate, joint-less chain from one piece of sandalwood.
The name of the extended members of the Jangid family is also found in the Limca Book of Records for another reason – seven members of the family have received national awards, perhaps unmatched by any other family in the country!
Next generation of artisans
Mahesh’s son, Mohit, started learning the art since he had just turned a teenager. He went to Greenfield School, Jaipur and after he was back home, he would often spend hours practicing the craft. His younger brother, Rohit, too followed his footsteps. They actively lent a helping hand to their father, even as they honed their own skills.
Mohit and Rohit were both recognised for their skill by the state, while they were in school. Mohit’s classmates or teachers did not know about his skill. So, when the picture of him receiving the award from Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was printed in the newspapers, he suddenly became a recognised face. Classmates used to pull Mohit’s leg, taunting him for being an artist and not having the time to play with them.
Mohit never bothered about being teased as he had found his calling early in life.
There is one customer-centric policy that the family has followed, something that Mahesh learnt from his grandfather. “If any of our work is broken or damaged we repair it for no charge. If the damage is bad, it involves a little cost,” Mahesh says about their practice. It is a policy that has served them well.
Over the last few years, Mohit and Rohit have added a new dimension to the business by taking it online. Thanks to this, they have been able to connect with customers from cities around the world.
“Someday I would like to build a museum where people can come and see the kind of work that the three generations of my family have done. I hope to take their name ahead,” Mohit said. His father, Mahesh, sitting next to him smiling in appreciation.