Wednesday 26 May 2021

Experts Of Odisha Handlooms and Handicrafts

I am deeply saddened to share that Odisha has lost key officials, who were treasure-houses and walking encyclopedias about Odisha handlooms and handicrafts-

Shri Devaraja Sahu and Shri Basanta Kumar Dash (B.K.Dash).

Both these late personalities were valuable experts, who had a wealth of knowledge about our Odisha handlooms and handicrafts.

Despite their position, expertise, and experience, they were so simple, humble, and approachable. They were a phone-call away. They listened and patiently answered. 

They loved Odisha and encouraged and supported all our sincere attempts for Odisha Geographical Indications (GIs) promotion.

Have you seen government officials, who ask you for your opinions and who act on your requests?

These two belonged to this rare category.

Shri Devaraja Sahu

I was shocked to learn that last night (25 May 2021) we have lost Shri Devaraja Sahu, Secretary of Boyanika.

I have personally mentioned about him in every platform wherever I get to express about my first experience of attending a GI exhibition. These posts- BRICS GI Exhibition & DhalapatharParda and Fabrics have details.

When the BRICS GI event organizers invited me to represent Odisha GIs, I had less than a week to act.

We already had some of the handlooms & handicrafts like Sambalpuri Bandha Saree, Bomkai Saree, Khandua Saree, Kotpad Handloom, and Orissa Pattachitra as my sister, Amrita Sabat, and me, as Directors of our company Sabat Exports Private Limited and brand Utkalamrita, promote all these and more.

However, GIs like the Habaspuri Saree and the Dhalapathar Parda & Fabrics were/are not even available in major shops of Bhubaneswar.

I still remember that evening of May 2018 when I had first met Sahu Babu.

I had visited the Boyanika showroom to pick up pieces for the GI exhibition.

A lone piece of handwoven flower-vase Dhalapathar Parda was available. Weren’t there any more options?

That’s when I marched into the office-room of the Secretary of Boyanika. 

Shri Devaraja Sahu gave me a patient hearing and understood the objective- to represent Odisha in a global exhibition.

He opened the cupboard in his office-room and showed me some exquisite pieces of Dhalapathar Parda and Fabrics that were in his safe-keeping.

“Mind you, these are the only sample pieces we have, and thus not for sale. The weavers of these are no longer alive… You can choose which ones you want to take with you to Delhi,” he said like the father who wanted his children to earn attention and fame.

In front of me were some lovely hand-woven pieces that had so much detail- Ashoka pillar, the Shree Jagannatha Temple, a farmer tilling his field, a soldier hoisting India flag, Lotus flower…Odisha’s weavers have magic in their hands.

After I had picked one Dhalapathar Parda, he handed me a brand new Habaspuri Saree.

I was surprised that he did not ask me to pay anything, nor did he hand over any receipt or any slip. I could have at least paid for the Habaspuri saree that was btrand new and had a price-tag, but he got the tag removed. I walked out with the heritage products safely kept in my bag that I carried as if my life depended on it.

The entire deal was based on trust and love for Odisha.

I felt honoured that he trusted me enough to loan the precious and rare sample pieces.

Shri Devaraja Sahu did not express any doubt that “what if it gets damaged or stolen”? He did not ask- “who authorized you to represent Odisha?” Sadly, I had got to encounter such questions from another top official of state govt.

Those exhibits, along with other Odisha GIs displayed, won great admiration at the exhibition.

After I was back in city, I returned the carefully-handled pieces back to Boyanika, and expressed my immense gratitude to Shri Sahu and his team.  Worse things could have happened- What if the flights, I was travelling had crashed? With me, Odisha’s heirloom pieces would have been lost forever... Nothing is impossible. I am aware that he had taken risk of such adverse happenings and had lent me those pieces by rising several notches over his position as a government officer, who’d work only on orders from above…

That was not the sole event he supported. Shri Devaraja Sahu also handed over the "No Objection Certificate" (NOC) for GI Part B Application for Authorised User for our company- Sabat Exports Pvt Ltd. He expedited things from his end so that there would not be red-tape. Thanks to him, our company is the first AU of ‘Orissa Ikat’ GI. We proudly earned our GI Certificate.

Despite handing over AU applications to other Govt departments for other GIs, we are still awaiting the AU NOCs from them. They clearly do not have such officials like Shri Sahu.

I used to call him many times for clarification regarding handlooms.

On 16th May 2021, Ms. Minati Singha, journalist of the Bhubaneswar edition of the Times of India (TOI), called up to enquire about the Covid19 impact on the handlooms and handicrafts sector and which ones need focus. I requested her to write about the existing GI handicrafts, especially Dhalapathar Parda and Habaspuri Saree. She wanted contact details of weavers. I shared Shri Devaraja Sahu’s number with her.

I also messaged Shri Sahu that Ms. Singha would be contacting him regarding these products.

That is when I got to learn from his WhatsApp message that he was Covid positive and was admitted in KIIMS Hospital of Bhubaneswar. 

I sent him messages praying for his speedy recovery. I even reminded him that we have a lot of documentation to do. His wealth of knowledge was essential for our state. 

I tried contacting his number many times over the past week. Most of the times his phone was switched off, or calls went unanswered. He was a person who always called back. I was hopeful my missed calls would be answered soon. I never thought that I could never ever speak to him again…

Did I not pray enough to save his life?


Shri Basanta Kumar Dash

Shri B.K.Dash was the Director of the Handicrafts & Handlooms Dept of the Govt of Odisha. We lost him on March 22, 2021.

We had been discussing about our existing and potential Odisha GIs for long, especially about how the name of our Odisha’s art Pattachitra is being misrepresented and misappropriated by others.

For more details, do check out these posts-

Orissa Pattachitra #OdishaGI #KnowYourGI #GIsofIndia  

Odisha Art And Sweet- Pattachitra And Rasgulla #RasagolaA2Z

Heeding to this writer's request, he had organized a webinar for the said discussion, after taking suggestions about who all should be invited.

He invited artists, intelligentsia, and government officials, including him and me. We had come to the conclusion that there is no doubt that our term is being misused.

Note- This is the first time I am sharing a photograph of the said meeting and information that such a meeting was held for the first time (on October 2020) owing to this writer’s insistence. I have more images, but just sharing one. Later on, if anyone questions, why no one has questioned about misuse of Pattachitra term and why there has been no deliberation regarding this serious issue, this may hopefully be seen as evidence.

This year, I learned that Shri B.K. Dash has been transferred from the Dept of Handicrafts and Handlooms to the MSME Department. I wondered why it was done. Why cannot our state government allow competent people to complete their assignments or terms before transferring them?

Nevertheless, the MSME Dept too has work to do as there are many potential GIs of Odisha.

I wanted to call him and enquire who is looking after this Pattachitra issue now that he is no more associated with the handicrafts department. 

I really wanted to speak to him. It was a Sunday and I thought I should not disturb him. I decided to call him the next day- Monday, March 22, 2021. On Monday afternoon, I was shocked to see the news of his death in a road-accident.   

Later, I learned that there was a puja in his home on Sunday and he was busy the whole day. Maybe he would not have answered my call even if I had called. But, still I feel terrible to have postponed the call for the next day…

Shri Dash was not my Facebook friend. In fact, while writing this, I just saw that late Basanta Kumar Dash had an FB account too. Seeing his photographs brings a lump to my throat.

Why do I not have him in my friends list? Why didn’t I call and speak to him more often?

I have been intending to write a post for this enthusiastic person, but am managing to do so after two months of his demise.

We cannot compensate such great loss. Our Odisha and India has lost and has been losing such jewels. When such eminent personalities leave our world, they leave a void that can never be filled... Their lifetime knowledge, experience and expertise is lost along with them.

Here’s requesting all content-creators, media, and all those interested to showcase our culture and heritage to please ensure audio-visual documentation of our arts, crafts, and eminent officials, artisans etc. and all such experts who are associated, so that their faces and voices will be captured forever to guide and inspire all.

This is just a humble tribute for two great sons of Odisha. Our artisans family deeply mourns our loss...

Praying for the good health of all. May all be well.


  1. My heartfelt condolences. May they rest in peace.

  2. Condolences Anita. Truly a void in the world. Praying for these tough times to pass


Your words mean a lot to me.

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