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A handcrafted, limited-edition product, Kathakraang is designed to be playfully dynamic and tactile. Essentially circular, the book can be unfolded and placed on a flat surface to adopt the form of a sphere. By using upcycled paper produced from fine waste cotton, each page is embellished with a unique natural texture. The frayed edges have been deliberately retained from the organic process of lifting handmade paper off the deckle frame. Experiments with different hand-binding techniques, while considering functionality and aesthetics both, led to the book being glued at the spine for strength and longevity. The hand-dyedred cotton fabric, which adorns the spine and the box, evokes an emotion of love and symbolises a sacred beginning in the Indian culture. This colour reminds one of the alta that adorns the palms and feet of a Kathak dancer, adding graceful prominence to their form.

Mrunal Pawar & Aditi Babel

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Kathakraang is a collaborative journey of artistic passion and friendship between the classical dancer Mrunal Pawar and book-artist Aditi Babel, based out of Udaipur Rajasthan. She focuses on the convergence of art, culture, history, and technology through traditional craft and contemporary design practices. What began as conversations about individual interests, taste, and approach to discover the meaning of life itself, gradually led to creative exploration to fuse the two art-forms; dance and book-making. Marriage between the layered complexity of their distinct practices flowered into a process which drewbeautiful parallels between the two traditions. Elegant body movements of a Kathak dancer could be juxtaposed with the numerous ways of folding and un-folding paper. Structure and form, among other similitudes, emerged as the impetus to develop an artist-book that celebrates the joy of creating with our hands, as well as timeless artistry.

Each hasta-mudra is a symbolic hand gesture significantly used in classical dance forms, yoga and many spiritual practices to convey specific ideas, emotions or events and stimulate the flow of energy (or prana) in the body. In Kathakraang, the hasta-mudras have been abstracted as layered representations of their diverse meanings, to achieve a dual contrast between complexity and simplicity, movement and stillness, dark and light.Each page is an evocative pause, transitioning throughthe various phases of the moon that suggest a cyclic continuity with no rigid inception or closure. Just like the circle of life, a Kathak dance performance journeys through various stages of artistic expression, yetbegins and ends with an emotion of total surrender. With subtle movements and graceful formations, the dancer fluidly transitions between Vandana, Taal, Gaat, Taranaand Bhajan. Exploring the space both physical and internal, engaging with the real and the emotional, the rasikemerges to relish the different flavours of life through the creative medium of Kathak dance.

Kathakraang is a book to be discovered slowly over time, revealing something new each time it is opened. We hope, dear reader, that you savour every word, every expression and delve deeper into interpretative meanings of the hasta-mudras reflected here. At the same time, we also hope that this artist-book gives you a joyful glimpse into its handcrafting process and presents an opportunity to simultaneously interactwith two beautiful art disciplines.

Kathakraang illustrates the subtle hand movements or hasta-mudras of Kathak through intricate line drawings. These have been carefully transferred onto handmade paper with an ancient printmaking technique where each graphic is exposed to a silk screen stretched across a wooden frame. In this stencilling method, ink is pressed through the screen using a squeegee to ‘pull’ the design imprint on the surface. For this set of artisan-made books, 6000 pages were screen-printed over a span of 70 days, overcoming the practical challenges of faster ink absorption by both handmade paper and the screen. An art-form in its own right, this rigorous process involves total engagement of the mind and body, creating an internal rhythm. The distressed edges of the paper have been dipped in the same red ink, for visual depth and vibrance. The handcrafted box complements the story of the making of this artist-book, designed and sized to contain it in a half-moon format.

While we celebrate that artisans’ spirit, we need also to help craftspeople rediscover that golden morning. Pre-order your book today at INR 12000 /$ 250, all profits will be donated to this cause (KathakRaang) to help the kaarigars (craftspeople) affected by the pandemic.


Kathakraang: A Poetic Fusion Of Dance And Book-Making

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By Mrunal Pawar (Author), Aditi Babel (Author)