PITALA MACHA, Belaguntha, Odisha
Belaguntha is a well- known town in Odisha(India). At the time of Britishers, Belaguntha was the main market of South Odisha. Belaguntha is famously known as the Brass Fish Town as this town in Odisha is world famous for Brass Fish designs.
So basically PITALA MACHA is the flexible fish hailing from Ganjam district situated alongside the Bay of Bengal at Odisha on the occasion of World Ocean Day. Pitala macha is made with separate pieces of recycled brass which is assembled with a thin wire in such a way that it flexes and moves like a real fish. if you take a 20 inch fish it is required at least 50 brass pieces that are stitched together with the utmost mathematical precision and it is done only by hand.
The fish of the very first Pitala macha artisan could move even in the ocean and this magical fish would be used to entertain the members of the royal household.
From the ancient times, it was considered auspicious to give such a fish to the daughters during the marriage. It is considered as a symbol of Vishnu’s Matsya avatar.
Craft History After Sri Bhikari Moharana
As per the present generation descendants of Sri Bhikari Moharana and their ancestors were under employment, as skillful resources, in the Royal Armoury of the King, where they were developing different war jackets, arms and ammunitions etc. for the then king’s Royal Army. Later, they had started exploring craft possibilities, and skills like the Brass Fish inventions by using similar basic armoury techniques, to bring some fun element in his anonymous life. Sri Bhikari Moharana had diversified his existing technical skills by exploring aquatic creature forms. End products so obtained were full of biomimetic fun elements, and had enormous number of craft possibilities so the pool of the audience appreciated his explorations. This marked the beginning of this glorified craft also known as the flexible brass craft of Belaguntha.
Further, during the British Raj era in Indian subcontinents, this craft was well supported by the then British Government as it was really attractive through its own art and craft promotion agency. This institution was established at Madras in 1887AD; which is known as Chennai these days. This charitable institution was established to market and promote Indian crafts and arts, and was named after the then British Queen, Empress Victoria25, and further known as, the Victoria Technical Institute. A letter containing professional communication, addressed to Sri Narasinga Moharana from the Victoria Technical Institute, dated 07 June, 1946 and duly postal stamped on 09 July in Bellaguntha Post Office. In their next generation, he was also awarded by the then President of India, Sri Varahagiri Venkata Giri, while his younger brother was honored by the Victoria Technical Institute, Madras. His eldest son and his two brothers are still alive and actively involved in this craft, with their craftsmanship excellence along with other community members. Sri Pradeep Moharana received the State Government Award in 2000 AD, for his craft excellence. This craft family is the only direct ancestral family, which is associated with this craft, these days. However it is known that their maternal extensions are also under regular craft practices in K-Noagad village, which is situated under the same Bellaguntha block area.