At 22, Ashutosh Verma is one of the few artisans practicing Sanjhi in Mathura. He is a sixth-generation artist of this delicate, paper-cutting craft which requires special scissors that have been designed by his ancestors.
Mathura being Krishna’s birthplace, Sanjhi traditional art focuses on his life’s key moments from the period of his birth till he killed his wicked uncle Kamsa in Mathura itself. Devotion forms a key theme to the pieces made.
Ashutosh is a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, passed with honours. His entire family works together. They have lived in Mathura for many generations and are deeply tied to the spiritual significance of the land here.
Sunlight plays a crucial role in Sanjhi art due to the level of precision which cannot be attained with unnatural light. They concentrate and try and get as much done possible during the day.
One of the family’s most popular piece is the ‘Gaucharya Leele’ where Lord Krishna and his cows are performing a ritual of moving clockwise around an object of devotion (Parikrama). Then there is the Raas Leela where Krishna dances with Radha and other gopikas.
Apart from these, they also take on custom orders and do Islamic themed patterns. Ashutosh pleads earnestly on behalf of his community, “I want to tell everyone to please respect the handmade craft and help the artisans. This is our only hope to survive first and then possibly grow."
In the months of April to June, Ashutosh and his family invest their time in conducting workshops for students. Today, there are just a handful of families engaged in Sanjhi, making it a rare and vulnerable craft.