Bhatukali has an ancient lineage that harks back to a quintessential Maharashtrian way of living and culture. And it is precisely this that Vilas Karandikar, an enthusiastic curator of the Bhatukali, aims to preserve and pass on.
In Karandikar’s collection, there are realistic models of household and kitchen articles from an era gone by. There are miniature implements for pounding flour, drawing water from the well and for carrying out other household activities. While today’s household has around 40 – 50 types of utensils, a few hundred years ago, the average Maharashtrian household had around 200 types of kitchen articles, so it’s a major feat to have a complete set of ‘Bhatukali’
As you watch on, fascinated, Vilas Karandikar, the zealous curator of these articles, jumps in to explain what it is all about.
“Bhatukali is the collective name given to these articles. I call them Aajichi Bhatukali (grandmother’s toy vessels). This is because these articles are more than just miniature vessels. They are repositories of tradition – a way of life that existed for centuries.” Vilas has exhibited extensively in Maharashtra, in several states across the country, and even abroad. Recently, he was invited to Philadelphia, US by the Brihanmaharashtra Mandal. He encourages kids to play Bhatukali and usually reserves a table of these little toys for them at exhibitions.
What is Bhatukali?
Around 400 – 500 years ago, Bhatukali was devised as a method of getting young girls to learn home management rituals and traditions through play. Even boys participated enthusiastically in some of the games. Though Bhatukali existed in some form across the country, it seems that it evolved to a greater degree in Maharashtra.
Bhatukali is mentioned in the ‘Dnyaneshwari’ written by the 12th century Marathi saint-poet Dnyaneshwar. The word Bhatukali also finds mention in an 1857 dictionary compiled by J.J. Moles worth. It features in the ‘Kamasutra’ written by Vatsyayana.
Bhatukali is one of the 14 vidyas and 64 kalas recognised by Vedic scholars.
Thanks to this one man dedicating his life to preserving the customs ensconced in Bhatukali, we are able to make sense of our roots and how we have evolved as a society. Vilas himself has become a storehouse of information and history since old timers open up and share stories of the game or traditions around it when they meet him. One wishes there was a way to capture this cultural wealth for posterity and for the benefit of generations to come.
Aajichi Bhatukali is available for display and/or play for birthday parties, munj(thread ceremony), and other social gatherings.