Creativity is at the heart of sand sculpting. This art form that uses just sand requires skill, hard work, patience and dedication. Meet Sudarsan Pattnaik who has all these qualities and more.
By Ashwin Dewan
From a little boy who used to build sand castles on the seashore near his house, to a world-renowned artiste who makes beautiful, larger-than-life sand sculptures, Sudarsan Pattnaik has come a long way. Hailing from Odisha, Pattnaik rose from humble beginnings to become one of the best sand artists in the world. His notable creations include a model of the Taj Mahal, a sculpture of Lord Ganesh that won him a gold medal at the 10th Moscow Sand Art Championship, and the world’s tallest sand castle on Puri beach, which earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Perseverance and dedication — these are the two qualities that have helped him reach such great heights. In an exclusive chat with ParentCircle, Sudarsan Pattnaik talks about his passion and what children can learn from his life story.
What motivated you to take up sand sculpting? Were you always interested in it?
When I was growing up, I faced many difficulties, financial and otherwise. I still remember that my grandmother’s pension was just Rs 200. I used to work at my neighbour’s house to make ends meet.
I was interested in drawing and painting but did not have the money to buy the required materials. As the seashore was quite near to my house, I used to go and sculpt things in the sand, which people used to appreciate a lot. This inspired me, and I decided to start sand sculpting even though it was uncommon at that time.
What were the initial challenges that you faced?
As an artist, I have struggled a lot to reach where I am today. For 16 to 17 years, I worked hard to make sand sculpting popular because this was an unknown and little-recognised art form in those days. People used to think it was art that could be easily destroyed as it is made of sand.
However, I persevered and, after a few years, I received an invitation to go abroad and demonstrate my skill. It was not an easy journey though. I could not get a visa to visit many countries due to my financial condition. Slowly, the international media began showcasing my work and the public started to recognise me.
Recently, you made what is billed as the world’s biggest sand sculpture of Lord Jagannath. Any reason behind this choice?
The idea behind the sand sculpture of Lord Jagannath was to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. But over the years, I have managed to set almost 25 records in total, including a place in the Limca Book of Records. Last year, I achieved a Guinness World Record for creating the tallest sand castle.
Sand sculpting takes hard work and patience. How can children inculcate these qualities from an early age?
The most important thing is to never give up on your dreams when faced with hardships and obstacles. You must learn to be patient even if things are not working out. I have opened an institute called the Sudarsan Sand Art Institute in Puri, where students can learn the values of hard work and patience through everyday activities.
What did you learn from your parents and how did that help in your success?
Although my parents are no more, my mother remains my biggest inspiration. She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and never give up. She made immense sacrifices to see me succeed. I owe her everything I have achieved today.
Which work of yours do you consider your favourite?
I do not have any favourite work as I love all of my creations. Usually, I try to make sculptures based on events from across the world that have had a deep impact on the public. For instance, when the former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam passed away, I made a sculpture of his face. Another event that affected me profoundly was the tragic death of the little Syrian boy (Alan Kurdi), which I depicted as a sand sculpture.
You were awarded the Young Indian leadership award in 2010. How can parents instil leadership qualities in their children?
I believe the youth are the future of the world. At the same time, being a leader is an extremely important and challenging task. Parents should try to instil leadership qualities in their children from an early age by encouraging them to be independent. Ensure that children are able to carry out tasks on their own.
What can children learn from your sculptures?
My message to children is simple: whatever you do in life, do it with passion and dedication. Never underestimate yourselves or what you can achieve if you set your heart to it. For example, I never imagined that one day, I would receive the Padma Shri award for my work. So, you should never stop believing in yourself and what you do.
Tell us something about the Sudarshan Institute of Art.
It is an open-air institute, which operates from 4:00 pm to 6: pm. There are many students who come and practise different skills on the sand.
Your work on Mahatma Gandhi won much recognition. Please tell us the idea behind it.
There was only one message behind this sculpture on the revered father of our nation, which is that peace must always prevail in life.
Any message to readers of Parent Circle?
Remember that hard work and effort always pays. And always be supportive. It does not matter what field or profession your child has chosen, dedication towards that field will ultimately yield results.
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