Black pan­ther cap­ti­vates vis­i­tors on this Pune farm

Engi­neer-turned-botanist, 67, cre­ates stun­ning 120x80-foot art­work on 5-acre farm in Dhonje with va­ri­ety of paddy crops

Mid Day - - CITY - CHAITRALY DESH­MUKH chaitraly.desh­

A re­tired me­chan­i­cal engi­neer from Pune has found an ex­cep­tional way to con­trib­ute to­wards an­i­mal conservation ef­forts. The 67-year-old Punebased engi­neer-turned­b­otanist has cre­ated the im­age of a leap­ing black pan­ther, an en­dan­gered species, on his five-acre farm in Dhonje, near Pune.

The en­tire art­work is har­vestable rice crop, with the pan­ther im­age grow­ing black rice, Na­jar Bhat, which is fa­mous in Kar­nataka.

“The black pan­ther is an en­dan­gered an­i­mal and I want to draw at­ten­tion to­wards its conservation. If we don’t act now, the an­i­mal will only ex­ist in books and in chil­dren’s sto­ries,” said Shrikant In­gal­ha­likar, a res­i­dent of Sin­hagad. Year the art form emerged in Ja­pan

He said he took up agri­cul­ture post re­tire­ment, and while re­search­ing on ways to use his farm­land, he chanced upon Ja­panese paddy field art. The art form orig­i­nated in Inaka­date vil­lage of north Ja­pan where farm­ers still plant rice with their hands.

In 1993, the Inaka­date farm­ers found out that their paddy grow­ing tra­di­tion had com­pleted 2,000 years. To cel­e­brate this, the rice grow­ers in­vented ‘Tambo Ata’ or Paddy Art, which is now a huge tourist draw in the vil­lage. In­gal­ha­likar said, “I spot­ted this art form on the in­ter­net and be­came deeply in­spired by it. I de­cided to repli­cate this on my own farm and I now grow In­drayani rice and black rice var­i­ties. I started work­ing on the art form last year, when I made a 120x80 feet Lord Gane­sha im­age. The pan­ther art work, too, is the same size.”

Cre­at­ing the art­work is a back-break­ing job, In­gal­ha­likar said. “This form of art takes a lot of time and ef­fort. I have to get a bird’s eye view of the patch that I want the art­work on and then get the im­ages printed and trans­ferred in the space through paddy. It takes a week to com­plete the de­sign and plant­ing process, and then a month for the art­work to show up. I will har­vest the black pan­ther art­work in three months.”

Shrikant In­gal­ha­likar’s Gane­sha art­work last year; (right) the black pan­ther art­work that can be viewed on the farm till De­cem­ber

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