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Sudarsan Pattnaik: Man whose beach art left footprints on sands of time

india Updated: Oct 17, 2016 17:26 IST
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Sand sculpture artist Sudarsan Pattnaik poses with his creation ahead of the 17th India-Russia annual summit in Benaulim, Goa on Saturday. (PTI)

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik was expectedly jubilant after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world leaders posed before his sculpture depicting monuments famous to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa during the BRICS summit in Goa.

“I felt honoured when BRICS leaders took a photograph in front of my sand art,” Pattnaik said.

The leaders spent 10 minutes looking at the sculpture that was made by the 39-year-old artist by using about 45-50 tonnes of sand sourced from all the BRICS countries. It depicted the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Russia’s Saint Basil Cathedral, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer and the statue of Nelson Mandela from South Africa.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BRICS leaders Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping in front of sand sculpture made by Sudarsan Pattnaik. (PTI)

The praise from PM Modi was a fitting tribute to a man who despite a formal education has won several international awards for the country.

Born in the beach town of Puri in 1977, Pattnaik faced a tough childhood and the youngest of three brothers had to drop out of school because of poverty.

He was attracted to sand art while playing with children on the beaches of the temple town. With no formal training, Pattnaik pursued the craft vigorously for years till he achieved finesse and slowly raised the quality of his art to earn accolades throughout the world.

His first international break came in 1998 when his art was exhibited at London’s Earls Court during a world trade fair. Since then, Pattnaik has participated in over 50 international championships making sculptures as varied as the Taj Mahal to those depicting world peace.

The biggest moment of his career came in 2008 when he won the title of the world champion at Berlin’s USF World Championship to become the first Indian to win the gold medal. Pattnaik, who was awarded the country’s fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri in 2014, is also a record 5-time winner of the people’s choice award at Berlin.

He earned huge acclaim after he built the 20 feet-high ‘Black Taj Mahal’ using black sand in front of the world-famous monument to love in Agra in 2005 to celebrate its 350th year. His tribute to pop legend Michael Jackson was published in the Time magazine and in 2005 he created the world’s longest Santa Claus on sand that found its way to Limca Book of Records.

Pattnaik uses his stunning sculptures to shine the spotlight on issues ranging from global warming to saving the Olive Ridley turtles to price rise to pollution as well as raising awareness about saving the girl child.

Despite being exposed to the whims of the sea, Pattnaik strives hard to promote religious harmony during Ratha Yatra, Christmas, Durga Puja and Diwali through his sculptures. He set another world record and got a place in Limca Book of Records by carving 100 sand chariots on the Puri beach in July this year.

The artist runs the open air Sudarsan Sand Art Institute, the only sand art school in India, to train students in his unique art form.