Ajay Mandavi says he got hooked to wood carving while trying to make toys in childhood
Chhattisgarh's Ajay Mandavi, who teaches wood calligraphy art to jail inmates, has been honoured with the fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri, by the Union government for excellence in art.
The recipients of this year's Padma awards were announced on Wednesday evening, on the eve of the 74th Republic Day.
Mandavi, who is credited to have transformed the lives of more than 400 undertrials in by encouraging them to take up wood carving, is among three distinguished persons from Chhattisgarh to feature in the Padma honours roll.
He has dedicated himself to rehabilitating the 'misguided youth' by teaching them wood calligraphy.
Ajay Mandavi, a resident of Kanker district has been into wood calligraphy since 2005. In 2010, the then District Collector requested him to teach woodcraft to jail inmates. Since then, Mandavi has been teaching the art to the prisoners, most of whom were undertrials in Naxal cases.
Around 400 suspected Maoists learnt the art from Mandavi.
The Padma Shri winner said the undetrials are now earning a livelihood through the wood art.
"Woodwork has given a new meaning to their lives. As many 400 undertrials, who were put behind bars for suspected involvement in Naxalism, are now showcasing their woodcraft skills and have emerged from the shadows of their past, he said.
On how he acquired wood carving skills, Mandavi said, "I got hooked to wood carving while trying to make toys in my childhood. I do not know when I became capable enough to teach the art to others."
He said, "My family and friends supported me every step of the way and helped me reach where I am today."
One of his artworks, a carving of the national anthem on wood, is presently been installed at the President's office at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
His artworks also feature in several other government offices.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)