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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Sand sculptor sends Aids message
By Sandeep Sahu
BBC News, Bhubaneswar

Mr Patnaik began the year with an Aids sculpture

Well-known Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik has been invited to take part in the World Championships of Sand Sculpture to be held in Vancouver.

He is one of only 14 sand artists who have been invited to the event which will feature former international championship winners.

"I have chosen the theme of HIV/Aids for this event," he told the BBC.

Last year, Mr Patnaik emerged as winner in the Berlin sand sculpture competition, Sandsation 2005.

AIDS threat

Mr Patnaik, who is based in Puri - a pilgrimage town in the eastern Indian coastal state of Orissa - says the growing menace of Aids in India made him decide on it as the theme.

"HIV/Aids is a major killer the world over. Even in India, it is fast emerging as a major menace."

For the competition in Vancouver he has worked out the execution to the last detail.

"I would make an eight-feet-tall image of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god of learning, with a group of people praying to Him to eradicate the scourge of HIV/Aids from the world."

A sand sculpture on Tsunami victims by Sudarshan Patnaik
Mr Patnaik has tackled topical issues like Tsunami and bird flu

But why Lord Ganesha?

"In my numerous trips abroad, I have found that Ganesha is the best known Hindu God... So, it makes eminent sense to feature him in a campaign aimed at spreading awareness on the subject."

Mr Patnaik has always chosen socially relevant themes like the bird flu outbreak in India, the tsunami disaster and conservation of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

'Black' Taj Mahal

He began the year in a similar vein, sculpted an image about the horrors of HIV/Ads on the beach in Puri on 1 January.

Another sculpture that brought him widespread acclaim was the 20 feet-high 'Black Taj Mahal', using black sand, that he made in front of the real Taj Mahal in Agra last September to celebrate 350th year of the world-famous monument.

Buoyed by the response, Mr Patnaik now plans to construct 100 more 'black' Taj Mahals at various locations in India and abroad.

The first will be in his hometown of Puri, after his return from Canada, he says.

He says he does not mind that his creations have a very short life.

"If anything, it has a telling effect on the viewer precisely because it is a transient form of art. Just as a football or a cricket match is exciting because it is not going to last forever."

Mr Patnaik has participated in 27 international sand sculpting events and in Vancouver he will be competing with artists from the USA, Canada, Holland, China and Australia.

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