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Puri: From a remote village in Naxal-hit Malkangiri district to the world-famous beach in Puri, 24-year-old budding sand artist Muka Kabasi is making waves with his creations.

Born and brought up in a farming family with limited resources to make ends meet, Kabasi's life changed after he joined a sand art school run by renowned artist Sudarsan Pattnaik.

"My family could not afford to send me to a good school. Even though I studied with great difficulty while helping my parents in the agriculture field, the thought of doing something worthwhile to help my parents always kept me motivated. It was one news clip that changed my life," said Kabasi, who belongs to Koya tribe.

The clip was of a sand art by Pattnaik and it had appeared in a local daily. "It inspired me," he said.

"I decided to join him. But the thought of travelling over 600 km from Malkangiri to Puri appeared impossible. I hitchhiked and worked as a labourer to collect money, and travelled in a bus to meet him," Kabasi told PTI.

Three years on, Kabasi is now a known artist at the Niladri beach in Puri and has made a name for himself in the fraternity and among art lovers.

"I never imagined that I would get to travel on a plane. The dream came true and I flew to Lucknow last year to participate in an event along with Sudarsan sir. My family members, who were initially against my decision of travelling to Puri, now take pride in my work," Kabasi said.

The young artist is not only working to excel in sand art but has also completed his graduation all thanks to a scholarship grant by the sand art school run by Pattnaik.

"I have made various sand arts to give message like 'save tree', 'save sea' and 'save environment' among others that have brought appreciation from people. I intend to make my career in this field and inspire young people from my area to take up this art form as it has immense opportunities," he said.

Kabasi's inspiring story highlights that will and determination can overcome all hurdles of life.

"I belong to a very poor family. Most kids of my area don't have access to good education and other career options. The area suffers from Naxalism. My parents wanted me to become a farmer like them, but I chose sand art," he said.

Kabasi, a native of Tumbaguda village under Kalimela area, used to make sculptures with soil as a child.

"I would have never imagined that this childhood habit of making sculptures using soil will one day make me a sand artist," he said.

Since 1995, Sudarsan Sand Art Institute in Puri has trained more than 200 people, more than half of them women. At present, Pattnaik has 31 students, which includes 20 women.

Pattnaik is training young people to try their hands in sand art at a beach in Puri, home to the famous Jagannath temple.

All this without charging any fee.

"I am trying to motivate the youth to become sand artists. People like Muka Kabasi have the potential to become jewels for the country and have a name for them in sand art," said Pattnaik, who has already been honoured with the coveted Padma Shri awards.

Pattnaik, aged 44, has been making sand art at the Puri beach for three decades. He has won several national and international accolades.

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