West Bengal serves as home to many talented artisans in India. The unique rustic and mystic charm of Bengal crafts is admired by art-lovers the world over. From embroidery to sculpture and sketching to metal crafts, the state has a unique specialization in many forms of craft. The age-old traditional crafts of West Bengal have been so well molded according to the present day demands that it seems that these artisans, apart from their traditional skills, have an expertise in the art of survival as well. Even if you have little understanding of arts and crafts, you will certainly be captivated by the unique handicrafts of West Bengal. Let us know more about them.
Every year, with the initiative of West Bengal State Government, artisans get chance to portray their expertise through Handicraft Expo, is the largest handicraft fair of India. The artisans of the small scales get appreciated by exhibiting their artistry and creations among the mass and also helps them to get a decent appraisal for their products. The 24th West Bengal State Handicraft Expo 2016 was started on 18th November, 2016 at Milan Mela Prangan, Kolkata and will be continued to 11th December, 2016. It’s really an awesome experience visiting the fair last Sunday. On the way to the fair, the first impression was ”Wow! what a colorful sight it is.” The artists came from villages were making and selling their creations sitting by a row at the ground. There were wooden toys, wicker baskets, handmade musical instruments like Ektara (Monochord), Aar bansi (Flute), Dhol, handmade ornaments; stone engraved statues, various art works, different types of paintings and many more. Artists from the different districts of West Bengal were exhibiting their special significant art works from their districts. Pavilions were named with the name of rivers from the specific districts like Damodor, Jolongi, Rupnarayan, Icchamoti.
Scroll Painting: (Pat Chitra)
Scroll Painting is done on thick fabrics, with the help of natural colors. Popularly called Pat Chitra in Bengal, they vary in length and height. However an average scroll painting is about 15 ft long. It is divided into a number of compartments, with each compartment carrying an episode of the story being narrated through Pat Chitra. It is the specialty of Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. Artists were painting in mats, clothes, utensils with their crafty skills sitting there. The colors of the paintings were really bright and each painting has it’s own story.
The terracotta craft of West Bengal is famous throughout the world, for its pastoral and rustic charm. The clay-modeled items that form a part of this craft, made with natural colors, are a viewer’s delight. They were a craze in Bengal during the reign of Malla rulers, in the 16th-17th century. The temple of Bishnupur stands as marvelous example of the terracotta craft of Bengal. Bankura and Bishnupur is carrying their legacy from the long past. A huge collection of terracotta craft is there to make a drawing room more attractive and to make an special impression.
Kantha is a very beautiful form of embroidery that originated in West Bengal. It is basically the art of outlining decorative images with running stitch, on clothes, with colorful threads. It is used on saris, dhotis, kurtas, ethnic-wear for men and women, bed-linen, cushion covers, quilts and other such items. A craze amongst foreign tourists, Kantha stitch is best used on cotton and silk. Read more here:
Conch Shell Crafts:
Conch shell craft is one of the most unique and most beautiful forms of handicrafts practiced in West Bengal. It is actually the art of engraving decorative motifs on the natural shells obtained from the ocean. Conch shell crafts are beautiful and delicate, apart from being considered to be extremely auspicious in the Hindu mythology.
Dokra Metal Craft:
It is one of the most popular forms of art practiced in Bengal, named after the people who practiced it. It is actually the art of creating statues, jewelries, idols and many other decorative pieces, with the help of clay, wax and molten metal. The best part about Dokra metal crafts is that they are completely original and no replica of any item can ever be made.
One of the oldest crafts of Bengal is pottery. It is practiced in the state with beautiful variations, in exquisite styles. Different kinds of pots, like Mangal Ghat, Lakshmi Ghat, Manasha Ghata and Tulsimancha, are designed here. All of them have their own significance and distinctive style. Apart from being practiced for individual purposes, it is also designed and sold on a commercial scale.
Bankura horses made from terracotta and considered to be auspicious in West Bengal. They are found adorning one or the other corner, in almost all the Bengali households. They are also used in traditional Bengali rituals, as they are considered to represent the holy horses in Sun God’s chariot. When in the state, make sure to buy a sample of this craft, as a souvenir.
Putul, as the Bengali dolls are popularly called, are a craze in the European market. Shaped out of clay, painted in vibrant colors and baked in a kiln, they represent the rural Bengal. Out of several varieties of clay dolls in Bengal, the real-life dolls of Krishna Nagar, depicting various social scenes like Collector’s court, tea garden, pandit sabha and Charak festival, are the most popular.
Sholapith is a milky-white sponge-wood, used for crafting beautiful decorative pieces. It is also known as ‘herbal ivory’, as it seems to look like the milky-white items made from ivory. Sholapith is popularly used to craft head-wears of bridal couples, garlands, decorative fans, animals, birds, dolls, Images of gods and Goddesses, elephant-howdahs, peacock-boats, palanquins, flowers various kinds of crowns and backdrop of Durga Pooja stages.
Other than these, different collections of colorful hand painted (febric) sarees, kurtis, batik work, Kalamkari works are there. Handmade jewelries are also alluring. The handmade paper flowers are really colourful as they have made the garden of paradise.
‘Karuvasha’, is the pavilion where samples of the greatest creations of Bengal are showcased for the audience to smell the culture and craft of Bengal. Some artisan’s are making statue of stones and somebody is busy in making flower vase with the coconut Shells in front of the peoples are visiting the fair. This pavilion is there to encourage the artistry of those artists who are dedicated to their creations and the rest of the world never matter to them.
Even the food court is representing their creativity uniquely. The special sweets of Bengal like Rosogolla, Kanchagolla, Makha Sondesh, Rosomalai etc. are there to exhilarate your taste buds. Moreover witnessed the very own village culture of Bengal that ladies are grinding rice with ‘Dheki’ and making ‘pitha’ (a special cake made of rice) and selling under one shade used to be done by our grandmother.
Art Hut is representing from North 24 Parganas at ‘Ichhamoti’ pavilion with the collection of handicrafts, embroideries, hand painted (febric) sarees and dress materials in the fair and is proud to be a part of this huge platform to exhibit them. We met many people in the fair of different language, of different taste of art and their point of view towards the arts and culture of Bengal. This year we had international customer also from Sri Lanka who just appreciated the creation of our boutique. Art Hut is grateful to them who are visiting our stall to check our collections. We expect to be reach more and more people to the near future with your support.