West Bengal heritage of handicrafts is legendry. The exquisite texture of Baluchari Sarees, Silk and Tasar Textile from Murshidabad, Birbhum, Bankura, Hoogly and Nadia districts have become the Choice of the Century. The fascinating handloom textiles of the same regions as mentioned above are now attracting world-wide attention. Besides the garment materials, jute products, wood and cane products, conch-shell products, brass wares and folk dolls and handicrafts belonging to different schools of art as Dokra art etc. Now embellish a large many drawing rooms. The salient point, however, to be noted in this context, is that each of these schools. In spite of their contiguity has maintained its own distinguishing features down the ages. The handicrafts items are widely marketed by Manjusha, a state Government owned emporia and other establishments as well
Different categories of West Bengal handicrafts and their main centres are as follows :
- Rag dolls
- Cane & bamboo
Masks : Mask is a three dimensional facial portrait used as a covering for the face either as a protective screen or disguise. Being an important part of the theatre craft, wooden masks of West Bengal are an important part of the social and cultural activities of the state. Mask or Mukhosh, has a mysterious history, too vague to be chronicled in perfect sequence, both in terms of advent and influence. Rumour has it that in ancient time the witches started the practice of wearing the masks. In an attempt to camouflage, the witches built a sublime weapon, a facial veil that prevented them from getting exposed. These were colorful ornate faces made from wood or paper, a bait to attract innocent people, who were then sacrificed with the belief that their life span would be transferred to the witches grating them immortality. In Bengal places like Jalpaiguri, cooh Bihar, West dinajpur, Malda, Nadia, North and South 24 parganas are well known for masks craft.
Terracotta : Terracotta, taken from Latin terra cotta or baked earth, is the art of creating glazed or unglazed porous earthenware, figurines, and other decorative materials from clay which is dried and fired in temperatures of around 1000°C giving it a distinctly orange, red, brown, yellow, or grey color. Terracotta Art in West Bengal is the earliest form of art in West Bengal. The art forms of terracotta or burnt clay which are produced by the Bengal potters satisfied the creative impulse of the Bengal artists. Moreover terracotta became an important product which had durability and also served as a home decor. In fact it has been said it is clay rather than stone which has been the medium through which Bengali culture has found expression for thousands of years. For many generations the terracotta artists of the Bankura area in West Bengal devoted their skills to modelling and sculpting, attaining high levels of acclaim and respect throughout India.
The main centres of terracotta art can be found in Bengal towns of Murshidabad, Birbhaum, Jessore, Hooghly and Digha.
Dhokra: The metal smiths using the lost wax process of metal casting or hollow casting method in West Bengal, are known as Dokra Kamars. One important centre of this craft exists among related groups of families in Bikna Village (Bankura) and nearby Dariapur( West Bengal). Other significant centres are Purulia, Midnapore and Burdwan.
Rag dolls :
Traditionally Bengal was famous for the common craft dolls which were given to children but with the changing times the dolls and toys have changed its form and shape which has been greatly influenced the Japanese rag dolls. Districts of Howrah, Bankura, Purulia and West Medinipur were famous for Rag dolls but are now restricted to places like Natungram, Daihat and Patuli in Bardhaman.
Sola pith or the Indian cork is a milky-white sponge-wood which is carved into delicate and beautiful objects of art. Sola plant grows in the marshy waterlogged areas of West Bengal, Assam and in the eastern marshy Gangetic plains. Artisans use it to make artefacts used for decoration, especially the traditional ornate headgear of bridegroom in Bengal. Craft is practiced in the districts of Burdwan, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia and Hooghly.
Cane and bamboo :
Cooch Bihar produces a special kind of cane which is known as Mutra cane. Mutra cane is the basic or the raw material for preparing shitalpati. The local artists of Cooch Bihar goes through the process of soaking the cane into clean water for 24 hours. The craft person using their skills cut the cane into strips to give shape to the pati. striking magenta coloured strips are specially dyed in this bright shade by the craft person to bring beautiful patterns of patis. Mutra cane is mainly found in the region of Cooch Bihar. The North Bengal artist prepare attractive motifs like diamond and diagonal shapes, checks, zig zags, twill and many more on the shitalpati which is delicately woven in flat strips.
Wood carvings in West Bengal :
Wood carving prevails all over India since time immemorial with several designing traits in different regions. West Bengal, too bears distinct traits of expertise which vary from one region to another. The wood carvers of Bankura ( West Bengal) is famous. The wood sculptures with traditional and contemporary motifs got abundance in the markets of Bankura. Besides, the terracotta horse, sculpture of Goddess Durga the availability of other images like animal figures, sculptures of other gods and goddesses, idols, homeaccessories are to be found today.
Textile craft :
A jamdani craft in a sari
West Bengal rich tradition of Handloom Weaving. It is a part of its cultural heritage. The textile products of Bengal have attracted not only national but also worldwide attention and bears the timeless legacy of our cultural heritage. Jamdani’ and ‘Tangail’ are two pioneer sarees in the filed of heritage handloom products of Bengal handloom. Shantipur, Dhaniakhal, Begampur, and Farasdanga are the main cotton weaving centres which are involved in the weaving of fine-textured saris and dhotis.
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