The immortal inheritance of Indian Culture has moulded its artists
of the people, joyful exciting, intricate in imagination intuitively
creating, but each with its individuality of his own. This is the
expression that found incarnation in the traditional masters of
arts and artifacts of West Bengal. Here cheek by jowl are stacked
the wonderful worlds of our weavers, potters, metal-wrights, shell-artists,
carvers in wood, bone or stone. And these amazing variety of creation,
the aesthetic, varied, living pulsating life are expressed in vibrant
collections of colour, hue, tone, shape and size.
Artistic Leather Craft
A fine example of contemporary art and craft, the Bengal leather
crafts owe their widespread popularity and development
due to some innovative work done by gifted artists at Santiniketan.
Brass & Bell Metal
A many-splendoured craft of West Bengal. Handed down to generations
of metalworkers. From domestic utensilsfor everyday use to vessels
for observance of rituals, the emphasis is always on strength of
form. Copper, one of the earliest known metals was transformed into
alloys like bronze, brass and bell metal by Indian metallurgists
of Harappan times.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Bengals metallurgists
too were practicing the art and science of metal workings as early
as 2nd millennium B.C. Artisans of Bankura, Bishnupur, Ghatal and
Chandanpur in Midnapore, have a superb lineage of shaped and engraved
brass and bell metal work.
Cane & Bamboo
From the depths of time and the earliest chapters of civilization,
comes a craft that endures. Bengals very own tradition in
creating everyday and fancy articles from bamboo and cane, is rich
and varied. More than 35,000 artisans practise this craft in different
districts of rural Bengal.
This is a radition built up in contemporary times-several centuries
of interaction with foreign craftsmen and a legacyleft us by many
years of British rule. The craft, however, is today flourishing
in and around Calcutta and in some places in Birbhum district. New
ceramic technologies have joined hands with a heritage of handicrafts
to produce a range of fine, glazed ceramic products for decoration,
dolly, toys, wall-hangings, household pottery and industrial application.
Clay fantasies of real-life stylized, sometimes even graphic in
their representations, mark traditional Indian clay dolls and toys.
But the dolls and figurines of Krishnanagar in Bengal, are unique
in their realism and the quality of their finish. Patronized by
Maharaja Krishnachandra himself in the late 18th century, they truly
represent a breakaway from the traditional form.
Nomadic tribes who roam the earth restlessly - what permanence do
they leave us with, as a mark of their passage ? The Dokra or Dhokra
group of tribal craftsmen who range through the landscapes of Bengal,
Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh give us a timeless
heritage of beautifully shaped and ornamented products of cast metals.
The Bikna group of Dokra artisans of Bankura and the Dariapur group
of Burdwan, were rehabilitated in the sixties. There are similar
concentrations at Kharagpur in Midnapore and Malda.
The early pages of Indian civilization are full of descriptions
of horn combs which adorned the tresses of women in
ancient times. in shining black and translucent shades of greys,
Bengal horn work is still a fascinating craft.
Jute, the golden fibre has traditionally been woven
and knotted and braided by women of Bengal, often for domestic storage.
Jute as a fabric was much popular in ancient times. Today Bengal
is not only a major producer of jute goods ranging from pllush jute-blended
carpets, to decorative tapestries, garden pot hangings, decorative
hand bags, bedspreads and more. in 50 villages of the Kaliaganj
area in West Dinajpur, the process of colouring, weaving of jute
on single looms goes on, as the world outside turns once again to
this wonderful natural fibre.
Masks & Puppets
Once upon a time, priests masqueraded as gods, demons or spirits.
Sorcerers and wizards wove their spells. Today they are more popular
as items of interior decoration. in Bengal, masks used by the Chhou
dancers of Purulia and those who perform the Gambhira dances of
Malda, actually represent the theatrical tradition. While the masks
in Devil Dances and other socio-religious festivals of Darjeeling
and Tibet, are colourful relics of priesthood.
Papier mache is not a craft traditional to this state. The Santiniketan
school of artists did some pioneering work in introducing this craft
in West Bengal. Today quite a number of craftsmen in and around
Calcutta have taken up the craft and their products mainly dolls
and masks, have found a market for their beauty in designs and excellence
Once upon a time, elephant tusks were carved into great and tiny
delicate pieces of art by master craftsmen of Khagra and Jiaganj
in Murshidabad district. But then the elephant population stood
threatened, ecological disaster became imminent and so a ban came
upon ivory. But that did not stop the wizardry of the craftsmen.
Their deft fingers found the aromatic, oily sandalwood as an ideal
substitute. And so those legendary ivory creations grew in sandalwood.
Information on Traditional Crafts, arts, handicrafts of West Bengal