About West Bengal Handicrafts

West Bengal is home to large varieties of handicraft items, which are scattered mostly in the rural areas of different districts of West Bengal. These crafts are Terracotta, Dhokra, Brass & Bell-metal, Conch & sea shell work, Wood carving, Horn crafts, Sholapith, Lac products, Cane & Bamboo crafts, zari work, mask, artistic leather, jute –handicrafts, mat, embroidery, kantha stitch, hand batik, fabric painting, pata-chitra among other things:

1. Terracotta Artefacts :

  • Terracotta, also known as baked earth is a clay based ceramic. Terracotta has been employed as an art medium since ancient times in cultures throughout the world. The natural clay of its composition gives the terracotta its characteristic orange-brown or reddish-brown color. Depending on the clay, the color will vary, but it may also be readily found in yellow, gray, or other shades.
  • An appropriate refined clay is formed to the desired shape. After drying it is placed in a kiln or atop combustible material in a pit, and then fired. The typical firing temperature is around 1,000 °C. The iron content gives the fired body a yellow, orange, red, grey or brown color. Fired terracotta is not watertight, but surface-burnishing the body before firing can decrease its porousness and a layer of glaze can make it watertight.
  • As a pottery material, terra cotta has a long history that stretches back to the period of 3000 B.C. to the ancient site of Mohenjodaro and areas of Mesopotamia. Though the earliest bricks made of clay were left to bake in the sun, objects were eventually fired as a true ceramic for a variety of uses that include functional items like pitchers and pots to funerary statues that were placed in tombs. Though widely used in Mesopotamia and later by Europeans and Pre-Columbian peoples of the Americas, the Chinese used terracotta extensively. One of the most astounding works of terra cotta is the terra cotta army of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang. As an art medium, terra cotta has long been favored as a sculpting and ceramic material because it is easy to mold and is an easily procured natural material. Though a staple of ancient art design, terra cotta is still widely used around the world as an art medium today In modern India, Terracotta is a very popular item for producing a variety of crafts including Jewellery

2. Dhokra Metal Crafts :

  • Dhokra is non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been used in India for over 4,000 years and is still used. The product of dhokra artisans are in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form. Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious images, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets etc., are highly appreciated.
  • The process consists of developing a clay core which is roughly the shape of the final cast image. The clay core is then covered by a layer of wax composed of pure bee’s wax, resin from the tree Damara orientalis, and nut oil. The wax is then shaped and carved in all its finer details of design and decorations. It is then covered with layers of clay, which takes the negative form of the wax on the inside, thus becoming a mould for the metal that will be poured inside it. Drain ducts are left for the wax, which melts away when the clay is cooked. The wax is then replaced by the molten metal, often using brass scrap as basic raw material. The liquid metal poured in hardens between the core and the inner surface of the mould. The metal fills the mould and takes the same shape as the wax. The outer layer of clay is then chipped off and the metal icon is polished and finished as desired.
  • Dhokra Damar tribes are the traditional metal smiths of West Bengal. Their technique of lost wax casting is named after their tribe, hence Dhokra metal casting This crafts form is practised in states like Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Westbengal and Orissa.

3. Sholapith :

  • Shola pith is a dried milky-white spongy plant matter which can be pressed and shaped into delicate and beautiful objects of art. It is an herbaceous plant, which grows particularly in the marshy areas of Bengal, Assam, Orissa and the Deccan. This water plant grows in lakes , ponds and wet lands and is partly submerged in the water. The outer skin is brown and is peeled off to use the soft portion from the core. The core is sliced into strips, which can be shaped according to the artist`s imagination. The process is simple, but the craftsmanship requires a steady hand and great skill almost similar to thermocol, which is artificially produced, sholapith is much superior to thermocol in terms of malleability, texture, lustre and sponginess. Traditionally sholapith products were used in decorating Hindu idols and in creating the headgears of brides and grooms for a traditional Bengali wedding. In more recent times, sholapith handicrafts have found a wider application in home décor and other items.

4. Baluchari Sarees :

  • Baluchar Saree is a type of saree, which originated in Bengal and is known for depictions of mythological scenes on the pallu of the sari. It is mainly produced in Murshidabad and producing one saree takes approximately one week or more. The Baluchari Sari has been granted the status of Geographical indication in India.

5. Cane and Bamboo:

6. Conch and Shell craft:

7. Horn Craft:

8. Wood Carvings