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Bengal is known all over the world for its expertise in art and craft. Its skill in architectural splendors to its excellent works on woodwork, terracotta, paintings, textile run unparallel. Pottery, brass and copperware, embroidery, tapestry, hand looms, fine muslin and silk artistry, wood carving, cane works etc. are a few examples of handicrafts which originated at the ground level in the heartland of Bengal - the villages. Most of these handicraft produce are cottage industry in West Bengal and has been backbone of the rural economy of the State. Pottery The terracotta Bankura horse of Bengal is quite famous all over the world. Visit any village in this state and you are bound to find the kumbhakars (potters) creating items of daily use on the potter's wheel. The source of their raw material is the rich, alluvial clay found in Bengal's rivers. These are shaped and fired in simple kilns. From pots, containers, plates for food to toys and ritual figurines, the Bengal potter moulds it all. At Kumartuli in Kolkata, some of Bengal's most innovative clay-potters fashion the images of popular gods and goddesses worshipped in the state. The high point comes when in autumn every year, idols of goddess Durga are made. Some of them are indeed exquisite works of art. Today, some renowned sculptors are also commissioned by Bengali non-resident Indians (NRIs) to produce replicas of Goddess Durga, which they carry with them all the way to the USA and England! If you look at the rich decorative terracotta panels of temples in Murshidabad, Bishnupur, and Midnapore, you will realise how much a fistful of clay means to the Bengali's artistic psyche. Dhokra Metal Casting The Dhokra Kamar tribes are the traditional metalsmiths of West Bengal. They follow a technique of metal casting known as Dhokra, named after the tribe. A look at these artefacts makes you believe that they have been made out of a single piece of wire wound around a piece of clay. But that is not the case. The object is cast in metal, using what is known as the lost- wax technique. The artefacts are ritual objects and their themes are mostly animals, jewellery, and icons of gods and goddesses. The Dhokras make many varieties of diyas (lamps) that are both single and multiple. Some of the lamps are mounted on elephant back. The lost-wax technique is not confined to India only. Evidence of this kind of casting of copper based alloys has been found in China, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, and some areas of Central America too. Amongst the trinkets made by these artisans, payeri (anklets), hansuli (necklace), earrings and bangles are most abundant. Besides these, some of the knickknacks made by these artisans are the Buli (piggybank), and a ceremonial finial pot kalas, which is mounted on a wooden pole for festivals. The Dhokra Kamar tribes are part of the same family, which includes the Malhars of Jharkhand and Sithrias of Orissa (metal craftsmen). The West Bengal metal workers, known as the Dhokras and the Dheppons inhabit the districts of Bankura, Midnapore, Purulia, Birbhum and Burdwan.
The modern style uses alpana designs and motifs of flowers.The Dhokra metal casting is perhaps the only living tradition of metal image making in Eastern India. The fine subtle form of chikan embroidery is usually done on very fine textured cloth like muslin and cotton. is the most common form and is used primarily for caps and scarves used by the Muslims for prayers. Cut work and combinations. decorative hand bags. animals and birds. Convent stitches. More contemporary modern embroidery involves Kashmiri stitches. . Cross stitches. Kathiawari mirror work is also used in abundance. in its ability to turn into "light as air" beautiful ornamentation . in texture. The embroidery is usually done by the same coloured thread as the cloth itself. Sholapith Nature has always been one better on man. the zari work and Kashida. Silk embroidery on cotton clothes. Compare "Sholapith" the core of a plant (Aeschyromene Aspere) that grows wild in wet marshlands of Bengal and Assam. as the world outside turns once again to this wonderful natural fiber. to decorative tapestries. weaving of jute on single looms goes on. "Sholapith" work is every uniquely of Bengal. with the modernization setting in and the lifestyle of the tribals changing with time. Kantha & Zari Work Kantha is the most popular embroidery of West Bengal done with folk motifs. often for domestic storage. Orissa and Deccan and the artificial "thermocole" produced in a laboratory. Today. the Dhokra metal craft is slowly fading away.thermocole just does not come close to "Sholapith". The technique has managed to survive many centuries and change of dynasties owing to its modesty of application in everyday lives of ordinary people. In 50 villages of the Kaliaganj area in West Dinajpur. in its luster and sponginess. Like blue thread is used on light blue cloth while white thread may be used on white cloth. In fact. Jute as a fabric was much popular in ancient times. Other embroideries include the chikan work. garden pot hangings. Though white on white is a popular combination other colored threads are also used in white cloth. the process of coloring. Today Bengal is not only a major producer of jute goods ranging from plush jute-blended carpets. bedspreads and more. the 'golden fiber' has traditionally been woven and knotted and braided by women of Bengal. in malleability. the Kashida. Jute Products Jute.