Kantha Embroidered Fabrics
Portrait of An Emerging Art
Bengal seems to be the hub of creative talents. Since ages, Bengal has given to India, some of its most admired and exceptional artists. Even when modernity and industrial production has admitted huge hindrances in the growth of age old arts and crafts, the art itself and the techniques, have survived in the hearts of Bengalis. Today, it looks to revive some lost forms of art that once brought fame and recognition to Bengal. To get a glimpse of authentic handicraft works, one should visit the rural areas of West Bengal which are still not influenced by the western ways. There are places that are famous for one of kind of art form like Bankura and Midnapore are known for Dhokra Metal Castings whereas Kolkata has some of the best known potters in the state. It is the arts and crafts that provide the much needed economic support for rural areas to sustain themselves.
Dhokra Metal Casting
Dhokra Metal Casting is a technique used by a tribe called Dhokra Kamar Tribe. They are known to be the original metalsmithes of Bengal. The people of the tribe are now found in the western part of the state, mainly in four districts Bankura, Midnapore, Purulia and Burdwan. The tribe is not confined to West Bengal only, they are also found in other eastern states like Orissa and Chhatisgarh as well. Thus making this art common in that regions as well. In this type of metal casting, a lost wax technique is used which is also called as hollow casting. The method is employed to produce figures of gods and goddesses, different types of lamps and jewelery. Anklets, necklaces and bangles are the most common jewelery items that are produced through this process.
Pottery is one art form that you will find in all corners of the state. Though the best place to shop for them is Kolkata as, there you find the collections coming from entire state. The potters make the best use of the clay that is found on the banks of rivers that cut through the state. The clay is then molded into different shapes and sizes for items used for various purposes. Images of gods and goddesses, clay pots and plates are the main items made. It is during the time of Durga Puja that most of the potters are busy preparing the biggest and grandest statues of Goddess Durga for the puja celebrations. So much is the demand for the idols, that Indians residing in foreign countries place orders to Bengal potters to produce a magnificent idol of Goddess Durga. The completed statue is really a sight to behold.
Muslin is probably the most famous export of West Bengal after the Darjeeling tea. Muslin is a type of cotton textile which is considered a marvel for its unique texture and lightness. The weaving of Muslin, also sometimes locally referred to as mul mul, has been a part of Bengal lives from the ages of Kings and queens. However, under the rule of British, this art was completely stopped in the interest of western industries that feared the growing popularity of muslin. After independence, with the help of government, the muslin weaving was again started. Most of the muslin weaving industries are settled near Shantipur in Nadia District and Ambika Kalna in Burdwan district. Saris and dhotis are the most widely produced apparel from Muslin.
Kantha is one of the oldest forms of embroidery that has kept the women of Bengal busy. Kantha embroidery is generally done on cotton and silk fabrics. A regular in dhotis and saris, Kantha embroidery is running stitches used for making floral motifs, images of birds, animals, and geometrical figures. It is also used for making blankets and quilts by stitching five or six layers of cloth together. For this, the tread used is taken from the edges of used clothes. The embroidered clothes are not only used for blankets and garments,; they are also used on clothes used as bed sheets, pillow covers, and cover for tables and boxes.
With time many of the art forms of West Bengal were lost. But with the help of government and zeal of Bengal people towards their tradition, has helped many of the lost forms to again find a place in the hearts and homes of many people across the world. The best place to shop for art and crafts of Bengal is the capital city as the handicraft items are all brought here, to fetch the best deal for the produces.