Crafts of Bihar



Bihar is not only the holy land where Lord Buddha had attained the enlightenment, but it's also a place where different kinds of arts flourish. The crafts have never veered from their user-friendly motto. The hands behind each craft are tinted with an understanding that their work is no idle pleasure, either for them or their clientele.

The emerald paddy fields and cluster of village homes, ringed around the somber waters of the village pond, are not the highlights of a watercolor. Within the courtyards of these dwellings, the women 'layer' material for Soojini Embroidery work, underwriting the many motifs and moods that dictate the arts and crafts of Bihar.

Instead of establishing an assembly line production technique, the craft continues to be a women's domain who popularize their own crop of legends, natural ambience, and traditional uses. That is why the crafts of Bihar wear a rugged and authentic look for the papier-mâché is not polished to a sophisticated gloss, or the stoneware made into a punch bowl or the soojini stitch mass-produced. Yet the craft has undergone changes brought on by a process of assimilation into the world at large.

Madhubani Paintings

Few people have heard of the art of Madhubani Painting practiced in the region of Mithila. For centuries, the villagers

had decorated the mud-plastered walls of their homes with the vivacious style of the Madhubani. Whenever a festival was in the offing or when the family gathered to celebrate the wedding of a younger member, the women of the clan undertook the task of decorating their homes. A fresh coating of cow dung plastering was applied on the walls and flooring of the house. When the ochre surface took on a silken smoothness, it was made the background of a fascinating array of wall paintings. Every inch of the space was filled up. The paintings had curvaceous floral borders and in the center the favorite theme-the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, was painted. The art form is practiced even now in the region though at the lesser scale.

Bangle Making

In Muzaffarpur, the principal city in this domain, bangle making is a cottage industry, in the truest sense, for every household is a manufacturing unit of these lac turnery beauties. The adjoining forests of the state provide the basic raw material for bangle making. With the help of simple domestic fire, and vivid imagination, the craftsman breathes life into roundels of lozenge pink, flaming orange, brilliant vermilion, regal purple or even dignified ochre circles, to ornament the wrists of a bride. In fact, there is a special ritual of bangle wearing, where the bride-to-be is made to wear turmeric colored bangles that are suitably embellished with pieces of glinting mirrors, brilliant tinsel and painted stripes. The other women of the household too keep a large variety of bangles to suit every outfit they plan to wear for the occasion.

Stone Work

Bihar was the land of the Buddha's nirvana, a land where he received the divine inspiration to propagate Buddhist path of Middle Living. The stone images of Gaya regenerate Lord Buddha's messages. The pearly luster of the gray-green stone provides an interesting patterning on the image surface. The alternative black variety, quarried from the adjoining hills, is ideal for tableware. Stem handled drinking glasses, smoothly turned out coasters and large platters customarily used to serve offerings to deities at temples, keep the Gaya stone masons constantly innovating and creating.

In recent times they have veered from the traditional Buddha figurine to that of the elephant god Ganesha.

Sikki Craft the next lap of one's journey through the craft world of Bihar, one stops to admire and exult at the manner in which the wild Sikki Grass, a virtual riverside weed, has become a source of creativity for the Sikki womenfolk. On their journey home after fetching water from the pond or while returning from a day's work in the paddy fields, they cut bundles of the course reed and leave it out in the sunlight till it dries and turns supple. Then the golden strands are lashed together into lengths of rope.

Their tensility is strengthened with a ring of the same grass tied vertically in a close formation. This stretch is then coiled into shapes, ranging from a simple round box with a lid to stylized ones stimulating an elephant, a bird, a snake or a tortoise. The boxes vary in shape and size. Again, not quite satisfied with just a coil of unrelieved silky gold, as is the natural texture of the grass, the women embellish it with dyed strands, woven into patterns of geometrical intricacy, which add elegance to the simple craft.

Handicrafts Trade
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