Generations of craftsmen : God’s gift!

Photo By : Poonam Sh

India’s industrialisation and participation in the modern world economy is decades old. Nevertheless, millions of Indians still depend on indigenous modes of production, traditional skills and techniques to make a living based on handmade products. These craftspeople or artisans are the backbone of the non-farm rural economy, with an estimated 7 million artisans according to official figures (and up to 200 million artisans according to other sources) engaged in craft production to earn a livelihood

Read more at: https://yourstory.com/2013/06/crafting-a-livelihood-a-snapshot-of-the-indian-artifacts-sector
Photo By : Poonam Sh

Production processes used in crafts typically have a low carbon footprint and promote the use of locally available materials as well as natural and organic materials where possible. Women empowerment: Crafts production represents an opportunity to provide a source of earning and employment for otherwise low skilled, home-based women, improving their status within the household. Return for future generations: Investing in artisans leads to a trickle-down effect of improving the health and education outcomes for future generations of the most marginalised populations. Mobility and social harmony: by utilising their skills to produce goods for diversified markets, artisans have an opportunity for social mobility, moving from being wage-based producers to entrepreneurs. Further, craft production provides an opportunity for self-expression to marginalised groups, which can have an impact on mitigating societal tension.

Read more at: https://yourstory.com/2013/06/crafting-a-livelihood-a-snapshot-of-the-indian-artifacts-sector

It is beautiful to go rural!

Photo courtesy : Poonam Sh
Simplicity is never an option here !
Photo Courtesy : Poonam Sh
“Ethical , Artistic , Courteous & Creator
Beautiful lady artist , a host at her humble abode
Art was always a way of her life , and a way to her dreams”- Poonam Sh
” Sharing smiles , exchanging hopes ..
Story of an artist knows no boundaries
Living in darkness , yet heart is filled with dreams and imaginations that can challenge the rest ..
Arts that has a story and is created with every beat of heart ..
Colours that sing out loud from the organic flowers it is created from ..
Plant Stems that played the role of paint brushes ..
Art of an artist , sings the victory of her creations..” -Poonam Sh

Handmade Terracotta Temples In West Bengal, India

Jor-bangla, also called Yorubangala, is a style of Hindu temple architecture that arose in Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent.[1] The style involves two skeuomorphic structures that reflect the traditional thatched huts of the region, one that serves as a porch, in front of the other that serves as a shrine. Each structure has a roof of the ek-bangla (or do-chala) style, with two curved segments that meet at a curved ridge.

The Jor-Bangla temple in Bishnupur, Bankura, built in 1655 by King Raghunath Singha Dev. It is richly ornamented with terracotta carvings. The roof has the classic chala style of Bengal architecture.

Gopinath Jor-Bangla is located 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) south of Pabna town in Bangladesh. There is no reliable information about the date when it was built, possibly in the 19th century. It is one of the major archaeological attractions of the Pabna District.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jor-bangla

How British Rule Ruined the Life of of Artisans and Craftsman in India?

Till the middle of eighteenth century Indian handicraft products were greatly demanded in the markets all over the world. Specifically European markets needed constant supply of Indian handicraft-products. The European traders and trading organizations made huge profits by selling Indian products. Indian textile products had no equals and those products were the symbol of craftsmanship and artistry. Indian cotton textiles became a house hold name in England.

But the Industrial Revolution in England and the economic policy of the East India Company jointly closed the markets for Indian handicrafts. In England machines went for large scale productions and those machine products were cheap and colorful. Not only markets but also the British Government as well as manufacturers encouraged the supply of their machine products to European markets.

As a result, the British machine-products entered into unfair competition with Indian products. Handicrafts of India could not sustain the pressure of the competition with cheaper machine goods. Thus, those were driven out of European markets. Further, the British trade policy proved extremely fatal for Indian handicrafts. In 1813, trade monopoly was abolished and one way free trade policy was imposed on India. By this policy the British machine products were imported to India freely and the export of Indian goods to England was discouraged by imposition of heavy duties on those products.

The Industrial Revolution closed foreign markets for Indian goods and British trade policy closed domestic market for Indian products. Once the markets were closed demand for Indian products declined suddenly and production stopped. It resulted in making the artisans and craftsman jobless and handicraft industries were closed down.

Introduction of railways opened a new era for the transport system in India. But the railways served the political and economic interest of the British to a larger extent. Through railways the machine products of Britain found it much easier to enter into the rural India.

In other words, the machine products of England replaced the Indian handcrafts in the village market. As a result the artisans and the craftsman who adopted caste-based occupation were compelled to give upon the same. This ruined the rural artisan industries and the artisans lost their occupations.

Added to this, modernization of India increased fascination for the machine-products which were cheaper, colorful and attractive.

There developed a craze for the goods, ‘Made in England’ and use of those goods was considered status symbol and sign of modernity. As the demand for Indian handicraft products declined within India, production failed suddenly leading to forcible closure of the rural artisan industries.

From the very day, the British won the Battle of Plessey, the Company and its servant’s exploited the craftsmen of Bengal. The British pursued the policy of coercion of terrorist them. The artisans were forced to sell their products below the market price.

The price was determined by the Company and it was not profitable for the craftsmen. The services and the labour of the craftsmen were hired at very low wages. It was impossible for the craftsmen to adopt their traditional profession.

So they were force to abandon those crafts. The worst affected were the weavers of Bengal and textile industry of Bengal was virtually closed. It was said that the thumbs of the weavers were cut off. Actually it meant that thousands of weavers were made jobless due to closure of weaving industry.

As the British Empire expanded rapidly the political set-upon in India changed accordingly.

The Indian rulers lost their states; their courts and courtiers disappeared. The rulers and their courts were the major customers of the handicraft products. Moreover, urban handicrafts could not find the patrons like those rulers to encourage craftsmanship. Very often the artisans pursued the crafts according to the requirements and taste of the rulers. Under the changed situation, they were left in wilderness.

On the other hand, the British Government and its officials used the products made in England and formed the trade policy favorable for easy import of those goods to India. For example the British exported raw materials, like cotton, indigo for the textile industries in Lancashire. As a result, the prices of the raw materials soared high and cost of the handicrafts increased. Therefore, handicrafts products of high cost lost the ground in the Indian market to the cheaper products from Britain.

Under the patronage of Indian rulers, handicrafts flourished at different centers. Around those center developed towns and cities; each of the got associated with excellence of craft. Dacca, Murshidabad, Surat, Agra etc. were few among those flourishing craft centers.

This towns and cities also gained political importance. Repeated wars of conquest of the British had devastating effects on those towns and cities. The conquerors plundered those centers time and again. The artisans deserted those centers for safety and once flourishing crafts were abandoned.

Added to this, there was no attempt for growth of modern industry to take the place of the cottage Industries. As a result, the handicraftsman and artisans had no scope to find suitable employment according to their skill. Rather, they were compelled to switch over to agriculture for employment. Even the peasants who earlier adopted different crafts as secondary occupation to supplement their income, found it impossible to continue with those crafts.

For example, the peasants were part-time weavers earning extra income. As they found the cost of cotton very high, they preferred to be consumers of Lancashire cloth and abandoned weaving cloths for their families. In both the cases over-crowding of agriculture made the peasants and artisans either agricultural laborers or jobless.

Ultimately the people were left amidst extreme poverty. Major cottage industries like textile, leather, oil, pottery, etc. were ruined and no alternative source of production was setup in India. Thus, India had to depend on the British manufacturers. Exporter India was converted into importer India. Self-sufficient village economic gave way to colonial economy and India was transformed into an agricultural colony to produce and supply raw materials.

Reference : http://www.preservearticles.com/history/how-british-rule-ruined-the-life-of-of-artisans-and-craftsman-in-india/17951

We weave , We create , We Care – Soul of a Craftsman

Daroonjinish! Voice of the Rural Arts and Crafts
PHOTO • Poonam Sh

 The state government’s initiative to add value to sabai grass, a natural fibre abundantly grown in tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district, has finally began to pay dividends.

The usage of the grass, locally known bobei ghasa, was earlier confined mainly to rope-making. But now, its use has diversified into the process of making of various craft items after women workers, mostly belonging to tribal communities, were imparted special training for the purpose.

The grass is mainly grown in Baripada and Kaptipada revenue sub-division of Mayurbhanj and harvested between November and June. The district’s annual sabai production is estimated about 20,000 metric tonnes, which fetches about Rs 300 crore.

Mayurbhanj district collector Rajesh Prabhakar Patil said: “After adopting multi-pronged approaches, the women workers have now found an uplift in their status.”

“Not only are these women empowered financially and socially with group activities, their products have also gained appreciation from far and wide. The next target is to encourage local tribal communities to grow the grass in barren and waste lands,” he said.

( Reference : https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/odisha/sabai-grass-industry-reinvents-itself/cid/1504956 )

A master craftsman, Debahala has been earning his livelihood from bamboo baskets for over five decades. He now teaches others how to weave with bamboo and says that he can replicate a pattern once he has touched it. “I weave different types of bamboo baskets, fish traps, chicken coops and cane stools. I also tie sticks together and make brooms. I know almost every type of weaving technique.” From the toloi basket to the hulohallongdulo andhaza, Debahala can make them all. 

“I have four sons and one daughter. All the sons got married before they turned 18 and now live separately from us,” says Debahala. The family’s income is modest – Debahala earns around Rs. 4,000 a month by selling baskets in the local markets. His wife Chandramala, 59, works on the family’s farm plot, and their 24-year-old  daughter Jayalalita works as a daily wage agricultural labourer. 

Even though he lost his sight early, Debahala has maintained his mobility. He often walks to the village market and to places near and far by himself, with the aid of a walking stick. And, when necessary, he says he also lifts and carries, over a distance, heavy sacks of rice or firewood if he is with a family member.   “When I was young I could sense the light, especially sunlight during the day,” he says. “but with advancing age, I am losing that sense.”

Despite his expertise in working with bamboo, he says off-screen that he never felt his talent was extraordinary and neither was he ever praised for it. 


PHOTO • LOKESH CHAKMA

( reference : https://ruralindiaonline.org/articles/baskets-made-with-a-different-vision/)

Grass to Grace

By empowering village women, increasing their mobility and helping them to be independent and occupying the youth – a wave of innovation is slowly sweeping over the districts.

Bounteous Jungles

THE GRASS GROWS IN ABUNDANCE IN THE FOREST FRINGE AREAS OF 4 DISTRICTS OF WEST BENGAL – PURULIA, BANKURA, JHARGARM AND PASCHIM MEDINIPUR. THESE DISTRICTS HAVE TRADITIONALLY BEEN DEPRIVED; THERE IS WATER SCARCITY, SCATTERED AGRICULTURAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EXTREME POVERTY. LIVELIHOOD OPPORTUNITIES ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN AND THE THICK FOREST COVER HAS EFFECTIVELY PRECLUDED ANY SUSTAINED FORM OF INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY

PURULIA
Rajagram is a tiny hamlet nestled within Kuchiya Gram Panchayat, in Purulia’s Bandwan block. The village has Dhadka in the North, Jhatijharna of Ghatshila (East Singbhum) in the South, Amlashol on the East and the beautiful landscape of Duarsini in the West. Mrigichami is a tiny village that lies right in the middle of a dense forest in Purulia district and is bordered by Golhuda in the North, Budijhor in the South, Barud in the East and Lukapani in the West. Paysagoda and Goyalapara are the other 2 villages under the Gram Panchayat of Barajagoda, Manbajar-II Block now a familiar name in the field of handicrafts.

BANKURA
In 2 small villages – Jalahari and Nadupara, in Gorabari Gram Panchayat of Khatra-II Block, the lives of the villagers has improved substantially during the past year, owing to the training and market linkage.

Mahishamura, a small settlement in Bankura district, is also known as the ‘Sabai Village’. It lies in the interiors of Ranibandh Block of the District. Nature has generously adorned these villages with trees, rivulets, water-bodies, rich forests, hills, Mango and Cashew plantations. A repertoire of alluring craft, festivals, folklore, myths and places of tourist interest blended into one, a visit to the Sabai Village -Mahishamura is worth an effort.

JHARGRAM
It is a recently carved district of West Bengal, lies between the River Subarnarekha and the state of Odisha and on its West is Jharkhand. It is part of the Chhotanagpur Plateau and lies beyond the Gangetic plains, close to the western borders of the state. The district is a Garden of Eden for nature lovers with its bountiful forests and its substantial wildlife. The area, also known as Jangal Mahal is rich in wildlife.

Chandabila, Narda, Raishol and Purnapani under the Gram Panchayat of Chandabila of Nayagram is surrounded by dense forests, these villages used to be regularly attacked by massive herds of marauding elephants. Mednipur has some ancient temples made of incredible Terracotta designs. Tapoban temple attracts a lot of tourists for their ornate beauty. Rameshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is also in this area and the local belief is that it was built in a night, using colossal chunks of stone.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Craft- Grass to Glory; Rameshwar Shiv Temple in Jhargram; Jhargram Palace

For more read, refer to : http://www.naturallybengal.com/?craft=sabai