In India, all religions and their rituals are sacred; while some have crystal-clear explanations others exist only because there has been an age-old practice. And, among them is the famous yet unexplained practice of using soil from the land of sex-workers to prepare Durga Idols in Kolkata. While the entire North and West India celebrate the nine holy days prior to Dusshera as Navratras; in East the festivity is observed as Durga Puja.
It is no secret as how some women are subjected towards inhumane treatment, some are shunned from society, a few insulted and ill-treated throughout the year. But, during Navratras they are worshipped and considered auspicious; call it hypocrisy at its peak. The worst affected section of society is of sex-workers, all their lives they are attributed with slangs, but during Navratra, individuals throng at their doorsteps with polite smiles begging for some land from their land.
According to Hindu rituals, for the preparation of Durga idol, four things are of utmost importance- mud from the banks of the Ganga, cow urine, cow dung and soil from a prostitute’s land or Nishiddho Pallis (forbidden territories). Together the mixture constitutes the sacred idol of Goddess Durga; without the sand from a prostitutes’ land, the idol is considered incomplete. This one tradition has been going on for years, but no one knows the exact reason why it started.
Today, we will tell you all about the reasons and ways how the ‘Punya Maati’ is collected. The procedure of seeking the mud from the land of a sex-worker is holy and dramatic at the same time. It is said, the priest of the temple has to go and beg at the doorstep of brothel or sex-worker’s home, for some mud for the Durga Maa idol. While she procures the sand, the priest enchants vedic mantras. It is believed that even if she denies, the priest has to keep begging for the soil.
With changing times not just priests, but even the idol makers today visit brothels or prostitute’s home to seek the sacred soil. Kumortuli in Kolkata is traditionally a potter’s land, where numerous clay idols of gods and goddesses are prepared in larger numbers for festivities and export purposes. After searching the Internet in-n-out and speaking to Bengali friends and their families in Kolkata, I did all and came around with not one, but four possible reasons behind this revered ritual.
As per many believers and bloggers on the Internet, the soil from the prostitute’s land is the purest because it beholds the virtue and purity of those who visited the place. It is said that whenever a man visits a prostitute, he leaves behind his purity and virtue on her doorstep. So, all the pureness gets accumulated outside her house. Hence, this ‘punya maati’ becomes an unavoidable element in the Durga Maa murti.
According to some Hindu priests, before the fatal fight between Maa Durga and Mahishasur, the latter tried to malign her dignity and attempted molestation. Angered by this disgrace, Durga Maa used all her power and rage to destroy Mahishasur, who looked down upon women. For this reason, it is believed that using of soil from outside a brothel should be treated as a respect to those women, who have been downtrodden and humiliated by society.
It is believed that the path they have chosen to lead their life is a sin in itself, and for that reason including the soil of their land for Durga idol making, purifies them in the process. Also, while they handover the soil to priest, and amid the mantras enchanted by the latter, souls of prostitutes are unburdened.
Some say, as these sex-workers are an abandoned section of society all their lives, this one occasion sees them coming under one umbrella as devotees of God and are included in the society. During this time, they are well-treated and welcomed to all religious Durga pandals; unlike rest of the year, when they are ill-treated by the same society. Sadly, this hypocrisy still exists in our time
West Bengal is home to a variety of handicraft that are not only aesthetically appealing but also eco-friendly and representative of local history and culture. Yet these products are facing an uphill task in terms of survival, affected by rising costs of raw material, long drawn labour-intensive processes, and competition from mass produced machine made goods. Thankfully, interventions from government bodies and social welfare organisations have taught these artists to repurpose their art forms while retaining the original style, as well as to market them, which have given them a fresh lease of life.
When the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, founded in 1952, chose the ‘Bankura Horse’ as its logo, it lifted the little known terracotta art of West Bengal to global fame. Bishnupur, in Bankura district, about 200km west of Kolkata, is home to terracotta temples covered with intricately carved tiles depicting tales from Ramayana, Mahabharata, life of Krishna, etc. Apart from temples, artists used to fashion small toys for use in local religious ceremonies, such as Manasar Chaali (a votive object representing the snake goddess Manasa), horses with pointed ears, and elephants. As handcrafted ethnic products began to gain popularity, artists began to make these ritualistic objects as decorative pieces. Apart from animals, they began to make costume jewellery and other accessories, wall decorations, utility items such as pen holder, bowls and ash trays, etc. In winter, when Bishnupur receives the most tourists, the road side is choc a bloc with craft stalls. However, to see the artefacts being made, you have to visit Panchmura, about 20km by road from Bishnupur.
Dokra (or Dhokra), an ancient form of non-ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax process, has been known to indigenous people of India since the Indus Valley Civilisation. It is believed that tribes in central India (now largely Chhattisgarh) were the practitioners of this art, which later spread to other regions of the country. Dariyapur in Purba Bardhhaman district, nearly 140km from Kolkata via Guskara, is home to a group of dokra artists, who, have been practising this art for nearly 120 years. The process of metal casting is a long drawn process. Artisans have to procure brass pieces for melting, which are not easy to come by. Besides, each object has to be made in its own mould, which is broken apart to retrieve the object. This makes each dokra item unique. Popular Dokra products include idols of Durga and Ganesh, elephants and other animals, human figurines, jewellery, utility items, etc.
Essentially, madur is a mat made by weaving a rhizome-based plant (madur kathi). It was a must at every traditional household, especially in the rural areas. It would be rolled up and kept in a corner of the room to be spread out as a floor covering to sit or sleep upon. Householders spreading out a madur to an arriving guest was a sign of being made welcome. An eco-friendly local craft from the former Midnapur district of West Bengal, it was on the verge of extinction until the artists were imparted training in making decorative and utility products, such as table runners and mats, purses and bags, curtains, holders, etc. Although the power loom has been introduced for weaving to keep prices competitive, head to Sabang in Paschim Medinipur district for its fine handmade mats called Masland or Mataranchi. Woven with specially prepared fine sticks and cotton threads, they are characterised by coloured patterns. Sabang and its surrounding villages are about four hours’ drive from Kolkata. Banglanatakdot com (http://banglanatak.com/) has announced two festivals – at Sabang (Dec 7-9, 2018) and at Digha (Jan 8-9) – to promote the craft to a wide audience.
Chhau masks (Charida)
Along with Mayurbhanj in Odisha, and Seraikela and Kharsawan in Jharkhand, Purulia in West Bengal is known for its Chhau (also Chau) dance. What sets apart the Purulia style from others is the use of elaborate masks (smaller masks are used in Seraikela while the other two do not use masks). One of the best places to watch the making of masks is Charida (pronounced Chorida) village at the base of Ajodhya hill. Mask making is an elaborate process. Besides, they cannot be heavy yet have to last enough to stand the vigorous dancing, including somersaults and jumps. In simple terms, a mask is made of paper, cloth and clay on moulds made of mud; then it is painted, varnished, and decorated with feathers, etc. Eye holes are made to allow the dancer to see. A mask is representative of the character a dancer portrays and hence there is a fixed colour scheme, such as Shiva is white, Durga is yellow, demons are black or green, etc. As Chhau performance is a seasonal affair, the mask makers now produce smaller mask for use as wall decorations. Charida is about 60km from Purulia town (which shares its name with the district). Purulia is connected to Kolkata by road (six to seven hours drive) and express trains. Banglanatakdot com has announced a Chhau Mask festival at Charida (Dec 14-16, 2018) in winter.
Hill craft (Darjeeling/Kalimpong)
Home to several indigenous hill tribes and influenced by the Tibetan school of Buddhism, the art and crafts of the Darjeeling hills are unique in their own ways. One of the items that make their way to the shopping list of most visitors are the painted scrolls or ‘thangka’. You may also buy paintings by local artists, especially the ones depicting the Himalayas, the tea gardens and the local people, as keepsakes. The women are also expert in knitting woollen garments and shawls. The weekly market in Kalimpong is a good place to look for traditional garments worn by the local people. There are also products made of paper manufactured by using a local plant. Wood and bamboo carving is also practised by many.
Just over an hour away from Calcutta, but a world away in time, lies The Rajbari Bawali. The former home to the Mondal family, whose history dates back to Akbar the Great, this palatial structure has been lovingly, painstakingly and sensitively restored to recreate an extraordinary era; a time when the Zamindars, whose wealth was renowned, lived an extravagant, opulent life, yet one which also contained, music and dance, art and literature.
This undertaking, eight years in the making, has produced the only one of its kind, a restoration project in West Bengal which has recreated the lifestyles of the Zamindar’s in both its’ aesthetics and experiences. No stone has been left unturned and the attention to detail from the décor, to the food and cultural immersions offered, culminate to create what we describe as ‘Inspired Heritage.’
To the lovely readers and citizens,
Suggestion to each one of us !
During or at the beginning of each presentation/event, we should take into considerations that every drop of water is precious and that no drop of water provided shall be wasted.
During a recent event in Mumbai I noted that many water bottles provided to participants were opened and used by hardly 1/3 or even lesser and left as it is.Even in rooms big bottles were opened and a lot of drinking water wasted.
Please think , re-consider , revise and re-apply efficient use of natural resources .
#Daroonjinish #SwarupMohanty #OnePlanet #Respectresources
Best wishes and regards,
Basket making is one of the worlds oldest forms of craft, and therefore not surprisingly a part of ancient Egyptian tradition. Basketry is known from the earliest sites in Egypt. Remains of baskets have been found in the Fayoum dating to the Neolithic period, about 5000 BC. Basketry found in a Predynastic context is often of very high quality, not surpassed later. There were several words used to denote baskets, including mndm, nbt and dnit.
In general, baskets can be categorized into at least three primary descriptive classes, based on their construction and form, each exhibiting a wide range of variations. The three classes are coiled, twined and plaited, and all three types are known from ancient Egypt.
n coiled construction, a basket is formed by spirally coiling a continuous foundation of tightly wrapped bundles of fibers which creates a circular or oval base and walls. This coiled foundation is then bound by stitching, which intersects and binds the successive coils one to another. The stitching usually provides the products unique look. In the Bee-skep technique of coiling, the stitches are spaced widely apart without touching one another. The Furcate coil technique uses the new stitch to split the stitch in the preceding coil.
Twined basketry is constructed by weaving horizontal fiber elements called wefts around a stationary vertical framework called warps. Many different knots and stitches can be employed for securing these elements. For twined basketry, one set of construction elements is active (the wefts) while the other is passive (the warps).
In ancient Egypt, baskets were made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There were oval and circular body forms that were particularly common, some having lids made to match, and sometimes even carrying loops to ease handling. Other than their essential functional role, the craft of basket making also allowed a wide degree of artistic expression in terms of construction and decoration. The patterning of the various constructional elements could be manipulated in order to produce not only useful containers but also objects that were aesthetically pleasing. Smooth, rounded lines and graceful reinforcement ribs, for example can be seen in many surviving examples of ancient Egyptian coiled basketry.
Egyptian baskets were frequently adorned with ornamental or colored stitching or with plaiting incorporated into the constructional design. Geometric patterns, such as Van Dyke and checkered, were very common, and animal designs can also sometimes be seen. Black, red and white pigments were frequently used to color such designs through painted or dyed stitching, plaits or threads.
Today contemporary artists using age old basket weaving techniques express their reverence for ancient craftsmen and women, whose innovation inspires their work
The State of West Bengal is known for its great heritage of Artistic works and handicrafts. Generally, the technique to make handicrafts items has been confined in the family or in a particular community and it passes from generation to generation. especially women of the household have been engaged in making of various handicrafts for extra income for the family. In the early age, people used to interchange their handmade items for necessity. But in a change of era handmade items has been used not only for house hold purposes, but also for home decorations. Now in resent time Bengal handicrafts has its worldwide market for their richness in art and crafts, genuinely and price.
Though there are plenty of handmade items available in Bengal, following are primary crafts for which Bengal is known.
Korai Mat: Making of Korai pai mat is the cottage industry in the State of West Bengal. In local Bengali language it is known as Madur. This cottage handicraft industry has been developed in both the district of Medinipur and Dakshin Dinajpur.
Korai pai or Madur kathi is a plant and scientifically under the Cyperaceae family. Traditional floor mat, Designer folding mat, Masland mat, Various types of bags and wallet, wall hangers for home decorations etc. are made from korai pai and prefect gestures of artistic works.
Dockra: Dokra is the metal craft, made from generally brass. This type of craft has been in use from very primitive age. The ‘dancing girl’ of Mohenjo- daro civilization is the perfect example of this craft. In the District of Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and Purulia are famous for this Bengal Dockra. Primitive simplicity has given this artistic craft worldwide recognition.
Terracotta: Terracotta is a type of sculpture made from refine soil. West Bengal is very famous for terracotta crafts and ornaments. In the district of Bankura, Purulia, Malda and Kolkata are recognised for this craft.
Cane and bamboo: Various types of furniture, mats, lamp shades, trays, baskets are weaved from cane and bamboo. Specially the Coochbehar and Bankura districts are the famous for this craft.
Patahitra or Scroll Printing: Scroll printing or commonly known as Patachitra stands on special foot among the all other artistic work in the State of West Bengal. It is, generally women artisans use to draw incidents of daily life, religious matters and epic stories on a heavy fabric by natural colour. Specially, in the district of Paschim Medinipur and Kolkata, this form of art has been practised by the artisans.
Solapith: Solapith is a type of craft made from sola or Indian Cork, a spongy plant grown in the water. The white-milky wood of this cork has been Mainly Though headgear of Hindu bride and bride grooms, ornaments of Hindu Gods have been primarily made from this item, but at present Solapith has been used for making decorative items. This kind of product often called ‘ herbal ivory’. Mainly, in the districts of Murshidaabad, Malda, Birbhum are famous for this craft.
Craft of Conch shell: It is one of the most beautiful craft available in Bengal. Idols, ornaments and other home decorative beautiful crafts has been made from conch shell, which is a natural conch find in the ocean. In Hindu Mythology, crafts made from conch shell have very aesthetic value. Purba Medinipur is famous for this type of craft.
Kantha: It is one type of embroidery, made on cloth by running stitching of beautiful motifs. Birbhum, Murshidabad, Bardwan are the main places where this artistic craft has been practising.
West Bengal is believed to be the motherland of handicraft artistic works in India and in every corner of the State is establishing of this fact. Bengal Handicrafts now has got the world wide recognition. So, handicrafts are not only has the artistic value but also the monetary value as well.