crafts of bihar- an overview by indian artisans online

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Post on 05-Sep-2014




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Every year our research team travels extensively across India to meet and profile artisans. In December 2013, our team visited Bihar (northern India) to profile artisans practicing Madhubani, Sikki and Sujani crafts. We give you an overview of the different crafts of Bihar- its origin, significance, and the present state of the craft sector.


  • Overview by Indian Artisans Online
  • Distinct forms of Madhubani Painting The most popular craft form from Bihar, these paintings originated from traditional practices at the time of marriage, child birth, death and other festivals. Mithila Painting Line Painting Godna/Tattoo Painting Tantrik Painting Sikki Craft Sujani Craft Papier Mache
  • Mithila Painting Inspired by the stories from Ramayana & Mahabharata. Different Aripans (auspicious floor drawings) and Kohbar (painting made at the time of marriage to bless the new couple) are also made. Earlier soot (end of a jute rope) and bamboo brush was used to make the painting. Now different types of brushes are easily available in the market and both natural and fabric colors are used. Kohbar room at Mahasundari Devis home Practiced mostly in Ranti, Jitwarpur, Rajnagar, Bijay Salempur, Lohfa (villages in Mahubani district), and also in Darbhanga district by Kayastha and Brahmins. Pioneers: Mahasundari Devi, Sita Devi, Jagdamba Devi, Godawari Dutta, Jamuna Devi
  • Line Painting Stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, different Aripans, Kohbar, flora & fauna are usually the subject for these paintings. Theme based paintings are also created especially for the market. Nib holder and color is used to make fine lines and the filling is done with a brush. Time consuming and highly skilled painting. Up to 3 art panels (22*30) can be made in one month. Amresh Kumar Lal Das This type of madhubani art is practiced in Rashidpur village by the Kayastha caste. But now other communities have adopted the style as well. Pioneers: Gangadevi (Padma Shree awardee)
  • Godna/Tattoo Painting Prominent motifs include concentric circles of flowers, fields, animals, figures, and spirits. A pointed bamboo pen and lampblack ink is used to make the paintings. Time consuming because wide range of small motifs are used. Godna painting by Manju Devi Practiced mostly in Jitwarpur village by the lower castes (Paswan Tola) Pioneers: Chano Devi (National Awardee)
  • Tantrik Painting Tantrik painting was started by Brahmins and is practiced by very few people. Most of the paintings depict different forms and stories of Devi Shakti based on Sanskrit shlokas. In-depth knowledge of Tantra, Mantra and Yantra (basic spiritual paths of Hinduism) and Sanskrit is required for making these paintings. Sidh Kali by Krishan Kant Jha A relatively new form of Madhubani art which originated from Harinagar (Madhubani district). Pioneers: Krishan Kant Jha
  • Sikki Craft Major clusters are found in the villages of Raiyam and Umari The raw material (sikki grass) is not available throughout the year. It is only harvested after monsoon. Individual capacity is not equal to the market demand. The craft is generally practiced in small groups. Major products are: platters, roti pots, utility items, and home dcor items. Flower pot by Munni Devi Traditionally used to make household utility products like baskets and roti box. Pioneers: Kameshwar Thakur and Munni Devi from Raiyam and Bucchi Devi from Umari.
  • Raiyam Sikki Jeevika Gram Sangathan Umari Hastkala Vikas Kendra
  • Sujani Craft Craft evolved from the tradition of making quilts for infants. For this patches of old clothes were sewn together using simple chain stitch. Traditional motifs are flowers, animal figures and Gods. Multiple layers of thread were used to embroider earlier making the stiches look thick. But now a Kantha (West Bengal) style of embroidery is being used more. Major clusters are Bhusra village (Muzaffarpur) and Gangapur (Madhubani). Products by Bhusra Mahila Vikas Samiti Sujani- word derived from Su which means easy and jani meaning birth Pioneers: Nirmala Devi, Subhadara Devi
  • Bhusra (Muzaffarpur) Bhusra Mahila Vikas Samiti Gangapur (Madhubani) Subhadra Devi
  • Papier Mache The motifs used for decorating the items are inspired from Madhubani painting. This craft is usually practiced in pockets of Madhubani clusters. Unlike Kashmiri papier mache, the market for this craft is dwindling. Most artisans find it unprofitable. Major products include dolls, small decorative items, and platters. Papier mache doli by Lalita Devi Traditionally, women used papier mache to make household utility items like vessels, and storage containers. Masks were also made for home dcor. Pioneers: Karpoori Devi, Subhadra Devi, Lalita Devi.
  • Manjusha Kala and Tikuli Art
  • According to folklore, Shiva granted permission to his daughter Bishahari (snake goddess) to worship earth. To mark this day the Bishahari festival is celebrated in Bhagalpur and parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam and Bangladesh. Another tale talks about Bihula who saved her husband from dying of a snake bite by appeasing the snake gods. Traditionally, manjusha were boxes shaped like temples in which devotees kept their prayer materials. These boxes are used during the festival. The dominant motif in this art is snake. Mostly pink, yellow and green colors are used to make the paintings. Pink signifies offering, yellow is for prosperity, and green for happiness. Manjusha art by Manoj Kumar Also known as snake paintings, this art is based on the story of Bishahari (daughter of the Hindu deity Shiva). Apart from paintings on paper, artisans are also experimenting on stationary items, and bags.
  • Tikuli which means bindi has existed since the Mughal era. At that time gold and silver foil were used on glass base to make bindis, which women used as adornment. Now artisans make dots instead of using bindis. The present form of the craft was brought by Upendra Maharathi. He had seen paintings being done on hardboard in Japan and adopted the method to help revive tikuli. Mythological stories, Krishna Raas Leela are depicted in Tikuli art. Major products include decorative wall panels Pioneers: Upendra Maharathi, Ashok Kumar Biswas Raas Leela by Sohan Kumar Chaudhary
  • Jute Craft- Patna & Munger Main Products- Bags, stationery & jewelry Applique- Patna Main Products- Bed sheets & table covers Pattharkatti (Stone Carving )- Gaya Main Products- Religious idols and decorative items Rahika (Wood Carving)- Madhubani Main Products- Decorative items & Madhubani inspired wall panels Aari Work (embroidery)- Aara Main Products- Dress material & sarees Bamboo Craft- Vaishali Main Products- Decorative items Weaving- Nalanda Main Products- Sarees & bed sheets
  • Commercialization of Madhubani craft started in 1960 and it was spearheaded by the likes of Kamla Chattopadhaya, Bhaskar Kulkarni, Puppul Jaykar, Upendra Maharathi. They were all associated with different government handicraft departments. Award winning artists like Mahasundari Devi, Ganga Devi, Jagdamba Devi, and Sita Devi have also contributed in popularizing Madhubani painting. Their legacy still lives on and many visitors come to the villages especially looking for their art. Their family continue to use their style of art. One of the biggest challenge is the erosion of traditional knowledge due to commercialization. Young artisans are not aware of the meaning or significance of many of the motifs. Many artisans fear that the history of the crafts may soon be forgotten. Artisans feel that the history of the craft can be conserved by setting up museums in villages. Since many of the villages are known for a particular style of art artisans also feel that this can be used for rural tourism. There is very little documentation of some of the art forms like Tikuli, Nalanda weaves and Manjusha due to which they are still relatively unknown.
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