West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are two of the most culturally rich states in terms of arts and crafts in India. West Bengal is home to many talented artisans, the skills of which can be seen in the many idols, temples and handicrafts that are found in abundance in the state. Some of these exotic crafts include terracotta craft, conch shell craft, bamboo crafts and hand-made leather crafts. The art and craft of Tamil Nadu, which is also sometimes popularly called the “Cultural Capital” of India, has been mentioned in the archives of Kautilya and other scholars who were amazed by the variety and beauty of handicrafts made in the state. These famous crafts include woodcraft, stone carving and Tanjore paintings.
The above-mentioned crafts of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are some amongst the many famous crafts. What we often tend to overlook are the traditional handicrafts of these states that are gradually dying due to the aggressive competition that they face from factory-made products. The following are some such handicrafts:
WEST BENGAL - MADUR
In Bengal, ‘Madur’ means floor mats, which are an integral part of the state’s lifestyle. Madur is a tradition and pride of Midnapore. Women of the households are involved in weaving this handicraft. Madurs are woven from a local reed called madur kathi, usually found in marshy, swampy areas. In earlier days, whenever guests came home, especially in rural Bengal, it was customary to immediately roll out a madur for them to sit on. Once a flourishing cottage industry in the former Midnapore district of West Bengal, only a handful pursue it today.
TAMIL NADU - CLAY POTTERS OF THIRUCHIGADI
In the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, only women of the Kota tribe have been engaged in the craft of pottery. From the ceremonial extraction of the clay at grounds close to the settlements to the moulding and shaping, planning and firing, it has been women at the wheel. The men usually do no more than fashion the wheel. Before stainless steel and plastic came up from the plains, the only pots used in these hills were clay ones made by the Kota.
These are just a few of the many handicrafts of these states that are dying. Not just because of the competition that they face, but also because of the disinterest of the younger generation towards these handicrafts. This leaves senior craftspeople in fear that their skills will die with them.
It’s time for us to step in and give voice to these handicrafts so that they do not become extinct with time.
Ishani Paul -