Saturday, April 18, 2009


Hand-made pottery is predominantly a woman's art and rituals in West Bengal. Women in most of the folk communities generally make variety of dolls and toys. These hand made figures, small dolls and toys are done by pressing and moulding methods. Some important and interesting items are :
Mangol Ghot
Mangol Ghot is a kind of small vase which is commonly used all over Bengal in all kinds of rituals. In birth initiation and marriage ceremonies, in the festivals and rituals of all Gods and Goddesses these auspicious vases of various shapes and sizes are counted as essential requisites. These are mostly painted.
Lakshmi Ghot
These are auspicious vase of the Goddess of wealth. There is fairly a large variety of Lakshmi Ghot in West Bengal, mostly done in pairs, one for Lakshmi and another for Ganesh. Of these, Tamluk Lakshmi - ghats are most decorative and beautiful. Lakshmi's face is shaped on the upper fringe of the vase, with sharply drawn eyes and crest and the trunk of Ganesh in the other vase is also fine. In Raghunathbari, the vases are placed like bowls on an earthen stand. The Jhargram type, is the simplest one with a little long neck marked with two dots for eyes. It has a look of tribal simplicity.
Manasa - Ghat (Bari)
The most conspicuous type of Manasa ghat is found in Bankura and Garbeta area of Midnapur. Based on earthen jars turned upside down, the face of the serpant-Goddess, along with the attached snake-hoods, give the vase a peculiar shape and form. The number of snake-hoods varies from one, three, five, seven, to more than hundred arranged in ascending tiers according to the size of the vase.
One of the finest unique specimens of potter's craft is the Tulsimancha of Midnapore. Tulsimancha is generally a raised pedestal, either brick-built or earthen. The terracotta tub - like Tulsimancha with decorative motifs (mainly of Gods and Goddesses) are hardly found outside Midnapore. . It may be placed on the ground anywhere and filled with earth. Then a tulsi plant or any other small plant may be planted on it.
Dakshin Roy's Head - 'Bara - Murti'
Another interesting piece of pottery which is basically a Ghat or vase, shaped into the figure of a local village deity is Bara-Murti. This is also a vase upside down. The upper part is elongated into the form of a leaf with painted leaves and flowers on it and below it on the round surface the face of Barathakur is drawn. It is commonly worshiped in pair and also sold by potters in pair, of which one is God Bara and the other, his consort Narayani. In the Narayani ghat the moustache is absent. Eyes, eyebrows, moustache and beard are all sharply painted by brush. The worship of this Bara - murti is widely prevalent in the south of 24 Parganas district, where almost in every village the rituals are observed on a mass scale during the last day of Bengali month Pous and the first of Magh, corresponding to 14-15 January. The painted terracotta heads of Bara is placed under trees in pairs. Locally Bara is popularly known as the severed head of 'Dakshin Roy' who is a tiger-god. It is one of the most popular people's God in south 24 Parganas, associated with an environment of forest, which is likely to be the Sunderbans.
Marriage - Ritual vessels (Harhi)
In marriage ceremonies, vessels of different shapes and sizes are necessary for sending gifts to bride's and bridegroom's houses, especially varieties of sweets. Earthen vessels were used in the past because it were considered more sacred and auspicious than glass-pots or metal-pots. Of these earthen vessels some interesting varieties are found in Bankura, Midnapore and Murshidabad, which are painted and decorated. Harhis are not painted in all places and even where these are painted, the painting is not done by the professional potters of Kumbhakar caste, but by Patuas or scroll-painters, as in Midnapore (Narajol). In Bankura, the vessels are not painted by brush, but etched and engraved with pointed needles by potters (generally women). The designs are geometric and symbolic. Fish is a common subject in all drawings on these auspicious vessels. The Patuas paint flowers and leaves with fish. The other designs are of trees and flowers, symbolically executed.
Putul (Dolls)
The dolls are usually made by pressing and moulding methods. Now-a-days these are mostly prepared in mould. The mould may be prepared in parts and on each mould - piece the required quantity of clay is firmly pressed to get the intended shape and look. Clay paste is used for joining together the moulded parts. Then the object is dried, burnt and painted by brush. Mica - coated Red Dolls are made by moulding method. It is found in Howrah district : Puilya, Tantiberai, Tulsiberai and Sariyala - Balipota and in Midnapore.
Pressed - nose Dolls
The size of this doll is 1-2 inches to 4 -5 inches. It is found in Tulsi - berai, Tantiberai, Sariyala - Balipota, Antila and Kalikapur, Patihal and Jagatballavpur in Howrah district, in Midnapore town and in Berachampa - Debalaya. The dolls of Jagathballavpur and Midnapore town have blue and red stripes on white coating.
Horse - riders with and without wheels : Average height of the dolls is 4 to 5 inches.
Wheeled type is made in Tantiberai and Bantul in Howrah district and in Berachampa. Mother - Dolls :
Of all the mother - dolls the most interesting and unique types are made by Bankura potters. The types vary in different centres. Panchmura, Rajagram and Sonamukhi which are the three principal centres of Bankura pottery produce different type of mother - dolls. The dolls of Sonamukhi have red colour but the Panchmura dolls are generally black. Dolls of Sonamukhi and Rajagram have 'bonnets' also.
Dolls with Hip Jars
These are popularly known as 'Kalasi Kankhe Putul' or dolls with hip - jars.' Housewives on the village roads with water filled earthen jars on their hips in pleasant relaxing mood ' has been captured by the women potters and shaped perfectly into the hip-jar dolls. There are numerous representations of village life in dolls. The different types of these dolls are hair - caring, milk - maid (Goalini), wheat-crusher, horse - rider and elephant - rider. All these dolls are done by pressing method and by women potters. Of these, hair-caring is a peculiar type of doll which depicts a woman sitting in front with her child sucking her breast and another woman from behind is caring her hair. The size of the doll is about 5" x 6"x3". It has all the qualities of sculpture and looks like a piece of wood-carving or stone-carving.
Patua-made dolls
Patuas or Chitrakars are scroll-painters. Some types of clay dolls, figures of deities and animals are made by women of Patua-caste in West Bengal in Midnapore, Bankura, Howrah and 24 Parganas. Silate (slate-like) dolls: These are like plaques with holes for fixing on walls. These are coloured dolls and the favourite colours are green, red and blue.
Krishnanagar Pottery
Krishnanagar clay-modeling is about 250 years old and the potters of Krishnanagar did not originally belong to their present locality. In Krishnanagar pottery the social scenes of our country and the people, the different castes and racial types are reproduced realistically in clay-models. For example social scenes like collectors court, tea garden, Pandit-Sabha, Charak festival etc are used in clay modeling. This pottery is very popular and in most of the international exhibitions held since 1851, Krishnanagar clay-models have won medals and certificates and also great admiration from the people of Europe. The prices were very high even one hundred years ago and one can easily imagine its possible clientele today. The customers of these models used to be mainly Europeans.
Bankura Pottery
The principal centres where the terracotta horses and elephants are produced are Panchmura, Rajagarm, Sonamukhi and Hamirpur. Each of these four centres has its local style. Bankura horse is very popular. The Bankura pottery is mainly used for ritualistic purposes. The rituals are almost all exclusively associated with local village gods and folk-festivals in the worship of various kinds of tribal, semi-tribal and folk deities. The Panchmura-style of pottery is the best and the finest of all the four types. The symmetry of shape, the rhythm of the rounded curves of the body, especially of the horse, have lent a dignity and charm to it's form which is incomparable. Simplicity and dynamism are the chief components of Panchmura-style. It is more sophisticated than the other three types-Rajagram, Sonamukhi and Kamirpur types are a little less sophisticated and more massive. In Jhargram and Gopiballavpur areas in Midnapore district, within the tribal belt, the terracotta horses assume a crude near-primitive form and are fully hand modeled.
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