Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Horn Crafts of Bengal

The use of animal horn for various ornamental and decorative purpose is perhaps as old as civilization itself. In a survey published by cottage industries of Bengal, 1927, J N Majumder, the then SI, Burdwan Division mentioned town of Dacca, Bhola, Patuakhali, Galachipa, Amtoli, of Barishal District as chief centres of horn comb industry in undivided Bengal. Though the present seat of industry in Medinipur district escaped his attention, though evidences show that the industry has established itself in the part of the State well ahead of period. In fact by and by the two main centres of horn productions Baisnabchak and Joteghanashyam of Purba Medinipur did flourished as a major horn crafts producing area. It may be mentioned that horn artisans of Bangladesh are from mainly Muslim Communities and the artisans of West Bengal are the Sutradhars. Later to develop the industry further Government of West Bengal employed some master craftspersons from Orissa to train the Medinipur ctaftspersons in making toys and fancy crafts.
Later Jeweleries, dolls and toys, walking sticks, pen holders, napkin rings, fork & spoons, fascinating birds and animals are produced as a part of interior decoration or everyday utilities.
Buffalo horn available in the market is hollow at the base and solid at tip. Only the hollow portion is used for comb making.
For making comb horizontal sections are required width are cut from the hollow portion of the horn with long saws called pancha karat. Then the pieces are soaked in water and outer coating is removed with a bias, an axe. The inner part is chisel to get uniform thickness. The round ring thus obtained is cut at one point and heated on charcoal fire. Horn become soft and pliable.
The traditional tools used to make horn products are -
OPancha Karat a type of saw fitted on wooden frame and worked by two persons pulling and pushing by the ends, Bais - sharp axe with short handle used to cutting and chipping the horn. Wooden press used for flattering of horn sheets pressure being exerted by hammering a wedge between two logs of wood fixed at the ends by metal rods, Sans - flat and round file with horizontal teeth, special chisels, teeth cutting saw sets, turning chisels etc.
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