Friday, December 17, 2010

Sholapith - Another View


Sholapith is one of the traditional craft particular to West Bengal. Like other traditional crafts, it had it’s origin in the ritual and religious requirements of old days. There was a time when Malakars, the traditional Sholapith artisans, enjoyed a respectable position in the village society and were included in the nine artisan class of Bengal. They use to supply wreaths and flowers for village deities and for the religious functions of the village society. No puja or marriage could be celebrated without the floral decoration for the deities or the Topor(Ornamental Bridal headgear) made by village Malakars.
Those days are gone. Those traditional items are not so much in demand as before. But the tradition of distinctive design and craftspersonship have persists and some how trying to findout ways to survive. Dolls and toys from sholapith are such items.
Shola (Aeschynomene Aspera) is a herbaceous plant growing wildly in water-logged marshy situation in Bengal Assam and in some parts of Orisa and Deccan Peninsula. The seeds germinate with showers in April and matured plants are collected in September/October, which are then dried in the sun and stored in the shade for use thoughout the year. The mature plant grows 3’-4’ in heights and 2”-3” in diameter. The soft white light and lustrous inner portion of the plant is used by the artisans for their work.
Shoal is very light by weight. When the thin brownish bark is removed, a shining white spongy materials is obtained which is the main raw material. The artisan cuts the stem into pieces for various length according to their requirements. The artisan use to cut paper like sponge sheets termed ‘Kaap’ or thin slice termed ‘Paturi’ with a long sharp blade. The artisan also makes serated blocks or design blocks and cut slices thereof for decorative purposes. In some case for toys and doll and human & animal forms, plaster moulds are used where shoal sheets are pressed to shape and layers of paper are pasted at the back for reinforcement.
The craftsperson scattered and traitional items like Chandmalas, Topors are their  common line of production. Craftspersons in a given geographical area have specialized in a particular line of production. The crafts persons of South 24 Paraganas are noted for their beautiful chandmalas, topors and other forms of floral designs. Now a days artisans of Joynagar of the same district excelled their craftspersonship on decorative floral items. The artisans of Bankapasi area of Bardhaman are noted for their beautiful shola decorations and ornaments which are called Daker Saaj of unusual size and diamention. The Birbhum artisans of Kirnahar area have earned a name for making shola images. Those are from Murshidabad, are also doing various still characters, boats, animal figures. Artisan from Dinajpur & Malda are excelled their craftspersonship for making Melli, which is a local word for Sanskrit Monjush. The Melli are made for the worship of Manosa & Chandi as well as they made Goanra to commemorate various Muslim ceremonies.
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