Friday, May 30, 2014

Shola cottage industry in West Bengal: Local history and future prospects3

A bit of history
The first shola works started in this Mandirbajar police district of South 24 Parganas, in the village of Maheshpur, approximately 200 years ago. As per Mr. Bairagi’s knowledge, artists from Maheshpur probably learnt their craft from Howrah. Gradually, the shola works spread to the neighboring villages.
About 100 years ago, Mokimpur started shola art works, followed by Pukuria 40-50 years back. Currently, 100% of the population in Maheshpur and around 99% in Pukuria are involved in shola works. Apart from these place, villages like Hattalam Gokulnagar, Sundir Hat,Kalitala, Gopalnagar have also started shola works.
The shola artworks are packaged in containers and exported outside the country via ships from Tuticorin harbor in Madras (Chennai). The shola artists previously created topor (conical shola hat used for weddings), kalka ( decorations used in worship), deity ornaments, Kadam flower, chandmala (garlands for worship decorations) and others.
Mr. Bairagi said that the first flower decorations were started by Montu Gayen of Mokimpur and Bhishma Koyal of Maheshpur. Later, others joined in. The exquisite models of rose and chrysanthemum made from shola can be only found in a few villages in the Mandirbajar police district. Shirakol, Amtala, Baruipur and other areas in the South 24 Parganas have also started shola works.
The first shola works started here in the Mali neighborhood of Maheshpur village. Practically, this is a “Halder” neighborhood as all artisans here have “Halder” surnames. But since they create chandmala and other decorations for deities, they are refered as Malakar/Mali (regional name for people making garland), hence the neighborhood name, said 23 year old Radharani Halder. Veteran Sudhir Kumar Halder (69) , sitting on the area next to his stairs, told us that shola works started in the times of his great grandfather, Gorachand Halder. His grandfather, Motilal Halder, was the eldest of the four brothers and his father, Jyotish Halder, passed away in 1973 at the age of 65. Pradip Halder (45) is Sudhir’s son. Counting Sudhir’s grandson, 6 generations in his family are involved in the shola works spanning about 150-200 years. Sudhir has his own farmland of 1 acre. Sudhir told us that trading of shola art works is their profession. Kamal Bairagi has told that he does not posses any farmland.
Rising demands
Sudhir’s family makes shola crowns,topor and deity ornaments. Their garlands are sent to different regions like Barabazar, Kumartuli, Kakdwip, Diamond Harbor etc. Their shola works are sent to Delhi, Bombay from Kumartuli. Sudhir’s paternal uncle is the famed artist, Rabindranath Halder, whose creations are sent to even USA. Rabindranath is adept at creating various types of dolls. A few months back, he went to Delhi to create a wedding structure (pandal).
Pradip told us that the demand for this craft is on the rise. A lot more people are now involved in this trade. Local physiotherapist, Subrata Halder (31), informed us that many villages namely Banshberia, Moukhali, Hattala,Rangaberia, Chaitanyapur and Muldia have started shola works. Local resident, Sudhangshu Halder has employed people in Mirzapur, Rambati and Gopalpur. Kartik Halder told us that shola works are exported to USA, Hong Kong and Singapore through Madras.
Rathindranath (25), Rabindranath’s son, told us that almost 20 thousand people in the nearby 20-25 villages are involved in this trade and approximately Rs 15-20 lakhs worth goods are traded every month.
Shola works are in demand abroad for cinema decoration, interior and exterior decoration. Recently, the fake plastic flower industry has captured some of the market. Home decorations made from date leaves and palm leaves also have a market presence. These two have a market share of 5% in the Maheshpur village and in the overall Mandirabazar police district.
- See more at: http://sanhati.com/excerpted/1935/#sthash.dkk5XO1T.dpuf
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