Arts and Crafts of Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh, or the place with thirty-six forts is a mine of multiple arts and crafts that mirror the simplicity of its people and the ingenuity of its creators. 

Terracotta

 

Terracotta

 

The handcrafted and countrified terracotta figures, particularly of the Bastar, Raigarh, and Ambikar regions are truly admirable. These figures are shaped by hands and lumber wheels. For this craft, the potters collect clay from the river banks, knead it to soften it, and then mould it into various shapes, thereby transforming their imagination and legacy into reality. This longstanding craft of  terracotta stands as a symbolic representation of regional customs, and tribal traditions. Terracotta figures also symbolise the aspiration of  the people living in the regions, the collective joy and sometimes even the stages of human life. 

Godna

 

Godna

 

The name "Godna '' is derived from the Hindi word, meaning ‘to tattoo by pricking’, but today, Godna has evolved into a full-fledged art form that is more than mere tattooing. In India, Godna art is prevalent among many tribes across the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. Tribespeople often associate some sort of  divinity with Godna’s ornamental beauty.

In traditional Godna tattooing, the skin is carefully punctured with a sharp reed or thorn, and then naturally made tattoo ink is applied over the design. Some of the striking and more complex geometric patterns include motifs like the Tree of Life,Hindu Gods, flora and fauna, and tribal myths. Among the Baiga tribes of Chhattisgarh, particularly among women, this body ornamentation is cherished with utmost pride and is passed down through generations. For these women, the earth and their bodies are synonymous; they perceive their bodies as a canvas and as an oasis. As far as Godna paintings of Chhattisgarh are concerned, the Devar Godna of Rajanandagaon and Godi Godna of Surguja are some of the notable examples.

Murai

 

Mural painting by Meheru Muria, 2014

Mural painting by Meheru Muria, 2014

 

Among some of the lesser-known tribes of India are the Muria tribe. This native tribe of Chhattisgarh lives in the north-central part of the Bastar district. The Murias are known to create paintings on the walls of their Ghotul, or houses. Although they do not possess a well-established painting tradition or any specific style, it is a fact that their designs are rather spontaneous and minimalistic, often made using dots of red and white clay. Over time, a tradition of paintings emerged that depicted the customs of tribes, their life, and their dance forms.The first individually known Muria tribal artists of Bastar were Belgur Muria, Shankar Muria and Pishadu Muria. Meheru Muria is a famous name in the field of Muria paintings. 

Gond 

 

Gond Wildlife

 

The word Gond comes from the word “ Kond”, which translates to “ green mountains”. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh have always been custodians of Gond tribes, hence the Gond art.  It is a fine example of art representing the interconnectedness of humans and their souls with their natural surroundings. The evidence of Gond Art in the caves belonging to the Mesolithic period highlights the antiquity of the art. From depicting Dharti Maa or Mother Earth to portraying the inhabitants of the wild, the excellence of Gond artists becomes evident to the eyes watching them. The artist begins by sketching the outline of the work. Once the outlines are complete, the individual components are filled with colours. The eyes are always filled in last, symbolising that the artwork is now alive. There is a rhythm, and a sense of harmony in colourful, repeated strokes, minuscule dots, circles, and lines. The similarities and the contrasts, the central and the peripheral elements, come together in ways that feel as though the patterns are cells constituting the body of work.

Pithora 

 

Pithora

 

The craft of creating art by the tribal artisans of India, particularly in the regions like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, whether on courtyard floors or their mud walls, indicates auspicious occasions and carries deep ritualistic meaning. Such is also the case with Pithora art. It is imperative to understand that Pithora wall paintings are not merely leisure paintings, they bear a significant cultural relevance on their own. The name “Pithora '' stems from the local deity, Baba Pithora, who is revered as the protector of the village.  The motifs range from nature and deities of the Rathwa and Bhilala tribes to daily human activities, like farming and trade. The mud-plastered walls bearing Pithora paintings are typically laden with many details and the natural colours of red, ochre, black, and yellow add an impressive touch to the motifs. 

Kosa Silk

 

Kosa Silk

 

The Korba and Champa districts of Chhattisgarh are quite famous for producing highly valued Kosa silk. Natural dyes are used to create exquisite designs. Kosa silk sarees are not only known for their stunning patterns but also for their sturdiness. Kosa silk is drawn out of cocoons of the Indian silkworm, Antharaea mylitta. Arjun, Saja, and Sal trees serve as the most suitable place for harvesting these silkworms. Making a Kosa silk saree is not only laborious but also time-consuming. In addition to that, Kosa worms are rare. As a result, the final products are highly priced. 

Dhokra

 

Dhokra

 

 Another mesmerising craft of Chhattisgarh is the Dhokra craft. Dancing Girl in the National Museum, New Delhi is the central and the most common example of Dhokra craft. The craft is considered revolutionary for being the first to utilise non-ferrous metals like copper and its alloys such as brass and bronze and creating their sculptures using a lost-wax or hollow casting technique. Crafting a perfect Dhokra figure requires precision and patience. The Ghadwas of Bastar and the Jharas are the common practitioners of this artform. Folk deities, Hindu Gods and Goddesses are some of the prominent themes that are adopted in crafting Dhokra figures. The Dhokra bull of Bastar is one of the famous artefacts.

Bastar Woodcraft

 

Bastar Woodcraft

 

Initially, the tribes of Chhattisgarh utilised woods mainly as a building material. Over time, they transitioned to using it for carving objects and engaging in carpentry. This led to the emergence of the Badhiya community. The artisans display a marvellous skill in carving wood, crafting everything from lovely ceilings, and doors to creating life-size images of Gods and Goddesses, relying mostly on manual techniques and minimal machinery.  Trees like Shisham, Teak, Dhudi, sal are commonly employed in this craft.

Tuma craft

 

Tuma craft

 

Crafting something out of a wild bottle gourd is a perfect example that illustrates how creative streaks are also about transcending conventional mediums. If such an endeavour does not qualify as a profound connection between art and its medium, then what does. Tuma or the opo squash or lauki (in Hindi) is a local wild bottle grown in Chhattisgarh. Apart from using Tuma as sustainable water containers, the local artisans of Bastar are known for carving and creating lamps, jewellery, toys and other items from the dried and hollowed-out Tumas. The guards are properly skinned and dried before delicately etching their surfaces with myths, folklore, symbols and patterns. Sadly, this unique Tuma craft is on the verge of extinction.

Stone Carving

 

 

Chhattisgarh is also a land that boasts a good quality of stone. The Sudapaal stone of Bastar district is an ideal material for artisans to work with. For polishing the stones, the artisans use tools like stone cutters and chisels. Usually, the artisans rely on freehand carving to create motifs and details. After the completion of the stone idols and sculptures, they are polished using polishing stones known regionally as battas. Other than carving religious idols like Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and expressing their beliefs and devotion through them, the artisans also carve pillars and vessels. These tribal stone crafts are so detailed and gorgeous that they continue to attract tourists and art connoisseurs alike.

Sisal Art 

 

Sisal Art

 

Sisal plants grow abundantly in many regions of Chhattisgarh. An interesting fact about its fibre is its durability and waterproof nature, that makes them a perfect material for crafting utility items such as mats, wall-hangings, baskets, ropes to name a few. The leaves are lance-shaped and the fibers that are made from the leaves are very smooth to touch. Their texture and perhaps even their sustainability have led their increasing popularity in recent times.

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References

1 comment

  • soundos: June 11, 2024
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    thanks for this nice blog

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