Arts And Crafts Of Bihar

Bihar has a rich heritage of craftsmanship. Over the centuries, skills have been passed down from generation to generation. Though technology has caused slight variations in the crafts, they largely remain the same, as they were thousands of years ago.

The handicrafts of Bihar present a synthesis of utilitarianisms,artistic beauty and emotional contents. The utilitarian aspect of the handicraft may be seen in the ancient stones, wooden structures, grass-clothes,lacquer and metal-wares.

The craftsmen of Bihar specialized over ages in creative activities and excelled in the manufacture of artistic goods, which were not only popular in local markets, but were also in great demand overseas. After the British domination of India from the late 18th century onward, the handicrafts dies a slow death at the hands of the machine-made-foreign goods which flooded the local market under the shield of protections, and craftsmen gradually gave up their professions due to lack of patronage and ultimately sank to the lower levels of the society. However, the crafts that survived were those, which were strongly fastened to our religious and social rituals. According to archaeological finds, handicrafts of Bihar go back to thousands of years. The excavations of Kumhrar, Bulandibagh, Nalanda and other places in Bihar have yielded many finds that speak of the skill of craftsmen. Among the existing crafts of Bihar, pottery, wooden articles, metal wares, stone wares, jewelry, lacquer works, kashida, sikki and moonj wares, wooden and clay toys, zari, artistic textile fabrics and printing on cloth may specially be mentioned. Besides, there are numerous crafts, which enable villagers to have part-time occupations to supplement their earnings.
Wooden Work

In ancient times Magadh was famous for the manufacture of furniture. Highly artistic models were carved on simhasan (royal throne) and doors and panels of temples. In Patna district, wooden toys are still manufactured. Carpenters manufacture wheels of bullock-carts and also sugarcane crushers (kolhu) Danapur is a traditional seat for manufacture of furniture which still compete well with modern furniture on account of their durability and comparative low prices and form an important item in the Somvari fair and Sonepur fair held every year in the months of Shravan at Patna and Kartik at Sonepur. The artists are not slow to recognize the change of taste of customers and the ornate style has now been simple to conform to modern times. Many of the carpenters specialize in toy making of no mean order.

Wood Carving
The woodcarvings as a decorative art In Mauryan times, houses in this city were made mostly of wood and had carvings on them as has been confirmed from the finds in the excavations of Kumhrar. Some of the old houses of Patna City have still carved pieces in their doors and windows.
Clay pottery has been recognized since ancient times as a medium of expression of crafts. The excavations of Kumhrar, Nalanda and Rajgir confirm this. The art of pottery was highly developed during the Mauryan and Gupta periods. The works of these master craftsmen are part of our rich heritage and have inspired the modern potters to improve their artistic pattern. Potters all over the state manufacture earthen utensils and tiles. Some of them are capable of doing artistic painting on jugs. Potters of Patna are traditional artists for making statues of goddess Durga and Sarswati and other deities to meet the local demands on the occasions of Durga Puja, Basant Panchami and other occasions.
Bamboo Work
Many members of a particular scheduled caste community live on bamboo bars. They manufacture baskets and other household wares. Basket making is carried on in many villages of the district as bamboos are generally available everywhere. Bamboo furniture pieces are also manufactured. Morhas is a common sight even in humble homes. Novel designs are constantly being evolved at the Institute of Industrial Designs, Patna where craftsmen keep themselves in touch with the change of tastes of customers.
Sikki Works
Sikki is available in abundance in the diara areas of the Ganges and also in the beds of other rivers. Women manufacture artistic toys and wares out of it.

Brass Works

This is one of the most ancient crafts of Patna. The images of goddesses, utensils, iron pitchers and other utility articles were found in course of excavations at Nalanda and Rajgir. This craft flourished in Patna even from before the Mauryan era and continued till Gupta and Pal periods. During the Gupta period, there were two artisans of crafts and metal works at Kumhrar who used to advise on the painting of bell metal moulding and casting even in Japan, Korea, Tibet, Indonesia, Ceylon, Indo-china, Burma, etc. The Institute of Industrial Designs, Patna is making experiments on different kinds of artistic and utility wares.

Tikuli Works
This has been a very popular craft of Patna Saheb (city) and Harihans (Saran). Tikuli is manufactured from the broken glass, which is either purchased or collected. The broken glass is melted in an oven called 'bhattha'. In this industry both males and females have equal share. The manual work in melting the glass is done by the male members of the family but it is the women who give the final finish and design. The chief markets of Tikuli are Banaras, Patna and Calcutta. The ladies on the forehead as an ornament use the finished product, Tikuli.
Zari Works

Patna City used to be a very important center for production of artistic embroidery and works in Zari. Even now some homes earn their living through this art. Ladies in many houses do kasida as a hobby. The outstanding examples of kasida works are found in shamiyanas, kanath, chandwas, pillow-covers, batwas, covers for musical instruments, tablecloth, window curtains, blouse pieces, sari, borders, etc.

Old Patna City, now called Patna Sahib has been the home of this work since olden times and even now continues its tradition though in a very diminished form. It is a type of embroidery with gold and silver threads, beads, silk, and sequins on satin or velvet. Each zari work is a piece of fine workmanship.

Textile Printing
Textiles such as silk and cotton are used for printing. It is an ancient art and has been referred to by Ban Bhatta in Harsh Charita. Patna Sahib has specialized for centuries in making chundri. Even now, there is a class of people called rangrej in Patna who make living through this art.

Fine works of jewelry in silver has been a specialty of the State. Goldsmiths all over the state manufacture fine ornaments. Patna continues the tradition of making ornaments, which are found in many of the old sculptures and antiquities, though the artists are never slow to adapt themselves to modern tastes.

Paintings reflect the creative genius of man's inner manifestations of urge and impulses. His aesthetic tastes, religious leanings, love for natural phenomenon,affection for the feminine beauty and likings for the various objects of the divine creation are all responsible for the reproduction of quite a good many paintings of different subjects which are a source of everlasting joy and a perennial source of inspiration. Besides these items on which the artist's attention was caught for producing a relevant painting of his choice, his attention has also been drawn towards the panoramic view of the day to day life of the people and this has resulted in the reproductions of various such paintings dealing with the daily life of the people.

The art of painting in Bihar might have developed during the Gupta period. Perhaps the Ajanta tradition of paintings might also be present in the Bihar region as well during the Gupta period. Artists of the Pala period evolved a new method of painting on manuscripts, which are commonly known as illustrated manuscripts. This type of painting on manuscript, therefore, was quite distinct from that of the wall painting of Ajanta of the Gupta period, although in essence this was but a continuation of the classical tradition of the Gupta period painting.

Of the Pala period we have also some evidences of the Mural paintings in Bihar discovered in the excavated remains at Nalanda from its Sarai mound. This mound is located in front of the main excavated remains at Nalanda. The difference between the paintings at Ajanta and the Sarai mound is evident. At Ajanta, on a thick rough surface of the wall of the rock cave, a fine layer of mud plaster has been laid in order to smoothen the rough surface. After that a thin layer of red-wash has been applied and then the painting has been executed on it. As against this, at Sarai mound a thin layer of mud plaster has been applied on the surface as carrier and a thin layer of red-was as ground and then the pigments are applied.
In the modern times Bihar is known for particularly two separate styles of paintings that are worth of special mention.
Patna Kalam
The Patna School of Paintings or the Patna Kalam (the local style) as it is better known flourished for about two centuries in Bihar between 1760 A.D. and the early years of the 20th.century. The style portrays mostly the scenes of everyday life of the people of Bihar, which retains the Indian traditions. We have the paintings of the local artisans and craftsmen plying their trade. These paintings are light coloured sketches and are admirably drawn and are life-like representations. Rarely do they have any landscape, foreground or background. These paintings were very popular among the middle classes. Another individuality of the Patna School of Painting was towards the development in the shading of solid forms. The old Mogul technique of showing shadow by minute stippling or darker tones of the same colour is given up and lay the English watercolour the shadow is shown with soft washes of colour. Unlike the English artists, the Patna painters painted only miniatures and never ventured to experiment with canvas or oils or to paint large size pictures. Although the Patna paintings are miniatures yet they retain full grace and charms and the delicacy of its line is maintained. In certain pictures the line is used to circumscribe regions of colours and link them in a single organic pattern. The volumes are often sharply stressed and every object is precisely placed to form a pattern and yet at the same time it suggests the three dimensions also. Flora and fauna also find a good place in this style of painting.

The characteristic features of paintings are that these are painted straightway with the brush without using the pencil to delineate the contours of the picture and such a technique was commonly known as 'Kajli Seahi’. It required considerable skill in painting the miniature as they are technically called. The smaller the size of the pictures, the more difficult is the required brush touch. The figures are usually painted in fine brown pigment technically called "deep sepia" and a sober red ochre and the clothes are shown in "Safaida”, i.e. in white colour with soft gray shadows touched with pools of deep crimson and sometimes applied with dull gold, i.e. yellow pigment and deep peacock blue. The features of the figures of these paintings are characterized by the pointed noses, heavy eyebrows, lean and gaunt faces, sunken and deep-set staring eyes and big moustaches, but at the same time they have a formalized precision of the general shapers.

The Patna Museum has got a very good collection of the paintings of this School. The Patna School of Painting is facing a gradual decline and becoming a matter of past with the lapse of time as new faces are not coming forward to carry on this ancient tradition and the old ones are passing away one by one.

Madhubani Painting
Subject Matter of the Paintings Aripana
This art is exclusively practiced by the women folk of Mithila region. It is, therefore, also known as Mithila Paintings. Primarily it is an art done mainly by the Maithil Brahman and Maithil Kayasthas and then it was followed by the other women folk of Mithila. Madhubani Paintings are of two types. The one is Bhittichitra and the other one is Aripana.

Bhittichitra are mainly done on the mud-walls of a house at three places, namely (1) Gosain-ka-ghar (i.e. the room of the family goddess or deity "Kula Devi"), (2) Kohbar-ghar (i.e. the room of the newly wed couple) and (3) Kohbar-ghar-ka- Koniyan (i.e. the verandah or the outer side of the Kohbar-ghar where the friends of the bridegroom use to sit and chit chat). These paintings are executed by the Maithil women folk on the outer and inner walls of a house at the above mentioned places on the auspicious days like Vivah (marriage), Upnayana (Janeu) ceremonies or on festival days like Dussehra and Deepawali or on the occasion of Vratas i.e. on the occasion of the performance of some rituals. These types of paintings on the mud walls of a house are commonly known as Bhittichitra.
In the Bhojpuri speaking area of Bihar, the word Urehana has been used for making Bhittichitra. This is done by the village people, male or female who are Malis by caste but in the Mithila region such paintings are drawn by the women folk only.

The paintings done in the Gosain- ghar (Kula-Devi) include the figures of various gods and goddesses depicting Durga, Kali, Ram and Sita, Radha and Krishna, Shiva and Parvati, Gauri and Ganesha, the ten incarnations of Vishnu and the Sun and Moon whose presence through pictures bring prosperity and joy to the family.

The subject matter of Kohbar paintings of Mithila may be classified in three types, namely religious, secular and decorative. The religious paintings include various gods and goddesses; while the secular and decorative paintings contain various symbols of prosperity and fertility such as elephant, horse, fish, lion, parrot, turtle, bamboo, lotus flower, puraina leaves, pan, flowers, creepers, swastika, shankha etc. Besides these we also find in these paintings aspects of agricultural animal life. The general motifs or the designs include conventionalized flora and fauna, circles in series, spiral or curvilinear devices, series of short lines and footprints etc.
In the Bhojpuri speaking area, the subject matter of the Kohbar-ghar paintings portraits the figures of bamboos, lotus leaves (Puraina) and the motifs of auspicious signs (Mangalik Chinha), Sandalwood paste, birds and figures of gods.

The Colour Pigments used for the Paintings
The Brahmin folk-women artists of Mithila have used mostly deep fast colours for these paintings and they are deep red, green, blue, black etc. but generally the maximum variety of red colour has been used by them. Besides these deep colours, they have also used yellow, pink, lemon colours. In these paintings, however, we do not find any scheme of light and shade and they are only two-dimensional having length and breadth. But the Bhojpur speaking women have used red for white, vermilion for red, Haldi (Tamarind) for yellow, Kajal (Carbon) for black and Geru (hematite) for grey colours for decorating Kohbar-Ghar.

In Mithila region the colours were prepared by indigenous method at home such as black by thick deposit of smoke, yellow by mixing banana leaves and milk with red, red from the juice of Kusum flower, deep red by dissolving vermilion into water, green from the leaves of creepers etc. These different colours are mixed with goat’s milk and gum etc. and applied with cotton or wool rugs or with thin bamboo brush or cotton threads. In other words it may be stated that the old women and the young maidens of the family use brushes made of clothes and tied on to a stick. They reinforce the lines and fill in the colours with it. Sometimes they apply the colours by the help of their fingers as well.

In Mithila region, this Bhittichitra is done generally by the women folk of the upper cast (Kulina families, such as Brahman and Kayasthas). Brahmin women folk paintings have delicate meandering lines, which enclose areas of brilliant colours (pink, green, yellow, lemon, blue, black, red etc.). But the Kayastha women folk paintings on the other hand employ only one or two colours, the black and sometimes dull blood red. They rely on strong lines enlivened with hatching and sporting and the figures often set in panels, are firmly ranged in long procession round the wall. Thus in short, it may be said that generally this Bhittichitra is painted in fast colours. It has got only two dimensions i.e. length and breadth.

The other type of painting practiced by the women folk of Mithila is known as "Aripana " or "Alpana" which stands for line drawings on the floor of the House. It is a very popular and common art of painting on floor known by different parts of India. In Bengal it is known as Alpana, in Gujrat it is known as Rangoli, in Rajasthan it is known as Mandal, while in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. & Bihar especially in Bhojpuri area it is commonly known as Chauka-Purana but in Mithila it is widely known as Aripana.
In Mithila "Aripana" art of painting on the floor is very popular. There is no house in Mithila where an auspicious ceremony is performed without Aripana.

The purpose of this Aripana or line drawing on the floor was originally to make the cultivated land fertile and fruitfully by magical performances. Aripana as line drawings on the ground on the ground are done on the eve of certain rituals or ceremonies such as Puja, Vrata, and Samskara (e.g. Mundan, Vivah, Yajnopavita etc). On every occasion, these drawings are made afresh and anew in the courtyard, door front and other places.

The material which is used for Aripana is powdered rice made into paste with water. This powdered rice paste is commonly known as Pittha. Sometimes Vermillion (Sindur) is also applied, besides white, red, green, yellow and black colours. In various Aripana designs, we have the images of Shiva-Parvati, Vishnu-Lakshmi, Radha-Krishna and many other gods and goddesses painted in different shapes and dorms with multiple colours. Aripana, in fact symbolizes the prevalence of the Shakti cult in Mithila. Thus most of the Aripanas are closely associated with the Tantric cult.

The subject matter of Aripana generally falls into five groups, namely (1) images of human beings, birds and animals including fish, peacock and snake along with natural Phenomena, (2) flower (lotus) leaves, trees and fruits (3) Tantrik symbols i.e. Yantras, Bindu (dots) etc. (4) gods and goddesses and (5) other objects like lamp, swastika, mountain, rivers etc. On close examination of these symbols and designs, one would come across several Geometrical shapes in the form of triangles, rectangles etc which point to the great Tantrik influences on the art of Aripana. In drawing Aripana, no brushes are employed; the drawing is usually done through nimble fingers.

Rock Paintings

The Kaimur district, situated in the Southwestern part of Bihar, is one of the most important districts from the cultural and archaeological point of view. Not only do we have the very well known Mundeshwari temple in this distinct but also a number of other sites of archaeological importance where apart from sculptural and architectural remains other antiquarian remains such as potteries, coins, inscriptions besides the most significant prehistoric rock paintings etc. have also been found. These remains bring to light the political, socio-economic, as well as, cultural aspects of different periods of the history of this part of Bihar.

The Kaimur district is presently surrounded on all its sides by rivers. The plateau and the hills described as wild and as remote from the world as ever are largely covered with forest growth while their slopes are densely clad with jungles. The boundaries of the hills though well defined are very irregular and often indented by the deep gorges scoured out by hill streams. Rising abruptly from the plains their sides present sheer precipices with masses of debris at their feet, while their summits simulate a table of land broken by scores of saucer-shaped valleys. The Vindhya rocks of the Kaimur hills constituting the great sedimentary series are, geologically speaking, very old, as the age of these rocks, as told by the radioactive minerals in igneous rocks intruded into equivalent systems in other part of the world, may be of the order of 600 million years.

From the archaeological point of view also the Kaimur plateau and hills provide evidences of settlement of aboriginals in this region ever since prehistoric times. Primitive folk residing in the mountains and forests of Kaimur must have had certainly used the caves and rock shelters to protect themselves from the vagaries of Mother Nature. In the process of evolution they magnificently devised the art of engraving and painting to express their feelings for the objects of nature as the sun, moon, stars, besides animals, plants, trees, rivers, etc. and also their own activities in daily life viz. hunting, running, dancing, walking etc. and many other subjects which came in their view. These paintings were mostly executed on the walls and ceilings of the rock shelters and caves besides faces of huge rock boulders and cliffs, which provided them their canvas to leave behind their imprint for the succeeding generations. As a result of this we find that not only in the prehistoric period but also in the historical period the tradition of painting on rocks continued for centuries. The rock paintings thus comprise various aspects of the life of the communities in different periods of history and provide very useful source material for the study of the concerned cultures. Their importance is enhanced due to the fact that the same site has varied phases of development of the rock art and thus the element of continuity is helpful in the study of its evolution.

In an exploration conducted in the year 1994-95 by an exploration team of eminent archaeologists so far more than a dozen rock painting sites have been discovered in the Kaimur district. On the Kaimur hill the sites are at Mokwas, Patesar, Jhapia hill in the Chand block, Badki Goriya in the Makarikhoh valley in Bhagwanpur block besides Dugha, Hathiadag, Sarodag, Chaya, Badap Gaura hill, Rauta and Kokhargada in the Adhaura block which is located on the Kaimur plateau. In most of these sites as Badap, Chaya, Patesar there are more than one rock shelters having paintings. The discovery of these rock paintings may be considered to be very important in the archaeological perspective since the Kaimur plateau and hills have had been comparatively unexplored to the archaeologists and the historians. It may be mentioned that ever since the discovery of the rock paintings in Bhimbaithka in 1957 great interest has been taken by archaeologists and scholars in discovering rock painting sites in different parts of India. In Bihar also some positive efforts have been made in recent times by some scholars in this direction as a result of which rock paintings have been found at many sites in Nawada, Jamui and Rohtas districts in Bihar. So far as the rock paintings in the Kaimur district are concerned it appears that, in spite of some distinctive features, their nature, style and content as compared to those in other rock painting sites of India, more particularly in the Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh, has remarkable similarities.

First of all taking into account the general features of the rock paintings in Kaimur district, we find that they have been generally executed on the smooth surfaces of the inner walls and ceilings of the rock shelters and caves located on the hills mostly in and around jungles and nearer to some water source like river, lake, streams etc. Sometimes the paintings are illustrated too high on the rock surfaces and ceilings, the reason of which at times is difficult to understand, as only by climbing to that level by means of bamboo ladders or tree tops nearby or projections in the cliffs one can reach to that level to execute the paintings. The paintings executed on the rock surfaces generally have horizontal or vertical composition oriented towards left, right or top. In many examples it is noticed that the paintings of the earlier period are superimposed by the subsequent paintings due to which sometimes it is very difficult to identify the paintings of a particular phase and to ascertain the number of superimpositions. Most of the illustrations in the rock paintings are in different shades of ochre that was presumably prepared by utilizing the hematite abundantly found on the surface of the rock shelters and in the nearby areas. However sometimes black, white and light yellow colours have been also found to be used in the paintings.

The Kaimur plateau and the foothills are predominantly inhabited even now, as before, by aboriginals i.e. tribal and semi tribal such as the Oraons, Cheros, Bhuiyans, Karias etc., who now reside in the villages mostly in mud-built houses. Significantly, the tradition of painting of the walls of their houses still continues with sometimes the same kind of symbols and patterns as seen in the rock paintings, besides some modified ones. Curiously enough, the tradition of colour preparation with the powdered geru (hematite), oil, sindur (vermilion), juice of the bark of trees and of beans and other vegetations etc. is prevalent even now amongst the tribal folks of this region. It may thus be surmised that this tradition of colour preparations and using them for painting various figures and patterns on the walls may have had been certainly handed down from generation to generation since the earliest rock painters devised them. The cup marks on the walls and ceilings of most of the rock shelters are also of great significance in this regard.

The antiquity of the rock paintings of Kaimur as also those from other sites of India appears to be a controversial issue. As a matter of fact, due to lack of definite evidences there is hardly any absolute method of dating the Indian rock paintings. Same is the case with the Kaimur rock paintings. However, the most important basis for relative dating of the rock paintings is the study of the superimpositions. Unfortunately the phases in the rock paintings of Kaimur are yet to be decided, but it may be, however presumed that they may form a parallel to the Mirzapur rock paintings in the matter of antiquity and relative dating.

The rock paintings of Kaimur region remarkably show great similarity with the rock paintings of Mirzapur district, as mentioned earlier. This is mainly due to the fact that the Vindhya Range extends right from the Mirzapur district up to Sasaram in the Rohtas district and the Kaimur hills and plateau in the Kaimur district forms a part of the same range. It may be mentioned that in the Mirzapur district about 240 rock shelters have been located of which about 62 rock shelters have been classified in the Kaimur group. These rock shelters, of the Kaimur group in particular, are in close proximity to the rock shelters in the Kaimur and Rohtas districts in their geographical and geological setting and so the style, content, subject matter etc. in them also show great affinity. Significantly, the nomenclature Likhaniya, Kohbar etc. for the rock shelters is traditionally prevalent among the tribal in Kaimur region also as for the rock shelters in the Mirzapur district. Similarly, the subject matters like the depiction of various animals, human beings in action and floral as well as geometrical patterns including handprints and footprints etc. at times also show great affinity. Also, some of the features like depiction of stick-like figures, dancing figures, either individually or in-group. X-ray style figures etc. are also quite commonly noticed in the Kaimur rock paintings as in the rock paintings of Mirzapur and to some extent in other rock painting sites of India.

Lacquer Works
Muzaffarpur, Laheriasarai (Darbhanga), Madhubani and Lakhisarai are famous for the lacquer-work, especially for production of lack-bangles (a women's ornament) called 'Lahathi'. The craftsmen have raised this art to a high degree of perfection with attractive designs and motives of oriental origin. These attractive lac-bangles or Lahathi can be had from any bangle-shop, whether in Bihar or somewhere else. This artwork can also be had from leading souvenir shops or handicraft emporium.

No comments:

Post a Comment