TRIBAL TERRACOTTAS OF BASTAR

                                                               A note by Shri J. Ramaiah

It is Amavasya of Bhadrapad Masa , the first day of the Pora festival. The crop is ripe and the men having toiled in the fields have come home to rest and enjoy, in anticipation of the good days of a big Harvest. The festivities begin with ceremonial offerings to  the terracotta Bull and their tribal deity. Goddess Danteshwari is offered terracotta Elephants, Horse as Vahana to Bhairomdoo (Danteshwari’s Brother –in –Law) and Nandia to Lord Siva.

By Triyodasi of Bhadra the fields have been harvested and the on Chaturthi , the women start cooking the new crop, after once again completing the ritualistic prayers to the bull. The new grain is pounded and ground in miniature terracotta Chakki and rohe  ; and cooked in 2” to 3” size clay vessels . This is the custom and food thus cooked is first offered to their home deity . Following this all the toys that have been lovingly produced by the potters over the past months, are taken out and given to the children.

Thus the past months have been extremely busy for the potters , preparing all vessels and images required for the festival and producing the numerous animal toys- Lion, Tiger, Nandi bull , Elephant, Horse, Mouse etc. - with or without Riders and figures of gods and goddesses. Invariable all these are on wheels, so that they can pull them along. They also make kitchen and domestic utensils in miniature sizes for the children to play  ‘home’ with.

The potter’s craft is closely linked with the socio-religious life of the local tribes . Theirs is also the humbler gift of the Toy maker- who surrenders his other people’s follies and apprehensions through the intuitive handling of the  Earth. Utilitarian and votive terracotta craft is practiced in almost all area of Madhya Pradesh. But Bastar tribal Terracottas have their  own uniqueness and excellence. Untouched by modern influences their craft has preserved the folk style in conception and execution - being simple in form and forceful in its expression . It is closely linked with the Pora festival celebrated in almost all the tribal areas of the State, particularly the Chhattisgarh area. Edka Elephant and Nagarnar Horse are very famous terracotta clay figures.

 

 

LAC CRAFTS

Lac Crafts:
Lac is a resinous secretion of insects accumulated on  forest trees which is collected by the tribals . It is also cultivated commericially by infesting trees, such as Kusum  and Dhak, with the eggs of the insects that produce lac. Historically we know from its references in the ancient Indian literature, the beneficial character of lac in medicine and beauty care, and its use in the production of Furniture, Toys , Bangles, Bracelets and many more.
Lac craft industry is one of the most prolific handicraft activity practiced in almost every region of this country. The simplicity of materials necessary for mastering this art form has made it a much sought after household commercial activity in rural and semi-urban areas. All one needs to start this activity is  basic tools like hand turned lathe , chisels, hammer ,coal brazier etc. ,  and raw materials  such as wood , lac sticks , natural colouring dyes ,  sticking glues ,  sandpaper and Pandanus leaves.
Though plastic and metal toys are the preferred choice of the present generation, over the traditional toys and dolls, most adult Indians would look back with pleasant memories  of  the vibrantly colored lac toys, that they would have possessed in their child hood. Lac kitchen utensils packed in palm leaf baskets , tops , rattles, monkeys , birds , giant wheels , carts etc. are some of the beautiful toys that were and are still  produced all over the country. Utility items such as Bharnis, Pen jars, Trays, Bead curtains, Ear Hangings, Necklaces etc are those lac products , which are in great demand for their simplicity of design, richness of color and safety of use. Furniture such as sofa sets, Jhulas, Modas  etc. are a must for Indian households, who wish to retain our traditional interior schema.
‘Etikoppaka’ in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh and ‘Channapatna’  in Karnataka  are well known  centers of lac Toys and Dolls production.these two centers are particularly known for using vegetable dyes as coloring material. ‘Ankudu’ wood is used in Andhra , whereas ‘Hale’ and ‘ale mara’  is used in Karnataka. 
In ‘Sankheda’ , Gujarat, ‘Saguan’ wood is used to produce breathtaking furniture items . Here paste Tin is used for drawing the  design on the surface, which is then  covered with layers of  clear lac, applied while the wood is being turned on lathe .
In ‘Kutch’ , Gujarat , brilliantly coloured  items such as kitchen cutlery (Velan, tavita and spoons ) ,  Dandia Sticks , Moda stools, cots etc., are produced by tribal communities . In Balasore , Orissa, women shape crude but interesting figures of animals and human, using  wood powder, cow dung , lime and then paint the surface with coloured liquid  lac. ‘Parlakemudi’  is known for bamboo baskets and boxes painted over with interesting patterns with liquid lac.
Lac bangles are produced all over the country with their own unique and individual styles. Hyderabad is known for its wide variety of lac bangles , embellished with coloured stones, pearls etc.
Sawantwadi in maharastra is famous for lac vegetables and fruits , which are produced so realistically that one may mistake  them for  real. The artisans also produce multi coloured boxes, corner stands, chests etc. 
These days institutes such as NIFT , NID , OXFAM and the design centers of the O/o the Development commissioner (handicrafts ) ,are innovating and developing new designs and products for adoption by the various centers of production. Artisans are also being trained to use electric lathes so as to speed up the production. Handicrafts department, of the Govt. Of India is working along with Forest department to provide seasoned and treated wood to the artisan at reasonable price, so as to sustain the industry. 

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