Blogs & Archives are generally repositories of information and records. A traditional archive necessarily holds a physical space where a researcher needs to visit physically for satisfying her/his curiosity. But with the global Digital revolution and the deconstruction of canonical cultural industry the concept of the archives also started to change. The radical turn in Digital archiving is not that it makes possible the ‘virtual’ rendering of the ‘real’ archive. The archaeology of knowledge became accessible to everyone.

For Foucault the archive is “the border of time that surrounds our present” and Digital archive makes possible this interaction between past and present more fruitful. It is not merely a place of conserving our past but a place for documentation, for sharing and modifying our views, ideas and intellects and this becomes possible because of digital media. Use of Digital tools has transformed the traditional notion of archive and it is now an innovative and interactive space.

Here the readers can always be in touch with the archivists; even they can get information of new additions in archive via mail and social networking sites.

Dashavatar (10 incarnations) cards are a part of the rich heritage of Bishnupur in Bankura district of West Bengal. The 10 avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu- Matsya, Kurma, Baraha, Nrisingha, Baaman, Ram, Balaram, Parshuram, Buddha and Kalki are drawn on these cards. The ‘Dashavatar card game’ is a complicated one, played using 120 cards and with numerous rules and regulations.

The Dynasty and the Game Bishnupur witnessed the rise of a glorious tradition of art, craft and culture since the 700 AD under the patronage of the Malla kings of Bankura. The tradition reached its zenith during the reign (1565—1620 A.D) of Malla king Veer Hambir, the 49th ascender to the throne. His long and stable reign can be called the golden era of arts and culture—classical in taste and nature. The tradition was carried forward by his successors King Raghunath Singha and his son Veer Singha. Art, literature and music reached their heights through research, experimentation, training and application. After his conversion to Vaishnavism, according to some authors, under the influence of Vaishnav guru Srinivas Acharya, Veer Hambir was inspired to create a distinct style of art and to nurture a different type of cultural atmosphere in Bishnupur. .

The establishment of Vaishanavism might have had something to do with enjoying pastime in a different and non-violent way and this might have given birth to the game of ‘Dashabatar taas’. Vaishanavism also hints that the game might have been imported from somewhere else, for Dashabatar Taas of Bishnupur was none other form than Dasavtara Ganjifa which used to be played during the time in parts of India like Rajasthan, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and the contemporary Bengal. But Dashabatar Taas of Bankura developed its own distinct form and rules for playing.

Origin The Ganjifa playing practices in India were introduced and popularized by the Mughal emperors in the 16th century A.D. Dashabatar Taas of Banura Once established, the ganjifa cards spread all over the country in either an original form of Mughal ganjifa or in a slightly hinduized version, painted with Hindu gods and goddesses on it. In India two more suits were added to the mother ganjifa and named all of them after the names of “Dash Abatar” or ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The set has thus been known as Dashabatar or Dasavatara ganjifa. This pack generally consists of 120 cards instead of 96 of Mughal set, and in Bishnupur unlike the other states it is played by five players. The names of the suits of this Dasavatara ganjifa are respectively Matsya (fish), Kurma (turtle), Baraha (boar), Nrisingha (a combination of man and lion together), Baman (Brahmin dwarf), Parasuram (the sixth incarnation with axe), Sri Ram (the hero of Ramayana), Balaram (brother of lord Sri Krishna), Buddha (the ninth incarnation with absolute peace) and Kalki (the ‘abatar’ yet to come).

Every suit of a Dasavatara pack consists of 12 cards each with a Raja as a king or an upper court card and a Mantri as a minister or a lower court card along with ten general numeral cards. The above mentioned suits can be identified with different symbols proficiently painted by the Ganjifa chitrakars (painters in forms of ‘patachitra’ (scroll painting). The suit of Matsya is symbolized with fish, Kurma with an image of turtle, Baraha with shell, Nrisingha with chakra (decorated discs), Baman with water pot, Parasuram with axe, Sri Ram with arrow or bow and arrow or monkey, Balaram with plough or club or cow, Buddha with lotus and Kalki with sword or horse or parasol.

The artists from the Faujdar family of Bishnupur specialise in making these cards. First, a piece of cloth is folded a number of times and pasted using glue made from tamarind seeds. After drying, a layer of chalk dust is applied. Both the sides are evened out with a smooth stone. The cards are then cut into round shapes of 4-and- a-half inch radius. Various deities and their symbols are painted on these using various colours. On the reverse, a layer of lac and vermillion is applied. These beautiful Dashavatar cards are a unique example of Bengal’s folk art.

The Making of Dashabatar Taas of Bishnupur:

It is interesting to note that the Gangifa artists might have been influenced by two traditions here: one, the Dashabatar figures frequently used on the panels of various temples of Bishnupur, and another was the tradition of Patachitra. But still, this cannot explain the mysteries associated with various aspects of Dashabatar Taas. The process of making Ganjifa card is very laborious and it involves almost all the members of a family to bring forth a single set of ganjifa. The Bishnupur Dashabatar Taas are made from old cloth pieces pasting one piece on another by tamarind glue. After pasting layers after layers the stiffened piece of cloth is stretched, dried and cut into circular pieces following coating with a base colour. Then the senior artist touches his brush to draw delicate outlines, details of figure cards and critical touch-ups which require a master’s hand. The junior artists generally draw the numeral cards. Thus the entire family would devote itself to producing a single set of Dashabatar Taas.

The Decline :

Though the game had enjoyed a glorious time (even till the King Kaliprasanno Thakur as per Sital Fouzdar’s report), with the introduction of European printed cards in 19th century fascination with the Dashabatar Taas gradually declined. People rather became more interested in the new European card games as more fashionable. They were also attracted to the stylized figures of French King, Queen and Jack. Just as people started adopting new fashions as part of developing new style during the colonial period, the new game might have had something to do with embracing a new fashion as a symbol of modernity. It is important to note here that many indigenous games were given up in favour of adopting the western ones. Moreover the cost of hand painted Dashabatar Taas was less affordable to the poor and middle class players. The Dashabatar set thus got gradually replaced by the attractive European cards and Ganjifa card artisans became reduced to one or two families creating the cards not for players but for tourists and art-lovers. Many of their families sank into a great poverty, many of the master craftsmen are no more alive today and some of them are suffering from an acute poor vision without any hope. With the decreasing demand and the lack of interest and awareness among the tourists and general public about the Dashabatar Taas the artisans now are no more interested in taking up Dashabatar Ganjifa as a secure way to earning their livelihood.

Only the Fouzdar family of Bishnupur is still engaged in creating the traditional Dashabatar ganjifa and Naqsh taas. But unfortunately they are on the brink of leaving this glorious tradition because of lack of patronage and security for livelihood and minimum respect and recognition for their art. Soon Dashabatar Ganjifa will become extinct and the pieces will find their places in various museums as a cultural fossil unless urgent measures are taken to save this delicate and precious traditional craft.

Tarun Tapas Mukherjee Assistant Professor, Bhatter College, West Bengal, India

The story of Lutfa, Jyotsna, Rabia, Shakeena, Roshan…

It was a rainy Friday and Team rangamaati was some 160 kms away from Kolkata. The red soil swept through the muddy roads into the swollen rivers. The puddles here and there kept our shoes wet as we followed the zig zag path that led to the hut of Lutfa Biwi.It was already afternoon and Lutfa had finished her household chores. She was inside her room that was dampened by the continuous rain. But that could not dampen her spirit. The ever optimist Lutfa along with Jyotsna Biwi, Rabia Khatoon, Shakeena Shaikh, Roshan Ara, under a 5 AMP bulb, were immersed in their creation…a creation that is an indigenous household craft followed by the rural women of Bengal.

We were at Nanoor lying in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, a place famous for Katha embroidery. This popular style of handicraft displays the skill and talent of hundreds and thousands of Lutfas and Rabias of Bengal for many years. The earliest mention of Bengal Kantha is found in the book, “Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita”, by Krishnadas Kaviraj which was written some five hundred years back. There the poet says, Sachi, the mother of Chaitanya, sent a homemade Kantha to her son at Puri through some pilgrims.
Like the reference in Chaitanya Charitamrita, Kanthas were originally used as baby’s diapers, or wrappers for laying newborn babies in the courtyard while they were massaged with mustard oil. Gradually it was used for quilts, dhotis and sarees, but over a period of time it has evolved and made its way right into the heart of Indian fashion.The fabric used is discarded cloth, usually from worn out cotton sarees, the thicker the cotton or number of layers, the coarser the embroidery.

Traditionally 4-5 layers of cotton clothes are held together in running stitches along the edges. The number of layers of cloth depends on the use for which the kantha is meant.

As Lutfa, Roshan, Jamia and others worked, we were awestruck to witness some magical art being created before us, effortlessly, with nimble fingers and smiling faces. Gossips continued, thoughts were shared but the needle never stopped from running the stitches along the cloth with some bright-coloured threads and as we turned our eyes towards the clothes, part of the magic was already done.

The designs and motifs they had created, surprisingly, reflected their daily activities and seemed as if they had opened their hearts and poured out their thoughts. The love and affection with which these women create the designs reveal their artistic spirit that could never be repeated. Thus, every time they start stitching, there is a new design with a completely newer perspective.

As rangamaati handicrafts Pvt. Ltd.’s primarily objective is to conserve and preserve our rich socio-cultural heritage by promoting a large domain of rural handicrafts and artisans, we bring in the craft of these rural women and give a global exposure. We had provided an e-commerce platform to these rural women, thus, ushering a positive change in their living condition.

What is Mercerized Cotton?

Why Mercerization?

Mercerized cotton is sometimes referred to in the crafts as pearl or pearle cotton. It is cotton yarn or fabric which has been put through a series of processes, primarily to increase luster. The added desirable water handling properties gained are a secondary bonus.

Cotton fiber grows in a boll; each fiber is produced from an individual seed (about 5,000 altogether) in the base. The fiber starts out as a projecting hollow sheath and each night a new layer of cellulose is laid down on the inside of the sheath until about thirty layers are built up. At this point the fiber is like a solid cylindrical rod having a central lumen or canal pointing to the tip consisting entirely of cellulose. When the boll bursts and exposes these fibers to sun and air they dry up and collapse, becoming flatter and ribbon like with alternating left and right spiral twist every two or three turns. This is cotton fiber in its original state.

Through the ages countless attempts have been made to alter the fiber, sometimes with a specific end use in mind and other times just as pure research. In 1851, John Mercer was granted a British Patent for work he had done pertaining to cotton, linen and other vegetable fibrous materials that in effect caused certain changes in the character of the fiber when subjected to caustic soda, sulfuric acid, and/or other chemicals, etc. He went on to list a number of these changes, one of which was that caustic soda caused the fiber to swell, become round and straighten out (but it did not impart any change in luster). At the time Mercer introduced these processes, the British cotton trade showed no interest in any of it and it all sat in obscurity for about forty years. In 1890 Horace Lowe was granted a British patent in which he claimed that by applying Mercer’s caustic soda process to cotton yarn or fabric under tension a resultant high luster (a result of the light reflection off the smooth, round surface) was imparted to the fiber. It became an overnight success and revolutionized the cotton industry. The rest is history.

Mercerization and Luster

We must keep in mind when making comparisons between the water absorbency quality of mercerized and unmercerized cotton that the primary reason for mercerizing cotton is to gain luster. Like virtually all other chemical applications to affect change in fiber, concentration alone is not as important as the combination of time, temperature and concentration. In this case cotton held under specified tension for ten minutes with an application of between 21%-23% caustic soda (NaOH), at room temperature results in the desired luster and increased tensile strength. Without the tension there is no increased luster. It has been established that luster is a result of light reflection off the surface of the selected product. The more glass like the surface, the better the luster. Yarn in its spun, treated state still has a very fine covering of tiny fiber ends (fuzz). This fuzz is removed by passing the yarn (or fabric) through a controlled heated atmosphere termed singeing (gas fired in the past, electric more currently) resulting in a cleaner surface.

Absorbancy and Twist

In order to gain luster we must apply the mercerizing treatment while the yarn or fabric is under tension, (Lowe’s findings). Cotton mercerized in a relaxed state gains no luster, (Mercers’s findings). Since fine, long stapled fiber will give us the best adhesion with the lowest twist, (required for treating under tension to gain luster) it is usually those types of cotton (Sea Island, Egyptian, Pima) that are selected for yarn to be mercerized. Consequently when we are comparing the water absorption qualities of a skein of mercerized cotton against a skein of unmercerized cotton in our dye bath or for other treatment purposes we may also be comparing long staple cotton against short staple cotton, which have entirely different fiber characteristics. Therefore, any discussion concerning the water absorbency quality must also consider the effect of twist on the ability of that cotton fiber to absorb moisture. In addition we must recognize that we may be talking about moisture content and moisture regain which is another variable. That said, let us take a look at the two kinds of cotton by reducing the variables.

First, Mercer’s and subsequent testing showed a dramatic increase in absorption of dyestuffs (up to 25% NaOH, then leveling off) for the mercerized sample of cotton spun yarn, with all other variables constant. There is an increase in water absorption (7.5% to 8.5% regain) as well.

Secondly, when Mercer conducted his studies and recognized the increased affinity treated fiber had for direct dyes, water, and iodine (iodine being important element in qualitative testing), he concluded this affinity was a result of the amount of NaOH absorbed by the fiber during treating. Further testing proved that cotton fiber in its roving state (no twist) would absorb more NaOH than fiber in a twisted state and as a result absorb more water or dye. The amount of absorbed NaOH was proportionate to the amount and type of twist, singles, and ply.

Industry Studies and Published Results

In my personal experience, the ability to control and predetermine the water absorption properties of a given yarn through its twist factor, rather than through mercerization, are far greater, and therefore have been more extensively studied by engineers (including myself), than that of mercerizing. The problem here is that the studies that were conducted were done for proprietary reasons and the results to support the numbers are not published.

As an example, the three primary functions of a papermaker’s felt are water removal, finish, and power transmission. Water removal is a very important factor because the better the water removal, the faster the machine will run. The finish is equally important because the felt must be absolutely defect free; the slightest imperfection in the surface would leave a mark in the paper. The biggest factor is power transmission. The entire press section is run off of one drive roll. Some of these press sections are three stories high and pull tons of pulp in an aqueous state through its cycle. Some require an endless felt 25 feet wide and 110 feet long. If the felt tears off under load at startup you never get to test the water removal or the finish. Extensive studies were conducted to determine optimum operating results for water removal and formulas were developed for pounds per inch stress through fiber selection, yarn size, twist in singles and plied twist in both Z and S, chemical treatments, etc. The problem is the results are guarded like the gold in Fort Knox. Therefore, we cannot print out numbers in an objective fashion. We can say in a subjective manner that in fact twist in yarn can affect over a wide range of permeability the ability of that yarn to absorb and give up water.


Looking at the information presented so far, we can conclude that mercerized cotton absorbs more water and dye than unmercerized cotton, and that the twist in yarn will affect the water handling properties of that yarn proportionate to the amount of twist.


The Shantiniketan region in West Bengal is famous for its beautifully handcrafted leather handbags and other accessories. Available in a wide range of colors, patterns and sizes with traditional motifs, a Shantiniketan bag displays the rich cultural heritage of India gracefully. It is a perfect example of superior workmanship of the local artisans.

Shantinekatan Leather Bags Hand carved Shantiniketan Leather Executive Bag - RMSLSHPB2 (1)

Origin & Making

Design in the making on a Shantiniketan bag. (Source: arperabags)

This particular craft employs the cutting, polishing and embossing of leather by hand painting and was first introduced in West Bengal during the 1940s. It derives its name from the place where it was first introduced Shantiniketan and was patronized by Shri Rabindra Nath Tagore who revived a number of crafts that were nearing redundancy in Shantiniketan.

Rabindra Nath Tagore and his wife, an expert craftsmen came together to revive leather bag making in an innovative manner. Shantiniketan leather craft uses embossed batik work and traditional patterns and are very different from the usual leather bags.

After the final leather piece is made, it is then stitched into the desired product coated with a lacquer finish for making the product shiny and long lasting.

Present Day Scenario

Today, Shantiniketan leather is a successful industry and is a craft that is practiced only in 24 parganas of West Bengal. The Shantiniketan style evolved as a result of the Art Movement and these products have now become world famous for their appliqué, batik and embossed craft work.

The raw materials required for making these elegant leather bags is leather (vegetable tanned), PCP free chemical and vegetable-based pigment colors. The process of giving the leather its finishing is akin to what the Italians do. The process of burnishing the leather gives it an elegant sheen and brings out the colors and enhances the overall look. The major embossing craft is done by hand and is an intricate process. The final stage of this craft is the lacquer finishing which is used to polish the Shantiniketan leather product and prevent it from being attached by mould and fungus.

The most appealing quality about these Indian leather bags are the traditional motifs that depict floral and geometric designs and the natural dyes used in the process give it a very classy look.

Shantiniketan bags are not only beautiful in appearance, but are also very affordable. There is a wide range of bags available in the market in terms of colors, shapes, designs and forms. As the industry has become competitive many modern trends have been incorporated. From belts to juttis and mobile covers, there are a host of other things that are made with this craft.


Shantiniketan purses and bags are particularly sought after amongst the local womenfolk and the tourists who are absolutely enamored by the colors and aesthetic quality of these bags and carry them back home as valuable souvenirs. In fact, a lot of bag designers have come out with innovative collections to create sophisticated and stylish Shantiniketan designer collections. From wallets to bags, purses and coin holders, Shantiniketan leather is used in wide range of products.The vibrant colors, designs and high quality leather have also made it a preferred product to export overseas. However, since this craft is relegated to the rural villages of West Bengal with limited artisans, their capacity to cater to overseas markets in a big way is rather limited.

Global Appeal

Interesting patterns on Shantiniketan leather. (Source: arperabags )


by Sanjay Guhathakurta | posted in: WORKSHOPS & EVENTS | 0

At a time when the British were trying hard to establish a strong theatrical base in the heart of Kolkata, the suburbs and villages of Bengal were already enthralled by an established art form, mundanely called as JATRA.

Etymologically, ‘Jatra’ in Bengali means to move from one place to another. In olden days, during the time of festivals, devotees went dancing and singing in procession from one place to another to narrate the events of their patron God’s life. Their performances were often accompanied by melodramatic acting that kept the mass engrossed and even put them in a trance. This way of collectively moving while singing and dancing with enormous dramatic element gave birth to one of the oldest Bengali folk culture ‘Jatra’.

Initially, ‘Jatra’ got its elements borrowed from another popular folk form ‘Gambhira’ where people unitedly sang and danced to pray for Lord Shiva. Some historians claim that ‘Gambhira’ is the earliest form of art that was dedicated to a God and was quite similar to the festival of ancient Greece dedicated to Dionysus, the God of wine and fertility. With the passing of time, Lord Shiva’s place was taken by several other Gods but later Shree Krishna became the most prominent figure in those musical enactments. It is said that the great Vaishnava saint Chaitanya performed in some of the acts that narrated the life and times of Shree Krishna. This period is known as the early stage of ‘Jatra’ that gradually transformed to a more polished form in later stages, while musical enactments of the Vaishnavas branched out in a different form that came to be known as ‘Kirtangana’. However, ‘Jatra’ continued to borrow essential dramatic elements from other popular folk forms like ‘Jhumur’ (duet dialogues and songs with minimum dancing), ‘Panchali’ (a performance by a singer), ‘Kathakata’ (a single person singing religious story) and ‘Kabigaan’ (two person reciting or singing instant compositions).

In the second phase, ‘Jatra’ took a leap forward when rural zamindars started to invite a group to enact certain plays in their open courtyard often referred to as ‘Natmandir’ in Bengali. There were also ‘Chandimandaps’ of villages where ‘Jatra’ was performed by artists. They travelled long distances in bullock carts to reach there while the villagers thronged from distant villages by foot to enjoy the performances. There was a kind of festive mood with colourful tents, ‘shamianas’, buntings and street vendors all around. Performances, mostly, happened at night with earthen lamps lit on top of banana trees or firelights on the edges of bamboo sticks. Indian mythology was the main subject of the plays. High octave songs accompanied with acting was a major source of entertainment for the mundane villagers.

Various forms of art elements poured in and ‘Jatra’ started to mature with each passing day. Performance on three-side open stage was introduced with a temporary dressing room built nearby. There was no backdrop, a single centre light and no microphone for the entire play. Apart from mythological plays, historical romances and cult love stories became the subjects as well. Another main attraction of ‘Jatra’ was its orchestra. The harmonium, flute, drum and clarinet together started playing the signature tune to set the mood for the audiences before the beginning of the play.

Towards the end of 19th century the stories of Jatra became secular and more contemporary. With political uprisings and awakening, the writers gave a political colour to their stories. The fight between Good and Evil that was so prominent in mythological stories still persisted. Only the characters changed with the Indians representing Good and the British symbolizing Bad. Another special character that was introduced in the plays was that of ‘Bibek’ or the ‘Inner Self’. This character was played by an experienced stage actor who had the freedom of appearing in any particular scene to check the wrongdoings of a particular character. The style of acting, however, still remained loud, vigorous and fiery. The hero or the villain made a grand entry and performed some energetic stunts with powerful dialogues that mesmerized the audience.

Towards the beginning of 20th century, female artists started playing themselves in ‘Jatra’ which was formerly played by male artists only. With the entry of female artists, a brand new concept was also introduced. A group of young female dancers popularly came to be known as ‘Sakhir Dal’, began to entertain the mass with their lust and covetousness. But the introduction of ‘Sakhir Dal’ met with criticism and the concept that ‘Jatra’ is erotic began to evolve in the mind of middle class intellectual people. However, the rustic art form continued to entertain the village mass until materialism poked in the lives of people.

With the advent of satellite television, mobile phones and exposure to new-age films, Jatra suffered a severe setback. The age-old art form struggled to exist till the exponents decided to keep it alive by introducing modern art elements in this form. In the present day, Jatra Pala is often performed in a closed stage and lasts for 3-4 action-packed hours with only six to eight songs. Still the musical element is retained. Light and sound are introduced. Acting has also become a little subdued. However, after several wear and tear, ups and downs, the ancient folk art form still persists and remains a source of entertainment for the village folk.

by Mrs Poulomi Kundu Rao,Head of Data Archival Team, rangamaati.

Bengal is known for its bauls, the mystic minstrels who constitute a tradition of syncretism and are on Unesco’s list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. Rabindranath Tagore was influenced by the bauls. Fakiri music is similar to baul but is relatively less known. Abhishek says he “found a kind of music that was different in presentation and language. Baul and fakiri are similar to each other and have been influenced by other devotional music like kirtan and bhatiyali. This had phrases in Arabic and numerous quotations from the Koran and from Hafiz.

Till 2004, the sadhus tilled their tiny patches of land and performed at the occasional village-mela baul-fakiri programme. Villages across the region are dotted with ashrams. Followers of the ‘manabata dharma’, the unorthodox faith that regards human beings as gods, come together at sadhu sanghas — they gather in the ashrams for discussion and music. Their philosophy is in tune with their music, which draws all its vocabulary and imagery from religious discourse but is, at the same time, secular. “We don’t care about caste or creed,” declares Khaibar Fakir. The ashrams, then, are the repositories of folk culture and their members, its chief practitioners. It is to them one must go to unearth lost music. Bangla qawwali began and ended — and is now resurrected — with them.Gourbhanga alone has four ashrams maintained by Arman, Khaibar, Akkas and Mansur Fakir.

They didn’t need to attach ‘Fakir’ to their names. One look — saffron garb, dreadlocks and dotara (string instrument) — and there’s no mistaking them.500X350_Mellifluous-songs-by-Arman-FakirArman, 52, is the most senior performer in the group, which recently performed at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre. He carries around a yellowing notebook with songs written in the late 1800s by his dadu guru or guru’s guru. The guru’s identity is inserted into the song. This line, in a composition titled ‘Aaj Mehfil’, records the handing on of the song from one generation of fakirs to the next: “Chand Madaner Bangla qawwali gaichhey Pagal Guni (Pagal Guni is singing Chand Madan’s Bangla qawwali).”Bangla qawwali is believed to have been created by guru Gaus-ul-Azam in Maizbhandari, Bangladesh. The guru was born in 1826 and lived beyond the turn of the century (1906), so this school of Sufi music could be at least 150 years old. It is formally called the Maizbhandari tarika or Quadiri Malamiah Ahmedia Silsila and Abhishek says that it shares tunes and the clapping tradition with its northern cousin but is discernibly different too. “The language is mainly Bangla and local instruments are employed.”Bangla qawwali was traditionally performed in dargahs, of which there are more than 500 in Nadia alone. So what explains its disappearance? Perhaps it became too demanding a performance, suggests Banglanatak founder Amitava Bhattacharya. “You need lots of artistes for a qawwali performance. With declining interest in folk music and musicians quitting for other means of livelihood, qawwali became difficult to perform.”

Born on the very border between India and Pakistan, the form probably started to die out some decades after Partition as interaction between musicians became increasingly difficult.

This is why the nine-part qawwali group formed last year is important. The fakirs — Arman, Khaibar, Akkas, Noor Alam, Babu Fakir, Golam Fakir and Arjun Khyapa and percussionists Sanatan Das and Gopen Debnath — relearned the qawwali style and performed for the first time in public in March, at a Sufi festival in Murshidabad.

The challenge is to ensure that Bangla qawwali doesn’t die a second death. As a means to this end, a resource centre is being built at Gourbhanga. It will store and display old instruments and documents. Meanwhile, the region’s music is being documented and recorded and soon enough, the fakirs will be performing in other parts of the country.

The Baul musical tradition incorporates a number of musical instruments. Many of which play a role similar to that of indian classical music including the ektara, a one-stringed drone instrument played primarily by the Baul singer. (Hindi: Ek means one and tarmeans string.)

Kalighat PattaChitra Painting

The folk art of Kalighat painting gets its name from its place of origin, Kalighat, in Kolkata, which was the erstwhile capital of India during the time of the British Raj. This type of folk art painting evolved in the 19th Century and has its roots in the several cultural upheavals of nineteenth century colonial Bengal.



Till the 19th Century, the only acknowledged form of painting in Bengal was the traditional scroll painting art, very popular in the rural areas. These paintings were done on cloth or patas and depicted traditional images of popular Hindu deities and scenes from epics like Tulsidas’ Rama charita manas and so on. The artistes were common villager folk and they would travel from place to place with their scroll paintings, singing the scenes from the epics depicted in the paintings during village gatherings and festivals. These artists, called patuas or ‘painters on cloth’ were said to be half Hindu and half Muslim and also actively practised Islam.

The British were actually the main patrons of the art form. They set up several institutions to train Indian artists in European style of painting. The Calcutta School of Art was one such school and attracted the patuas to the city. Initially, they were concentrated only around the temple at Kalighat where there was a demand for religious art. By and by, they also started to learn from the newer techniques and discovered that these could help them increase their earnings. They started creating new forms of art and the Kalighat painting was born.

Materials used in Kalighat painting

Kalighat painters used material easily and cheaply available to them, such as brushes made from calf and squirrel hair, cheaply priced watercolors. The artisans also painted on inexpensive mill papers. Likewise, low-priced color pigments were applied in transparent tones. This created a different genre of folk art painting that vastly differed from the traditional of Indian tempera. The artistically shaded contours and articulated gesture and movement gave the painted figures a plaque-like effect on a neutral unpainted ground.

The Kalighat style of painting is also characterized by formal and linear economy, meaningful gestures, and quality brushwork and flawless rhythmic strokes. The drawings are bold and attractive, while at the same time, also maintaining simplicity of technique.

Themes used by Kalighat folk art

Kalighat painting used many strong social themes and focused on creating awareness in society. This folk art was the first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent that expressed subaltern sentiment and also addressed customers directly. Kalighat paintings started with religious undertones too, just like all other forms of Indian folk art painting. Hindu deities, such as Durga, Kali, Ram-Sita, Rukmini-Krishna and so on, featured in most of the initial paintings. With time, social sentiments came to be expressed in the medium of paper and color.



The painters were keen observers of life, with a different kind of humour. The wealthy zamindars (landowners) ravishing wine and women, sloppy babus spending their day and night at questionable locales, a priest or Vaishnav “Guru” living with unchaste women – these were some of the themes depicted by these artists. They had a moralizing intent and would draw the caricatures in such a way as would repel ordinary people from such activities. The Babus’ slavery to these women also subtly depicted the then changing facet and eroding values of Indian society.

Yet another popular theme depicted was something every Bengali held dear – the legend of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his disciples.

The artists’ paintings also depicted different professions and costumes as well. Even contemporary events like crime were the subject of many paintings. The artists also portrayed famous figures during the pre-Independence Era, thus playing a major role during the Independence movement. They also painted heroic characters like Tipu Sultan and Rani Lakshmibai.

Renaissance of Kalighat painting

Interestingly, scholars and critics alike had neglected the art Kalighat painting for many years on end. In India, the ancient Sanskrit texts had generally served as the yardstick for judging the merit of art forms. The written word was considered far more important than pictorial expressions. Since Kalighat art had lacked the authority of the sacred text, the rural and folk visual forms of the Kalighat Paintings were considered to be some sort of inferior expression, unworthy of so-called scholarly attention.

Kalighat painting started getting its deserved acknowledgement and appreciation only in the twentieth century. Indian art was, at the time, facing a serious threat from the aggressively invasive western culture. Thus the preservation of traditional Indian art became a prime concern. Local traditions suddenly assumed supreme importance and there was an acute need for protecting, documenting and reviving rural art. This finally led to a renaissance of Kalighat Painting. Since then, this folk art form has been recognized as a brilliantly inventive aesthetic movement, and has received significant international attention as well.



This onward trend of Kalighat painting continued till the early part of the twentieth century and then, these paintings also featured in museums and private collections. The charm of the Kalighat paintings lies in the fact that they could be easily understood and interpreted by all, while also capturing the essence of daily life. To date, these paintings continue to influence even modern artistes like the late Jamini Roy, in their work.

The subject of Indian folk paintings is as diverse as the Indian cultural milieu itself. Indian folk art painting includes a brilliant battery of calendar and wall paintings, oil, canvas and cloth paintings, cave paintings, miniatures and so on. The most famous types of Indian folk art paintings hence include various ancient Indian art forms such as Madhubani, Phad, Kalamkari, Orissa Paata, Warli paintings and so on.

Indian folk art paintings usually deal with pictorial depictions of popular Hindu deities such as Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Additionally, we can also find Madhubani paintings of the sun, the moon and even some plants and flowers used in daily rituals, such as tulsi (basil) and so on. Many paintings also depict daily village life, common customs and rituals, birds, animals and the elements of nature. Folk paintings are very fetching and a visual treat, as they employ vibrant and natural colors and papers, clothes, leaves, earthen pots, mud walls and so on, as their canvas to paint on.


by Sanjay Guhathakurta | posted in: HANDICRAFTS | 0

Terracotta, taken from Latin terra cotta or baked earth, is the art of creating glazed or unglazed porous earthenware, figurines, and other decorative materials from clay which is dried and fired in temperatures of around 1000°C giving it a distinctly orange, red, brown, yellow, or grey color. It is then covered in sand to allow it to cool down. This color depends not only on the type of clay found in the beds of the water bodies in the area where the artist is based but also on the firing process. For example, if the smoke from firing is allowed to get out through the vents in the kiln, a red or orange color is obtained. On the other hand, if the vents are sealed, it gives the items a black color. Decorative pieces are either left with their original color or painted in multiple hues to make them more attractive. Terracotta items, when not cracked, give a ring when struck lightly with fingers.


Harappa Image in Terracotta

Terracotta is an ancient art form, perhaps one of the first expressions of creativity of human mind. In fact, the use of the five elements: air, water, earth, fire, and ether in Terracotta art form lend it both an air of mystery and auspiciousness as per Hindu beliefs. Terracotta figurines of mother goddess, male gods, and terracotta cart frames and wheels dating back to around 7000 BC have been excavated from various sites of Indus Valley Civilization like Birhana, Mehrgarh, Mohenjodaro, etc. proving that the art flourished in the Indian subcontinent long before it was used elsewhere. Terracotta also had an important role to play in the trade activities of this ancient civilization. Terracotta seals were used by merchants for stamping and human or animal figures carved on them. These seals also depict the apparels, hair styles, ornaments, as well religious beliefs of the people, apart from giving an idea of the script used by them.

Egyptian Face in Terracotta

In the rest of the world too, terracotta art has been in existence since thousands of years. In Egypt, Terracotta house models dating back to around 1900 BC have been excavated. These models were part of the burials of poor people and usually were replicas of their dwellings. Mesopotamian civilization was also rich in arts and crafts and beautiful terracotta figurines of goddesses and small statues from around 19th century BC have been found by the archaeologists. Bell Idols or female statuettes having mobile legs from 8th century BC Greece is a noteworthy example of Terracotta art in ancient world. These bell idols were popular in Both Greece and Rome. Another terracotta wonder from the ancient world is the Terracotta Army of China from 210 BC, part of an ancient necropolis, and built by the emperor Qin Shi Huang. The King’s terracotta army consists of 6000 life-size terracotta soldiers guarding his tomb. The army is complete with soldiers, archers, horses, and chariots. What’s amazing about these soldiers is that each of them has been made having different facial features.

Hand Molding versus Mass Production

The ancients used the pressure of their hands to painstakingly give shape to each terracotta item but with increase in the type of uses and demand, moulds were made to start mass production. One of the first examples of mass produced terracotta figurines is that of ancient Greeks’ Tanagra figurines from later 4th Century BC.

Various Forms of Terracotta Art in India

Terracotta Oil Lamps

Terracotta art is an integral part of Indian culture and heritage. What’s more, the art form has not been lost as many others have; rather it is flourishing and getting richer even now with artisans uninhibited in their imagination and creativity. Though the art of creating glazed pottery has been in existence for thousands of years in India, the unglazed pottery items are the ones India is world renowned for. Terracotta items are commonplace in Indian homes in one form or other, and artisans have kept the art alive from one generation to other. Today, India exports exquisite terracotta items like statues, vases, decorative hangings and bells, murals, Diwali oil lamps, etc. making the art form a rewarding one for the artisans. Though it would be impossible to find an Indian village without potters and other artisans, some states and cities are well known for their distinct Terracotta ware. What makes the end result unique from region to region is the difference in clay type and color as well as the sensibilities of the artist, not to mention the varied culture, religious practices, and traditions. Let’s take a look at some of them:

West Bengal

Terracotta Horse from Bankura in West Bengal

West Bengal has a rich tradition of art and craft and terracotta is one of them. In fact, rural areas of the state are a treasure trove of finely crafted terracotta pots, figurines including those of handsome horses and other items, small and large, practical as well as decorative. Some of the well known towns for Terracotta art form are Murshidabad, Jessore, Birbhaum, Digha, and Hooghly. The art form came to this state in the 16th century with the influence of Vaishnavite movement which found expression in Terracotta sculpting on Krishna temples built by them. People of West Bengal also worship the snake goddess Manasa by creating a shrine constructed with tree branches, terracotta snakes and pots.

Terracotta artisans of West Bengal use a mix of two or more types of clay taken from river beds and pits and their patterns are usually traditional or community-related. The fuel used for firing is firewood, dry leaves, and twigs which are available locally. The molded items are baked in traditional kilns at temperatures of 700°-800°C. Both men and women participate in the process with the women responsible for working the wheel and giving the upper part of the pots or the necks a round shape. Other items like dolls, figures, jewelry, wind chimes, and toys are cast in burnt clay moulds.

Architectural Terracotta

Use of terracotta to supplement brick and tiles buildings became quite popular in late 1800s England and the US. The Victorian Bell Edison Telephone building is a fine example of terracotta architecture in Birmingham, England. The Natural History Museum in London also has a huge and highly ornate terracotta façade. Before this, it was also used in Germany in 1820s in the construction of churches. However, in India, the trend of using cheap and readily available clay for building temples started a few centuries earlier. The 6th century Bhitargaon (Uttar Pradesh, India) Hindu temple, built during the reign of Gupta Dynasty, has beautiful terracotta panels that depict Shiva, Vishnu and aquatic monsters. Other, more famous, example of terracotta use in Indian architecture is the terracotta temples in Bishnupur, Bankura (West Bengal).

Terracotta Temples of Bishnupur, West Bengal

Terracotta Temple – Vishnupur, West Bengal, India

From being used for daily use and home décor items, terracotta came to be used for making temples in 15th – 16th century AD. The popularity of this building material lay in its universal and abundant availability across regions. Once people learned to bake the clay, they had a way of giving permanence to the items created by them. Slowly, terracotta art was put to more ambitious uses of creating accommodation and other buildings sometimes replacing stone or stone and wood carving due to their non-availability.

Though there are many temples in West Bengal along the alluvial delta of the river Ganges, terracotta temples of Bishnupura in Bankura district are the most popular due to their exceptional terracotta carving and sculptures. As mentioned before, Vaishnava movement played a great role in influencing terracotta art in the state and the Malla kings of Bishnupura, devout Vaishnavites, invited scores of higher caste Hindu gentry as well as skilled potters, weavers, masons and master craftsmen for constructing the temples to perfection.

A scarcity of stone in the region led to the use of bricks for creating the temples which were then covered with ornate terracotta tiles that depict themes taken from Puranas, and the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics apart from those related to everyday life. The temples are a fine example of a marriage between traditional arts based on the Shilpa Shastras and the imagination and expertise of the artists of the time.

Terracotta: a Hugely Popular Art Form

Terracotta art is not just popular in India and the world from a consumer point of view; rather it is fast coming to homes as a hobby that boosts creativity, patience and focus. Today, there are many institutes that teach pottery and terracotta home décor items to people from all age groups. Portable kits for creating clay pots are available for children.

Creating Magic with Hands


Creating beauty with a lump of clay, a wheel, a kiln, and the pressure and dexterity of the artisan’s hands is what terracotta art is all about. The artisans, often uneducated and leading a simple life, nonetheless create magic which entices locals and tourists alike. From the humble pot used to store water and keep it cool in summers and the small Diyas or votives to the most elaborately crafted door panels, temple facades, and statues of Gods and Goddesses, a terracotta artisan’s vision and creativity knows no bounds.

Clay and Terracotta Art of India: A Few Interesting Facts

Terracotta art has existed in India for around 10,000 years, the oldest excavations of terracotta items being from Birhana (Haryana) site which is a pre-Harrappan site of Indus Valley Civilization.

Tamil villagers have built huge hollow terracotta horses with elaborate embellishments which are probably the world’s largest hollow clay figures.

The world famous Blue Pottery of Jaipur and the Delhi Blue Pottery uses no clay! It is made by using an Egyptian paste made of quartz powder, powdered glass, Fuller’s Earth (multani mitti), borax, gum, and water.

Kantha Quilt is made of 100% Cotton Fabric. It has three layers of old recycled sarees stitched together with thousands of small & delicate fine running sturdily Kantha stitches, Hand crafted softly quilted handmade by artisans in India. Two good condition fabric is placed on both side of quilt and small pieces of fabric are places in between in such a way that its equally spread and make a three layer quilt, some time if both side fabric are thick enough then no middle stuff is used.

The entire quilt is painstakingly hand embroidered with end number of straight running stitches to create a unique product, one of a kind (No two are alike), thus it’s a perfect GIFT too (Wedding Gift). All these make them a Vintage Kantha Quilt.

It is an old age tradition in rural Bengal, India to recycle used old sari for making quilts/throws. Kantha is still the most popular form of embroidery practiced by rural women in Bengal, India. The way in which the stitches have been done by hand makes the quilt extraordinary. This quilt is 100% Organic & eco-friendly.

It has different beautiful warm and charming colours, designs and patterns on either side which gives a distinct look & thus can be used both sides (REVERSIBLE). These quilts are famed and admired due to their Kantha work.

Kantha throws do not come in standard colors. All Kantha throws incorporate multiple colors into their design. India boasts a colorful culture and this is evident in these authentic Kantha Throws. Multiple Saris are stitched together to make a single Kantha Throw. Though we organize the throws based on the 5 color categories, other colors may be present, either in pattern, stitching or actual fabric color.

The color categories for kantha throws are:

1 – Reds: The red category can range from red, to pink and purple.

2 – Blue: The blue category may incorporate Aqua tones, Purples and Turquoise

3 – Green: The green category is predominantly green with variations towards earth tones.

4 – Yellow: The yellow category is predominantly yellow and may vary to orange.

5 – Neutral: Neutral colors are mainly earth tones, but may incorporate any other faded/neutral colors we believe would fit in most-any room or outing situation.

As these are made by old recycled sarees hence they may have some loose threads, open ends, small spots/stain and small patches (Patches from other colourful sarees), which is very rare and these things are not being considered as defects, as item is made of vintage material. This is a normal part of the work for 100% handmade quilt, which adds more beauty to its character. However, you are more likely to be amazed by how perfect a handmade product can be and time taken to make this quilt.


by Sanjay Guhathakurta | posted in: WORKSHOPS & EVENTS | 0

When rangamaati’s Data Archival and Research section was formed, we were brainstorming about what and where to start with. But things became easy for us once we thought about reliving the past; thus came the idea of visiting Gaur, one of the most prominent cities and the capital of ancient Bengal.

Presently, Gaur lies in the Malda district of West Bengal, some 350 kms. from Kolkata. It is said that Gaur has its mention in the Hindu Puranic texts. The historical records of the city are however available from 500 BC, from the phase of Mauryan reign. Archeological findings suggest that Gaur and Pandua, then known as Pundrabardhana, was under the Gupta rule till Sashank, the Karnasubarna king became the ruler of Gaur. He ruled independently for three decades but his reign ended with the advent of the Palas, who extensively promoted Buddhism in the region. Palas were followed by the Hindu Sena Dynasty. The Sens wielded their rule over Bengal till 1204 AD, after which, the Mughals and Afghans invaded Bengal.

During the Afghan rule, the twin cities were in utter disarray as the rulers shuffled between Gaur and Pandua as their headquarters according to their whims. In 1539, Gaur was attacked by Sher Shah, and in 1575 it was invaded by Akbar. Curiously, after the occupation of the city by Akbar a severe plague hit and since then, these two cities lie in a heap of ruins. However, the surroundings, like Malda and other cities, gradually developed with the arrival of British in the area.

So with a perfect setting to begin our task, we decided to travel to Gaur. Boarding Sealdah-Gaur express at night, we reached Malda town next morning at around 6:30.

It started to drizzle as we came out from the station premises but with very little baggage we walked in order to get the first glimpse of the historical surroundings. After 15 minutes or so we reached our stay location situated near Rathbari, the heart of the town. Quickly freshening up, we set out for our day’s exploration. Intaj, our chief researcher, was acquainted with the place and advised us to visit Pandua first. We had a refreshing breakfast at Rathbari and opted for a local bus along with local people to reach Pandua. The 40-minutes journey was a pleasant one as the road condition was good.

The first destination for us was the Bari Dargah where the shrine of the great medieval saint Syed Makhdum Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi lies. It was in 608 Hizri, Shah Jalal settled in Pandua from Tabrez in Persia. Witnessing his miraculous spiritual power, the then ruler Laksman Sen gifted him a land to live, pray and preach. From then on this place came to be known as Baish Hazari Waqab Estate.

The spacious Dargah has many small and large structures with a pond at a side. We had a talk with the Khadim and came to know that every year a grand festival is held from 19th to 22nd day of Rajab to commemorate the death anniversary of the great saint.

The other side of the Dargah leads to Salaami Darwaza, one of the famous gateways of Pandua. Passing through this, at a stone throw distance, we reached Eklakhi Mausoleum, the massive and elegant one- domed brick monument in Pandua. It was probably built in 1412-1415 A.D. by Raja Ganesh whose son Jadu converted to Islam and became the Sultan of Bengal under the name of Jalaluddin Mohammed Shah. The Tomb at that time is known to have cost rupees one lakh, and hence the name “Eklakhi”.

Its interior is an octagon which is lighted through the four small doors. The terracotta designs with various motifs representing both the Hindu and Muslim styles are worth mentioning with a typical roof design to prevent water logging during monsoons. However, with the passing of time most of the designs are lost

There are three graves inside. The highest one with stoncapture-20150529-180417e post belongs to Sultan Jalaluddin, the middle one belongs to his wife and the third one is of his son, Sultan Ahmed Shah.

Our photographer, Debopam, concentrated deeply to get the best shots but we were made aware by the caretaker that too many photographs should not be clicked inside the dome. We respected his words and quickly moved on to our next destination which is a rectangular mosque built of stone and bricks.

Named as Qutub Shahi Mosque, this double-ailed mouseleum was built in 1582 AD in honour of Saint Nur Qutub-Ul-Alam. The entrance was built with stone but now has been reconstructed with bricks. There are five arched openings in the front that leads to a roofless inner structure with giant stone pillars standing upright.


The mosque is a typical example of Muslim architecture and is also known as Sona Masjid due to its earlier gold-plated walls and crowns of turrets.

The ancient structures were gradually mesmerizing us when Sanjay, our director, reminded that it was time to move to Adina, the most important mosque of Pandua. Built by Sikandar Shah, between 1364 to 1374, the Adina mosque is one of the largest mosques to be built in the subcontinent and the only hypostyle .

The mosque is rectangular in structure with an open central courtyard. The most striking aspect is the confluence of Hindu and Muslim styles in the structure. Perhaps it was constructed after obliterating a Hindu construction and that is evident with a chiseled out image of Lord Vishnu, a motif of lotus and images of Ganesha. Even, the name ‘Adina’ is probably derived from Adinath or Lord Vishnu.

The prayer hall is located to the west and is divided into two symmetrical wings. It is five aisles deep, while the north, south and east cloisters around the courtyard consist of triple aisles. In total, these aisles had 260 pillars and 387 domed bays.

In early twentieth century Santhal tribals armed with bows and arrows captured the mosque after attacking the local Muslims. In leadership of Jeetu Santhal the revolt took place. But it was soon suppressed by British Government and Jeetu was killed in the conflict. The bullet impressions are found in the walls of the mosque.

It was a great experience for us as time ticked to 3 pm and we decided to call off for the day. It was time to have some food but before that we refreshed us with glasses of sugarcane juice just outside the gate of Adina. We took a cab from there and reached Rathbari to have our late lunch. Returning to hotel, we had a long discussion on our day trip and at around 10pm our tired souls went to sleep.

Next day, morning was early, as we had to explore Gaur. We followed the same earlier routine of completing breakfast at Rathbari and then travelling by public transport to Gaur. But this time we chose a jeep. Initially it was a nice feeling but gradually things started to get difficult for us. People started pouring inside and getting us crushed in the middle. The 1-hr journey seemed to be an eternal one with our immovable postures screaming to get relieved. We reached to the far end of Gaur city at Kotwali Darwaaza which was the southern entrance of Gaur during the time of Alauddin Khilji.

Built under the influence of Mughal art, this structure is 30 ft high and 17 ft wide. The gate is now acting as the border line between India and Bangladesh. We climbed up to the top of the gate for a better view of the two countries. It was a busy day for the immigration officers as they had to maintain full record of people crossing the border.

We had a strange feeling as we found that people are separated though speaking the same language, lands are divided though farmers grow the same crops and even our cell phones signaling ‘Grameen Phone’ yet remained unreachable for quite a while. But that was the fact and we could not disapprove it. Leaving a slice of our emotion behind, we started walking towards the ancient structures of Gaur.

It was a long walk with sun becoming hotter by the passing of every minute. Still we continued as we were captivated by the smell of freshly ripened mangoes on either side of the road.


Come summer and the mangoes are in full bloom in every part of Malda. The taste of Malda’s ‘Lyangra’ is world famous and is exported to different countries. We settled down a bit, had a friendly conversation with some mango traders packing boxes of mangoes and making them ready for export. At the end a sweet gesture from them-we were gifted a box of mango. Thanking them from the core of our heart we moved towards our next destination.

We reached Lotton Mosque which was constructed at around 1475 AD by Sultan Yusuf Shah. This is the only structure in Gaur where the walls had been faced with coloured bricks. Traditionally ascribed to a royal courtesan, the single domed structure has a verandah with two domes and a slopped roof. The once coloured bricks had disappeared leaving some glitches of the past.

We took a right turn from there and about a kilometer away resides the Lukochuri Gate. This double-storeyed eastern gateway into the inner ramparts of Gaur was built by Shah Shuja. Its upper chamber was probably used as Naqqarkhana or Drummer’s Chamber. Local legends suggest that the gate was named Lukochuri (Hide and Seek) Darwaza because of the game played by the Sultans and their Begums in its surroundings.

Lukachori Darwaza - Malda Gaur

On the other side of the gate our walk continued till we reached Qadam Rasul Mosque. Historians believe that this mosque resembles a Hindu temple that was built by King Ganesh to worship Goddess Kali. The bell of worship which is still present turns this assumption into truth. Whatever may be the truth, the structure is remarkable for its ornamented bricks. It was here the footprints of Prophet Mohammad were enshrined in stones which now remain with the Khadims of Mahadipur

We met a very interesting person over here. Named Baidyanath Saha, this man is a curator of ancient artifacts. A ‘pan’ seller by profession, Baidyanath has a room just opposite Qadam Rasul Mosque where he heaps his collection. A near dark room, this place is a researcher’s delight. Baidyanath urged the government to give him a proper place where he can display his collection but the officials had turned deaf ears. Let us see if we can do anything for him.

Leaving Baidyanath behind we reached Chika Mosque, perhaps a mausoleum that was once infested by thousands of bats and thus got its name Chamkan or Chika. The use of materials from some Hindu temple is evident from some ancient pillars found lying around.

Chika Masjid - Malda Gaur

Traditionally Chika Mosque was used as a prison by Sultan Hussain Shah where victims were taken in and out through Gumti Darwaza. This entrance to Gour was long hidden underground and was excavated much later.

It was already afternoon and we had to rush back as we had to board a train back to Kolkata. But before that our last assignment was to meet a Gambhira artist, Amar Mondal. With some unparalleled memories from the pages of history we hired a cab to reach Amar Mondal’s residence.

Gambhira is an ancient folk form of Bengal where song, dance and act merge to present a satirical take on a prevailing social problem. Amar Mondal is an award winning Gambhira performer having his own group. We had an interactive session with him and gathered a thorough knowledge on the history, prevalence, wear and tear and revival of this art form.

It was a tiring day for us with no lunch. We were utterly hungry and decided to eat something before going to the hotel and packing our bags. The train was at night, so we had an hour or so to discuss things among ourselves.

The visit to Gaur and Padua was indeed a precious experience for rangamaati team. The photographs and video collected is stored in the organisation’s archive. Interested person can contact our office and have detailed information about the historical relics of Gaur and Pandua. Our eco tourism department can also guide you if you intent to visit the twin cities. You can be in touch with us or

Buying Authentic Kantha Stitch Saree

The Indian women’s most popular attire, the Saree, is typical of Bengal’s tradition and culture. The Saree is a strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from four to nine yards in length, that is draped over the body in various styles. Worn as daily wear in most parts of India, the Saree is now gaining popularity as a glamorous choice of evening & occasion wear. With a wide range of materials & styles, originating from different states of India, the selection of Sarees to suit your lifestyle could be a daunting task. Here’s a brief guide to the much beloved Saree.

Kantha Sarees

A Saree of West Bengal named after the technique of embroidery used. Kantha is a type of running stitch embroidery used on sarees from raw silk to cotton, covering the entire cloth with beautiful motifs of flowers,animals, birds and geometrical shapes or themes from everyday activities. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slight wrinkled & wavy effect. Kantha is a type of embroidery popular in West Bengal.

The use of kantha is popular in “Kantha saris” traditionally worn by women in Bengal. Kantha stitching is also used to make simple quilts, commonly known as Nakshi Kantha. Women in Bengal typically use old saris and cloth and layer them with kantha stitch to make a light blanket, throw or bedspread, especially for children. Kantha is very popular with tourists visiting Bengal and is a specialty of Bolpur,Krishnanagar,Goshaba.

The embroidered cloth has many uses including women’s shawls and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In the best examples, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities.

The stitching on the cloth gives it a slight wrinkled, wavy effect. Contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of garments such as sarees, dupatta, shirts for men and women, bedding and other furnishing fabrics, mostly using cotton and silk.


Kantha is a type of embroidery local to the Bolpur-Santiniketan regions of West Bengal (Eastern India). The use of Kantha is popular in sarees traditionally worn by rural women in West Bengal. The oldest Kantha date from the early 19th century and was embroidered with blue, black and red threads. The patchwork kantha was the earliest form of kantha. It was made from thread from old sarees and had white background accented with red, blue and black embroidery.

Kantha Stitching

Making of a kantha is a unique process. It mostly involves running stitches on a piece of fabric. The stitch is worked by passing the needle in and out of the fabric. Two standard styles ‘Jod’ & ‘Bejod’ are usually stiched. ‘Jod’ is the aligned stich & ‘Bejod’ is the non-aligned stitch. Small motifs like ‘tara’ (star) and ‘phool’ (flower) are made. It is the way in which this stitch is used, in different arrangements, that forms the essence of Kantha work.

In case of Kantha quilts which are made from multiple old sarees, these are joined together and then the smoothed layers are spread out on the ground with weights on the edges. The four edges are then stitched and two or three rows of large running stitches are done to keep the kantha together. Originally, designs and motifs were not drawn on the cloth. These were first outlined with needle and thread and then the filling of the central motifs were done followed by corner designs

Kantha Types:

Kantha is broadly categorized into eight types:Lep kantha – rectangular warps heavily padded to make warm coverlets with simple embroidery all over.Sujani Kantha – rectangular pieces of cloth used as blankets or spreads on ceremonial occasions.Baiton kantha – elaborately patterned with borders of several rows of colorful designs used for covering books, boxes and other valuables.

Oar kantha – rectangular pillow or cushion covers in simple design with decorative border sewn around the edges.

Archilata kantha – small rectangular covers for mirrors, boxes, juttis and other accessories.

Durjani kantha – small rectangles with a central louts design and embroidered borders used for making bags and wallets.

Nakshi kantha – colorful patterns and designs that are embroidered resulted in the name “Nakshi Kantha”, which was derived from the Bengali word “naksha”, which refers to artistic geometric patterns.

Rumal kantha – used as absorbent wipes or plate coverings featuring a central lotus with ornamental borders.

The main attraction of kantha saree is that the entire cloth is covered with running stitches which gives the cloth a slightly wrinkled, wavy effect. Some other stitches used in kantha embroidery are, darning stitch, satin and loop stitch. Stem stitch is also used to outline the motifs which include flowers, animals birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. The center motif used is lotus and different patterns like fishes, birds, flowers, trees are also figured. The threads used are usually blue, green, yellow, red and black.