Bihar Painting, Art and Crafts
Bihar has a rich historical past. Right from the ancient times to the present century, it has always been a center of attention for historians. The powerful dynasties like Magadha Majanapadas, Mauryan Empire and Gupta Empire had flourished in our fertile land of Bihar. Some of the many great names of the Indian history like Ashok, Chandragupta Maurya and the symbol of peace and non-violence Gautam Buddha have their roots in Bihar. The great religions of the world like Buddhism and Jainism had sprouted form Bihar. Therefore, naturally Bihar is rich with varied arts and crafts. Down the generations, the rich heritage of art and crafts have been preserved though with the advancement of technologies, slight variations can be seen.
The unique features of art and crafts in Bihar are the intrinsic beauties and great creativeness. These creative beauties have been preserved in various forms like in ancient stone, wooden structures, grass-clothes, lacquer and metal-wares. Bihar's craftsmen have excelled in manufacturing artistic goods that have high demands in the local and the international market as well. The fine skills and perfection of the Bihari craftsmen are clearly manifested from various archeological excavations conducted in Kumhrar, Bulandibagh, Nalanda and other places. 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 are some of the contemporary crafts of Bihar are much appreciated in the Indian and the international markets for their artistic beauties and innovations. Another distinct feature of Bihar’s handicraft is its practicality and usefulness in everyday life for eg. bangle making, khatwa works and stone works. The reasonable pricing has also played a great part in making the arts and crafts of Bihar a hit in various markets.
In Bihar, Mask making is hereditary trade with some families, though even in these families only those who are dancers are allowed to make masks.
Carpet weaving is the tradition of Bihar since the Buddhist & Mauryan era. At that time high class floor coverings used to be woven here.
Bihar has a rich past of highly artistic and beautiful lacquer ware craft. Bihar’s lacquer ware artisans are very famous for decorating various items beautifully with lacquer ware work like legs of beds, boxes, bangles and stools. Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Madhubani are famous for the lacquer-work, especially for production of lac-bangles. Lacquerware is a famous craft of Bihar. The use of lac has been going on for making beautiful items like boxes and bangles since early age.
Khatwa is the name given to applique works in Bihar. Khatwa is about designing by cutting of one fabric and stitching the pieces to another fabric. Khatwa is mainly used to create designer tents, canopies, shamianas and much more. Making of such tents involves work by both men and women. While cutting of clothes is done by men, women use their expertise in stitching part. Khatwa is also used in designing women garments as well. This is where the real talent of Bihar people is seen in the work.
Thangka, also known as tangka, thanka or tanka is a painting on cotton, or silkapplque, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala of some sort. The thangka is not a flat creation like an oil painting or acrylic painting but consists of a picture panel which is painted or embroidered over which a textile is mounted and then over which is laid a cover, usually silk. Generally, thangkas last a very long time and retain much of their lustre.
Manjushas are an Indian art form. They are temple-shaped boxes comprising eight pillars. They are made of bamboo, jute and paper. They also contain paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses and other characters. These boxes are used in Bishahari puja, a festival dedicated to the Snake God that is celebrated in Bhagalpur and nearby regions, India. Not less in importance or expressiveness is the ancient and historically significant Manjusha Art, or Manjusha Kala, or Angika Art.
Jhinkana is a form of embroidery in which chain stitch is used to beautify the items of personal clothing. This stitch is done on personal garments and the filling-in is done by long and short satin stitches.
Sujini Embroidery is famous as well as beautiful work of handicraft in Bihar. Sujini is a traditional quilt made with layers of old cloth for inner stuffing and this craft is mostly practiced in rural areas. For embroidery cotton or colorful threads are mostly used. The design in this craft mostly depicts village scene or religious scene. Khatwa is a kind of applique work in Bihar used to create decorative items like tents, canopies, shamianas, etc. This craft uses Persian designs and circular.
Wood carving as a form of art and craft was very famous during Mauryan times. During such period wooden houses were made by carving out of wood. This ancient art has not only been preserved but also has been converted into a means of livelihood by artists of Bihar which in one of the few places where wood carving work is still practiced. Bihar is one of the few places where The wood carving and inlay work is done with wall plaques, table tops, pens and paper cutters being from wood .
Pottery is made on clay. Bihar had a rich history of clay pottery work. Since the time of Mauryan and Gupta this art has been in practice in Bihar. The archeological excavations at places like Nalanda and Rajgir had confirmed the existence of this artistic craft in Bihar. Beautiful earthen utensils and tiles are made by potters of Bihar. They have the abilities and skill to do artistic and beautiful paintings on earthen pots. Patna is very famous for such work.
Bamboo work has been remained a culture of Bihar throughout the ages and time. Right from the pre-historic time forest dwelling tribes are experts in bamboo and cane work. They used to make many utility items like baskets, household wares, woven mats, furniture and cane products like cane furniture and other decorative objects. By utilizing their skill and techniques they turned these lifeless bamboo and cane into living object which are of great value in everyday life.
The brass work of Bihar is a continuation of the brass craft dome in pre-historic ages. But this form of art was at its peak during Mauryan and again during Gupta and Pala period. It has been confirmed from many archeological excavation sites like Nalanda and Rajgir. Even now artists of Bihar are very skillful in making images of god/goddesses, utensils, iron pitchers and other household utility articles with great fineness.
Tikuli is a form of craft made from broken glass. The craftsmen first melt the broken glass and then give is shape and design. Patna and Harihans cities are very famous for manufacturing of this craft. The chief markets of Tikuli are Banaras, Patna and Calcutta.
Artistic embroidery and Zari works is very famous in Bihar and is also a livelihood business for many families. Some of the finest Zari works can be found in shamiyanas, kanath, chandwas, pillow-covers, batwas, covers for musical instruments, tablecloth, window curtains, blouse pieces, sari, borders, etc. Patna is very famous for Zari and embroidery works.
The Kasida embroidery work is a very ancient form of art. Kasida embroidery is done with gold and silver metallic threads beads, silk, and sequins on satin or velvet having the motifs of birds, leaf and many other. Kasida embroidery with geometrical patterns is very famous in Bihar. Patna is a known center of such type of Kasida embroidery.
Textile printing is as ancient in Bihar as other form of art and crafts. Particularly Patna is very famous for this art which is specialized for making chunris having motifs like, parrots, peacocks elephants, mangoes, conches, fish and various deities.
It is a virtual wonder of Bihar handicrafts. It transforms the simplest and the most common of things to the most wonderful objects, as if by magic. This wonder is executed by the extremely efficient artistry of the the sikki women. Bihar's Sikki craft is a product of the Mithila region of Northern Bihar. It is intrinsically connected to the cultural life of Bihar. Sikki craft objects are usually employed in making baskets, bags, hats and even intricate animal, bird and human figures.
Stone works in Bihar have a rich tradition dating back to the pre-Christian era. Bihar's stone works are both of decorative and utility character. The base of stone works in Bihar is centered on the Patthar katti region of Atri in Gaya. However, some artisans of Gaya practice the art and have been doing so for hundreds of years. In its peak during the Mauryan period, stone and architecture works became the symbol of the dynasty. One can see the best of that period in cities like Gaya, Nalanda.
Bangle making of Bihar is largely centered around the region of Muzaffarpur. It is a very lucrative small scale industry of the region. The artisans involved in bangle making collect their raw material from the nearby forests, mainly lac and the natural colors used in the making of these colorful roundels. Bright and brilliant colors are typically used in bangles. They range from vermilion to bright yellow, from resplendent reds and purples to shining golds.
Madhubani painting or Mithila painting is a style of Indian painting, practiced in the Mithila region of Biharstate, India, and the adjoining parts of Terai in Nepal. Painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments, and is characterized by eye-catching geometrical patterns. There are paintings for each occasion and festival such as birth, marriage, Holi, Surya Shasti, kali puja, Upanayanam,Durga Puja etc.