Bastar Craft

  • 1
  • /
  • 1

I had planned to meet artisians of Bastar but knew not how. By chance landed at the office of an association of crafts persons called Paramparik. They gave me the contacts of artisians to meet. I went to Kondagaon i.e. about 1.5 hrs drive from Jagdalpur on road to Raipur. Pic is of cast metal image in the home of mastercraftsman Jaidev Baghel. They are Ghadawas who have been creating metal images of devas and devis for centuries. The art of casting metal by the lost wax process is called Dhokra in other regions.

U see craftsman Jagat Ram with his work. He uses lauki (bottle gourd) to make lampshades. The elephant, monkey images are made from lauki. I never heard of this. He lives in a village. On one hand used a DELL laptop to show me his work, on the other his wife delivered a boy with the help of a Dai or midwife (no doctor) the day we meet.

Lampshades of various sizes. Jagat Ram comes from a family of carpenters. There was a lot of resistance when he chose a different path. Hard work, innovation and good luck helped him find a niche. After he bought a Maruti Van family has begin to respect him as well.

Stock of dry laukis. Shape of laukis is natural. It is left on tree for seven months after which it becomes hard then can work on it.

Rod put in flame to make it hot before used to make a hole in lauki. This is how the lauki gets holes so light can go through it. Flame also used to make a design on say round laukis as you saw in pic no 2.

Jagat Ram outside his house cum workshop. Right where u see curtain is his bedroom. Left centre the open cane door is his workshop. He also has a DISH TV connection. Found many villagers have dishes, are quite well versed with national events love watching cricket. Asked Jagat to showcase his work in a showroom that he needs to make. This way he can attract tourists who come visiting to Kondagaon. He also sells bangles and lampshades made from bamboo.

Jagat Ram started off as a one-man show assisted by his wife. Today he employs 4 people whom you see in backdrop of Dhann (paddy). Jagat told me that when a girl''s family go to a prospective groom''s home they see the quantum of dhann lying outside the home based on which they estimate the land held by the groom''s family, economic status. If you like to buy Jagat Ram products call him at 9755139614, 9617832681 or mail dewangan_tumagudi@yahoo.com. His village is Palari, district Kondagaon, say a 10 minute drive from Kondagaon bus stand.

On the Kondagaon Narainpur road is Saathi Samaj Sewi Sanstha. It is an NGO that has been working with tribal craftpersons for over 20 years. I visited their Terracota unit. Kali mitti (black mud) and Lal mitti (red mud) both available locally are taken in a ratio of 7:3, put in the ball mill that you see and ground for 6-7 hours. After that the mud mixture is dried in the sun. Black clay can assume any form and is used to make pots and figures.

Mud is kept in a peg mill and then stored after which the design is decided. U see the master craftsman working on a design, requires some skill. I am not knowledgeable on the subject, in case of errors in captions do mail me. To read more about Terracotta Click here

U see potters wheel in action. Working to make a big jar that u shall see in the next pic. The main centres of tribal terracotta in the Bastar region are Nagarnar, Kumharpara, Kondagaon, and Narainpur. The craftsperson made making the jar look so easy but requires high skills, concentration and dexterity.

U see a lady making a design on the jar now. After that the jar is dried and then put in a bhatti (oven). Part of captions borrowed from Click here

U see a fully decorated jar in pic. In front u see a lampshade being made. The forms created and passed on from generation to generation are the result of merging many needs i.e. socio- religious, functional, aesthetic, symbolic and environmental. Each shape is functional and carefully conceived to embody utility, comfort, self-expression and spiritual fulfillment.

Saathi Samaj has a big hall where products are displayed. On terrace are terracotta products that u see, ground floor is cast metal and wrought iron. These decorative elephants are offered to the thakur, deity by way of thanks giving after which-fulfillment are sure to please him and win his favor. The elephant is highly ornate with coil decorations covering the whole of its face and back. It is further embellished with rows of small bells, also thrown on the Wheel.

Some more terracotta products on display. The animal and bird shaped figures represent the ethos of the ancient cultural stages of human life. The NGO also has a farm and undertakes other support activities. If you like to connect with them please call Harilal Bharadwaj, Secretary at 91 9425244027 or tele-fax 91 7786-242852.

Saathi Samaj is in village Kumharpara. Found the village homes very clean. Every home has a Tulsi in its aangan as you see. Whilst visiting villages in Narainpur district also saw every home had a tulsi plant. To know more about Sacred Trees of India click here

Close to Jagat Ram village is Kidaichepra, post Palari in Kondagaon district. Number of villagers working on Wrought Iron products. We met with Tiju Ram Vishwakarma, a Master Craftman and 1st State Award Winner. He runs a biggish unit. U see wrought iron products displayed on wall in his warehouse.

Gate of Tiju Ram home gate which showcases local craft. Elephants are of terracotta while gate is of wrought iron. At various points saw adivasis working both individually, in small groups or a largish workshop. His house is modern with town type furniture & design. Has a Tata Sky dish and goes to Kondagaon (couple of kms away) to check email.

Some more wrought iron products in Tiju Ram w/house. Extreme right of pic lower part. It has small diyas at bottom and on side which are lit up during festivals and marriages.

In Tiju Ram courtyard has a small workshop. U see cutting a iron plate. Today metal is bought from Kondagaon. He told me that in his grandfathers time n before they would visit near by hills and extract iron ore themselves.

A small workshop in the village. In hand is a plate with a small image placed on top. Wonder how they make such small images. WOW! When I asked the craftsman who taught him, he said knowledge was imparted from father to son for generations.

A wrought iron image of Surya or Sun-God in Tiju Ram home. If you wish buy Tiju Ram products call him on 91 9424291825 or 8817614747. Email is tijuramv@rediffmail.com

Concrete and thatched roof houses co-exist peacefully co-exist. Village is very clean as u can see. I could not meet Anirudha Dewangan (silk weaving) village Shashipur, Chandrapur. His nos is 9828795828. Also Sonadhar Vishwakarma, village Kusma, Kondagaon. His nos is 9406105043. To read Neelima photo essay on Bastar Craft click here

Lastly the home of highly decorated Jaidev Baghel who has earned many awards for work in cast metal images. Lives in Bhelwapadar Para. Home is 5 minute drive from Kondagaon bus stand and a minute away from the national highway. Jaidev has just made a new home with 2 rooms to showcase his products. His sons had left for Mumbai, the day before I reached, for an exhibition organised by Paramparik so had limited products on display. Click here

A cast metal image. Dr Jaidev, a 62 year old Adivasi, has won awards at state and national levels, travelled to Europe, the U.S., Australia and Japan to showcase his work. The Tatas invited him to Jamshedpur to teach the tribals there how to make big cast metal images. He said, 50 years ago the area where they stay was jungle. Much of the forests were cut to build refugee camps for East Bengalis who had fled to India around 1970. Name Baghel suggest his ancestor was a bagh (tiger).

Another cast metal image. Brief process of making is. Take black mud from fields, mix rice ka bhusa with it to make a design. Dry properly for app 3-4 days. Take mud from river, apply on piece then dry again. Mix it to give shape. Polish it with powder generated in earlier step then dry. Use juice of Bin or Servi tree (available locally) to paint it green and then dry.

Dr Jaidev, wife and grand-daughter. Next buy honey wax locally, burn it, melt it, filter with cloth, solution than solidifies. That solid is then use to make Wire or Tar. This tar is then used to make design. Take mud from banks of river to refine it. Mix mud with charcoal powder, then apply mixture on image. Then dry in sun. There are termite hills in the jungle. Get that, sprinkle water on mud to make a dough which apply on image or Shilpi. Then dry - apply 1-2 layers again on shilpi.

Then treat in Bhatti or Oven where wax melts. Also keep metal in Bhatti for it to melt become a liquid. After that metal poured on mould. When it gets cold remove the mud from the Shilpi. U see a shilpi kept for drying at stage before it sent to the oven. When these two are joined the final products is seen in the next picture.

I had seen something like this in many 5 star hotels but never knew it was a product of Bastar. Visit craftspersons workshops in Jagdalpur also. Saw very good wood work in Shabri showroom. Call K P Mandal Jagdalpur 7587164713.

Number of students from NIFT and Colleges of Sculpture spend days with Dr Jaidev trying to understand and learn the art. Met two students from School of Sculpture Pune. I think they are from Bhartiya Vidyapeeth. The craft of casting metal (ghadawakam) by the lost wax process is called cire perdue in the West. It is practiced in India from the prehistoric age.

In Dr Jaidev lane number of workshops. Walked into another one where this image of Sri Krishna being made. I scribbled down the making process as Dr Jaidev spoke. In case of any errors entirely my fault, do email me. Chhattisgarh Govt Emporium Shabri sells products made by local craftsmen. To see pics of Bell Metal products Click here

Another cast metal image. Excellent work even though pic is not as sharp as wanted. This workshop is run by Suresh Waghmare. It is located on the national highway, at the corner where you turn for Dr Jaidev home. He was making peacocks, very impressive. His nos is 91 9424276484.

And so ended my visit to Kondagaon. Had a great trip, very enlightening. Came back full of admiration for Bastar craftsmen. Their products need to be promoted across the country. In case you are unable to get through to any of the crafsmen mentioned above do mail me and will connect. Am sure Govt is doing its bit but each one of us must promote their work - it is part of India''s cultural heritage.