One of the historically oldest regions of India, Bihar is usually known for its Madhubani art. But there is more to its art and handicrafts. Paintings, metal craft, terracotta art, stone carvings and more. These handcrafted products are fighting a tough battle with machine-made made mass produced goods. So on your next trip to Bihar, do take a look at the locally produced handicrafts. They are not only beautiful pieces of art but also make for excellent souvenirs and interior decoration itmes.
An art practiced in and around Patna, Tikuli has an interesting history. Said to be nearly 800 years old, it takes its name from the ‘tikuli’ worn by the women on the forehead, like a ‘bindi’. In the old days, glass would be blown into thin sheets and cut into circular shapes. These would be layered with gold foil. Then with the help of an instrument, usually sharp bamboo pens, designs used to be drawn on the circular pieces, filled with natural colours, and finally sealed with gum. These designer tikulis were in high demand among the royal families and women from wealthy households.
Unfortunately, with the lack of wealthy patrons, the art almost became extinct. According to most reports, in the 1950s, artist Upendra Maharathi was inspired by the Japanese style of using enamel paint on wood; he showed how the tikuli style of art can be carried out on wood (engineered wood). Instead of making an adornment, the art found expression on utility and decorative goods, such as coasters, trays, wall decorations, etc. There is considerable influence of Mithila (Madhubani) painting on contemporary tikuli art. Award winning artist Ashok Kumar Biswas has been training rural women in tikuli art so that they can be self-sufficient. Biswas has been quoted by the media as saying that this art form has a huge demand in the markets of Patna, Varanasi and Kolkata.
With its genesis rooted in legends, Manjusha is an old art form largely practiced in the Bhagalpur area (part of the ancient Anga kingdom where it is said to have originated) of Bihar. Traditionally, the paintings revolve around the tale of Bishahari (those who save people from snake venom), merchant Chand Saudagor, and his son and daughter, Lokhindar and Behula. They were painted on pots and boxes associated with ceremonial practices. In some households, these would be painted on the walls of a newly-wed couple’s room. The colourful paintings are narrative in form. A detailed study reveals the drawings follow rules pertaining to symbolism and style. With the passage of time, rustic, inexact drawings have got a cleaner finish; it is not unusual to find geometric patterns and other motifs included in the painting. Apart from the boxes, the art can now also be seen on textiles, etc. in keeping with the changing market economy.
Handcrafted products made from various kinds of metal has long been prevalent in Bihar. Munger and Banka in Bihar are known for their silver jewellery. Districts of West Chamaparan (especially Bettiah) and Vaishali are known for crafting idols of gods and goddesses from brass and ‘ashtadhatu’ (octo-alloy).
The ancient ruins scattered Bihar, especially those dating back to the Mauryan period, speak volumes about the master stone carvers of the region. Patharkatti in Gaya district is one of the main centres of stone carving today. Small colonies of craftspeople can also be found in and around Patna and Kaimur. Usually granite stone is used for the stone crafts.
The eastern Indian plains are known for their terracotta craft and Bihar is no exception. It is one of the oldest crafts of the state, dating back to the Mauryan period. Human and animal figurines and toys, both for religious purpose and household use are made from terracotta. Darbhanga and Madhubani districts of Bihar are known for their terracotta art.