In Kolkata? Pick Up These 8 GI Tag Heritage Products

In Kolkata? Pick Up These 8 GI Tag Heritage Products
Handmade Chhau masks at a crafts shop in Charida village, Purulia, Photo Credit: suprabhat/Shutterstock.com
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From the distinctive leather work of Shantiniketan to terracotta from Bishnupur, unique gifts to pick up when you are in Kolkata. The best part is that they showcase the craft heritage of Bengal

OT Staff
November 23 , 2022
05 Min Read

Purulia Chhau Mask

There are three different varieties of chhau dance in India, but it is probably the chhau from Purulia is West Bengal which has the most stunning headgear. The masks - made of pulped paper and clay and hand-painted in vibrant colours - portray characters, demons and deities from mythology. These distinctive chhau masks were given a GI tag in 2018. In Purulia, the village of Charida is known as the village of the chhau mask. On both sides of the main road in Charida, you will find workshops of these masks being painted in various shapes and sizes. Chhau masks are now displayed in several museums around the globe.

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Buy it at: Pick up one from the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Shantiniketan Leather 

The distinctive design of Shantiniketan leather products was nurtured under the aegis of the rural development programme run by Visva-Bharati University. The leather is coloured with vegetable dyes and then handpainted with its signature motifs drawn from nature. Which is probablywhy you will find many animal-inspired bags and pouches. 

Buy it at: Pick up one from Sasha on Free School Street or Bengal Emporium (Triangular Park, Rashbehari Avenue), Dakshinapan, or from the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Bankura Panchmura Terracotta

Bishnupur in Bankura district is a town known for its artistically carved terracotta temples. The former royal kingdom of the Malla rulers, it is known for its ancient terracotta and laterite temples exhibiting the various styles of Bengal temple architecture. The most famous product from these parts is perhaps the long-necked horse which is seen in the Central Cottage Industries Emporium’s logo. Almost everyone is Kolkata has had these terracotta horse as part of their home decor. To know more about the traditional craft, drop in at the annual Terracotta Festival held at the Panchmura village, near Bishnupur, about 150 km from Kolkata.

Buy it at: Pick up one from the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Bengal Dokra

The craft of dokra uses metal casting with the lost-wax casting technique, one of the oldest forms of metal casting that dates back thousands of years. The earliest example of it was found in Mohenjodaro of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Interestingly, this non-ferrous metal casting following the lost wax process has remained the same despite the advance in modern metallurgy. In West Bengal, Dariyapur village in Burdwan district have been making dokra for many years. 

Buy it at: Pick up one from the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Nakshi Katha

Many folks out there will be familiar with the term 'kantha' - embroidery with a simple running stitch. Bengal is known for its kantha work which is seen in almost all products (saris and kurtas, notepad covers, home linen). But nakshi kantha is far more elaborate with small, tight stitches that create stories around rural life.

Buy it at: The Sasha store on Free School Street, the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Madurkathi

In West Bengal, you will find a variety of mats known as ‘madur’ which are used to sit on, taken on pinics, and used to lay out on beds as a layer. A madur is woven from a local reed found in swamy areas, known as ‘madur kathi’. Sometimes cotton threads are used as warp and madur kathi is used as weft. This makes the mat more pliable and foldable.

Buy it at: The Sasha store on Free School Street, Dakshinapan. the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Bengal Patachitra

The narrative scroll paintings (patachitra) made by Bengal's patuas or chitrakars (painter-singers) are now a GI tag product. There was a time when pataus would travel from village to village, singing a 'poter gaan' - the stories painted on the scrolls, unrolling each frame by frame. The scrolls were once handpainted with colours derived from nature, and backed with cloth from old saris to make them more durable.   

Buy it at: Pick up one from CIMA art gallery, The Bengal Emporium Outlet in Triangular Park on Rashbehari Avenue, the Dakshinapan shopping complex, or from the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  

Handloom Saris

The handloom saris of Bengal are some of the best in India. But it is three handloom varieties that have been given the GI tag so far- the Santiuri, the Dhaniakhali, and the Baluchari sari. The first one is a classic Bengal taant (loom) that originates in the village of Santipur in Nadia district and is a centuries-old tradition. It is said that the ancient handloom industry dates back to the 15th century. The Dhanikhali is a simple yet nuanced and elegant piece of wearable art. It gets its name from the village of the same name in Bengal. Look for its smart durey-kata (stripes) designs. The exquisite Baluchari sari lays out entire mythological tales on its silk weaves.  

Buy it at: Pick up one from the sari shops along Gariahat and Rashbehari avenue. Some of the most well known stores are Adi Dhakeshwari, RMCG Basak, Saree Kutir, and more. Saris are also available (though in limited numbers) at the many outlets of the state-run Biswa Bangla stores or at a Manjusha outlet.  


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