The tribes of Bastar are famously known for their indigenous quality in making handicrafts and arts beautifully. They were amongst the earliest to start working with metal and expertise in making figurines of tribal Gods, animals, oil lamps, carts, etc. Prominent among the tribal art is the Bastar art practiced by the tribes of Bastar for centuries which is popular in India and as well as outside.
Their process is very simple, including forging and hammering the metal. Using only few tools and a furnace of coal, they twist and bend the iron rods in order to give them a shape. One’s journey to Bastar would not be complete without picking up the memento which is an unforgettable part of the trip.
Bastar district specializes in making of items from the Dhokra handicrafts , an ancient method of using metal artifacts by wax casting technique. This is non-ferrous metal casting using the lost wax casting technique. The Dhokra handicraft is mainly found in the areas of Jagdalpur, Kondagaon and Narayanpur of the Bastar district.
Bell Metal Handicrafts
Dhokra and bell metal are almost the same which officially is the casting of the bell metal or brass using lost wax technique. The craft of bell metal was initially used to produce articles for ritualistic purpose like idol of deities, diyas, utensils, etc.
Animal figurines like the horses or the elephants and other animals are made, which are also depicted as the vehicles of God. The Bastar district specializes in preparation of items from the bell metal like vessels, jewelry and the images of local deities. Basically they make the most of the wonderful pieces of arts. The Dhokra and the Bell metal art can be found in almost every part of the world and the way they carve a metal into an art is worth watching.
Wrought Iron Art
This is a Bastar craft. The wrought iron is used to create the dark raw forms of the metal artifacts. The raw metal used is predominantly the recycled scrap iron. This tradition of iron craft in Bastar has passed down from generations to generations with unmatched skill and creativity.
The Bastar area is very rich in iron ore deposits and thus the tribes started working out for the basic utilities via the metals. The simple equipments used are furnace, hammer, forceps, tongs and chisel. The process starts with beating the scrap iron first when hot. The iron is then molded into desired shapes by carefully beating the spots.
The dark raw iron or the recycled iron craft is used to create various forms of figures. They make utilities like mirror frame, window frame, candle stand and etc. The bell metal and wrought iron are mixed together to create different artifacts with different feel and look.
Tribal men and women wear traditional folk ornaments made out of beads which is quite interesting. Men and women decorate themselves from head to toe with flowers, ornaments and dresses. They assemble in Haats or market places for various celebrations and enjoy the scene of tribes with ornaments and flowers.
The tribal people create ornaments of unique style made of beads, feathers or terracotta and cane. The tribes shows their knowledge through their expertise in Gharhwa art, wooden art and other crafts. The tribal ladies decorate themselves with Khosa (lockof braid), khinwa (ear tops), phuli (nose ring), karipot (black pearl), chapsari (necklace), muhar mala (garland made of coins).
The three string necklace made from carved tree shaped brass medallions on blue beads is typical of the jewelry that Bastar tribe is known for.
Many modern sculptors work along with the tribal people of Bastar especially in Kondagaon to create contemporary art by blending the fine technique of lost wax brass casting from the Godwa sculptors of Kondagaon.
The metal sculptors are known as Gadhwas, which means shaping and creating castings of bronze, brass and copper. Gadhwa sculptors continue to inspire the work.
The soft soil from the river bed is gently coaxed by the potter’s hand in to utility items. Pots, bowls, elephants, horses, lamps and others are made from clay. These handicrafts are different in shapes and sizes. Tribal terracotta masks form a part of all community celebrations and is popular in the region.
The Chher Chhera festival is celebrated with young men and women wearing masks while dancing and singing. Masks are colored red and used in folk plays and dances. The tribal make attractive grain storage bins embellished with carved animals and human figures.
The main centers of tribal terracotta in Bastar are Nagarnar, Kumharpara, Kondagaon , Narayanpur and Kanker.
Sisal and Shell Craft
The ivory colored fibers of the sisal are obtained from swaying reeds of the mashes of Bastar. Sisal leaves are processed to produce naturally white fiber that is soft to touch but has an incredible strength. Sisal ropes do not rot in wet conditions and hence are used on ships and boats.
The craft village of the Parchanpal, 10kms from Jagdalpur is developed as a museum cum botanical garden where large stone sculptures amidst a profusion of flora can be seen on either side of most highways.
The forests covers a large portion of Bastar. Hence wood craft is one of the famous craft, beautiful and unique. These wooden crafts are made out of the finest teak woods and white wood, shisham, sal and kikar. Over the period of time, the tribal began using the wood for carving objects. A community of people skilled in this called Badhais were developed. They were again classified into two groups – making agricultural instruments and others making decorative and totemic pillars.
These handicrafts are exported and sent to different parts of the world. Bows, arrows, idols, wall panels. furniture, doors, windows, etc. are the collection items. The largest single woodcraft of the tribes is the Dussehra chariot. The eight wheeled chariot about 11.5 meters long and 11 meters high is decorated with wooden figures of horse riders and women.
The tribes are excellent in making bamboo crafts. Bamboo crafts include wall hangings, table lamps, baskets, table mats, animals, fishing traps, etc. The basket makers would wind the grass around the rope which is then coiled in to shape.
The Narayanpur Bamboo Project affiliated to the National Bamboo Mission trains the rural people of the area in the traditional craft.
The Banjara community of the Irikpal village are specialized in the cowrie or shellwork. The village is situated 4kms from Tokpal on the Jagdalpur-Dantewada highway. The beauty of the cowrie craft can be seen in various dance forms like Bison dance, etc.
Bastar Kosa Sadi and Cotton Fabrics
These are made of the Kosa thread which is from a kind of worn found in the forest, hand woven and hand printed by the tribes. The hand printing is done by the natural vegetables dye, extracted from AAL found in the forests. The vegetable extracts never fade away.
These fabrics include well known Bastar Kosa sarees, dresses, materials and drapes. The kosa fabrics are famous for their sturdiness and preferred to pure silk.
Comb Tradition of Bastar
In remote rural areas, in order to express love to a young women, a young man presents a comb made out of bamboo or wood and when accepted she is considered to accept the request of the man. Bamboo comb is the token of love in Bastar.
The comb collection is a matter of prestige for the motiyaries (Maiden). The bigger the collection, the popular she is in the Ghotul system. Combs are worn as ornaments in the hair decorated with mirror pieces, beads and colors.
Typically, combs are given as gifts in the presence of elders. They carry them as a symbol of magical protection and give them to their favorite girl.
Clay Relief Work
The mud walls and the houses are adorned with clay murals, clay relief or carvings ,m using done by the women. Clay is mixed with paddy husk and cow dung in this process. The relief work is bare and unpainted and found in the internal and external walls of the houses.
This is a form of making tattoos motifs on the textiles. This work is done by the women of the village. They make use of the natural color acquired from the forest and merge them with acrylic paint to craft it more constant on the fabrics.
This is less known craft and is widely used in the Bastar region. This is used in the Bastar region in the rural areas. It is used for drinking water, tea and juice. This is made from fat gourd and it keeps water and others cold. There is a widespread use of hollow gourd shells as containers by the tribes.
The Bastar area is rich in the flora and the people in the area dry the flowers, leaves and use branches of the trees with different shapes and sizes to find ways to use them as decorative items. They press the flowers, make dying bouquets and wiring of dry flowers in different craft projects.
The pressed dried flowers of Mahua tree are used by tribes as food and to produce liquor.
Kuppar Hair Style
This hair style is used by the Gond woman. This is of old Harappa’s culture known as Koyatur. Traditional items of Koyatur bell metal is found in the Bastar region. This hair style is still prevalent in villages of Bastar and Telangana as they feel proud of it.
This tree is found in plenty in Bastar, especially in the South Bastar. Its leaf is used for making roof in tribal homes, umbrellas, sitting material and cups, etc. Its saps is used by the tribes as taadi (a local drink) and fruit for making various local delicacies/snacks.
The date palm leaves are also used as cleaning floor sets. Mates used for sitting and sleeping purposes are prepared from date palm leaves and palm leaves as well. Dhunga community are engaged in this profession. The leaves of Sal trees are used for making plates and cups which are used traditionally.
Various decorative materials/ items are made from the tender leaves of Chhind. The crown is made from the leaves of Chhind and is used by the bride and bridegroom in the marriage. When the crown is dipped in Haldi, it looks like a beautiful golden crown.
They bring their craft to nearby weekly district Haats for sale where they get better prices for selling and making the products.