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Terracotta Tales scripted in Burnt Clay

28 January, 2023 17:31:09
Terracotta Tales scripted in Burnt Clay

The picturesque trails traversing the heartland of Bankura district of West Bengal converging to the ‘Terracotta Hub of Bengal’ Panchmura, are as breath-taking as the artisans’ creations, where the rustic charm of burnt clay or terracotta blend in a creative tapestry. The terracotta craft of Bengal is as old as the Terracotta temples that were erected in different parts of Bankura, Murshidabad, Bishnupur in the 18th-19th century. Keeping that art alive down generations, Panchmura village caters to The Bengal Store, that exclusively sells Terracotta products across the globe bringing forth the exquisite skill of these artisans to the world.

Take for example the ‘Ek Chala Terracotta Durga’ with all her children blended to perfection and minute details in the backdrop of ‘One Chala’ that was introduced as an art form by none other than Raja Krishna Chandra. Why wait for the Durga Puja to arrive in autumn? This piece of art can adorn the mantlepiece throughout the year, as a symbol of divine blessings metamorphosed into artistic splendour. Panchmura is a village where every household has a terracotta artist with around 70 families carrying forward this age-old ‘Kumbhakar’ tradition, trying to keep the Terracotta art alive. One huge well at the village entrance is where every terracotta item made by artisans from 6-60 years, are burnt to give the sheen and charm of the final product.

The artisans of Panchmura take their inspiration from vibrant religious rituals and animal world. For nature enthusiasts, The Bengal Store has a big-time repertoire of terracotta animal forms, be it the popular Bankura Terracotta Horse or Kothakoli Horse and Terracotta ‘Bonga Hathi’ or Elephant to ‘special’ ones like the giant terracotta owl blinking through the dark nights. Or the detailed Palki, a carriage of the yesteryears, blended to perfection. To top them all is the Terracotta Shankha with carvings, a perfect gift item for anyone.

Products like Kothakoli Horse and Bonga Hathi have historical significance too. In Rarh Bengal, Dharmathakur is worshipped, and as per ritual, a plethora of horses need to be sacrificed to appease Dharmathakur. Thus, the symbolic wish fulfilment finds way through a varied mix of Terracotta Horses. While the round Bonga Hathi with a unique trunk and remarkable symmetry originated in Hooghly district. Long ago, Bishnupur was ruled by the Malla Kings and hence this region was known as Mallabhum. The kings of Mallabhum owned many horses and elephants which were used not only as modes of transport but as a symbol of power. The greater the number of horses and elephants a king possessed, the more powerful he was! These animals were also decorated with sparkling royal ornaments of gold and silver and that intricate form has been replicated in the detailed design of the terracotta Bonga Hathi. The Santhals of Mallabhum once upon a time used these Terracotta elephants to offer prayers to their tribal deity ‘Singh Bonga of Zaher.’ As per legend. a zamindar named Chand Roy, hailed as a miracle doctor by village folks was respected and worshipped for his free services and the tribals gifted him the Terracotta animal figures as a symbolic gesture of love, respect and gratitude.

Another popular product that adorns many urban households is the Bankura’r Ghora or Bankura Horse with its quintessential erect ears and a long neck, ornately carved eyebrows and forehead, decorated with a clay chandmala. But the pick of the day anytime is the Terracotta Sankha or conch shell that is not made of shell, but of burnt clay. Keep it before the god or goddesses you pray and lift the mood, spread positive vibes all across your homes and in the lives of your loved ones through the Terracotta products of The Bengal Store.

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