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A slice of Bengal

A crafts mela organised by Swayambhar Nari at Y.M.C.A., Secunderabad showcases crafts from Bengal.

BATIK BEAUTY: Worth checking out. - Photos: K. Ramesh babu

THE COUNTRY'S craft history goes back to the Neolithic period. The British sounded the death knell of handlooms but after Independence the scene has improved with the setting up of various bodies - governmental and voluntary, to ensure their survival. Yet a lot has still to be done. Swayambhar Nari, a voluntary organisation based in Kolkata has been involved in the promotion of crafts - by providing marketing facilities for craftsmen. A crafts mela organised by them is on at the Y.M.C.A., Secunderabad till September 8.

Basically the mela focuses on crafts of Bengal. But there are a few stalls from other States as well. The large hall is spacious enough to accommodate all the craftspersons.

The interesting articles from Bengal besides saris, embroidered kurtas and batiks are the jute items. Bags made of jute are a common feature. So are mats (chattais). But jute and cotton are blended to create curtains. These are ideal for the eco-conscious and the ethnic-oriented. A 4 ft by 6 ft piece costs Rs. 480. All one has to do is buy and hang as the rings are fitted. Jute slippers (slip ons) are unique. Fitted with rubber soles and priced between Rs. 100 and Rs. 150, these are worth trying out.

Jewellery made of jute is another item, which merits attention and purchase. Light, easy-to-handle, and ethnic too, these low-cost earrings, necklaces, bangles and pendants will complement a cotton outfit perfectly. They are ideal for the college-goers. Deepak Sarkar, a State award winner, has been fashioning jewellery out of jute and wooden beads for the last few years. These earthy trinkets come in different colours too.

The different varieties of jute bags and leather wallets come for a steal. Sharmishtha Mukherjee necklaces using beads with chunky pendants are also light on the purse.

TRINKETS GALORE: Ideal for college-goers.

Batiks - saris, short tops, long kurtas, blouse pieces and dress materials - in vibrant colours and interesting patterns and motifs made by Gautam Ghosh warrant a look.

Each of Saikat Banerjee's embroidered kurtas is a unique and different piece. Intricate and neat hand embroidery like kanta, ari and other kinds of stitches make these cotton, tussar and silk kurtas stand apart.

Can any exhibition from Bengal be complete without saris? The popular Tangails and Dhakais are spread out along with beautifully worked kanta and embroidered saris.

"Swayambhar Nari was started essentially for women but over the years the male craftsmen too have joined," says S. Bhadra, the founder-secretary. "It was started as a voluntary group 14 years ago (registered 12 years ago) for providing marketing facilities to craftspersons. Today, it has more than 2,000 members. The organisation runs two craft schools at Midnapore and Birbhum, Shantiniketan besides schools in rural areas for the craftspersons' children. It advises craftspersons on design matters," she adds. Articles from other States include bed sheets and articles from Panipat (Haryana), saris from Benaras (U.P.) Banjara work from Hyderabad, some block printed textiles from Ahmedabad (Gujarat) are on display at Y.M.C.A.

Take a look at these crafts and extend a helping hand to the craftsmen .


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