Horn, Bone, Ivory of West Bengal

Horn, Bone, Ivory of West Bengal


The main centres of ivory-carving in West Bengal are Khagra and Jiagunj in the Murshidabad district. The ivory-carvers belong to the pashana (stone) group of the traditional sutradhar caste. The ivory-carving is secular in character as it is a mixture of Hindu folk forms and Islamic designs. The items carved range from a king sitting under a howdah to an Ambari or royal elephant which has beautifully carved legs, exquisitely worked ivory panels and figurines that are part of simhasanas, thrones, beds and palanquins, scenes form a royal procession of elephants, elephants and horses dressed for different occasions, and ornamented boats of different sizes like the mayur pankhi boat with prows shaped like peacock heads with a party of tiny dancers on board. The other examples are chariots with horses, bullock carts, elephants crossing a bridge, decorative patterns carved out of an entire tusk, decorative panels and carved legs for furniture, magnificently carved and engraved jewellery and jewellery boxes, chessmen, and lamps of varying kinds. There are also carvings of Buddha and copies from Chinese ivory-carvings. The Murshidabad ivory-carvers carve figures of Hindu gods and goddesses --- Durga, Lakshmi, and Ganesh. The style of carving is different for these religious figurines. The ban on ivory has resulted in a dwindling of the number of practising artisans and a shift to rose wood and sandal wood carving with encouraging results. Horn comb craft was very popular in West Bengal until the first quarter of this century. Though cheaper replacements have arrived it is still used by the rural population as they believe horn combs are good for the hair and scalp. This craft is practised in the villages of Baishnab Chak, Jyot Ghanashyam, Narayan Chak, Dongabhanga, and Tamluk in the Midnapur district of West Bengal. The Midnapur craftspersons make combs of many designs and shapes. The artisans belong to the pashana or stone group of the sutradhar caste.

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