The West Bengal State Handicrafts Expo 2015-16 (Paschim Banga Rajya Hasta Shilpa Mela) started from November 20. This annual extravaganza of the best in handicrafts and handlooms from West Bengal has been a huge hit. The state’s handlooms and handicrafts sector, in fact, forms the backbone of its extremely successful MSME sector. The expo is going to be held till December 13.
The expo showcases the best that Bengal’s handloom sector has to offer, and these weavers are some of the best in India. Gradually their products are finding a place in foreign markets too. The Biswa Bangla stores and the recent online sales, among other things, have helped in driving the huge upsurge in demand.
The expo or fair is being held at the Milan Mela fairground opposite Science City. More than 3,500 artists are taking part in the fair. The fair is open from 1 pm to 8.30 pm. It is being organised by the Directorate of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, West Bengal and the Directorate of Textiles, West Bengal.
Crafts of Bengal (mssewb.gov.in)
Innovations at the fair
A visit to the ongoing fair will leave one surprised at the myriad experimentation that both weavers and craftsmen have engaged in to attract buyers. While innovations will grab eyeballs, a lot of revival has also left its mark.
Hooghly's Bapnan embroidery, for example, has gone through a complete makeover. Its close resemblance with Phoolkari embroidery of Punjab has made embroiders experiment with designs and materials.
Serampore, since the days of the Danes, has traditionally been the seat of block print. This year, a large number of old motifs have been revived, thanks to the ongoing heritage revival at Serampore. Murshidabad silks have been procured to bring these blocks alive. Some designs on blocks have also been translated into batik.
According to the participating weavers, handspun and handwoven textiles are expensive but there is a surge in demand these days. While earlier only the market was prominent, now there is an all-round demand for handloom sarees even in the local market, helping weavers to experiment more with the yarn count and weave both in case of cotton and silks from Purulia and Bishnupur.
For some years, demand for cotton-silk sarees was on the wane. So this time, the weavers of Fulia have increased the cotton count and reduced the silk count. In its new avatar, the cotton-silk saree with a 70:30 ratio of cotton and silk is a huge hit. New weaves with matka and linen and a fish-scale weave are also big draws at the Nadia stall.
Sarees that have grabbed the eyeballs this year (Times of India)
Bengal’s rich tradition
West Bengal has a rich tradition of handloom weaving. It is a part of its cultural heritage. The textile products of Bengal have attracted not only national but also worldwide attention and bears the timeless legacy of its cultural heritage.
Currently, 1191.75 million metres of cloth is being produced by the state. The export component is worth Rs 215 crore.
West Bengal also has a rich tradition in handicrafts. The craftsmen of Bengal have been, for centuries, creating designs of aesthetic beauty, captivating the eyes of the connoisseurs, both in India and abroad. The strength of the craftsmen lies in their traditional skills, their understanding of their materials, their taste and, of course, their grasp of the design, form and decoration of their products, all acquired over generations.
Lead image: Wikipedia