Paper, mud, and clay are used to make the Chhau masks.

 

Puruliya is a district in the state of West Bengal, India. It is located in the eastern part of the country near Bengal- Jharkhand border. Chhau is a form of dance that has become very popular in West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Orissa. Based on place of origin and development, this dance can be classified in three subgenres—Seraikella Chhau, Mayurbhanj Chhau, and Purulia Chhau.

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Photo credit: Shuvarthy Chowdhury,

Seraikella Chhau is from Jharkhand, Purulia Chhau is performed in West Bengal, Mayurbhanj Chhau is performed in Orissa. The Purulia Chhau and Seraikella Chhau are more popular than Mayurbhanj among the three, cause Seraikella and Purulia use masks but  Mayurbhanj Chhau does not and these chouu quite different from each other by look.

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Seraikella Chhau
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Purulia Chhau

This form of dance performed duringthe March-April months. The locals gathered around the dancers for entertainment, and performers performs various episodes from the epics; Ramayana, Mahabharata and from Puranas to communicate with the people by using the Chhau dance.  You will often see the incredibly fit dancers dressed up as Hindu deities such as Durga, Ganesh, Kartik and dancing around effortlessly in their heavy costumes and masks.

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photo credit: arunima mondal

Paper, Mud,and clay are used to make the Chhau masks. The masks are painted in pastel shades and have a frank, simple, and bold look. The eye- brows, mouth, and eyes are painted to give completeness to the looks. Around 150 years ago during the rule of King Madan Mohan Singh Deo of Bagmundi the tradition of making chau masks started in the CHARIDA village of Purulia. Presently there are around 300 traditional Artists in the village known as “SUTRADHAR” community

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Photo credit: Shuvarthy Chowdhury,

Why we called it chauu? there is a fact to explain it,  that long ago this dance was performed by the military of the local kingdom in their leisure time. The themes included their heroic deeds and traditional folklore. They performed this dance for their own entertainment as well as to encourage themselves. As it was performed in their camps (locally known as “Chhauni”), the name “Chhau” came from that term.

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It is mainly performed at night in an open space, called “akhada” or “asor” along with traditional and folk music on the reed pipes “mohuri” and “shehnai” (locally shaina) and  traditional drums  “dhol” dhumsa” and “kharka”.

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Photo credit: Shuvarthy Chowdhury,

Besides its importance to culture, Chhau is crucial to the local economy. There is a global audience for this folk art form, and a large number of families earn their livelihood by performing and selling masks and dresses.

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Photo credit: Shuvarthy Chowdhury,

The ‘Wooden toys’ are the one of the ancient craft of Varanasi.

Varanasi, said to be the oldest living city in the world, we referred to called as “Banaras” and “Kashai”.  Varanasi is a famous pilgrimage spot for Hindus; there are number of temples on the banks of Ganges. Tourist visited Varanasi for the peace of mind and to wash away all their sins in the Ghats of river Ganges. That is how Varanasi Ghats consider as the place of divinity.

http://www.malagar.in/sketch-book-of-agra-and-varanasi/
photo credit: Muralidharan Alagar

 

The Art and culture of Varanasi is quite unique. It has rich cultural tradition with the combination of archaeology, mythology, history, geography and art that makes Varanasi a center of Indian culture. The ‘Wooden toys’ are the one of the ancient craft of Varanasi. The sets of birds, animals, orchestras, soldiers and dance ensembles are made in wood, gaily painted and packed in boxes. The toys can be found in all sizes — from a 1 inch mobile to a large 2 feet tall doll.

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photo credit: Prashant Sharma

The beauty of wooden toys is in the fact that they are carved by craftsmen and painted by them. They show a perspective of life. Craftsmen make them according to their knowledge of history, Indian mythology, Mahabharata, Ramayana, etc. Wooden toy makers are the few craftsmen, who are pursuing the art of toy making over generations. A set of artists are only skilled to make the toys of wood and finish the structure for paint and there are separate families of artists whose soul job is to paint the toys.

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The toys studied can be classified into following categories- religious, cultural, animals & birds, and traditional and modern toys. All these themes have toys treated in a different way—for example—religious toys are generally hand carved, and painted gaudily, they exhibit Indian motifs and patterns. These toys also tell mythological and religious stories of their time.

The cultural theme based toys shows the classes of society, the daily lifestyle and activity of the people in rural India and also some profession which were popular in ancient India. Whereas, the modern toys are generally 3 dimensional, made by turning and have modern patterns

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photo credit: Prashant Sharma

 

Selecting the right kind of wood for toys is very important. ‘Kemah, Chilbil’ and ‘Haldu’ wood is used for making toys but they largely use Chilbil. The wood block as per the size of the toy to be made is cut from the log. The piece is cleaned and sanded to get a smooth surface. The design of the toy to be made is traced on this piece. Extra wood is chipped off according to the design. Sometimes the whole toy is carved out from a single piece of wood whereas in some cases, different body parts are carved separately and joined together with adhesive

Carving is followed by painting. Bright and gaudy non toxic colors are used to paint the body. First, the toy is dipped in distemper. When it dries, it is neatly painted with duco white paint. Two such coats are applied followed by the last coat of lacquer to bring shine to the surface of the toys. In the process of fine painting work, brush made out of the hair from squirrel’s tail is used for painting. They do not finish one piece at a time. They prepare one color and paint all the samples in a batch of toys with it and let it dry before they start with the next color. In one day, one painter finishes at least 20 pieces.

tota banaras

Lacquering is done on a lathe in the lac turning method. Lacquer ware toys are produced in this way. Thus, the craftsmen manipulate the stick where several colors are used. Some of the lacquered pieces are painted with a brush. Non-toxic colors or acrylic based poster colors are used.