District Murshidabad is famous for its Sholapith craft.
Shola or Kuhila is a plant, growing wild in marshy waterlogged areas.
The Sholapith is the cortex or core of the plant and these inner soft milky-white
and spongy materials are almost similar to “Thermocol”,
artificially produced in a laboratory.
However, Sholapith is much superior to thermocol in terms of
malleability, texture, lustre and sponginess
is preferred by the artisans.
The people engaged as sholapith craftsmen are known as ‘Malakar’, meaning “maker of garland”
Main raw material of this craft is the stem of the Shola plant .
In the months of February/March the seeds are sown in the pit area.
These grow up into a matured one within five or six months.
People collect those Shola plants before the ditch dries up.
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These plants becomes light when dried.
These are then cut into fine pieces (Pith) as per the requirement of the product to be made.
The outer harder brown skin is removed by expert hands to
reveal the inner soft white portion of the stem and
then the inner portion is fragmented into
different shapes and reinforced by colouring as required.
The feasibility and proficiency of the artists carries the
tradition of antique creation and dexterity.
The crafts can claim the superiority and the artisan’s success and popularity due to its artistic beauty and perfect expressiveness as well as its wonderful fineness.
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The two categories of this craft
“Deities of God & The Mask”
“Flower and other decorative items”
Sholapith items forms an integral part of the major religious ritual in West Bengal.
Traditionally the artisans also craft ritual and decorative items like garlands, chandmalas, conical topors, and the mukut worn by the brides and the bridegrooms in Bengal.
An interesting feature of the sholapith is that it was the material used during the British times
for the production of the Sola Topi which was a necessary article of head-wear
for the British as protection from the
hot mid-day sun of India.
Shola products, when crafted, resembles Ivory.
However,unlike Ivory they are brittle and break easily
unless kept carefully.
This ephemeral quality of the shola gives it a precious quality.
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