Bihar has a rich history and in ancient times it was a great religious centre for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Great Empires like the Mauryas, Magadhas, Palas and the Mughals left an indelible mark on the culture and tradition of the country. The beautifully crafted handicrafts made by their skilled artisans are in great demand in the local and international market for their innovative style and artistic beauty.
The word Sujani is derived from the word ‘Su’ meaning embroidery and ‘Jani’ meaning birth. Colourful patches of old clothes are stitched together and made into quilts for new born babies and then designs and motifs are created with colourful threads to give rise to Sujani embroidery. Fine running stitch is used to make beautiful motifs of flowers, peacock designs and deities for wall decoration. This embroidery is used for embellishment of sarees, Kurtas and other clothing and in home decor items like bedspreads, cushion covers, wall hangings etc.
This is a kind of appliqué work using Persian designs and circular motif designs in geometric patterns to create decorative items like shamianas, tents etc with more artistic appliqué work in decorating women’s garments. Designs are created by cutting one fabric and stitching the pieces onto another. Men usually cut the patterns while women do the stitching. This work was used by nobility like Kings and Emperors in the past.
Wood Craft and Wood Inlay
Wood inlay which refers to making a design in a matrix of one material and fitting a piece of contrasting and different material into the depression is done with different materials like ivory, metal and stag horn to make utility articles, wall hangings, table tops etc. Besides this, artistically carved wooden toys, furniture and carvings on doors, windows, thrones, temple panels etc are crafted by artisans which are in great demand in Indian and international markets.
Clay and Terracotta
Figures of animals, reptiles and human beings date back to the Mauryan period and continue right upto the Mughal period where they were made of clay and baked. Each village has its own style of pottery. Clay elephants signify marriage and are placed on roofs of houses. Clay deities are seen outside each village to ward off illness and bad luck. Toys and images are connected with religious ceremonies and festivals and is also used as play material by children and decorations in bed chambers. They are either moulded or hand modelled.
Utility items like mats, household wares, decorative objects, bags, cane furniture etc are made with great skill by the artisans as these products are not only eco friendly but are light in weight and look stylish and elegant.
Sikki Grass Craft
In this craft various handicrafts are made from a special kind of grass known as the Sikki grass. The grass is dried and the head of the flower is cut off. The result is a fine gold fibre which is used in weaving to make dolls, baskets and toys. On the occasion of a girl’s wedding the parents give the daughter boxes made of sikki knows as ‘Pauti’ which are used to hold ornaments, jewellery and Sindoor.
Brass art works have flourished even during the Gupta, Maurya and Pala periods which can be observed in the archaeological excavation sites of Rajgir and Nalanda. Well crafted images of Gods and Goddesses, pitchers, utensils and other utility articles are made which are famous locally and in the international markets.
Tikuli Work is a craft made from broken glass in which the craftsmen first melt the broken glass and then give it its design and shape. The superior glass is finished with wafer thin tabaque (gold or silver leaves) and this technique is used to make highly decorative pictures which adorn walls of houses and other utility items like trays, table tops, boxes, mats etc.
Zari work is found in saris, pillow covers, table cloth, blouses etc and give an elegant and rich look to the fabrics.
Kashida embroidery has different styles with geometrical patterns and it is done with gold and silver metallic threads, silk, sequins and beads on velvet or satin having motifs of leaf, birds etc. It is used in caps, blouses, saris, household textiles, quilts etc.
Bihar is famous for its textiles and is the largest producer of tussar silk. The weavers are specialised in making textured white cloth with motifs like fruits, animals, birds including large panels with traditional motifs of deities with the styles of the designs in folk forms. Bright colours and patterns are used with printing or Khari done in Mica in some areas.
Gold and silver jewellery are exquisitely crafted in Bihar and the tribals wear anklets, bracelets and other jewellery from brass and bell metal. Earrings in filigree with various motifs, kardhani or waistband, bangles or chudha, silver kundan jewellery etc are exquisitely crafted.
Lac is crafted as costume jewellery in the making of bangles. They are also used to make boxes, nose rings, bowls, stools etc and their distinct and unusual look and elegant craftsmanship make it famous domestically and abroad.
Stone images are famous in the holy Buddhist places in Bihar and can be seen in the exquisite construction of monasteries, Buddhist images and Stupas by the artisans. There is an abundant supply of various kinds of stones which are used to create deities, domestic items like bowls, glasses, pestle, coasters, tableware etc including architectural works like fountains and statues which are famous all over the world.