India | West Bengal

Sutradhars of West Bengal

Sutradhar is the traditional carpenter community of West Bengal. They are related to woodcraft as well as stone craft. The terracotta plaques in the various temples built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are testimony to the skill of this community. The wooden carvings made during the reign of the Pala dynasty (700-1100 AD) is another proof of the Sutradhar’s skill. In the medieval period, this community was known for the ‘phulpathar,’ plaques carved in a brick-red stone, found in the temples of Birbhum District.

Some of the best woodcarvings can be seen in the pillars, brackets, beams and rafters of the traditional village community halls called ‘Chandimandap’. Many folk and classical wooden idols are found in many village temples and shrines. The classical idols are carved in a simple but expressive folk style. These idols are painted in colors, which contain some symbolic meaning. Idols of deities are made of ‘neem’ or ‘bel’ wood.

Today, some woodcarvers make toys carved out of softwood, which are simple yet of interesting form. Some are engaged in the making of platters and bowls from mango wood. The members of the community contribute to the modern world by designing complex patterns used for engineering purpose. Some delve in interior decoration and furnishing.

Apart from working with wood, the Sutradhars are also involved in stonework. Their prominent stonework includes moulds for fresh cheese, sweets and ‘Amsatwa’ (cake of dried mango juice). The stone sculpture work is now restricted to only a few Sutradhars in the Dainhata village of Bardhaman District.

Updated on 17th April, 2015


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