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EARTHEN-WORK OF
SURMA/BARAK VALLEY:

THROUGH THE EYES OF
A YOUNG ARTIST

DR. SIB SANKAR MAJUMDER

For centuries, Barak Valley of Assam has been a melting-pot of various ethnic groups, cultural traditions which is richly reflected in its amazing variety of handicrafts – from bamboo and cane products, to masks, wood carvings, textiles and earthen ware. People from the rest of the world have been amazed by the diversity of arts and crafts of the region. Interestingly, whereas all the tribes and ethnic groups and communities in the valley have their own distinctive handicraft tradition, the materials used to make them have always remained the same. Cotton is the most popular fabric across the region, although Brahmaputra Valley of Assam is renowned for its silk handlooms. Pottery is another craft widespread throughout the North East. Manipur, in particular excels in the craft of pottery that also has legends associated with it. This state and its tribes excel in earthenware pottery such as black-ware, greyware and red-ware pottery. This part of the world has a recorded history of civilization dating back to more than thousands of years. From the time of the early settlements, the geographic location, the climatic conditions, local vegetation and the availability of resources have determined the lifestyle of the communities, their cultural practices and the requirement of products they produced for their use. With natural ingenuity, man learned to make use of the available material to create the products required for daily use, and developed his skills to make tools to produce them, thus bringing about the birth of craftsmanship. Different communities specialised in learning different skills and became masters in their fields of craft activity, such as pottery, carpentry, weaving, sculpture, metal work, etc. The co-existence of different communities helped them cater to the needs of each other. 

“As a growing adolescent I have been fortunate to watch my artisan father, a traditional idol maker, earnestly delving with his medium, i.e., clay, straw, bamboo and jute every day. The meticulous layering of various types of clays was part and parcel of the process through which he would attain the desired image and surface of the idol”. – Binoy Paul

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