Bastar Iron Craft

Bastar Iron Craft (also known as “Wrought iron craft of Baster”) is a traditional Indian iron crafts that are manufactured in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state, India. The iron-crafting work has been protected under the geographical indication (GI) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. It is listed at item 82 as “Bastar Iron Craft” of the GI Act 1999 of the Government of India with registration confirmed by the Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks.

The iron craft skill is passed through generation to generation in Bastar region. Some tribal communities are experts in iron craft work and many of them became as iron-smiths. Among many communities Gondi and Maria are notable for the traditional iron-crafting.

Bastar region of Chattisgarh is one of the richest areas in terms of iron ore deposits. Tribal, particularly Gond and Maria, specialized themselves in extracting iron from the iron ores, thus forming ironsmith communities in the tribe. The community started catering to the needs of the tribe by providing them tools for agriculture, jungle cutting tools, arrowheads and knives for hunting. Their skill evolved with time as well as experimentation with material and technique.

Gond tribe worships ‘Budha dev’ as God, which was believed to reside in saja tree, also known as Indian laurel. The tree was used for rituals and was believed to be sacred. It was considered as a symbol of strength by the local tribes. But slowly when Gonds understood the strength of iron, they started believing that their God is in iron too. Cemented platforms were built under the tree and iron tridents, spears and chains were kept as religious symbols. Ironsmiths started experimenting with the religious art forms. They created wrought iron lamps (diya) and also decorated it with animal motifs. They started making figurines of Budha Dev riding a horse. As their art evolved with time, their work also got noticed. Ironsmiths got the opportunity to travel to places with their craft and also learn from the exposure. This resulted in more experimentation with the forms and sizes. This can be seen in the current form of the craft where an animal is depicted in various postures and sizes.

Bastar region
Lohshilp or wrought iron craft is one of the most unique and the oldest craft form in Bastar region. It has an aesthetic appeal inspite of its simplistic form. The art originated from the ironsmith community that used to make farming and hunting implements for tribes. Over the years, the craft has beautifully evolved into an artistic form and so has its worldwide demand. Wrought iron work is mainly concentrated in Bastar district of Chattisgarh with Kondagaon, Umargaon and Gunagaon being the main centers.

Wrought iron products include Deepak, which is made of many shallow bowls like lamps (diya), bird and animal figures, small diamond shaped leaf like structures and vertical and horizontal rods. These deepaks are the specialty of the ironsmiths in this area. These are available in the forms of Laman Diya (hanging diya) and Khut diya (stand diya). Many new forms like masks, hangers, innovative lamps, wall hangings and showpieces are also available. The horse of Raodev is most popular and is made with just two legs. The new forms in the craft reflect the realities of the changing times and a craftsman’s response to it.