Bastar Wooden Crafts are traditional Indian wooden crafts that are manufactured in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state, India. The wood-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 84 as “Bastar Wooden Craft” of the GI Act 1999 of the Government of India with registration confirmed by the Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks.
Generally people in Chhattisgarh, especially Bastar people have excellent skills in variety of craft work including Dhokra, bamboo craft, wrought iron craft, tribal dress, traditional textile, Kantha embroidery, terracotta, tribal painting, bell metal, etc. Their skills have been recognized by national and state awards. Badhai people are skilled in this woodcraft work and they are divided into two groups. One group make agricultural instruments and other group make decorative and totemic pillars. Another community, knows as Muria people also has woodcarving skills. The Murias are best in craftsmanship. Their skill apply in various objects that from small to big. They turn craft skills into interpretation of basic lifestyles and basic routines of life such as chaffing of paddy, grinding grains, etc. They express their culture and religious faiths into craft art that reflect through gods, goddess, music culture of the community and wildlife. The craft work heavily depended as hand-made where there is no machinery usage or rare use in particular areas only.
Woodcraft in Bastar has beautiful and unique form of art that was mastered by Bastar tribal and it helps their livelihood. The handicrafts product has decent market in different parts of India as well as in some foreign countries. They use teak wood, Indian Rosewood, whitewood and other finest wood to craft various handicraft items. Bastar Wooden Craft has been exhibited at “Durbar Hall Art Gallery” too.
Items made of wood, affect each and every stage of human life. The range of utilitarian products and decorative pieces made from wood is immense. Mother nature has blessed India with a vast number of tree species. India being a tropical country mainly has deciduous or evergreen trees. Wood Craft is one of the most famous beautiful and unique art of wooden carving of Bastar tribals. These wooden crafts are made out of the finest teak wood and white wood. These wooden crafts includes models, furniture items etc. among the furniture items Deewan (Cot with box) is very famous and attractive since it involves the art of carving with different pictures of bastar culture and other designs of interest. These handicrafts are generally exported to different places of the country, and it has demand even from foreign countries also.
Woodcraft from the tribal belt of Bastar is known for figures of tribal deities, carved wooden memorials, masks etc. Chhattisgarh is also famous for painted and lacquered wood product such as toys, boxes, bedposts, cradles posts, flower vases etc.
The woodcarving art has been flourishing in Chhattisgarh from time immemorial and one can find beautifully carved wooden products designed by the craftsman of the State. The skilful craftsmen of the State carve beautiful wooden ceilings, doors, lintels etc using different kinds of wood like shisham, teak, dhudi, sal and kikar. The craftsmen also make pipes, masks, doors, window frames and sculptures.
Woodcraft includes items such as finely carved figurines, furniture and accessories, windows, doors, boxes, decorative pieces, utensils, panels, beads etc.
The Muriatribe of Bastar specialize in elaborate ornamentation. The handle of a knife or a sickle , or the sheath of a knife, husking instruments, agricultural implements, seed funnels, wooden head rests or objects like wooden combs or tobacco pouches are generally ornamental. The darakaseris a knife tucked into a wooden sheath near the waist, the sheath is carved with floral and geometric designs, and some times with animal motifs. The Murias wooden head rest, kutul, also used as a seat in the youth dormitories , is generally carved with geometric motifs and designs of combs and human figurines.
Some of the tribal groups in Bastar erect menhirs, memorial pillars, in the memory of the deceased. Among the Dandami Maria, it is mostly rich who erect wooden posts, urasgatta, made of either gaja or teak wood. In their settlements, in the region between Jagdalpur and Dantewada one finds a number of such memory pillars erected by the side of the roads. The carvings on the pillars are done by skilled tribal wood carvers. However the pillars, once erected, are not cared for, and as the land is infested with termites, these pillars gets damaged and are eaten up by them. It is believed that with the deterioration of the pillar, the soul of the person in whose memory the pillar had been erected is fulfilled and freed. When it is completely destroyed, the deceased is believed to have reached heaven.
Ritual wooden objects are found in nearly all tribal communities. The largest single wood craft of the tribal’s, the Dussherarath, chariot, comes from the Bastar region. The eight wheeled chariot made during the fifteen day long Dussherafestival is about 11.5 mts. Long and 11 mts high. It is decorated with wooden figures of horse riders and women. Other than this, palanquins and litters of ritual importance are also made of wood with carvings of animals, geometric and floral designs.
Ritual mask used by the Murias, the Maria and the Bhatra tribes are also made of wood. These masks potray peculiar faces, some used for amusement, some others in ritual performances. The most common clan god, Angadeo, is always made of wood. Angadeo is worshipped among al the tribal populations of Bastar. Two types are made, one which can be carried on the shoulders by two or four people and the other which can be held by one person alone.
Muria youth while dancing hold actual wooden imitations of axes, battle axes, spears, etc. in their hands. These articles are ornamented with decorative designs. The designs are mostly carved by a red hot iron knife, or a nail. When the red hot iron implement is pressed to draw a particular design or motif, it burns the wood and makes a linear grooved impression. Here too they usually draw geometric patters, fish, snakes, combs, the sun and the moon. These weapons, besides being carried during the dances, are also the symbolic weapons of the dormitory.
Although Bastar is one of the most important region from the Wood Craft point of view, this crafted is also practiced in other parts of the State as well. With the changing times, the craftsmen have also adapted to newer products. The traditional tribal’s ornaments and figures have now given way to more contemporary Hindu Gods and Goddesses. These are produced both in the form of proper three dimensional sculptures and also two dimensional scenes depicted on wooden planks.
The finished product is often smoothened and coated with a coat of varnish to give it the typical glossy look. Where as there is also a group of artist who do not finish their products to this extent, and they leave it with a raw unpolished natural look. A typical style of Naryanpur region is though, to paint the sculpture with a matte black paint.
The wood carvers throughout the state use simple tools made of iron , with wooden or bamboo grips. The tools necessary for removing the bark and scraping the surface of the wood to get the desired shape are called kaas, axe, and tatt, adze, by Muria carvers. Tools of various sizes, used in carving, scraping and shaping are known as poh,chisel. Among Muria artisans the larger tools are poh and the smaller ones are salapoh; those with crescent or half tube shaped iron blades are kodpalpoh. All these are fitted into small cylindrical wooden handles or grips.