5 Months and 20 Indigenous Village Folk Carnivals of West Bengal

India is known as the culturally rich land with harmony and accord merged in a diversified terrain. From the 26 different tribes of Arunachal Pradesh to the 22 different local languages, all fuse together to signify one nation of India. The rural beauty of Bengal is one such exemplification. Every year, starting from October to the March of the following year, the state of West Bengal witnesses a wave of rural cultural carnivals from the respective districts. And you just cannot unsee it.

    Terracotta Works @DoiBedouin
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     TourEast,  a Kolkata based initiative of banglanatak dot com encourages to promote community-led cultural tourism and “foster sustainable development using culture-based approaches”. TourEast organises transportation and provides comfy accommodations wherein one can feel involved with the folkloric environment. They organises day-long workshops too, to get you accustomed with the tradition. These festivals are also supported by Biswa Bangla Rural Craft Hubs of West Bengal, Department of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises & Textiles Government of West Bengal and UNESCO.


    The 5 month-long festivities as planned by TourEast


    Details on the Folk-Arts

    Mukha Shilpo or Wooden Masks

    An ecstatic artform of the Ranbangshi community of Dakshin Dinajpur district of West Bengal. Kushmandi witnesses the moulding of the masks. Themes of the masks are usually spiritual, historic and religious dedicated to the ageless good versus evil theology. The masks make part of the costume of the traditional Gomira dance. The artists will host the 5th edition of their annual festival Mukha Mela in Kushmandi on October 26 - 28, 2018.


    Dhokra weaving is another indigenous craftwork, especially of the women of Uttar and Dakshin Dinajpur districts entwining jute mats. Jute, the ‘Golden Fibre’, is homegrown and is the raw material used for weaving. 


    Bikna, the village is famous for practising and displaying the primitive Dokra art. Also, Dariyapur village of Bardhaman showcases the same. The artists' collective will organise Bankura Mela on November 2 - 4, 2018 to celebrate their craft-making tradition.


    Dokra is the art of melting figurines through the now near-extinct “lost wax casting” technique. Dokra is characterised by primitive simplicity, rustic beauty, imaginative designs and patterns making it a coveted collector’s item. Visitors can plan a day trip to Bikna for a sneak peek into the lives of the artists and experiencing the craft making the process and enjoy the masterpieces at the Folk Art Centre.  [Courtesy: TourEast]


    Panchmura Terracota

    Terracotta of Bankura is world-famous given to the Bishnupur temples. It is sort of clay sculpturing into exquisite figurines moulded and seared in sun.


    Baked in sun and burnt in mud kilns with dry eucalyptus leaves, the earthly ensembles in dull ochre or red are beauteous caricatures. The simple yet dynamic terracotta artistry of Panchmura has its origin in a religious ritual. The structure of the 'Bankura Horse' has been so fashioned to symbolize a mark of devotion and valour. Panchmura offers a wide range of terracotta products from animal to human figurines as well as utility, home décor and jewellery. [Courtesy: TourEast]


    Putul Naach or Puppetry

    Puppeteers doing string puppetry is the sole attraction of the Muragachha village of Nadia district. The performances are known as ‘pala’. The puppets represent human dancing to the string movements by the puppeteers. Being light it is done smoothly within a smaller cubic stage. These puppeteers will celebrate the 2nd edition of their village festival 'Putul Naach Mela' on December 14 - 16, 2018.


    Naya village in Pingla, of West Midnapore district, is home to the Patachitra painters or 'Patuas'. Patuas paint stories in a series of frames on long scrolls of cloth using natural colours. Nowadays they also make a range of diverse products like apparels, stationery items, home décor using Patachitra motifs. One can plan a day visit to Naya, Pingla to take a village tour, see the beautifully painted walls and the colour trail, and participate in workshops to learn to make natural colours. The 9th edition of POT Maya will be celebrated on November 16 - 18, 2018. 


    Literally meaning the cool mats, the weavers are from the Ghughumari of the Cooch Beher district. The mat-making involves slicing of the natural cane and intertwining them to form mats.


    A simple natural colour variation of brown and white along with the weaver's creative patterns bring about the most intricately simple yet unique designs.


    Chhau Mask

    These are colourful and elaborate masks portraying animals or mythological characters; made with paper pulp and clay with either feathered or beaded decorations on it. A 3-day village Chhau Mask Festival will be held at Charida from December 14-16, 2018 along with folk festival promoting community-led heritage tourism.


    Embellished with Zari, glitters and foils, the eyes of the masks are wide open. Knitted eyebrows and thick facial hair made with jute fibres, give some masks a demonic character. [Courtesy: TourEast]


    Wooden Doll

    The Sutradhars of Natungram, Katwa carves out these wooden dolls from a single piece of wood representing mythological characters. A most noteworthy mention would the owl of Goddess Lakshmi bringing wealth and prosperity.

    Madur Shilpo

    Madur or the floor mats are an integral part of rural Bengal lifestyle, weaved from Madurkathi, a rhizome-based plant. It is a high-quality Masland mats, of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur districts. Their vast range of products includes home décor, furnishing, and lifestyle products like bags, purses, jackets. Sabang in Paschim Medinipur is renowned for it.

    Kantha Shilpo

    Kantha stitch is one of the best involvement of rural women. These can be in the form of sarees or simple wall hanging depicting flowers or animals, or any other beautiful themes. 


    One of the best examples of such art is the Daker Saaj of the Durga Puja of Bengal. The artists are known as Malakars offers immensely intricate delicacies on their artefact. Shola, by nature, is light in weight, organic and fragile and look much like items carved out of ivory. The topor and mukut used in traditional Bengali weddings and faces of gods and goddesses made from the reed are some of the best examples of Shola craftworks’ usage in society.


    Shola pith (Indian cork) is a delicate, ivory-coloured reed that grows on moist and marshy land in Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.


    Bamboo Basketry

    This is another indigenous craft form making tray-like baskets for everyday use. It can either be simple or painted to meets the product types. Various products are formed besides just baskets like jewellery boxes, lampshades etc. and is found throughout Bengal.

    Clay Doll

    Ghurni in Nadia is home to the clay doll makers.


    The perfect detailing of forms, feature and stance, the meticulous realism of the cloths to the last fold and tuck and the marvellous expressions make each of the clay dolls a collector's item. It is a perfect destination for visitors to witness doll making by the artists and collect a few exquisite souvenirs. [Courtesy: TourEast]


    Details on Folk Music Art


    It is a music genre originated in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal and with Alipurduar included hummed mainly in the Rajbangshi dialect. The songs reflect the everyday hues of rural life.  The annual festival (2nd edition) of Bhawaiya Utsav in Shalkumar on March 1 - 3, 2019. [Also read: 5 Places to Visit When You are in Cooch Beher].


    Bhawaiya songs were typically sung by farmers while ploughing the land with buffaloes. The tradition is believed to have originated in the district of Cooch Behar and Rangpur in the erstwhile undivided Bengal. It is the mainstream folk-song of Dholla, Dhudhkumar, Tista, Torsha Brahmaputra river basin area. (Courtesy: TourEast)



    Khon is another folk form of Rajbangshi dialect, prevalent sardonic folk drama, of rather a mockery panache, revolving around an affair between a village boy and girl. The songs are conveyed by dancing and is considered to have traditional importance.


    Another satirical folk theatre form of Malda region in West Bengal. The satires of this art, however, reflect the grievances and hopes as well, both of which are actually the two sides of the same coin called life.


    The drama portrays the joys and sorrows of the poor and common people. The lead characters include husbands, wives, mothers, greedy moneylenders, peasants and political leaders, among others. Domni is said to have evolved from a region called Diyara in northwestern Malda and was practised by migrants from Jharkhand. [Courtesy: Rural Crafts and Culture Bengal]


    Baul Fakiri and Folk Holi

    Holi is the festival of colours all over India and the folk holi adds a little dancing to the beatings of drums (Dhamsa Madol) or sing with the Bauls and hum to the mellowing Lalon geeti Fakirs of the rural beauty. Famous places to witness such art forms in a serene environment are Gorbhanga of Nadia and Tepantar at Satkahania village and Bolpur of Bardhaman. [Also Read: This is How you Should Celebrate Holi ]


    In this dance form, martial arts meet the acrobatics, and balance is the very essence of this dance form. The balancing is done through long bamboo or Raibansh, and hence the name. Believed to have originated from the Bhil warriors of Rajasthan, who came to Murshidabad as part of an invading Mughal army, it was initially performed with spears.

    Chhau Jhumur/ Dance

    Another amalgamation of martial arts and acrobatics in the dance form, Chhau Jhumur is a UNESCO recognised heritage artform. The jhumur show entails the chhau masks and is based on mythological legends. Bamnia hosts a weeklong Chau-Jhumur festival in the third week of December.


    Darjeeling folk dance

    Darjeeling in itself presents a diversified terrain as well as culture. The Himalayan region of Bengal is replenished with 15 ethnic groups having inimitable art form and musical abundance in addition to the traditional wearing. 


    The Snow Lion dance of Tibetan folk artists, Chyabrung dance of Limbu community, Damphoo dance of Tamang community, Naumati Baja of Damai community, Lakhe dance of Newar community, Sakewa dance of Rai community, traditional songs and dances of Mangar, Lepcha, Bhutia and Dhimal community are the distinctive mentions. (Courtesy: TourEast).



    Recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site, the archipelago of Sunderban is also known for its Bhatiyali music and iconic “Bonbibir Pala”, a lore revolving around worshipping the guardian deity of the forest, to survive the hardships in the jungle.


    Bhatiyali, a song form known for its long-drawn notes is traditionally sung by boatmen while sailing downstream. The name is said to originate from the word ‘bhati’, but others believe the origin is ‘Bhata’, meaning ‘ebbing tide’. Another name is ‘Bhati Desher Gaan’, and it is related to the mystic rivers of Bengal. The music is inspired by the confluence of nature and expresses the pure and deep love of a beloved through its simple language. The boatmen also hum songs of leisure and peace, performed while comfortably rowing downstream. The songs also depict demotic love, love of Radha-Krishna and spirituality. [Courtesy: RuralCrafts and Culture Bengal]


    Gomira Dance

    The gomira masks reflect the supremacy of the Adyashakti through Kali or Chamunda face alike and the dancers’ prowess reflects in the vigour with which they move to invoke the power of the deity.

    Santali Dance

    Dancing to the rhythm of Santal songs during the Pata Porob or Chaitra Sankranti, that is mid-April, is a composure of spontaneous sentiments and expressions.


    Interested people please contact Moumita Kundu: 8420106396 or mail at toureast@banglanatak.com


    [The pictures with logo of TourEast are provided here with prior permission from the same.] 

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    1. Very informative with few surprises for me... i hav been a regular visitor to Muragacha Nadia for few months but was unaware of the putul nach mela.. i would like to add that one might get a package of some of these carnivals at Pous Mela itself.

    2. Learning so much about these interesting places in India. Thanks for sharing out to the world.

    3. Amazing! The north east has such a rich diversity of folk arts


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