Art beneath the guns!

The road is winding through the trees at the edge of Kanger Ghati forest, as we cruise through on tar, smooth as silk. It is lull until we cross another village. About five to six houses with typical stone roofs. Our cab driver explained, “most villages in this area are around this size, just five to six houses”. As we continued to cruise in his hatchback I commended the state government on the road, even in these interior areas. With a wryly smile he explained again, “this is an army built road and almost five years old”. Touché!

Chattisgarh (translated as thirty six forts) is a heavily forested state in central India, that has seen significant development post the split from Madhya Pradesh about 18 years ago. Unfortunately, even with the rapid development and emergence of cities like Raipur and Jagdalpur, the sanitation levels of the state have remain a dismal 27% and around 15% in the interiors. Even with the “Swatch Bharat (Clean India)” hoardings and marketing, the attitude of the people towards hygiene and cleanliness looked appalling. However, on the positive side the government does seem to be doing a fair bit on education. Driving for three days across the state we did always come across public schools (and ashram schools) and kids walking or cycling their way through to their nearest school.

Boasting of natural resources Chattisgarh does have two of the most fascinating waterfalls in the country: Chitrakote and Tirathgadh. Mesmerising without a doubt! Checkout a few pictures at the end of this post.

The state produces about 15% of the total steel produced in India, but our interest and motive for this visit were the ever so popular craft forms from this region. Hidden in the infamous naxal (armed revolutionary group advocating Maoist communism) affected areas and the stricter controls of the Army, lie various regions famous for:

  1. Dhokra or Bell Metal (non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique)
  2. Wooden and rot iron articles
  3. Cotton fabrics
  4. Thumba (bottle gourd) crafts used more for creating lamps
  5. Terracotta
  6. Bamboo and Jute work

Covering the entire stretch from Nagarnar to Narayanpur and then from Kondagaon to Raipur we travelled across the state in search of artisans who are for us the pride of this state.

One of our favourite craft form is Dhokra – Bell Metal. This art of non ferrous metal casting can be found in parts of Chattisgarh, Bengal and Orrisa. It’s difficult for us to pin point the origin but the traces of the art form can be found about 4 to 5 thousand years ago! Today we are proud to have a section, Metal Marvels where Bell Metal can feature prominently. From exquisitely detailed lamp shades, uniquely designed bells to the more traditional cows, you can check them out at:

However, our favourite part of the tour was seeing a rot iron artist work his magic and crafting beautiful curvy bodies of deer. I haven’t seen an artistry of this meticulous details before and we would love your feedback on these. You can check them out under Metal Marvels.

However, when it comes to a craft that is truly unique and contemporary we have to give it to our Tumba (bottle gourd) artist. We will soon have a separate blog on this craft. Until then, you can check our Tumba collection under ‘Lamps and Lanterns’:

Well, this was a craft tour for sure, but why don’t we give you a glimpse of Chattisgarh? Am sure this will encourage you to visit the beautiful green artistic state on your next tour! Until then, keep shopping at Cheers!

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