Murshidabad not only holds a long history in its heritage but also as a producer of exquisite handicrafts- Shola (Indian Cork), Kansa (Bell metal craft) and ivory and wood carving. One of the leading producers of handicrafts, Murshidabad is now struggling and showing a tendency to decline over the last few decades. We believe that creating awarenesss about these unique crafts can help improve their currtent scenario.
Made from one of the world’s lightest woods, Sholapith is a spongey milky-white dried plant matter which can be pressed and transformed into different shapes. Shola crafts are very much popular In Murshidabad district. Its Flower designs, garlands, beautiful and decorative headress and figurines of gods and goddesses, peacock boats, elephant howdahs, palanquins are some of the exquisite Sholapith crafts produced in Murshidabad. Since sholapith craftsmen used to make garlands for idols and for the nobility, they came to be known as Malakar, meaning "garland maker".
Ivory and wood handicrafts industry is considered to employ a major population of Murshidabad. The root of this craft can be traced back to the time when Murshidabad was under the rule of the Nawabs of Bengal who patronized the art of ivory and wood carving. These craftsmen were considered to be the best carvers and their products were often exported. However, with the downfall of the Nawabs, this industry started facing a crisis.
Another popular handicraft produced by the skilled craftsmen of Murshidabad is Kansa Bell metal craft. Utensils made from Kansa and brass are manufactured in huge quantities in Behrampore, Khagra, Kandi, Baranagar and Jangipur. These utensils have a huge demand in the local and are often exported to international markets. This industry is particularly declining due to problems in procuring the raw materials and shift of consumer demand to ceramic and stainless steel products.
SILK, the queen of textiles has an unparalleled grandeur, natural sheen and high durability because of which it was initially worn by the Mughal nobility only. In the 18th century, with the growing demand of silk in the international market, the East India Company started a factory at Cossimbazar to meet the competition from the Dutch, French and Armenians; making Murshidabad the nerve-center of silk weaving.
It declined as did the city, when the capital shifted to Calcutta (now Kolkata). But, from past few years a lot of initiatives are being taken by the government and NGOs to restore Murshidabad as a center of trade and a producer of exquisite silk.
Since Murshidabad is world famous for its Silk, a visit to Tantipara i.e. Weaver’s Village is worth your time. Lying on the outskirts of Murshidabad, this small village is keeping the art of silk handloom alive.
While visiting this village you can experience the age old techniques and highly skilled weavers preparing the finest of silk sarees which are now being recognized in both national and international markets. The weaver’s community prepare the famous Bengal sarees (Garad, Baluchari, Silk Handloom, etc).
Another place of interest for textile lovers is Islampore where one can experience Sericulture & weaving of 100% Pure Murshidabad Silk. One may also interact with the local artisans and try their hands in getting their initials stitched on Silk stoles.