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Unique arts and crafts in Bastar

Dhokra is Bastar's signature craft
Image courtesy: ©LonelyPlanet/Supriya Sehgal

Paintings inspired by tattoos, legends expressed in bell metal sculptures, clay utensils that do double duty as objects d’art – the list goes on. Bastar’s adivasis have honed the skill of making the most out of very little. Here’s a sampling…

Dhokra– Bastar’s signature craft is Dhokra, an ancient method of metal casting. The skill has been passed down through generations and a number of family members are usually involved, from the initial clay moulding and melting of metal to the painstaking job of covering the moulds in wax thread, a part of the process which is unique to Bastar. The artefacts made in this style often depict tribal themes.

Wrought Iron– Slim figurines of animals were most commonly crafted in wrought iron, but candle stands, mirror frames, penholders and more are available today.

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Traditional weaves comprise thick and rough cotton threads
Traditional weaves comprise thick and rough cotton threads
Image courtesy: ©LonelyPlanet/Supriya Sehgal

Weaving- The traditional weaves of Bastar comprise thick and rough cotton threads in white, which mingle with dyed maroons. The cloth is often used to make short saris, towels and bedspreads.

Woodcraft- Wooden carvings were originally used to decorate pillars or create images of gods and goddesses. Today, the work has found its way into bed panels and home furnishings but the themes still revolve around tribal life. The elaborately dressed Bison Horn Marias are often depicted in these designs.

Regular as well as ornate pots are made with terracotta
Regular as well as ornate pots are made with terracotta
Image courtesy: ©LonelyPlanet/Supriya Sehgal

Terracotta & Clay Work- Regular pots and everyday items are available everywhere but local potters also make more ornate creations such as caparisoned elephants.

Sisal- Its durability and resistance to moisture makes sisal (agave) a popular raw material for dolls, wall hangings, tablemats, coasters and bags.

Godna- Age-old tribal tattoo designs are replicated on fabric.

Kosa Silk- A papery silk derived from cocoons (kosha) collected off sal, saja, and Arjun trees. It takes nearly 10 cocoons to yield one strand of silk and 15 days to complete one sari.

Tribal paintings adorn the village walls
Tribal paintings adorn the village walls
Image courtesy: ©LonelyPlanet/Supriya Sehgal

Tribal Paintings- The artwork that adorns village walls and memory pillars also inspires paintings on canvas.

Tumba- Hollow gourd shells have long been used as containers for liquor. These are often attractively decorated and even repurposed to make chic lamps.

Stonework- Adivasi stone carvings often take the shape of local deities or animals, attractively decorated and even repurposed to make chic lamps.


All across the region, there are small clusters of homes engaged in various arts and crafts.
• Kondagaon: The NGO Saathi plays a key role in promoting the traditional crafts of Bastar. Visit their showroom for a variety of handicrafts. Kondagaon is particularly famous for bell metal; don’t miss Jaidev Bhagel’s workshop. There are also craft villages nearby that specialise in woodwork, wrought iron, terracotta and more.
• Narayanpur: This Muria stronghold is best known for terracotta and woodwork. Find a good selection at the Shilpagram Sevagram, or head out to one of the nearby craft workshops.
• Shilpagram, Parchanpal: A crafts village designed to showcase the creativity of Bastar’s adivasis. Here you can witness artisans deftly transform wood, wrought iron, sisal, terracotta, tumba and bell metal.
• Jagdalpur & around: With several shops selling quality handicrafts, the Bastar headquarters is a great place to pick up souvenirs. The government-run emporium Shabari is a convenient one-stop-shop, but the Wood Market and Kosa Silk Centre provide a more specialised shopping experience. If you’re in town don’t miss a day trip to one of the several craft villages near town.

This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s Pocket Bastar.