Majuli Cultural Landscape Management Authority
...Promoting and preserving the rich heritage of Majuli

CULTURE - WOOD AND BAMBOO CRAFT

Bamboo craft

The art of carving miniature statues of deities was introduced among Bhakats (disciples) within Sattras during the time of Shri Shankaradeva himself. Hence, the tradition of carving miniatures of gods, goddesses and their incarnation has been carried on through several generations by the Bhakats of Sattras. Some exquisitely carved figurines can be still seen in some Sattras of Majuli. Wood-carving was one of the fields which in direct response to the movement and the cult of bhakti began to flourish as a major form of art of the people. Guided by an impulse to decorate the places of worship, the local artisans created stylistic variation in the medium of wood. Availability and easy accessibility of wood in the local environment provided support to the development of the art form. It was started and praised by Madhavadeva at the first community prayer hall at Barpeta and flourished side by side the Sattra beside other art forms.

The wooden objects in the Vaishnavite shrines were closely linked with parallel developments in literary tradition. The objects were visual accompaniment to the general literary tradition. The persistent belief around the objects was that they were representations of eighty out of eighty one categories of bhakti that the human beings could visualize on earth5. This was the reason for the display of the objects in the shrines. Wooden idols of Dvarpalas (gate keepers), Jaya, Vijaya, Hanuman and Garuda are seen in almost all the Namghars in different Sattras. Figures of gods and their incarnations seated on their vahanas are usually carved on the door panels and beams of different structures inside a Sattra. Apart from wooden figures, decorative items like Gocha (decorative lamp stand), Chal pira (decorative box bed) and utility products like Khundana (small mortar for pounding betel nut mixture), Tamuli Pira, Dukhari Pira etc are also made by Bhakats in a Sattra as a part of their daily activities from locally available variety of timber in the Sattras.

Like timber, bamboo has a versatile use and plays significant role in rural economy of the people of Majuli. The people of Majuli inherit the knowledge of utilizing diverse bamboo species for different purposes. Different parts of bamboo i.e. roots, stem, leaf etc. are utilized for different purposes. The most versatile use of bamboo is construction of houses in villages, boundary fencing, some local musical instruments (such as flute, takda, Gaganna) and paper making. Bamboo cottage industries are found in the rural area as they produce household items including utensils such as bamboo baskets of different sizes and shapes, bamboo fens, table, chair, bed, bamboo mate, fishing instrument such as polo, Juluki, Jokai, Khaloi, Karahi, Pasi, Dola, kula, saloni, etc. Agricultural appliances such as Moi, Nagal (plough), kathia tum, tomal, mer, duli etc. are also made. Bamboo craft and cane works are the main handicraft trade in Majuli. Bamboo is used to make a variety of objects of daily use and decoration. This craft is practiced by both the Bhakats and the other communities also to make items of daily use.

SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WOOD CARVING
For the understanding of the social significance of the display it would be necessary to look at the areas to which the embellished objects belonged and which greeted the eyes of the beholders. We can break up the areas as below:

  1. The facade and the doors
  2. Walls around the kirtan-ghar
  3. The pillars and pillar-capitals
  4. The areas inside the prayer-hall
  5. The component parts other than the kirtan-ghar

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