Owls of Natungram

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Painted Owl, Natungram, West Bengal. Courtesy: Sushmit.

In eastern India, especially West Bengal, owls or pencha are considered auspicious. It is the dedicated vahana (vehicle) of Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth. Out of many delightful toys that are carved by the wood artisans of Natungram, Burdwan District, the owl forms one of the iconic images of rural West Bengal.

The artisans chose different sizes of cylindrical logs or branches according to their requirement. Then, the desired shape is chiseled out and finished with a sand paper. The surface is then painted with bright colours transforming into Radha-Krishna, raja-ranis, village belles and of course, the owls.

The owls are found in various sizes. For a more sophisticated urban clientele, the surfaces of few are left plain with just a coat of wood varnish. Even though this particular craft is an age old tradition and had been catering to rural  fairs or melas for a long time, there is a sort of modernity in the way the wood artisans handle a log, transforming it in just few quick chops. Their minimalist approach is just precise in what they intend to portray.

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Wooden Owl, Natungram, West Bengal. Private Collection.

 

References:

Ranjan, Aditi and M.P. Ranjan, eds. Crafts of India: Handmade in India. New Delhi: Council of Handicraft Development Corporations, COHANDS, 2007.

Sen, Prabhas. Living Traditions of India: Crafts of West Bengal. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., 1994.

 

 

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Owls of Natungram

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