Bihar is a beautiful state with many Bihar Handicrafts that one can bring back as souvenirs. From paintings to handcrafted grass to terracotta – the options are abundant. In fact, each of these Bihar handicrafts represents a certain region or aspect of Bihar.
Needless to say, these handicrafts make a perfect Bihar Souvenir to carry back home.
Best Bihar Handicrafts and Souvenirs
These are the best-known Bihar handicrafts, almost a signature art of Bihar. Anyone who has visited Dilli Haat probably has a piece of this folk art with them. Read our detailed post on understanding the nuances of Madhubani Paintings from the Mithila region of Bihar.
To an untrained eye, Manjusha may not look very different from Madhubani. However, this is an art form that comes from the eastern part of the state or Bhagalpur region. The stories it depicts are based on Bihula Vishdhari, a woman who overcame all obstacles to become successful.
Red, Green, and Yellow are the only three colors used in Manusha. Borders and their designs are very important part of these paintings. I saw many Manasa Devi and Nagas stories painted in Manjusha.
Tikuli is another name of Bindi that proudly adorns the foreheads of Indian women. In the 19th CE Patna, Tikulis used to be made from glass that was covered with gold foil, and then with a sharp pencil, different designs like floral patterns or images of deities were carved on it. I can only imagine how beautiful and royal these Tikulis would have been.
The modern versions are drawn on circular pieces of wood or plywood and enamel paints. They are also much larger in size than Tikulis that can go on a forehead. Nonetheless, the art form is preserved. Gold on a black background remains a popular combination.
This art form comes from the clothes that the mothers used to make for their newborn kids out of their old Saris. They would stitch together a few layers of an old Sari to make it strong and then with the rest of the cloth make motifs on the cloth. The ones who are talented can craft stories with the pieces stitched together.
At first look, it looked like Aplique work to me. Maybe the two are distant cousins. Now, in a commercial setting, Sujani art is done on fresh clothes. Motifs can vary from simple geometric patterns to floral patterns to scenes from epics like Ramayana.
Sujani is primarily practiced in the Danapur, Bhojpur, and Muzaffarpur regions of Bihar.
Paper Mache Art
Paper Mache artifacts are made from paper that has been soaked in water. To this paste fennel seeds, gum, and Multani mitti are added to create a dough that can be molded in any shape.
Different utility items like baskets, boxes, plates, or toys are made from Paper Mache.
However, at Bihar Museum, I saw this beautiful Matrika figure created from Paper Mache. Life-size figures that is used for worship in many villages is simply amazing to see. The fact that it has been hand moulded with so many details carved into it, leaves you inspired.
Venu Shilpa or Bamboo Craft – Bihar Handicrafts
Venu is the Sanskrit name of Bamboo. Remember Sri Krishna is also called VenuGopal. Since ancient times in Bihar, Bamboo has been used to store food and water. During Buddhist times, we find mentions of bamboo being used by Buddhist monks for making things like fans and shoes. Mention of making idols out of bamboo are also found.
Even today some items like Soop, boxes, etc are made of bamboo. However, you must see the exquisite crafts made from bamboo by skilled craftsmen like models of ships or a complete temple.
This is the indigenous weave of Bihar that is practiced in the Baswan Bigha village near Nalanda. It is said that these weavers can weave 52 different types of emotions on Saris, Sheets or curtains. Local architecture can also be seen woven through motifs.
Sikki or Kusha is a local grass that grows in Bihar. It has a beautiful golden hue to it. The grass is cleaned and then dried in the sun. Once dried it is boiled in hot water for some time and then is given different colors like pink, blue, green, and yellow. Then with the help of a needle, this grass is given different shapes. Popular shapes being that of toys, baskets, boxes, mats, and decorative items.
These organic products last for a long time and do not get impacted by insects or fungi. I also saw a similar golden grass craft at Jajpur in Odisha.
Terracotta, Stone, and Wood Art – Bihar Handicrafts
This is an age-old tradition across India that continues to be practiced to date. So, how can Bihar be behind? You find artisans working their magic in clay, stone, and wood.
Do notice the terracotta pot with many holes that has Nagas coming out of its holes. It is an ancient artifact I saw in the Nalanda Museum. It is still being recreated by today’s artisans.
Stonecraft can be seen from many ages in Bihar. Didarganj Yakshi is the most famous of them.
They say that Patna was surrounded by a wall made of wood. So, you can imagine the craft of wood artisans here.
Upendra Maharathi Shilpa Anusandhan Kendra, Patna
This institution started by Upendra Maharathi has been working on reviving the arts and crafts of Bihar. They are adapting them to current scenarios, adding design and product innovations. I visited their center where I saw all these artists busy in their craft.
They also run courses, mostly free of course, for students who want to learn these traditional Bihar Handicrafts. It is a good way to pass your traditions to the next generation.
So, which is your favorite Bihar Handicraft?