Santiniketan Leather Goods are leather products made in Specially at Amar Kutir, Santiniketan and
surrounding areas at Bolpur-Santiniketan, Birbhum, West Bengal, India. The material used is vegetable
tanned leather with art work done by touch dyeing. Its artistic leather bags are popular in foreign markets
and are exported to many countries including Japan and the U.S.A. This Products are generally made
of E. I. Leather (East India Leather) from sheepskin and goatskin.
This product has been registered for protection under the List of Geographical indications of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. In July 2007, it was listed as "Santiniketan Leather Goods" under the GI Act 1999 of the Government of India .
While batik art is known to have existed in ancient India, its practice declined over time, possibly due to the tedious methods involved in the waxing and dyeing. It was revived less than a hundred years ago, when Rabindranath Tagore travelled to Java (Indonesia) in 1927 and was fascinated with this exquisite dyeing technique. He brought back several pieces of the fabric with the hope of reviving this traditional technique in India. The study of batik was thus introduced at the Vishwa Bharati University in Shantiniketan. The technique evolved in the hands of the artists and craftsmen at the university, and from there it gradually spread Santiniketan-Sriniketan area. Further experimentation continues today, with the use of vegetable colours as natural dyes to reduce costs and create environment-friendly methods of production. In addition to cotton and silk fabrics, batik work is also done on leather goods in Amar Kutir. The leather bags, clutches, file-covers and wallets embossed with colourful batik patterns are available at Amar Kutir.
Bandhani, also known as Bandhej; is a type of tie and dye textile which is adorned by plucking the cloth into many bindings, that form a design. Practiced mainly in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and some parts of Uttar Pradesh, the word Bandhani is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Banda’ which means ‘to tie’. The art of Bandhani involves dyeing the fabric which is tightly tied with a thread at several places to produce different patterns. At Amar Kutir, one unit established from 1990 for Badndhni Product.
The Santhali village women also use dry fruits or dry seeds available locally to make exotic pieces for their daily wear. These colourful seeds are mixed and matched with beads or dry fruits to come out with a very trendy and rich looking jewellery piece. The natural bena grass or sesame seeds, which grow in abundance in this part of the world, are used as the raw material.
Kantha is one of the oldest forms of embroidery that originated in India. Its origins can be traced back to
the ancient pre Vedic ages, however, Kantha embroidery as we know it today was found in Krishnadas
Kaviraj’s 500 year old book, Chaitanya Charitamrita. Motifs found in early Kantha embroidery include
many symbols that were derived from ancient art. These symbols depict or are reflective of nature, such
as the sun, the tree of life and the the universe. It was not until later that Kantha embroidery was used as a
medium of cultural and religious significance, which came about as a result of Hinduism's influence and
was used in ceremonies and pujas, including to celebrate weddings and births.
Rural housewives in West Bengal played a significant part in the evolution of Kantha embroidery. It was customary for these women to make use of Kantha’s widely used running stitch and embroidery techniques to create quilts for their families, as well as embroider personal fabrics and garments such as sarees, dhotis and handkerchiefs with simple running stitches along the edges. For centuries, the techniques of the hereditary craft were, and still are, passed down from mother to daughter. Though it continued to be practised amongst rural women, recognition of the craft faded over time, until it was revived on a global scale in the 1940s by the renowned Kala Bhavana Institute of Fine Arts, which part of the Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan, West Bengal.
Dokra is the most popular of all other tribal crafts. This lost wax process of metal casting is still practiced here by the traditional metal smiths. Being one of the ancient metal-casting systems, this wax process is implemented in casting brass, bronze and other noble metals. And tribal craftsmen in Santiniketan replicate their religious symbols, cultural motifs in Dokra jewellery. In recent times, a touch of modernity has been added to the designing sense to cater to the trendier and younger target audience. To give it a more casual and trendy look, craftsmen often team it with colourful wooden and glass beads. Apart from the local market, dokra jewellery has a huge demand in Kolkata, Orissa and also in the other metros like New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Amar Kutir apart, Santiniketan is also synonymous with exotic tribal jewellery. “Ethnic yet experimental”
is what best describes the style sense of Santiniketan, which has a distinctive dressing style of its own.
This quintessentially innovative and experimental spirit is well reflected in the variety of junk jewellery
available here, almost redefining the term costume jewellery. Each piece is a manifestation of immense
versatility, dedicated effort and simple elegance. Studded neither with diamonds nor emeralds, yet if one
walks into any page three party wearing a tiny tribal piece, it is bound to grab many an eyeball. These
simple tribal pieces in beads, dokra, terracotta, dry fruits, seeds, grass, and fresh flowers, can accentuate
the look for an evening out without investing a fortune.
Being situated in Birbhum, the district which is largely populated by Santhali tribes, the designs and motifs engraved on the jewellery, bear a mark of rustic ethnicity. It infuses the mystery of tribal art with the sophistication of modern styling almost seamlessly. And pricewise they epitomise ‘value for money’.
The jewellery in macrame can startle even the most fashion-savvy around the world. Originating from the Persian word for fringes, macrame refers to a type of jewellery made of half-square knots or double-half hitches. Millions of such thread-knots are intertwined to give a decorative effect of a high fashion jewellery. There are chokers, earrings, pendants, bracelets in a wide colour palette ranging from off white and deep saffron, bluish grey and deep red to white and pink combinations. Interestingly, macrame finds takers in both teenagers and middle aged woman. This wonder craft had earlier enthralled the world in the Sixties and it is back again with the trendiest designs ever. The craftspeople nowadays team up their cotton and hemp twines with metal, wooden or glass beads. Almost 60-70 families of different Santhal villages, are engaged in this wonderful craft.
Among the traditional crafts, terracotta is another favourite here. The art of terracotta dates back to 2500 BC and it still exists in Birbhum in its full glory with a few modern elements added to it. These burnt scarlet clay pendants or earrings are ethereal yet earthy. While in other states terracotta epitomises the religious sculptures of Hinduism, Santiniketan is one place where the art refers to clay jewellery. Square clay pendants with a tribal goddess or a folk motif engraved on it, earrings in various shapes or hansuli- shaped neck pieces reflect the splendour of our rich tribal culture. Only the original rustic designs have now been toned down to match contemporary tastes.