Sikki Crafts: Art Made of Golden Grass in Bihar

Weaving sustainability into traditions

The craftsmanship of Sikki weaving is a prime example of sustainability in contemporary times

The ancient Sikki craft of Bihar is gaining worldwide attention for its beauty, utility and environmental friendliness. Traditional craftsmanship has not only reached all over India, but has also carved out a place for itself in art galleries and international markets.

Every day around 10 a.m., Munni Devi from the village of Raiyam in the Madhubani district of Bihar sits next to a pile of Sikki, a golden-hued grass that grows in wet, swampy areas around rivers and ponds in the state. His deft fingers weave the supple grass into an organic, biodegradable tiger toy, which will soon make its way to nearby towns. A Delhi-based supplier has placed an order for Sikki toys, which will keep Devi busy for many days.

In Patna, the capital of Bihar, every day for a week now, Jeevan Singh, a 25-year-old Sikki artist, cuts the dried golden grass into triangular and diamond shapes and thin strands with a blade. surgical. He glues them on black paper to make a wall hanging depicting Lord Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. The framed wall hanging will adorn the home of an art lover in Mumbai.

Devi and Singh are both Sikki artists and work day and night to ensure that the order they received is delivered on time. from Bihar Sikki Folk craftsmanship, the origin of which dates back to the Vedic period, has been given a new lease of life as artisans not only modernize the designs, but also the art form itself.

The craftsmanship of Sikki weaving is a perfect example of sustainability in contemporary times, according to the artists. “These herbal products are lightweight, organic, biodegradable and last as long as you want,” says Devi, 52.

How grass turns into crafts

Sikki weed achieves its characteristic golden hue after being dried in the sun

Sikki craftsmanship has minimum requirements, according to artist Devi. Sikki, which grows during the monsoon, is harvested with other cereals. It is divided in half and left to dry for 20-25 days. As it dries in the sun, the grass achieves its characteristic golden hue.

The resulting fine golden fiber is used in weaving to make toys, dolls and dolchi (baskets). Artists use the grass in its natural color or dye it in vibrant hues of purple, magenta, green and bright yellow. For dyeing, Sikki is put in boiling water to which is added a natural food coloring. “These basic colors are readily available in the local market. The grass absorbs the color after boiling for about 15-20 minutes. It is then washed and dried. Sikki is then ready for use ”, underlines Devi.

Each Sikki product starts with a basic framework called Munj, according to the design. Then the Sikki strands with a 6 inch long needle-shaped tool called Takua are woven around it. Takua has a rounded head for a comfortable grip, which is usually made of wood or lacquer. To divide the Sikki strands, a very fine knife or a pair of called scissors are used.

Water is used to moisten the grass, making it more flexible to turn it around the Munj structure. The winding is done so finely that the Munj the base is not visible at all. Hands constantly play with multicolor Sikki laces, until the artist is satisfied with the emerging pattern and its finish.

“Previously, people, especially women, made dolls, containers, toys, storage boxes, bracelets and other items with grass. The grains were stored in Sikki the containers and the maidens were judged based on their skill in the art, ”says Devi.

Handicrafts market

Sikki crafts are environmentally friendly which adds to their popularity

Singh, Sikki artist from Patna, asserts that craftsmanship is no longer limited to villages or the making of everyday objects. “Its field of action has become as vast as the imagination! I made a 10 foot mango tree to order and a four foot elephant for sending it to London last month, ”he says.

The fact that the Sikki the items are environmentally friendly adding to their popularity. Unsurprisingly, art travels around the world, thanks to online platforms like Okhai, Amazon and many other sellers, which sell a range of Sikki some products.

This is why thousands of women, and now even men, in Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Rampur and other places in Bihar are creating Sikki artifacts to meet the growing market in India as well as overseas.

“We work with wholesalers who supply our Sikki crafts to buyers in India as well as in London, Paris and other places, ”says Devi.

New emerging artists

With more and more options for selling products, especially online, many artists are drawn to crafts. The Jogira India Foundation in Patna, established by Sunni Gupta, a former student of NIFT Patna, is among the organizations working to revive the folk arts of Bihar, in particular Sikki.

He employed about 200 artists in the state. Suriya Kumar, a 28-year-old artist from Begusarai, says he learned Sikki six years ago, while trying to learn Madhubani painting.

“It immediately caught my attention and I quickly became a Sikki artist. Art takes time, but it pays off. Many people are interested in purchasing these artifacts. I am delighted to participate in the state level competition, ”said Kumar.

Devi says that many women in her own village are now doing crafts. “I also trained a hundred girls in Sikki because young people now show a tendency to learn and earn from crafts. No doubt the Sikki has been called the “golden grass” of Bihar and I hope the golden days of Sikki to come back while new artists take on the task of reviving, creating and popularizing this profession, ”adds.