Tikuli Art of Bihar: From adorning women to empowering them

The beautiful art of Tikuli, said to be 800 years old, would have passed into oblivion but for the dedication of artist Ashok Kumar Biswas who not only revived the art form but also made it a source of livelihood for more than 300 women he trained in the art.

Lovely KumariLovely Kumari   8 April 2022 12:19 PM GMT

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Tikuli Art of Bihar: From adorning women to empowering them

Patna, Bihar

As Ashok Kumar Biswas sat on a green mat in the cramped space offered by the eight feet by eight feet room, it was obvious the 66-year-old artist was oblivious to any discomfort or heat. He was intent on applying colour to a motif drawn on a sheet of wood.

Biswas is an artist and more than that, he is the person who has perhaps single handedly revived Tikuli art in Bihar considered to be almost 800 years old. The small room is his training centre located in Nasriganj village, about 12 kilometres from the state capital of Patna. It is here that women from across the state learn the techniques of the Tikuli art form from Biswas and then use it to earn their livelihoods.

"I have been doing tikuli art for twelve years now," Arti Devi, from Nasriganj village, told Gaon Connection. The 26-year-old learnt the art from her sister in law, and together they earn anything up to Rs 9,000 a month from it, she said. But for her, the art made her financially independent. "It gives me immense pride that with the money I earn, I contribute to my children's school fees," Arti said happily.


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Biswas has trained hundreds of women artists in the art form that combines the traditions of Madhubani art, Patna Kalam art and a Japanese art technique of using enamel paints on timber.

The artist has been felicitated for his work by both the Bihar government and central government, and was most recently awarded the Guru shishya Parampara award for Tikuli painting (Bihar) by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India- February 2022.

With active participation of rural women, the tikuli art is now on the path of revival. Photo: Lovely Kumari

Centuries old Tikuli art of Patna

Tikuli art had almost gone into oblivion and is now being revived in the state. The word 'tikuli' refers to the bindi worn by women as a part of their adornment. "There is archeological evidence that the tikulis were a part and parcel of the ornaments used by women in the Mauryan era, particularly royalty and aristocratic women," Biswas told Gaon Connection.

The art got a huge boost from the Mughals as they patronised the artists, nearly 5,000 of them who practised this art form. But with the decline of the Mughals, came the decline of Tikuli art too, said the artist.

He described the process that went into the making of the ornamental tikuli: "Initially the tikuli were made using sheets of molten glass. The glass sheet was cut into round pieces in different sizes, a work undertaken by Muslim artisans, and then handed over to Hindu artists who covered the tikulis with gold foil."

The artist said how it was the women who then took over and with sharp bamboo tools, traced patterns on the tikulis and filled them with natural colours, and the final touch was a layer of gond (adhesive) applied to the tikuli before it was ready to be used. But, the rising cost of the raw materials and gold led to the decline of the handcrafted tikuli, Biswas said.

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But with active participation of rural women, the tikuli art is now on the path of revival. Like Arti Devi of Nasriganj village, other women have also been able to achieve their dreams thanks to the financial independence tikuli art gave them.

For 21-year-old Sapna Kumari, also from Nasriganj, tikuli art fulfilled her dream of becoming a graduate. "My father died when I was still very young and the responsibility of looking after my family fell on me. But thanks to Biswas Sir, I could earn money through tikuli art and help my family and also complete my Bachelor's degree in Economics," she told Gaon Connection.

Innovating an ancient art form

According to Biswas, it was in 1954, when artist Upendra Maharathi hit upon the idea of doing tikuli work on timber instead of glass and gold. On a visit to Japan, Maharathi had seen works of art done with enamel paint on timber and he brought that idea back to Bihar and to tikuli art. And there has been no looking back since.

Today, instead of tikulis that were used as bindis, the art form adorns wall paintings, coasters, table mats, trays, pen-stands, earrings, as on fabrics and saris.

The theme of the paintings are usually drawn from Indian folklore, especially from the stories of Lord Krishna.

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The art form adorns wall paintings, coasters, table mats, trays, pen-stands, earrings, as on fabrics and saris. Photo: Lovely Kumari

Government patronage

Till 1984, the government purchased the artwork directly from the artists and paid them for their work. But not any more, Mukesh Kumar, assistant director, DC (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textile, Government of India, Patna told Gaon Connection.

"The Government of India, usually conducts events such as the Gandhi Shilp Bazar and other national art fairs across the country where artists get a chance to sell their work directly to the customers," he added.

In 2017, the Bihar government and the DC (Handicraft), Ministry of Textile, a policy –– Integrated Development & Promotion of Handicrafts –– was introduced to promote tikuli art among new artists. "Training is being provided to new artists under the collaboration, in Tikuli art, and nearly three hundred artists have benefitted from it," Mukesh Kumar said.

The hubs of buying and selling Tikuli art, according to Biswas, are Patna, Varanasi and Kolkata. "Kolkata based non-profit, Sasha Association for craft producers, has done a lot to provide an alternative marketing platform for art and handicraft products, including Tikuli," Biswas said.

Read the story in Hindi.

tikuli art #story #women empowerment #Bihar 

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