(Last Updated on : 10/04/2019)
Terracotta Horses and Elephants are an exquisite folk art
form of West Bengal
. These idols are made to offer before deities at holy places for religious rituals
. Sacrifices of animals before deities are a popular religious ritual all over the India. This ritual is often replaced by offering idols of horses and elephants before the deities to complete the rituals. These horses and elephants
are produced by the potters community
of West Bengal. Different regions of Bengal have their own style and forms for making the idols of the animals
Formation of Terracotta Horses and Elephants
Most of the idols of horses and elephants are hollow types; they are made both in larger and smaller sizes with subtle designs on them. The bodies of the animals are made by putting clay into moulds and the faces are made by pressing soft clay with fingers
. The eyes of the horses and the decorations around the necks are done by bamboo
slips, which are locally called chiahs. The bridle, ears and tail of the horses and trunk and ears of the elephants are done separately and then joined together.
The idols of these horses and elephants are burnt in fire with wood splinters, dried leaves, straw and so on. The kilns are of two types, one is of circular shape, which is called berhashal pone and the other is of semi-circular shape is known as shiuapone. After burning them, banak paint is applied on the animals, which gives them the glossy terracotta
colour. However, for producing idols of black colour a high flame of fire is to be given by burning cakes of dried dung
to prevent the smoke from escaping from the kiln.
Terracotta Horses and Elephants of Popular Places
Though terracotta horses and elephants are produced in all parts of West Bengal, Panchmurho in the Bankura district
is the most popular among all other places in producing the terracotta animals. Earlier these animals were only produced as offerings before deities but now they have been a part of the craftsmanship. These crafts
are used as ornamental articles to decorate places. Other than Panchmurho, Sonamukhi, Hamirpur, Kamardiha, Bibarda, Syandra, Rajgram, Keyabati, Joykrishnapur, Nakaijurhi, Jotbihar, Indas, Uliarha and Nimtola of Bishnupur
, Metali, Patroshoyer and Murlu of Bankura are also popular for producing terracotta horses and elephants.