Hill Crafts of Darjeeling

The state of tea gardens has Lepchas as their true inhabitants. People from Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, Bhutan and West Bengal have also settled here. The tea garden workers are mainly tribals from Central India and Chota Nagpur.

The handicrafts of Darjeeling are quite different from the crafts existing in the rest of West Bengal and it expresses cultural heritage of Buddhism prevailing in the eastern Himalayas. Traditional hill craftsmen prepare the sculptural model of bronze figure using direct wax for each bronze figure. Bhutia villages have skilled musicians, painters and authentic artists who take pride in representing the folk cultures of the hill people.

People living in the foothills of West Bengal practice a lot of bamboo and cane craft. Craftsmen of West Bengal are skilled at making beautiful cane baskets of various designs and shapes. These baskets have multi uses. Craftspersons also prepare ceremonial baskets, cages and fishing traps which are made with lot of effort and requires skilled technique. Bamboo dowry boxes are very intricately woven and play a very important role in the marriage ceremonies.

At Bhutia basti, the traditional scroll paintings are made which are known as Thankas. These paintings have the Budhist Jataka tales from the Buddhists scriptures. These are made in the most traditional way by the craftsmen using the paper form Tibet or Nepal. Grounded stone and earthen colors are used. Lapis Lazuli, a blue stone colour, is obtained by grinding semi precious stones form Tibet. These paintings are hung on the home as well as on the walls of the monasteries. Sacred value attached to each Thanka which are bordered with Buddhists motifs in fine brocade. Powdered gold is also used to beautify the Thanka and enhance the value of the painting. The technique used is a closely guarded secret. The Thankas are used in all Buddhists household shrines and monasteries.

Kalimpong, another hill station tucked in the vicinity of Darjeeling is famous for weaving of Tibetian woolen carpets. The wool for the same is spun by the Tibetian women of Darjeeling on the traditional spinning wheels known as Chassba. Generally, bold colours and geometric patterns are used. The most common of all carpets is the dun a small bedside carpet which has upto sixty knots to a square inch.