GAURIPUR, June 4 - Sola craft, an indigenous handicraft of the Malakar community of the district of Dhubri was once an important part of the Hindu rituals. The idols of gods and goddesses made of sola were important materials in the puja festivals of the people of the district and its absence in the rituals could never be imagined.
Raja Prabhat Chandra Barua, the Zaminder of Gauripur Royal Estate was the chief patron of the sola craft. During his reign, he encouraged the artisans to make various idols of gods and goddesses and helped them financially. His family members always encouraged the artisans and they were provided land and shelter. His daughter Nilima Barua went to various parts of the country and abroad and arranged exhibition of various items of sola craft and was highly appreciated. Her contribution was worthy of being mentioned. Even her son, Abhijit Barua also helped her in popularising the sola craft.
Prabhat Chandra Barua summoned Late Umakanta Malakar from Dhepdhepi village and arranged food and lodging for him and asked him to make idols for puja rituals. Karen Malakar, one of the close relatives of Umakanta Malakar and a State awardee presently residing near the Royal Palace of the zaminders of Gauripur is making various idols and paintings and has turned into a master craftsman. He used to train the young interested youths in the workshops held under the guidance and collaboration of the office of the Asstt Development Commissioner. Handicraft and Textiles, Govt of India but for a very limited period of time.
After abolition of the zamindary system in 1957, there was nobody to patronise the artisans and dark days were looming ahead. Presently a very small number of aged people of the Malakar community residing at Golakganj, Dhepdhepi, Agomani, Baterhat, Matherjhar, Gauripur are somehow running the business with much difficulty. The new generation is not at all interested in the traditional art of making various items from sola.
The dolls and other items can be divided into three categories like man-like idols, dolls of varieties of birds and the materials used in the marriage ceremony. Kadamba flowers made of Sola were an important item for the people and they used to hang these flowers in front of their houses and considered it to be sacred. �Diadem� for the bridegroom and the Kali mask are mentionable sola items.
Formerly the artisans used all natural materials required in making dolls and idols like paste, colour, thread etc., but due to shortage and non-availability of these materials they have no way out except to use chemical materials available in the market.
Shortage of raw materials, availability of plastic play-materials for children in the market at cheaper rates, want of proper market, absence of formation of self help groups, financial strains etc., pose a threat to this traditional sola craft industry and it is gradually losing its importance in the society. As a result, the sola-craft industry has to fight for its existence with limited opportunity at hand and, therefore, the Government should come forward to help the artisans so that the traditional craft can survive and arrange facilities for publicity and marketing by arranging exhibition and sale fairs frequently in the State and outside.