Sikki Craft of Bihar – The women’s craft of Bihar

02-03-2021

The Grass Art

The tableau of Bihar on the theme of ‘Sikki Grass Craft’ during the Republic Day Parade, 2013 in New Delhi. The subsequent year saw the Bihar Pavilion at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi being decorated with Sikki Art during the International Trade Fair, 2014. Both these managed to bring back the disappearing traditional Craft form from Bihar and the incredible products made under it in the eyes of the world.

Sikki work was believed to be one of the must learn the craft for the young girls of marriageable age in Bihar. The items crafted by her used to be an important part of her dowry. Gifting various handcrafted products using sikki grass was a ritual followed in Bihar at the time of marriages.

Sikki grass grows in the waterlogged areas during the months of August and September. The grass is first removed from the stalks and is dried in sun for several days. Later, it is boiled in hot coloured water to add softness, flexibility and colour which makes it easier to be shaped into different objects like lamps, baskets, pots, stools, boxes and other decorative articles.

The technique used for making Sikki products is the simple coiling method. The actual shape of the object is formed with munj or khar (cheaper variants of grass available in the area). This forms the base of the product and gives it additional strength. Sikki grass is then coiled over a base made with munj thereby completely covering the structure. The only tool required in this art is a needle-shaped object called takua with which coiling and weaving are done. The natural sikki grass has a beautiful golden colour which is why it is also called Golden Grass. It is later coloured into different shades like red, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink, etc. This coiling and weaving of coloured grass with the natural golden grass give a distinctive and unique appeal to the Sikki craftwork.

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Sikki grass products are light in weight, organic, biodegradable and long-lasting. Earlier, women used to make utilitarian products like different kinds of baskets and boxes which were locally known as Jhappa, Mauni, Pauti, Gumla, Saji.

Jhappa - Big containers with covers to store food grains, spices, sweets, etc.

Mauni - Trays for keeping fresh fruits, betel leaves, nuts, flowers, etc.

Pauti - Beautiful small boxes with covers to keep jewellery, dry fruits, and other expensive items.

Gumla - Bowl like containers that served multiple uses.

Saji - Flower baskets.

Apart from these, there are also decorative and useful pieces made out of sikki grass such as coasters, mobile covers, masks, mirror frames, table mats, pencil boxes, hand-held fans, colourful bowls, jewellery boxes, bangles, toys, pen stands, paperweights, jewellery pieces, figures of deities and even dresses.

The main centres for Sikki art are located around Rayam, Rampur, Madehpur, Siddhi, Jaynagar, Katihar, Gaonaha, Sonvarsha and Sitamarhi in Bihar. With the advent of cheap plastic goods, the demand for traditional Sikki craft objects started declining. However, the art saw a revival in recent times as the awareness of the harmful effects of plastics came to light. With the efforts of Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan in Patna, many artists trained themselves with the new skills and designs to meet the modern requirements. Furthermore, several award-winning artists like Kumudani Devi, Dhirendra Kumar, Najda Khatoon, Meera Thakur among others are working hard to keep this ancient craft form alive.

To preserve the traditional craft against imitation and the rights of artisans practising Sikki grass work in Bihar, it was registered under Geographical Indication (G.I. Tag) in the year 2007.

So, in case you are bored with your current home décor and are looking for an alternate means to redecorate your home, opt for this natural and eco-friendly product – Sikki Grass…