Origin: The craft of coconut embraces various myths, legends and faiths. Archaeological reports highlight that the coconut craft made inroads to India around 900 years ago from Iraq. Some historians believe that the Middle East and Persian wood carving artisans were the first ones to attempt coconut shell carving.
The concept of using coconut shell, as an alternative to throwing it away, to create utility products has been woven in the history of Indian handicrafts for many years. Coconut farmers would scoop out the copra and use the shell for storing water.
Legend has it that the Vishwakarma community of Kerala introduced the coconut carving craft. This community was historically involved in sword making and carving wood and ivory. It is also believed that the royal families favoured coconut shell cups.
In the Bankura district of West Bengal, coconut shell carving commenced as an alternative to the famous conch shell carving. West Bengal started facing shortage of conch shells. This affected the artisans who started looking for a substitute that could sustain them.
The shift to coconut shell carving came in picture. Since the tools and techniques employed in coconut carving is similar to conch shell carving.
Initially the craft items included bangles, ornaments, bowls, temples etc.
Present Day: The coconut craft Industry has mushroomed and its demand has increased in both the national as well as international market. The distinguishing factor of West Bengal coconut carving is that these carvings are simple and raw. This style is in complete contrast to the style followed by Spanish and the Portuguese.
Local artisans of Bengal have learned this craft from their fore fathers. They depend solely on this handicraft for their bread and butter. Today, a wide spectrum of items are churned out such as hair clips, spoons, ladles, flower vases, masks, lamps, earrings, bangles, neckpieces, food bowls, teacups, small purses, money boxes, containers, idols etc.
Procedure: The tools and raw materials required for crafting coconut shell handicraft items are Coconut Shell, Hacksaw Blade, Emery Sheet, Buffing Machine, Bastard File, Hammer, Quick Adhesive, Wood Polish, and Sleek Glossy Top Coat.
The process of coconut crafts making can be classified in the following categories: sketching, cutting, sanding, and buffing. In the bygone era, craftsmen relied on hand tools to carve, cut, and finish the edges. However, in the current scenario, machines are used to speed up the process
Bring Home Coconut Craft of West Bengal: Artisan exhibitions and fairs are home to the stunning coconut craft pieces.