Bastar Iron Craft (also known as “Wrought iron craft of Baster” or “Lohshilp” ) is a traditional Indian iron craft that is manufactured in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state, India.
The iron-crafting work has been protected under the geographical indication (GI) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. It is listed in item 82 as “Bastar Iron Craft” of the GI Act 1999 of the Government of India with registration confirmed by the Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks.
Bastar Iron Craft
It has an aesthetic appeal in spite of its simplistic form. The art originated from the ironsmith community that used to make farming and hunting implements for tribes. Over the years, the craft has beautifully evolved into an art form and so has its worldwide demand. Wrought iron work is mainly concentrated in Bastar district of Chattisgarh with Kondagaon, Umargaon, and Gunagaon being the main centers.
The iron craft skill is passed from generation to generation in Bastar region. Some tribal communities are experts in iron craftwork and many of them became as iron-smiths. Among many communities, Gond and Maria are notable for the traditional iron-crafting.
Bastar region of Chattisgarh is one of the richest areas in terms of iron ore deposits. Tribal, particularly Gond and Maria, specialized themselves in extracting iron from the iron ores, thus forming ironsmith communities in the tribe. Their skill evolved with time as well as experimentation with material and technique.
Gond tribe worships ‘Budha dev’ as God, which was believed to reside in saja tree, also known as Indian laurel. But slowly when Gonds understood the strength of iron, they started believing that their God is in iron too.
The term ‘Gond’ has its origin from Telugu word ‘Kond’ which means a mountain. It is believed that after the downfall of their dynasties, ‘Gonds’ took shelters in the mountains. Mr. Tiju Ram Vishwakarma belongs to the same Gond community, who are ironsmiths too.
The raw material used for the craft is predominantly recycled iron scrap, taken from household or market. The main tools used are Dhukna Sar (furnace), Muthli (hammer), Chimtas (forceps), Sandasis (tongs) and Chenni (chisels). These tools are made locally by the lohars themselves. The process starts with scrap iron being beaten repeatedly when hot. It requires no casting and molding.
The desired shape is given carefully by beating it at necessary spots. Then unnecessary portions are cut away and filed to remove sharp objects. On completion, varnish coat is applied to enhance the luster. Both hollow and solid figures are made. For making a hollow figure, iron sheets are folded, cut and filed as per the need of the form. In a solid figure the main body parts are made first and then the detailing is done with the help of small chisels.
The craft that started from catering to farming, hunting, and ritualistic needs is now a beautiful work of art in demand. Wrought iron products include Deepak, which is made of many shallow bowls like lamps (Diya), bird and animal figures, small diamond-shaped leaf-like structures and vertical and horizontal rods.
These deepaks are the specialty of the ironsmiths in this area. These are available in the forms of Laman Diya (hanging diya) and Khut diya (stand diya). Many new forms like masks, hangers, innovative lamps, wall hangings, and showpieces are also available.