Sholapith or Shola Pith (also referred to as Shola and Indian cork) is a dried milky-white spongy plant matter which can be pressed and shaped into delicate and beautiful objects of art.Almost similar to thermocol, which is artificially produced, Sholapith is much superior to thermocol in terms of malleability, texture, luster and sponginess.
Shola grows wild in marshy waterlogged areas. The biological name of Shola is Aeschynomene aspera of the bean family. It is an herbaceous plant, which grows particularly in the marshy areas of Bengal, Assam, Orissa and the Deccan. The Sholapith is the cortex or core of the plant and is about 1.5 inches across.
Sholapith Craft Online
Traditionally Sholapith products were used in decorating Hindu idols and in creating the headgear’s of brides and grooms for a traditional Bengali wedding. The people engaged as Sholapith craftsmen are known as Malakar, meaning “garland maker”, probably because they made garlands made of Shola for idols and for the noble class. About 5,000 artisans are involved in this craft. Craftsmen spend several months on a piece to meticulously curve out the details.
In West Bengal this craft is mainly practised in the districts of Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia, Hooghly , Malda ,south 24 parganas district and some other parts of this state. In Murshidabad the Shola crafts are flowery designs, decorative head wear of gods and goddesses, garlands, exquisite figurines like faces of gods and goddesses, elephant howdahs, peacock boats, palanquins and so on. All are made of Sholapith.
The idol makers of Kumortuli who traditionally produced clay idols have taken to making idols of Sholapith and fiberglass. While the fiberglass ones can cost around Rs 110,000-120,000, those prepared from Sholapith cost Rs 90,000. The height of the idols can vary from four to nine feet. These are mostly meant for Indian community puja organizers abroad.
In more recent times, Sholapith handicrafts have found a wider application in home décor, as artistic objects. Today, products of Shola are exported to different countries in the world too.