Sikki Art

The story of Sikki Art dates back to an early Vedic period in India when it was practiced in the midst of a nomadic life inching towards settlement; the cultural experience around the then Mithila region in Bihar was no different. The natives of this region had begun experimenting creatively with the natural resources available. Maithli women, in particular, had started making utensils for storage of grains and household goods and the raw material they used was Sikka Grass grown in marshy areas around water bodies, found in abundance, in the region.

The story of Sikki Art dates back to an early Vedic period in India when it was practiced in the midst of a nomadic life inching towards settlement; the cultural experience around the then Mithila region in Bihar was no different. The natives of this region had begun experimenting creatively with the natural resources available. Maithli women, in particular, had started making utensils for storage of grains and household goods and the raw material they used was Sikka Grass grown in marshy areas around water bodies, found in abundance, in the region. Every household of Mithila used to make the utensils called ‘Pauthi’, ‘Daoura’, ‘Daliya’, ‘Mouni’, ‘Chattai’ among others with Sikki grass.

Innovation seeped in their work as the time passed by. Besides household utensils, they began to make toys for kids, jewellery, boxes, and the art subsequently came to be known as Sikka Shilp (Craft). As settlement gained ground, Sikki Grass began to be considered worthy of being worshipped along with the Sun God and sacred enough for making the idols of Gods and Goddesses. Sikki Grass-built toys became mandatory in Sama-Chakeva, a local festival of the region, to demonstrate the inseparable love of brother and sister. With the popularity of the local festival increasing, Sikki Art also got propagated newly wed. Gifting ‘Jenau’ and ‘Supari’ in the box made with Sikka grass at the time of marriage was considered most auspicious those days.

The symbol of a woman’s qualification was the knowledge of Sikki Art in those days; more the skill in Sikki Art, the more cultured and talented a girl was considered. Her status in the in-law’s family was measured in in proportion to how much self-made artifacts of Sikki Art she brings along.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the commercial use of Sikki Art also spread widely. The demand for artifacts made from Mithilanchal Sikki transcended its traditional boundary and it was high in Lucknow, Nepal, Bengal and Delhi.

With the advent of British officials, the factory mode of production started and the use of plastic, aluminum, glass and steel in daily life gained currency. These factories started to produce the plastic idols of Gods and other essential commodities and the middle class adapted the change with open-heart. The artifacts made from the Sikki Grass gradually started to disappear from households thus, paving the path for plastic goods.

Post liberalization in the nineties, the globalization brought localization in its wake. Quest for authenticity and roots led to a revival of traditions and life style. Further, the market and the restriction-free uses of the internet and online-stores brought all varieties of handicrafts, including those made of Sikki Grass, close to buyers, thereby opening the doors of the possibilities for its further development.

Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan in Patna indeed played a pivotal role in the resurgence of Sikki Art. Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan organized a design training program for Mithilanchal Sikki artists in the year 2013-14 in association with National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. The program trained the artists to create artifacts with new designs in conformity with the market. At the same time, Bihar Pavilion at Pragati Maidan of New Delhi was decorated with Sikki Art during the International Trade Fair in 2014-15. As a consequence, the vanishing art reappeared in the eyes of the world.

Sikki Art has enlightened the world with its originality, incredible beauty and miraculous charisma. Sikki craft is the greatest gift of nature in which the artisans’ imaginations thrive.

Sikki Grass grows in waterlogged areas in the month of august and September. In order to get the stalks out of the grass, women go in a group while singing ‘Vishahara’ songs. After the stalks are removed, they are dried in the sunlit day and boiled in hot water to render the required softness for use. Vibrant colours lend additional appeal and attractiveness to the product. Thus, the Sikki grass rendered flower-bouquet, tablemat, mobilecase, pen-stand, and paperweight attracts instant attention on display.

The Sikki Art got further fillip from the innovative experiment of Shri Dhirendra Kumar of Rampur from Madhubani district who started to draw Sikki Art on canvas. Carving sketch with Sikki grass was not an easy job. But his relentless hard work and diligence made the sketches possible.

The main centres of Sikki Art are located around Rayam, Rampur, Madhepur, Siddhi, Jaynagar, Katihar, Gaonaha (West Champaran), Sonvarsha (Saharsa) and Sitamarhi in Bihar. The major names of the national awardees in Sikki Art include late Vindevari Devi, Kumudani Devi, Najda Khatoon, Renu Devi, Munni Devi, Krishna Devi, Sudhir Devi, Dhireendra Kumar, Meera Thakur, Mohammed Shamshad and Chularia Devi.

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