When Kakali, who has made London her home for the past two decades, decided to get some nolen gur while returning from her vacation in Kolkata, she was delighted to find- it was no longer a messy experience. Thanks to the nolen gur tubes that were being sold at the counter of Biswa Bangla Haat at the airport. An initiative of the Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles of the Government of West Bengal, Biswa Bangla Haat not only provides a market to the various artisans of Bengal for selling their products but offers a unique shopping experience as well. Gone are the days when you buy honey and incense sticks from the dusty shelves of Khadi Bhandars or Murshidabadi silks from tiny outlets, hardly noticeable from outside and manned by grumpy sales persons. Biswa Bangla stores are modern and eye catching and so are the products, which actually represent the very essence of Bengal.
Biswa Bangla Haat was launched in February, 2014. Initially, there was only one outlet at Kolkata Airport (Domestic and International). Its success saw the opening of several more stores including Dakshinapan in Dhakuria, Rajarhat and Bagdogra Airport. The national capital also has a store. The best part is while marketing the crafts produced by artisans from Bengal, Biswa Bangla Haat offers a wide variety of items including home décor, fabrics and clothes as well as FMCG products.
An extensive collection of dolls, crafted in various parts of Bengal, each having its own distinct characteristic, is on sale. Some of the finest ones that you would come across are the Diwali dolls and shellac dolls of Medinipur and Purulia. The Diwali dolls fashioned out of clay, has rows of tiny lamps and are popular during the festival of lights. The Queen and Wheel Dolls of Howrah, clay dolls of Jaynagar-Mazilpur and Krishnanagar, Tusu dolls of Bankura, Bonga elephant dolls of Sandra and wooden ones from North 24 Pargana remind us of our cultural heritage. The dolls are made of wood, jute, palm leaves, fabric and a variety of other materials apart from clay. The clay dolls costs between `19 and `600. The shellac dolls would cost you anything around `150. The dolls are great for home décor, bringing that touch of rural Bengal in your urban existence.
Since ancient times masks have been long associated with human race and their various customs, be it a shaman performing some rituals in a remote place deep inside a forest or a member of the Munda tribe performing their famous Chhau dance. Biswa Bangla Haat offers a huge collection of masks from all corners of Bengal. The masks represent the many different tribes such as the Mundas, Garos, Oraons and so on. They are made up of variety of materials such as sponge wood (shola), wood , clay, dokra and many more. They can cost you anything starting between `599 and `10000. For instance, a Chhau mask would cost you `1349. The masks reminds you of our tribal heritage and are perfect for adorning your bare walls.
It is the clothing section of Biswa Bangla Haat that will hold you in awe. It offers you a vast collection of ready-made clothes and fabrics, suitable for all ages. In the ladies section, they have an exclusive range of unique handloom sarees including the silks – muga, matka and muslin are all available. The prices range between `799 and `150000. A muga silk saree can cost you around `45000, a matka silk or muslin can cost you around `5200 and going up to even `18500. In the men’s and kids sections, you will find shirts of fine cotton, linen and muslin. The price ranges between `1299 and `2999 and above. Nehru jacket made of pure khadi and silk material are also available. Starting at `3499, prices can go up to `3999 and above. They also have a fine collection of shawls – jamdani, minakari, silk as well as balaposh.
‘Mouban’ honey comes straight from the forests of Sundarbans, the home of the mighty Royal Bengal Tiger. Priced reasonably, each 250 gm bottle of pure honey would cost you `149 while the 500 gm bottle costs about `299. The black rice, another special product comes from Uttar Dinajpur and is completely black in colour. The rice, because of its high fibre content helps in lowering your cholesterol levels. A packet of 100 gm will cost you around `100 and you can get the 200 gm packet a little cheaper at `175. The ‘Bonoloukhi’ ghee is another product on sale which comes from Shantiniketan.
Bishwa Bangla Haat offers you the finest tea from the gardens of North Bengal. It brings you the Darjeeling tea straight from the gardens of Makaibari tea estate, located in Kurseong. There are varieties of tea depending upon their harvest period. The ‘First flush’ tea leaves, harvested in mid-march and hence milder and aromatic, are priced at `375. The ‘Second flush’, harvested in June and is generally more coarser and priced at `305. Apart from these, you will also find green tea, which costs about `235 and also tea bags at `310. Cosmetics and skin care items made out of forest products are available. It also has stocks of attar – the legendary scent harks you back to the luxuriousness of the past eras.
The home décor items include table tops and utility items made of dokhra. These are priced between `400 and `2400. Another item which needs a special mention, is the idol of the goddess Durga of dokhra, which is priced at `24000 approximately. Copies of portraits by famous artists, such as Jamini Roy, Haren Das and Chittaprosad Bhattyacharya are also available.
The state government is planning to capture the international market with plans to expand Biswa Bangla outlets overseas. And going by the demands of products and artefacts made by artisans from Bengal among foreigners, there is hope that Biswa Bangla Haat would create new opportunities for the poor craftsmen who are yet to find appreciation in monetary terms.
The Rajarhat store of Biswa Bangla Haat is located at Gate No.5 of Ecopark near Nawabpur Morh
11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Kolkata Airport (Domestic and International), Dakshinapan in Dhakuria, Bagdogra Airport and New Delhi