Friday, 24 September, 2021
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Traditional "SHITAL PATI" on the verge of extinction

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Once the value of Shital Pati was world class. The economy of some villages revolved around this industry. Shital Pati became the livelihood of thousands of families. Over time, this industry started dying. Due to tradition, the position of Shital Pati was once at the top.

 Although the exact history of Shital Pati weaving is not known, there is no controversy that the Shital Pati was created by the art conscious people of Sylhet. Thousands of people from Tegharia, Chanpuram, Srinathpur, Atasan, Gauripur, Lohamora, Khujgipur, Koargaon, Harisham, Tekamudra, Kalampur, Algapur and several other villages of Balaganj Upazila of Sylhet district were once involved in the industry of weaving these cool rugs. Although Shital Pati is made in other areas of Sylhet region, the Shital Pati of Balaganj is unique.

At one time the Shital Pati made in this Upazila was not only marketed in Bangladesh, but was also exported to different parts of the world. In England, France and Russia, the value of the Shital Pati was enviable. As a proof of arrival in India, foreigners used to take the muslin of Dhaka as well as the Shital Pati of Balaganj as a memento. Tradition has it that during the British rule, the Shital Pati of Balaganj was found in the royal palace of Queen Victoria.

The main reason for the development of this industry in Sylhet is the Murta shrubs, the main material for making Shital Pati. The soil and climate of Sylhet region are conducive for Murta trees. Cool rugs are made from cane extracted from this tree. This special type of shrub-like trees grow in the forest soil and in the wet lowlands around the homesteads and on the sides of the ponds. Regional availability of the raw material has made this industry widespread in the area.

But modern lifestyle has overwhelmed this industry. Where the coolness of the carpet used to give peace to the people, now the coolness of electronics has taken its place. Once almost every middle and upper class family had the Shital Pati. Shital Pati has various names, but in most cases the name depends on its length and width. According to the size of the cane Shital Pati is named as Siki, Adhuli, Taka, Sonamuri, Nayantara, Asmantara, etc. It takes up to 3-4 months for a skilled artist to make a single Pati. As a result, the price of Shital Pati is very high at present and sold for around Tk 2,000 to Tk 6,000.

The artisans of Balaganj have also gained a wide reputation due to the cool Shital Pati. In 1906, Jaduram Das of Balaganj won a gold medal for the Shital Pati at the Craft Exhibition in Calcutta. In 1982, Pabanjay Das of Balaganj was awarded as the best craftsman for Shital Pati at the national level. Monindra Nath of Balaganj won the award for representing Shital Pati at the World Crafts Exhibition held in Rome, Italy in 1991.

This once famous Shital Pati art is on the verge of extinction today. Until the 90's, the raw material for making Shital Pati was easily available. But as a result of an increase in population, the land where the trees used to grow is reducing. At present, in different parts of Sylhet region including Balaganj, there are very few Murta growing areas remaining to sustain this industry. As a result, many artists are leaving their original profession. Those who are struggling to sustain the legacy of their forefathers, are facing hardships in retaining this industry. The revival of the Shital Pati industry requires commercial cultivation of Murta trees along with government grants for the artisans. Without patronage the industry will face extinction, then the Shital Pati may not be found anywhere except in museums.

 

Mohammad Yasin Islam,

student of Department of

Sociology, Jagannath University