Terracotta of Matigara
His real age is 72, but his working zeal may go against it. Gopal Chandra Pal, terracotta artist crossed the borders of newly divided Bengal on 4th July 1960, from Bera village in Pabna. After settling at Raiganj for 16 years, came the period for migration. Ever since he has been settled at Matigara village, 7-8 kms from Sliguri, covered by bus, auto hired cabs. The recognition of this village is mainly for its terracotta art, sustaining almost 500 families, who wield magic out of plain earth, burning and shaping it in splendid piece of art. A local village enthusiast informed us about someone ‘boropal’ for certain vocal information about the village. Gopal Babu, who turned out to be the referred one didn’t disappoint. He along with Motilal Pal, another runaway of partition, have been masters of this craft following a long line of ancestors who did so.
In describing the process, clay from 3 places needs to be blend. Clay from local brick factory, called “bhan”, from Kaliaganj and clay from local Balason River. Ornamental pieces need a higher percentage of “Bhan” clay. 300 sq. feet clay from brick factory costs 10 thousand bucks while that from Kaliaganj is 6 thousand rupees and local soil is 4.5 thousand. The clays are blended well, made in a heap, designs are etched on it with bamboo poles, which require fine skill. Then they are roasted in ovens. A full-fledged oven consumes 500 quintal husk and 4oo q saw dust. The burnt items are then cooled and smeared with color and paint as necessary. Sunil pal, Prafulla pal, Bhakta pal, Tarapado pal, etc. untiringly toil on with their craft. Motilal pal has his outlets in Vadodra and Hyderabad. Terracotta items of Matigara have a steady demand allover India like Pune, Indore, Mumbai, Chennai, Goa etc.
Artisans here sell about 100 types of goods. They are also venturing in new products to keep pace with time. But problems like absence of profit, increased cost production has made many people shy away from this industry.
Article: Sujit Sengupta, English version by Kush