Sholapith, also referred to as Shola Pith, is a milky-white plant matter derived from the Aeschynomene species of plants. Sholapith is incredibly unique not only due to the fact that it is made from renewable wood from a marshy plant, but its uniqueness can also be attributed to its distinct white interior. This white interior is synonymous with purity and sacredness. For this reason, many handcrafted Sholapith products are devoted to religious Hindu festivals, most notably like Durga Puja. Durga Puja is Bengal’s largest annual religious festival, which is traditionally held over the course of 10 days in the Hindu month of Ashvina. For context, Ashvina is the seventh month of the Hindu calendar.
First, the Sholapith plant is cultivated, generally in waterlogged areas. The plant generally grows in marshy areas in the states of Bengal, Assam and Orissa. Once the plant is cut, it is dried out seeing as working with the material when it is less soggy makes it easier for the artisans.
Once it is dried out, artisans start to work with the product. Given the fact that the plant is generally only 1-2 inches in diameter, artisans need to be incredibly careful not only in ensuring that only the thin brown exterior is carefully separated from the white interior, but also in ensuring that their fingers are not cut by the sharp knife. Due to the nature of the delicate extraction procedure, one may see artisans wearing thumb protectors while peeling the outer layer of the plant when using the knife. This can be observed in the image below.
It is useful to note that during this extraction process, the exterior is not necessarily useless. It can be used in other aspects of the craft’s creation. For instance, Sholapith flower crafts include the brown exteriors in order to create texture and colour dichotomies that best reflect nature.
With this, Sholapith crafts can vary, from being thin flowers to relics of durga faces (hyperlinked - ) to being ornate crafts of sea vessels. As such, the level of dedication and time put into aSholapith art piece is highly contingent on the piece’s complexity, shape and dimensions.
Sholapith is a delicate craft seeing as it takes the most skilledIndian artisans and craftsmen with years of experience to extract the white interior of the plant (with the use of a sharp knife). This dexterity required also carries forward into working with the interior, where artisans are expected to delicately chip at, trim, carve and piece together desired sections of the wood in order to create the final piece.
The process of making Sholapith is completely handmade, which means that each final piece is unique in its own right. Additionally, the fact that it is handmade means that the greatest deal of attention and care has been put into creating the product that will ultimately beautify the space that it occupies.
The texture and colour ofSholapith handicrafts could be most aptly linked to the material of thermocol. However, the benefits of Sholapith are far greater than that of thermocol. Given the fact that Sholapith is completely plant-derived without the use of chemicals in its production process, it poses no threat to human health. Sholapith’s natural properties also means that the final product is of the highest quality. If you are someone who is environmentally conscious, then you can purchase Sholapith crafts completely guilt-free. The reason for this is because theSholapith craft is made from 100% natural Shola plants. Additionally, since they are sourced from plants, they are naturally biodegradable, thus posing no threat to the environment.
You can view Artisan Soul’s intricately handmade Sholapith collection here. Purchasing Sholapith craft online through Artisan Soul supports the growth of the local Indian artisans’ market.