You’ve probably heard that “Bihar” has the highest rates of poverty or illiteracy in the country. Biharis” have a negative reputation for being quick to anger, and slovenly in general. And when it comes to the state’s traditional arts or culture, only one or two are well-known.
Have you ever thought about why “Bihar” is always considered as a backward state? More or less, it’s because we are too uninterested in discovering and understanding how great this state is. Bihar is where some of the greatest thinkers of all time lived. It is also where Buddhism, the world’s most famous faith, began.
She Is The Change We All Need
Suave Sumati Jalan just like many others, left her home state, Bihar, to attend college in another state. She earned degrees in law, languages and literature, and mass communication. But with endless adventures and experiences came a shocking reality knocking at her door. She confronted the discrimination that inhabitants of her native state experienced due to their origin as Bihar natives.
It’s not a secret that the majority of the world has a negative impression of Biharis. Actually, we all have preconceived notions about what a Bihari should be like, and Sumati was often surprised to hear the prejudices people had for Biharis. Instead of pushing these judgy comments aside, she took them to heart and decided to challenge all the prejudices she could.
I was well-dressed and could converse in English without a hitch. As a result, several people remarked that I didn’t appear or act like a Bihari. I carried that burden with me and a desire to alter people’s bad impressions of Bihar.
The Patna native, who is now 43 years old, sometimes even got offended by the way her home state was portrayed when she was younger. Sumati gave genuine consideration to ideas that most people treated casually or as a joke. She knew, what a wonder her home state was, but she also realised that a very small part of it is served to the nation.
Traditional Arts – Were Her Muse
To change how people think about her state, she decided to use traditional arts as her ladder. She realised that to change how people think about Bihar, she needed to think about how people see it.
She was introduced to art at an early age. Dewan Bahadur RK Jalan, her great-grandfather, amassed an extensive global collection of antiquities. These works of art were formerly prized possessions of Indian, European, Chinese, Turkish, Tibetan, and African emperors, monarchs, and nobles.
There are still priceless works of art, including manuscripts, papers, linens, bone china, and even weaponry, proudly displayed in Sumati’s family home, the Quila House
After travelling to different states for education and jobs she finally decided to settle in her home state of Bihar in 2018. At the time, she didn’t really have anything planned, so she just started talking to the weavers who came into town to sell their handloom goods.
She made an effort to learn about their process and their challenges. The majority of the weavers she spoke with expressed concern that the next generation would not carry on the family business as they were leaving the state for the metropolis, where they found better employment.
Their accounts inspired her to bring back Bihar’s traditional arts, like weaving and embroidery techniques. In 2020, she launched her clothing brand, Bihart, which she describes as an effort to debunk myths about her culturally rich home state. She started a brand that proudly flaunts the Bihari identity using traditional arts of the state.
Bihart – The Change
Bihar has a rich cultural heritage, yet very few people are aware of its handicrafts, only Bhagalpuri Tussar silk weaves and Madhubani paintings were the traditional arts that could find the spotlight. Traditional arts like Sujani, Manjusha, and Sikki, as well as weaves like extra weft, chingari, fishnet, and jharna, have become very less popular.
With Bihart, Sumati creates contemporary designs using traditional arts, such as mulberry silk sarees, kurtis, crop tops, tote bags using appliqué figures, handmade Sujani dolls, and extra weft cushions.
Through the medium of traditional arts, we are attempting to revitalise these arts and demonstrate the splendour of Bihar. Many skilled professionals have left the state for better chances in bigger metropolitan areas as a consequence of the state’s dismal economy. The traditional arts are disappearing in the process.
She also claims that our perceptions of luxury are flawed. The term “luxury” is now often used to indicate “expensive.” Historically, luxury meant investing in durable, high-quality items. Everything from scent to furnishings to clothes has been affected by this.
In the luxury market, there is no longer any relationship between price and quality. “When I shop,” she continues, “I always try to figure out why something is so darn expensive.”
She wishes to bring all artisans home, and with Bihart, she wishes to provide each Bihari employment and change the notion of luxury with a brand tag. Keeping her vision clear, she is hitting two birds with one stone.
At Bihart, everything is done by the locals, from spinning the yarn to having the fabric handwoven to teaching the weavers and commissioning the original designs for each garment. This way, she is not only giving a very crisp experience with handmade items but also generating ample employment for natives of Bihar.
Bihart’s most popular traditional arts products are mulberry silk sarees, extra-weft shirts, silk extra-weft cushions, and recycled crop tops. When it comes to garbage, Bihart doesn’t generate any. She explains that a Khadi crop top is designed using embroidered fabric remnants.
Bihart, which was started in 2020, makes Rs 1.5 lakh monthly. Goa, Bangalore, Delhi, Udaipur, and Rishikesh among others, are some of the places where Bihart has walk-in shops.
Through Bihart, Sumati works closely with local weavers and crafters. She has a network of 12 weavers and 18 artisans, along with 15 full-time employees.
Sumati did face difficulties in seeking to enhance the skill level of these artisans, but she shares that it is critical to teach them how to evolve better. Bulls, kalash (pots), cows, and lotuses are among their most prevalent themes. Sumati also helps them with unique geometric designs.
A Glimpse Of A New World
She had ample free time to dedicate herself entirely to Bihart, and she had a vision for busting stereotypes. She had enough spare money and time from her teaching profession to make ends meet. Although founding Bihart was not a well-planned decision, things worked out wonderfully for her. She continues, “I never thought I’d make a brand, have a team, or take on traditional arts so seriously.”
Sumati considers Bihart to be a success since it achieves the objectives she set out to achieve when she originally started it. Her customers come from places such as Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, to name a few.
Her vision was to train Bihar in achieving good employment in the state itself while promoting the traditional art forms of the state and letting the world see what great magic the land has, and indeed, she seems to find great success in her attempts.
Visit Bihart’s website to see their unique collection of traditional arts, or check out their Instagram and Facebook page to learn more about Bihar and the people, we all call Biharis.
If you like this story, you can also check out – EcoKaari Is Upcycling 20 Million Plastic Bags Into Fabric, This Start-Up Makes Rs 8 Lakh/Month
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