Sujani : a primitive handicraft of Bihar
As its very name indicates, it is made of torn and tottered useless clothes of daily life. It is made and prepared with patches of different clothes, preferably of the cotton. By setting them in separate layers and then stitching – it takes swollen shape that is why it is said Sujani . Sujani is generally used as carpet or mat stretched on naked floor or wooden cots – giving physical comfort to slippers. It generally serves the purpose of bedding. It is as comfortable as Tosak. If it is not too fat and heavy and can be easily folded, it can be used as wrapper also.
There is no specific proof of its origin. Since it is used and made by mostly poor people, nobody bothers to know its history. The members of the poor families, who are not affluent like rich cannot afford seasonal costly clothes to fight the vagaries of the weather. As such the various dresses, which became unserviceable, were not thrown like waste materials rather they were thought to be used again by giving a desired shape to them. Consequently setting different unserviceable and useless clothes together binding them with shape is given – and thus Sujani comes into existence. In backward and poor families such sujani is very common. If we happen to pass through the slum areas, huts made of dried long grass or paddy bases on the stump of bamboo, we can see such sujani, though not in a very presentable shape, dirty and cramp stretched on the threshold on the front position of the hut.
How sujani has come to light? What factors are responsible for its coming in existence are some interesting and curious questions which occasionally flashed before our mental eyes. To put even completely useless article for use, has been special efforts of human being. Poverty and inability also pave way for the partial relief. Prominently these two factors seem to be responsible for existence of Sujani . But if we go to the past, when men were uncivilized or semi civilized not fully acquainted with the art of living comfortably and living in the Jungles like wild beasts, they might have living on the fruits and other wild articles – even on the meats of the animals and birds. In those state of affairs they might have been using the big leaves of trees as plates. Placing together more than one leaves, they might have given a bigger shape to so-called leaf plates or dishes. Likewise in the preparation of sujani the same idea would have prevailing.
The very name of sujani does not give fair meaning. People discard and look down upon it. And discredit it with ugly sounding name as gendra , khendra and logad etc.
Since its preparation is time consuming affair and patience and perseverance is required for it, like preparation of Rangoli, Madhubani painting etc. It is a work to be performed exclusively by women folk. It is purely needlework, and for beauty and perfection- skill of embroidery is needed for it.
Of late women of affluent society of Bihar undertook this work and they started preparing sujani on costly new fabrics also Needle stitches play important part in its preparation. Through figures, pictures, events are started to be depicted on Sujani. The use of such sujani is now no more remain confined to bed but other fashionable garments are also now a days prepared on sujani style which are much in demand.
Earlier sujani was personal pastime, confined to limited families. But during the last two decades, it has become popular among various families. So many people have adopted it as useful art. Interestingly Aditi, an institution devoted to expansion of the domestic art and handicrafts by popularizing it beyond the boundaries of this country and started to boost its commercially. Sujani has now gained a new name for its unique style as a result of which artisan engaged in this performance could get chance to visit foreign countries like United Kingdom etc.
In this context special mention may be made of Sanjeev Upadhayaya and his wife Preeti of Patna who are engaged as whole time performer of sujani arts.