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Amar Kutir (meaning: my cottage), once a place of refuge for independence movement activists has been turned into a cooperative society for the promotion of arts and crafts. It is located on the banks of the Kopai Rivermarker, about from Santiniketanmarker in Birbhum districtmarker in the Indianmarker state of West Bengalmarker.

History

Early years

In 1922, on an invitation from Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, just released after imprisonment for political activities, visited Santiniketan. Sushen Mukherjee, a young man, met him there.Mukherjee had been associated with the revolutionary movement for Indian independence for some years. His meeting with Gandhi led to the setting up of Amar Kutir in 1927 with the objective of establishing an ashram or commune for political sufferers released from jails where they could work on sari printing, handloom and leather craft production. In 1930, Amar Kutir was raided by the British rulers and Mukherjee was put behind bars for political activities.With Mukherjee behind bars till 1937, the activities of Amar Kutir came to a halt.

Influence of Sriniketan

Tagore set up the Institute of Rural Reconstruction at Sriniketanmarker in 1922.The second but contiguous campus of Visva Bharati was subsequently located around the same place in 1923. It carried on the craft training work started by Silpa Bhavana at Santiniketan.The first cooperative for rural reconstruction was set up at Sriniketan in 1925.These activities initiated or inspired by Tagore had an influence on the activities of Amar Kutir.

Influence of revolutionaries

During his years in prison Mukherjee met several revolutionary leaders, notably Moni Ganguly and Pannalal Dasgupta. The prisons of British authorities were at that time hot beds of Marxist discussion and training. From 1938 when the British government relaxed its rules and started releasing many of the revolutionaries from prison, they started living and working in Amar Kutir. They were instrumental in organizing night classes and spreading Marxist ideas amongst the rural masses. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, many of the revolutionaries left Amar Kutir and were directly involved in organizing peasant movement in the villages. Many of them were active during the Quit India movement in 1942.Tarapada and Jata Majhi of Rupur Samaya Sadan died in police firing in a raid on Bolpur Railway Station conducted by thousands of people assembled by Amar Kutir.

Post-independence years

After India gained independence from the British, Amar Kutir became a cooperative to rejuvenate and develop rural handicrafts, reflecting the ideals of self–help and sustainable rural development advocated by Tagore. Amar Kutir Society for Rural Development was formally registered in 1978.

Activities

Amar Kutir is a cooperative unit that produces leather goods, kantha stitched saris, bamboo crafts and batik at a reasonable price.Its leather-craft unit employs mostly women. It has one batik, a needlecraft unit and shola and lac crafts units. Under a Central government scheme, a craft development centre was opened in 1992 at Amar Kutir. In 1993, the Central government set up a hand-block printing training centre at Amar Kutir Complex. Kantha-stitch sarees made here cater to the demands in both national and international markets.

References

  1. Ghosh, Amiya, Birbhum Jelaey Swadhinata Andolan, Paschim Banga, Birbhum special issue, p. 139, (in Bengali), February 2006, Information and Culture Department, Government of West Bengal
  2. Basak, Tapan Kumar, Rabindranath-Santiniketan-Sriniketan, An Introduction, pp. 6–8, BB Publication
  3. Ghosh, Kali Prasad, Birbhum Jelar Samabyay Andolan, Paschim Banga, Birbhum special issue, p. 102, (in Bengali),



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