Amar Kutir Society for Rural Development near Santiniketan, West Bengal, is a registered cooperative society since 1978. Susen Mukhopadhyay started it in 1923 as a safe haven for the young revolutionaries fighting for Indian’s freedom. He was greatly concerned for the daily livelihood of these young people who had left home and were mostly hiding from the British Police and its colonial demonic powers. While in hiding, they would plan several activities for the freedom struggle.
At Amar Kutir, the inhabitants initially learnt block printing, textile weaving and other handicrafts. With time, they started specialising in Batik (resist technique) on leather. After India’s independence in 1947, most of the original inhabitants of Amar Kutir (meaning ‘my hut’) stayed on as it was truly their home.
Two brothers, Kamalaksha Bose and Alok Bose, adopted by Susenda inherited the nearly 100 acre land. They ran the organisation with utmost love and dedication making it the only place in India to specialise in creating leather Batik objects, the motifs on them inspired by the Bengal school and Ajanta cave paintings.
Heavily influenced by the Tagore and Gandhian principles of self-sustainability, cluster development in the rural handicrafts sector, economic regeneration at the grass root level, and earning one’s living through honest, artistic means, Amar Kutir leads the way in any contemporary global discussion anytime. In today’s loud social media world, they have no presence whatsoever though you can find them on Facebook so you might have missed hearing about them if you are not from Bengal or a frequent traveller there.
But, like the yesteryears, even today, if one doesn’t possess a Amar Kutir leather bag, purse, key chain, luggage tag, folder, Kantha or Batik textile like sari, then it is considered that one is low on the fashion quotient in Bengal :p
There’s the beautiful Kopai river flowing behind the Society complex, if you don’t reach it early enough then you would be swamped by irritatingly noisy tourists. There is simple, homemade Bengali cuisine served at a small eatery in the Amar Kutir complex – don’t miss it for the world 🙂
Enjoy the long festive season in India, have fun shopping at Amar Kutir (do NOT haggle) but please ensure that you or anyone does not litter and destroy the sanctity of this slice of heaven!
All photos here by the author, more photos and videos on the social media link of VarnikaDesign.