Bangladesh rears some of the best quality of goats and cows in the world and leather is one of its major export items. The leather artisans of Bangladesh produce a wide variety of products and their craft has a wide market and excellent reputation throughout the world.
Documents and old manuscripts show that from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century crafted leather was widely used for making the howdah (the seat fixed on an elephant), saddles, shields of warriors and beautifully designed scabbards. Horses and elephants were the main steeds for wars and battles and designed and crafted seats were used according to their rank and status. The makers of these leather products were Muslims known as Kufatkar.
TECHNIQUE AND PROCESS
The job of making the saddles and howdahs involved two stages. In the first stage professional curriers prepared the sizes and supplied them to the Kufatkars who then crafted the skins with special tools and implements. They designed scenes or geometric shapes on the skins and finished them with exquisitely designed fringes. Besides this the Kufatkars also painted and drew on the skins. Natural dyes and pigments were used for painting and designs were imprinted using red hot iron. The Kufatkars of Dhaka City, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Pabna, Jessore, Comilla, Mymensingh and Sylhet were renowned for their skill. The products crafted expanded to included hats, hunters, whips, masks for different religious festivals.
The book binders of Dhaka were also well known for crafting and designing the covers of religious books and other important books and manuscripts.
In recent times leather craftsmen are making shoes, bags of all varieties, suitcases, jewellery boxes, cigarette cases, belts, watch straps etc with a variety of techniques including batik, embossing, engraving and relief work that has gained fame and reputation both at home and abroad.
About fifty thousand professional curriers work in Bangladesh. They are widely dispersed and live in almost all the areas of the country. But the main centres of concentration are Simultali of Khulna, Bajitpur of Mymensingh, Brahmanbaria of Comilla. Even though mechanisation has taken over, the role of these currier is still important.