A fine example of folk art and the individual creative impulse is the Nakshi Chhanch – moulds made for rice cakes – the nakshi pithas.
The village women of Bangladesh apply their creative impulse and talent to decorate the rice cakes made to celebrate the harvest. Drawing not only upon their imagination but on their daily experiences the women create the nakshi chhanch. Traditionally made of either clay, wood or stone the moulds are crafted in different shapes and sizes, each with different patterns and designs.
Rice flour ground very fine in a dhenki is the main ingredient of the cake/pitha that is offered to visitors and members of the family to celebrate the harvest and the Bengali New Year. Flour is kneaded with water into a variety of shapes. Sometimes the juice of taal / date palm, gur /molasses, milk, coconut, ginger, sugar or spices are also mixed in.
There is an endless variety of pithas and each one has a specific name. The more interesting versions are the bhapa (steamed) pitha, chitoi, pakwan pitha and malu pitha. Some of these are like plain pithas; steamed or fried. But in the nakshi pitha, the design is very important and the ingenuity expressed in designing the moulds in shapes that range from birds, dolls, fruits, conch shell, leaves and animals among others add value to the offering.. This folk craft is practiced mainly in Mymensingh, Comilla, Sylhet, Dhaka and Chittagong.