Sholapith (Indian Cork)

Shola grows wild in marshy waterlogged areas. The biological name of shola is Aeschynomene aspera of the bean family. It is an herbaceous plant, which grows especially in the marshy areas of Bengal, Assam, Orissa and the Deccan. The sholapith is the cortex or core of the plant and is about 1.5 inch across.

Traditionally sholapith products have been used for decorating Hindu idols and creating the headgear of brides and grooms for a traditional Bengali wedding. In more recent times, sholapith handicrafts have found a wider application in home décor such as Hindu gods and artistic objects.

Sholapith is similar in form to man-made polystyrene foam (sometimes known by the brand names Thermacol and Styrofoam), but is superior in terms of malleability, texture, lustre and sponginess.

In West Bengal, this craft is mainly practised in the districts of Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia, Hooghly, Malda and south 24 Parganas district. Sholapith craftsmen are known as Malakar, meaning "garland maker", probably because they made shola garlands for idols and for the noble class