The Legend of Bankura

January 7, 2023by Rajeev Hora0

The Legend of Bankura

“And then what happened Papa?” queried Jatin who had come down for the winter break, midway through his MBA program. Well it was not the first time, Jatin was listening to his father Raghav relating to him the story about his ‘birth’day. Yet he never tired listening to it for obvious reasons.

Raghav recalled, “Well, as they were wheeling your mom to the OT, the doctor tapped me from behind.” “Hey Raghav, she will be just fine, don’t you worry”, he spoke reassuringly, “But do you mind doing me a small favour?”

“Yeah sure, anything for you Doc”, said Raghav.

“You see, I am leaving today evening for a fortnight’s leave. I just don’t have anytime today with three other cases lined up. Do you mind going down to the local thrift shop and buying a couple of Bankura horses for me? Want to take them home as gifts.”

Raghav continued his reminiscences, “Although quite taken aback by this unusual request, I guess I had no choice in the matter. I had visualized myself pacing furiously outside the OT in typical filmy style while your mom was in labour. But here I was buying Bankura horses while you were making your long-awaited arrival. By the time, I came back to the hospital, the stork had already visited and the nurses were playing with you. I felt so happy seeing you there in the cradle but in a way, I felt a bit cheated at that moment.”

“Yeah, you have told me about that earlier Papa. But what is it about Bankura horses that makes them so special? I remember we had a couple of them at home as well when we were young.”

“Yes, it is India’s quintessential souvenir and most famous decoration piece. You just can’t ignore the etched-out eyes, the long straight giraffe-like neck, the barrel-shaped body and the very short tail. But beside their unusual body ratio, all of them have a unique feature. Their long ears and a rather small tail are detachable which often get lost.”

“The original ones were made out of terracotta or clay in Panchmura village in Bankura district (WB). All this is well known, but I am sure you don’t know the legend behind these horses”, said Raghav. Jatin’s curiosity had been ignited by now and he was all ears.

“The older version is that around 800 years back, the local king saw a wild horse while he was on a hunt. He became obsessed with the thought of owning that particular horse. The king’s men could not however trace it. So, the king described it to his court potter, who made one for him out of clay. The legs are short probably because the king saw the horse grazing in tall grass.”

“There is another relatively modern version of the legend which will probably interest you more. This incident is considered to have happened a couple of centuries back. There was a great famine in the village as the crops had failed. People were finding it extremely hard to survive due to extreme levels of poverty. They were practically digging into their last reserves. That is when a learned sage who was on his worldly travels, happened to pass through Panchmura.”

“People from all walks of life trouped across to his shelter to listen to his words of wisdom. He spoke in Punjabi, which was a bit difficult for the locals to understand. He however managed to convey adequately through a make-shift interpreter. After his discourse, they all surrounded him and shared their destitution woes with him.”

“Guruji, you must bail us out of this terrible situation.”, they implored and pleaded. The sage gave it a serious thought and said, “Fine. Please call all your potters. I will teach them something new.” The potters duly assembled and Guruji showed them how to create a basic version of the now-famous horse out of clay. The simple design was very easy to learn.

Guruji continued his discourse, “Making the horses will not be sufficient. You also have to learn how to sell them in these difficult times. So, please imbibe these six dictums and never go astray from them.” The villagers in distress were more than eager to latch on to any nuggets that came their way.

“Firstly, Hath kholo.” Literally meaning open your palms. This could be interpreted in two ways. One, don’t hesitate to open your purses to invest. Two, become an action-oriented  doer in life and not just a complaint master.

“Secondly, remember Kuch Vakhra, Jyada Dikhda.” Meaning something different always catches the eye. You need to have a noticeable brand, a USP. The Bankura horse catches the eye because it has an odd limb ratio and distinctive features which have remained more or less the same over centuries. Actually, a brand everyone identifies with today.

“The third one is the key to selling, Jo Dikhda o Vikda.” Meaning what is seen, sells. Reversing the logic, it will sell only if it is seen. So find the right place and time to sell your wares. Present day marketing emphasis on ‘location, location, location’ is quite similar to this age-old advice.

“Fourth is the interesting one and a bit counter-intuitive, Tutega te Vikega.” Implying if it breaks, then only it will sell more. Very much like the much-maligned Chinese goods which have a rather short life and have to be replaced often. People will buy newer toys only when the earlier ones have broken. In this case, the tail and ears appear to have been designed to get lost or broken.

“Fifthly, Vand Chako, literally meaning Distribute and then eat.” The pragmatic implication being, work amongst yourselves with a spirit of cooperation rather than a spirit of competition. Then only the community will overcome it’s difficult days.

“And lastly, believe in Sacha Sauda or doing business with integrity.” That is do not ever try to cheat your customer if you want him to come back again. The last two are in fact essentially picked up from Guru Nanak’s teachings. The rest is history as we put it. The villagers overcame their hard days and the outcome is there for everyone to see.”

Jatin exclaimed, “Wow! What an amazing story Papa! But this is exactly what they taught us in our institute last year. This is almost like a compressed package. But Papa where on earth did you come to hear this folklore?”

Raghav chuckled with a twinkle in his eyes, “Ah, let’s say in this case, it came directly from the horse’s mouth!”


Or probably mare hearsay from,
(Horax) Casper


Postscript additional trivia: Incidentally, the Bankura horse is the logo of All India Handicrafts. The clay artists residing in the villages of Birbhum, Burdman and Purulia districts of West Bengal also make these horses. Locally, they are placed by villagers as offerings in small shrines, in lieu of the actual horse, to the God. Both Muslims and Hindus use the horse in the course of their religious rituals.


First published at on 07/01/23
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Image Attribution: Amartyabag, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons





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