Artisans skilled workmen sometimes designated as craftsmen. Artisans are creative and ingenious people who make things manually. Historically and traditionally, this group of people has been associated with making artifacts, crafts, and equipment that are considered to be important gradients for the growth of civilisation. Civilisation is nothing but what we have and incorporates the characteristic performances of artisans. There is however, a distinction between artisans and occupational groups. All artisans essentially belong to an occupational group while not all-occupational groups are artisans. Thus a napit (barber) does not belong to an artisan group while a kamar (blacksmith) ideally belongs to both artisan and occupational groups. In fine, artisans are people employed in making things of artistic value.
The emergence and development of any occupational or artisan group in any specific locality is always closely linked to ecology. The nature of the soil, climate and availability of water resources play a significant role in the emergence of distinct occupational and artistic groups. Thus the occupational groups that developed in the plain alluvial land of the ganges valleys are quite distinct from those of inhospitable Tundra regions. Artisan groups such as kamar, kumar (potter), tanti (weaver) developed to fulfill the needs of agricultural society. In contrast, pastoral society generated artisan groups are linked to animal husbandry. The technological advancement of a society exerts enormous influence on the nature of emerging artisan groups. Traditional society equipped with rudimentary tools and machinery lead to occupations of simple character. Industrial society, on the other pole, results in specialised and complex occupations.
Development of artisans in Bangladesh territory follows a generalised trend, although they are sometimes confined to a favourable locality. Some have abodes either in towns or in villages marked by special characteristics that give them the status of a community. These characteristics encompass culture, norms, values, folkways and even dietary habits. In terms of religious distribution, artisans follow no orthodox position, since they belong to different religions. In some occupational groups the office runs through a family lineage. In the past, most occupational groups fell under the domain of the Hindu caste system.
Those people mostly belonging to shudra caste, the lowest in the caste hierarchy of Hindu community, were assigned to do particular jobs. Most used to believe the assigned job to be their original occupation. The majority were untouchables and a few menial castes were even regarded as unseeables and could come outside their homes only at night. With the development of education and the emergence of the middle class in Bengal, most occupations have lost their original caste character. Many members of a particular caste have become educated and have found their ways to other occupations. Moreover, people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds have joined in the once caste-bound occupations.
The social and cultural history of Bengal has inscribed varieties of professions and occupations that developed in the past. brahmans were assigned to conduct religious festivals and funeral. Kushtis were engaged in practising astrology, bedeys in medicine, vaishyas and goaps in agriculture, goalas in producing milk and dairy products, malis in gardening and flower trade, baruis in betel leaf cultivation, napits in hair cutting, and modaks or moyras in sweetmeat making. bagdis, rural militancy popularly called lathials, dhopas or rajaks (washerman), sutradhars or chutars (carpenter), dhangar (cleaner), doms (cremators) and chandals were regarded as the lowest in the social hierarchy and used to live in the periphery of either towns or villages. In addition to these, there were occupational groups such as tanti (weaver), jele or dheebar (fisherman) gandhabanik (traders of perfumes and spices), goap (writer), kamar (blacksmith), kumar (potter), kalu (oil presser), kansaru (brazier), shankhari (shell cutter), swarnakar (goldsmith), subarnabanik (gold trader), majhee (boatman), gharami (house builder), kahar (palanquin bearer) karati (sawyer) and patial (matmaker). [Gofran Faroqi]