India is endowed with a rich class of excellence in various handicrafts. From intricately decorated metal craft or some marvelous marble inlay work or some exquisite paintings, Indian handicrafts have rised with a grand international stature. The ethnic designs and flourishing textures have marked the evolution of Indian handicrafts from caves of ancient civilizations to the modern cities. The immense magic created by the Indian hands is visible from the timeless artistry of the dazzling jewellery, exquisite furniture, metal crafts, colorful toys and dolls, beautiful paintings and enthralling sculptures. Another side of the Indian handicrafts is the excellent paintings that India has been producing since time immortal.
Jewellery in India
India is one of the most important countries for the manufacture and export of costume jewellery. It has the largest production base for glass beads. The use of jewellery from ancient ages to modern times has witnessed a drastic change but still people sometime prefer offbeat jewellery.
Glass & Bead Jewellery
India is amongst the leaders of Glass & Bead jewellery production in the world. Ferozabad has a rich selection of fragile and delicate lightweight beads. Agra is famous for ‘German silver’ jewellery created to modern tastes. Varanasi is famous for its glass beads made from fused glass rods, while Purdilpur is famous for black glass beads. Lovely glass beads, stringing glass and wooden beads in necklaces of Mathura offer a distinct class. Meerut produces exquisite metal jewellery with Rohtak being the house of well made peasant jewellery. Silver ornaments are especially popular in Rajasthan, while Karnal in Haryana produces hollow silver beads. Graceful head ornaments are made in Maharashtra.
Ideal Places to Shop :
Kashmir, Rajasthan, Mumbai.
Tnhe main attraction of Indian tribal society is their jewellery. This has gained popularity within the country as well as abroad. The adornment fashioned from flowers, leaves, stones of creepers and fruits are unbelievalbly charming, shells, seeds and berries. Shell bracelets of West Bengal, specially filigreed gold bracelets will, are bound capture your heart.
Ideal Places to Shop :
Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,Maharashtra Kerala, Assam,Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal.
Metal Craft in India
Gold & Silverware
India has always been the epicenter of gold and silver metal crafts in the world. Since ages, there has been a great demand for such luxurious metals in India. The princely states demanded not only enameled jewellery but also enameled utensils such as wine-cups, finger-bowls, pill boxes etc. , in both gold and silver repose, sometimes studded with jewels. The crafts persons of India excel in this art. With the evolution of new tools, techniques and skills, they are now better equipped to cater to modern tastes. The various designs formed are called ‘Ganga-Jamuna’ pattern from the rivers Ganga and Jamuna which meet at Allahabad and flow together. An extensive range of gold and silver plated articles is produced in Lucknow in a multitude of patterns. The designs resemble those found in Kashmir. Most of the articles are highly ornamented, with repose work depicting hunting and jungle scenes and floral motifs.
Brass & Copperware
India is the largest brass and copper making region in the world with thousands of establishments spread all over for articles made out of one or more pieces of metal. Moradabad is famous for utensils, both utility and ornamental, made of white metal and electroplated brass and copper. It’s also the manufacturing centre for modern streamlined articles of Swedish design in polished brass or burnished copper, satisfying the demand for modern accessories and sophisticated interior decoration. Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh holds recognition for the multitude of its cast and sculptured mythological images in brass and copper as well as household utensils. Mirzapur has also emerged as one of the important brass industries of Uttar Pradesh. Some of the most beautiful and interesting metal ware of India for daily as well as for ceremonial purposes are crafted in Kashmir, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Metal ornaments have been a rave in all ages and times. The attractive contrasts in colors and textures of metals has led to the evolution of metal ornamentation through techniques like inlay, overlay, applique, fixing of colors etc.
Bidri, a form of surface ornamentation in black color which never fades and is relieved with silver and gold inlay. Tracing its name from the city of Bidar situated north-west of Hyderabad, ‘bidri’ is believed to have been introduced from the time of the Nawabs of Avadh.
The various forms of enameling, which are known to exist includes the cloisonne of Japan and China, the chamleve pattern extensively practiced in Lucknow & Varanasi and enameled trays and trinket boxes of Jaipur. The beauty of the article depends on the skill and resources of the worker and the excellence of the materials employed.
Ideal Places to Shop :
Lucknow, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Bihar.
Paintings in India
Floor painting is one of the most ancient crafts of India. Tracing its origin to a moving legend recorded in the ChitraJakshana-the earliest Indian treatise on painting. The craft of painting flourished during the reign of Chola rulers in the south, who made extensive use of ‘kolam’, floor designs. Floor paintings are known by different names in different parts of the country like ‘alpana’ in Bengal and Assam, ‘aripana’ in Bihar, ‘mandana’ in Rajasthan, ‘rangoli’ in Gujarat and Maharashtra, ‘chowkpurana’ in Uttar Pradesh, ‘kolam’ in the South, ‘mandana’ in Rajasthan and ‘muggulu’ in Andhra. Himachal Pradesh has its own distinctive floor paintings with geometrical patterns.
Walls paintings are used for narration, decoration, visual education etc. Wall paintings in Punjab, outer Delhi and Rajasthan are usually made at festivals and special occasions like marriages. Folk paintings in Rajasthan ave gained international stature and artists received immense fame. The themes are from epics and heroic Rajput tales. In the Kumaon, the usual wall pictures are known as ‘bar-boond’ (dash and dot). The ‘masti-bar-mat’ design is a composition of ten dots and the colors used are yellow, violet and green. There are all-over designs of roses and jasmines covering the entire wall.
Phad paintings are predominantly yellow, red and green colored long scrolls carried by the 'Bhopas' itinerant ballades of Rajasthan,who narrated in song the legend of Pabuji -a local hero -on auspicious occasions to the accompaniment of the folk instrument 'Ravanhatta' made by the Joshis of Shahpur, near Bhilwara. Phads are now also available in smaller panels portraying single incidents or characters from the epic.
Mughal Miniature Paintings
Of all the art forms in the Mughal period, miniature paintings are painstakingly painted creations that depict the events and lifestyle of the Mughals in their magnificent palaces. Other paintings include portraits or studies of wildlife and plants. This art is still alive and popular in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The wall paintings of Madhubani are joyous expressions of the women of Madhubani, Bihar. The lively compositions and the vibrant colors used to paint them are generally drawn from Indian mythology.
Ideal Places to Shop :
Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal.
Pottery in India
Pottery is another unique craft tracing its origin in India. The crafts persons of Khurja in Uttar Pradesh have evolved a style of their own by raising the pattern with the use of thick slips into a light relief, Glazes in warm shades of autumnal colors like orange, brown, and light red have also been developed by them. Floral designs in sky-blue are worked against a white background. A type of pitcher like a pilgrim's bottle, decorated in relief by a thick slip is a specialty of Khurja. Rampur surahis (water pots) are noted for their uniform green -blue glazes with plain surfaces, the base being prepared from red clay. Excellent water containers are made in Meerut and Hapur which stand out with their striking designs of flowing lines. and floral patterns, often capped by wired shaped spouts. A very special kind of earthenware peculiar to Nizamabad in Azamgarh district is distinguished by its dark lustrous body. This sheen is obtained by dipping it into a solution of clay.
Stone Craft & Marble Inlay Work in India
Stone crafts and marble inlay work are amongst the most primitive crafts of India. Hamirpur district in Uttar Pradesh has nurtured a sizeable stone carving industry with its rich deposits of beautiful soft stone. Marble is also used, especially for making statues. In Varanasi, the ‘raidas’ community is carryin out the work. The range of items include tableware, plates, glasses, bowls, food containers, candle stands, etc.
Agra is famous for Models in marble of the Taj, vases, boxes, lamps, plates, bowls and pitchers in delicately molded shapes & fine carvings. Intricate friezes and trellis or jali work done in an eye- catching range of patterns are the other highlights of this place. ‘Vrindavan’ near Mathura has marble as well as alabaster products. Some objects are embossed with semiprecious stones or synthetic gems.
Jhansi is famous for a dark brown stone with yellow spots and lines called ‘sange-rathek’ from which lampshades, incense stick stands, small medicine grinders are made. Midnapur in West Bengal is an important traditional region for stoneware and the main centre is Simulpur. Bihar's very ancient tradition in stone carving is proved by the magnificent sculpture of the Mauryan period. Tamil Nadu has a great tradition in stone carving of icons of classical excellence and Rajasthan may be called the land of marble with its stones in various colors and textures.
Ideal Places to Shop :
Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Textiles in India
Textiles form the backbone of Indian handicrafts. Extreme softness, vivid colors and translucent texture are the main highlights of silk weaving of India. Varanasi is famous for its brocade textiles, wide variety of techniques and styles. The brocades are distinguished by apt poetic names like ‘chand tara’ (moon and stars), ‘dhupchhaon’ (sunshine and shade), ‘mazchar’ (ripples of silver), ‘morgala’ (peacock's neck), ‘bulbul chasm’ (nightingale's eyes) etc. ‘Tanchoi saree’ is another highlight of textiles in Varanasi. ‘Jamdani’ or 'figured muslin' traditionally Woven in Dacca is now specialty of Tada in Faizabad. The cotton fabric is brocaded with cotton and sometimes with zari threads. Each region has its typical technical skills and variations and the silk of Mysore, Kanchipuram, Murshidabad and Kashmir are as well known as the cotton sarees of Bengal or the cotton and silk maheshwaris of Madhya Pradesh.
In the field of ornamentation, embroidery alone can match jewellery in splendor. It is an expression of emotions, rendered with patient labor which includes grace and elegance into articles of everyday use. The ‘chikan’ work of Lucknow, patterned on lace is delicate and subtle. The stitch by Its sheer excellence provides ornamentation to the material. The charm lies in the minuteness of the floral motifs, stitches used are satin stitch, button- hole stitch, dar stitch knot stitch netting and applique work which bring a charming shadowy effect on lace.
Embroidery done in metal wires by ‘kalabattu’ or zari as it is popularly called, is in a class by itself. The hravier and more elaborate work is Salma sitara, gijai, badla, katori seed pearls are used for decoration. Kamdani, a lighter needle work done on lighter material, produces a lovely glittering effect, especially in designs known as ‘hazara booti’, thousand dots, done with zari thread. Kamdani is used for weaving apparel such as scarves veils, caps etc.
Hand Block Printing
Hand block printing in India was the chief occupation of the ‘chhipas’ -a community of printers. This technique is in vogue even today. Besides Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh is also a veritable treasure house of traditional designs which range from the classical booties to the universal Mango. The great color belt in India extends from the interior of Sind through the deserts of Kutch, Kathiawar, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
India being a land of various communities, provides a temptation of buying at least half a dozen ethnic dresses from various parts of the country. These are freely available in respective local markets. Most popular of all are the ghagra, choli, patiala suits, kashmiri shikara etc.
Ideal Places to Shop :
Varanasi, Mysore, Kashmir, Lucknow, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chennai, Kerala.
Wood Craft in India
Wood Carving in India
The carved and inlaid wood carvings are an integral form of handicrafts in India. Saharanpur (U.P) is known for its carvings in hard ‘sheesham’ and particularly for its famous ‘vine-leaf’ patterns. The range of designs include floral, geometric and figurative decoration, in addition to the traditional anguri and takai carvings, jali (fretted ornamentation), brass,copper and Ivory inlay work. Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh is also known for its wood-work inlaid with brass wire on ebony or black sheesham. The states of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat,Karnataka and Kerala have developed distinctive styles of wood carvings. Even Rajasthan is noted for its carved sandalwood and rosewood besides heavy ornamental furniture.
India is well known for ornamental lacquering involving intricate patterns like zig-zag and dana work, atishi, abri or cloud and nakkashi. In Varanasi, a number of lacquered toys and miniature kitchen utensils for children are made for children to play with.
The artistic woodcarvings of southern India draws inspiration from the old Indian tradition of worship. Apart from marvelous prototypes of various gods and goddesses, the wall plaques, statues and toys made of rosewood, sandalwood and teakwood are mesmerizing to behol
Ideal Places to Shop :
Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Sikkim, West Bengal, Kamataka.