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Crafts of India by Priyanka ,  Feb 1, 2013
The deeply entrenched tradition of Indian craft echoes the true colour of India whilst impressing generation after generation amidst their varied forms and styles. For people around the world, India is synonymous to exotic arts and handicraft traditions. A wide range of traditional Indian handicraft reflects the richness of Indian ethnic art and culture. The designs and finishes represent the excellent artistic skills of the craftsmen. Traditional Indian art is inspired by a variety of functions, which can be meaningfully understood only through a comprehensive study of the social, cultural and religious contexts of Indian arts and handicrafts.The history of Indian crafts comes from one of the established civilizations of the globe while going back to almost 5000 years from present. The primal references of Indian crafts were found in the remnants of Indus Valley Civilization (3000 B.C.-1700 B.C.). Beginning its journey in the age old days, the craft tradition in India has witnessed enough alteration. Prehistorically Indian handicrafts were basically made for day after day use, the yearning for aesthetic application soon saw development of flooding designs and motifs. The incalculable artistic and ethnic assortment has enabled a fusion of motifs, techniques and crafts to increase on this land. The tradition of Indian craft has whirled around religious values, confined needs of the commoners, as well as the special needs of the clientele and royalty, along with an eye for overseas and home trade.Each state of India has its own tradition and legacy of handicrafts. Whether the fragile beauty of the Phulkari art of the North India or the dizzying artistry of the silver filigree work, famous in the eastern India, whether the colossal impact of the stone craft of South India or the artistry of the bidriware of the western India- all demonstrates the elegance and brilliance of Indian craft. From pottery, metal craft, woodcraft, stone works, gems and jewelry, textiles, leatherwork to mesmerizing paintings and awe- inspiring sculptures and statues - India has perfected almost all the arts and handicrafts known to humanity. The types of Indian crafts are varied each standing as the logo of the rich Indian heritage. It is amidst the myriad tradition of Indian craft, the varied traits and the true character of India can be ideated. Be it the sheer brilliance of the brocades of Varanasi or the warmth of the Kullu shawls of Himachal ; be it the elegance of the namdhas of Kashmir or the artistry of the meenakari and kundan works, the charm and originality of each Indian craft reverberates the heritage of India, unswayed by time.
Indian handicrafts are competitive in the world market in two ways. Firstly, Indian handicrafts are vivid in nature and can be supplied in various permutations and combinations, i.e., in smaller sizes and variety, which is the greatest strength compared to the neighbouring countries. Secondly, the inherent craftsmanship is another major edge. This sector is now being equipped for the production of more design-led products to face stiff competition, instead of supplying the same type of product range.

Rajasthani crafts

Rajasthan, recognized by its Royal heritage is also a prominent and well-established craft industry. Craft remains a tradition in Rajasthan, preserved over centuries by the stronghold of the Royal Rajput family.[1] Within the craft industry are smaller occupations. These include, fabric colouration and embellishment, decorative painting and puppetry. Craft workers see this not as an occupation, but rather a mark of respect to their heritage. 
Rajasthan is well known for its large quantity of wonderfully crafts designs, and you will be fortunate to get through the condition without purchasing far more than you ever planned. Fabrics and jewellery are Rajasthan’s most popular items, but wood work, metalwork, ceramics, and almost anything they create, has that unique Rajasthan touch of shimmering color.

Textiles and Clothing                                                      

Rajasthani fabrics are known for their vivid colours and they come in a wonderful wide range.The art and colours of Rajasthani people shows on its fabric. Once in Rajasthan, you cannot neglect the appeal of vibrant printing, which have been attracts the Rajasthani females for hundreds of years and now getting the attention of the whole world. A very well-known technique of shading textiles is tie-dyeing. Many of Rajasthani materials are created this way. Another common method of adding the pattern to a fabric is Block Printing. 

Metalware and Jewellery

The females take pleasure in their traditional jewellery and Rajasthani womenfolk treasure their heritage.The attractive metalwork most common of Rajasthan is Meenakari, made with enamelled inlays on gold or silver. The items of jewellery are often treasures and approved down in family members. The Bindi, Borla and Rakhi are the primary head ornaments of the women of the state. Diamond, Pearl , Blue Sapphire , Ruby, Topaz, Emerald, Jade, Garnets, Agate, Amethyst, ,Tourmaline Lapis lazuli, Carnelian... Precious And Semiprecious Gems used in Rajasthani ornaments.

Others Crafts to Buy

Wooden furniture can be a great deal, but heavy to cart around, let alone take home. One very common Rajasthani memorabilia are puppets trusted in holding dramatizations of popular folk shows. 
Meenakari is the Indian art of decorating metal with enamel. It is delicate, intricate and quite colourful. It is a most difficult and intricate process of decorating the surfaces of the metals like gold, silver copper etc, by attaching, or fusing pieces made of coloured glass powders. Various mineral oxides are used for obtaining different colours. Various precious and semi precious stones are also powdered and used for colouring.Enamel can be transparent, opaque or translucent. It is believed that this art form originated in Persia. The Mughal rulers of Persia, who invaded India, introduced this technique in India. The credit of introducing this art in Rajasthan goes to Raja Man Singh of Amber. He is stated to have brought skilled artisans from Lahore and established them in Jaipur. Since then Jaipur has become the main center for this type of work and today, the Meenakari work done by the artisans of Jaipur is known for its intricate designs, beauty and creativity. In India enameling of gold is done in Jaipur, Delhi and Banaras, silver enameling in Nathdwara, Bikaner and Udaipur and glass enameling in Pratapgharh.Meenakari is done on various articles like jewelry-bangles, necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, anklets, brooches, furniture like chairs, small cupboards, jewelry boxes, key chains, trays, dinner sets, photo frames and other items.

Gujarati crafts

Gujarat is one of the most vibrant states of India. This is due to the fact that it has a rich culture. The people of the state still follow the ancient practices of art and craft with great zeal. Gujarat arts and crafts are famous world wide. They were originally made for daily use purpose in homes. But with time, the stature of the crafts grew, converting it into a full fledged industry. Skilled artisans, inherent good taste, creativity and economical use of the resources contributed to the growth of the art and craft. Consequently, there are varied items available in the craft galore of the state.

The wide array of items to choose from include furniture, jewelry, metalwork items, embroidered garments, colorful linen, leatherwork, beadwork, mirror work, baked clay articles, etc. Gujarat is famous for its furnishings also. You can decorate your home with ethnic craft pieces, ranging from elegant cushion covers to quilts and from tablemats to bedcovers. These items are available in simple colorful geometric designs as well as complex patterns. Gujarat 's arts and crafts are essentially the legacy of its glorious past. They truly reflect the lifestyle, culture and, above all, the spirit of the state.

Garments The state garment industry of Gujarat is one of the most prosperous ones in India. It provides a wide variety to the buyers. Some of the popular dress items of the industry are Salwars, Kurtas, Ghaghras, Cholis, Odhanis, Skirts and Jackets. All of these are produced from authentic hand block-printed material.

Handicrafts Gujarat has an ancient history and a glorious cultural heritage. The age old crafts of the place have survived till date. The art and crafts are preserved and are even practiced widely across the state. The handicrafts of Gujarat are famous for their color scheme, detail and intricate work and artistic appearance.

Handicrafts Patola silk is often termed as the queen of all silks. Patola Sarees of Gujarat are one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. The place associated with Patola is Patan. Here, exquisite patterns are woven on sarees with great precision.

Textiles Gujarat has a large flourishing textile industry which contributes to the arts and crafts of India. The textiles have a large variety to offer to the end consumer. It mainly depends on factors like varied raw materials, combination of yarns and effective use of traditional techniques. 

A BRIEF PROFILE Any form of art, be it sculpture, architecture, paintings, poetry or music, reflects the mood and psyche of the people of the period. All forms of art and crafts in Gujarat reflect the aggressive individuality and religious impulses of an average Guajarati and have religion and religious impulses. With this individuality andis religious impulses the Gujarati had adopted as a counter balance to the lack of real political identify, as the areas of Gujarat, known by different names, went on shifting under different regions. This aggressiveness, individuality and religious impulses have acted as catalyst for producing the purest and intensely delightful art, architecture, painting, poetry and music. Religion, with its strong emotional foundation, has stimulated the best, which the human mind, human hand and human brain has to offer. Again it is this very emotion which expresses itself in sculpture, architecture, music, painting, frescoes, brass, bronze, clay, textile, and printing. This very emotion has motivated the individual to turn stone, brass, bronze, clay wood etc. into life like objects which speaks their own language. We briefly mention the various form of art and craft of Guajarati people.

SCULPTURE AND MINIATURE PAINTING Gujarat has its own school of sculpture and miniature paintings. The basic aggressiveness and individuality of Guajarati is very much mirrored in sculpture and miniature painting with their bold outlines, pronounced curves and bright and bold colures. The sculpture in Gujarat has a grace, not of Roman type, but a grace which is rugged and aggressive and has a dialect of its own. The Guajarati School of miniature illustrations flourished in the 11th century under the Jain patronage. These miniatures highly influenced the later Rajasthan and Rajputhana paintings.

CALLIGRAPHY Calligraphy in Gujarat reached a dizzy height as it was and is considered both as an art and as a science. It has been handed down from fatherto son and from master to disciple. Calligraphy was considered in its totality which included not only writing and painting but also preparing colors. Specialty of these colors has been that they do not fade not harm the background on which they are used. Wall decorations and painting through these colors are very common in countryside.

MUSIC AND STAGE ART Gujarat has had a rich tradition of music and stage art. The saint poets of medieval Gujarat were also great musicians and composers. A number of Ragas of Hindustani music bear the names of territories in Gujarat from where they first originated. The saint poet Narsingh Mehta and Baiju Bawara from Gujarat has influenced greatly the Hindustani music. The present day Guajarati folk music is also the continuity of its glorious past. 'Bhavai' is typical form of Guajarati folk stage art. The word 'Bhavai' is a derivation from Sanskrit work 'Bhava' which means 'expression'. These folk dramas are performed in a village square and the accent is on satirical and farcical characterization of certain section of society.

DANCE Folk dances having legendary origins are the distinctive feature of Gujarat. They are traced back to mythological times of Lord Krishna. All the forms of Guajarati folk dance are based on 'Bhakti' cult however with excellent sense of rhythm and music. Ras Nritya and Garba are two distinguished form of Guajarati folk dance. 

 WOOD CARVING  The use of woodwork in the vernacular architecture of Gujarat is on so extensive a scale and with such a wealth of artistic skill that it is matched in no other region. The tradition of using wood as a structural material in association with brick or stone goes back to the early 12th century. Regarding wood carving, four different kinds of carvings can be distinguished. The first is Hindu, in which figure work is prominent. In Muslim house, there is great use of abstract and geometrical patterns. The third kind of carving is found in decorated ceilings of the reception room of merchants. The fourth kind is from the area of Ahmedabad. Here there appears a special kind of carving in house front just above the level of balcony, in which the surface is minutely carved in floral patterns.

STONE CARVING The non sculptural village tradition of Gujarat's stone carving has a high degree of vibrancy and lively character caused by its spontaneous expression. This in turn has resulted into the development of local style influenced by prevailing folk traditions. Belonging to this class of work are local shrines, memorial canopies, hero and sati stones, architectural fixer and objects of daily household use. The tradition of stone carving is still alive in Gujarat, since building of temples never ceases in Gujarat. 

METAL WORK Gujarat has been the home of metal workers from as early as the Chalcolithic (cooper Stone Age). It is well known that the Harappan man whose remains have been found in abundance in Gujarat, had excelled in forging, hammering and casting of cooper and bronze. The tradition of rural object of metal work of Gujarat can be divided into two categories i.e. the figurative work and the objects of household use in everyday life. The Gujarati Kansara has created innumerable sizes of pots and pictures in different metals to suit every individual cultural tradition and convention of Gujarat.

POTTERY The tradition of pottery goes back to the Harappa civilization, for the pots found at Lothal continue to be made even today. There are however variation in designs from area to area. The dialect of the pottery form has subtle variations from one village to another and each area has its own distinct style. Even today Gujarat is a leading province in the manufacture of modern ceramic items, which is a continuation of its age old art.

PRINTING AND EMBRIODERY Costume printing and 'bandhani' is another specialty of Gujarat. The color scheme on skirts and blouses, the use of beads, sheets and tiny mirrors in such a form and design can only be described as a work of art. The hand printed costume worn by women belonging to Cattle breeders, the Rabaris, the Maldharis and Bharvads can match, if not surpass, any Parisian designers as far as color scheme is concerned. The most vibrant, fine and varied collection of embroidery belong to Gujarat. For the 'peasant women of Gujarat, the needle is her pen, her paint brush with which she gives expression to her creativity and reiterates her relationship with religion and nature. In brief it is a treat to see such a vibrant form of art and craft in Gujarat, which is an expression of its people's life.

The people of Assam have traditionally been craftsmen from time immemorial.Though Assam is mostly known for its exquisite silks and the bamboo and caneproducts, several other crafts are also made here. Different regions of Assam are known for their different forms of art and handicrafts.

Cane and Bamboo

Cane and bamboo have remained inseparable parts of life in Assam. Grown in abundance here and hence most of the household articles in the homes of Assamese are made of cane and bamboo. They happen to be the two most commonly-used items in daily life, ranging from household implements to construction of dwelling houses to furniture to weaving accessories to musical instruments.

The Jappi, the traditional sunshade continues to be the most prestigious of bamboo items of the state, and it has been in use since the days when the great Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang came to Assam that visitors are welcomed with a jaapi.

Metal Crafts

Bell-metal and brass have been the most commonly used metals for the Assamese artisan. Traditional utensils and fancy artiicles designed by these artisans are found in every Assamese household. The Xorai and bota have in use for centuries, to offer betel-nut and paan while welcoming distinguished guests.

The entire population of two townships near Guwahati - Hajo and Sarthebari, are engaged in producing traditional bell-metal and brass articles. They have also used their innovative skills to design modern day articles to compete with the changing times.

Gold, silver and copper too form a part of traditional metal craft in Assam and the State Museum in Guwahati has a rich collection of items made of these metals. Gold however is now used only for ornaments.


Assam's silk fabrics have earned immense recognition from all over the world. The state is the home of several types of silks, the most prominent and prestigious being muga, the golden silk exclusive to this state. Muga apart, there is paat, as also eri, the latter being used in manufacture of warm clothes for winter. Of a naturally rich golden colour, muga is the finest of India's wild silks. It is produced only in Assam.

The women of Assam weave fairy tales in their looms. In earlier times, te skill to weave was the primary qualification of a young girl for her eligibility for marriage. This perhaps explains why Assam has the largest concentration of handlooms and weavers in India. One of the world's finest artistic traditions finds expression in their exquisitely woven 'Eri', 'Muga' and 'Pat' fabrics.

The traditional handloom silks still hold their own in world markets They score over factory-made silks in the richness of their textures and designs, in their individuality, character and classic beauty. No two handwoven silks are exactly alike. Personality of the weaver, her hereditary skill, her innate sense of colour and balance all help to create a unique product.

Today, India exports a wide variety of silks to western Europe and the United States, especially as exclusive furnishing fabrics. Boutiques and fashion houses, designers and interior decorators have the advantage of getting custom-woven fabrics in the designs, weaves and colours of their choice. A service that ensures an exclusive product not easily repeatable by competitors.

The Tribals on the other hand have a wide variety of colourful costumes, some of which have earned International repute through the export market.

Weaving in Assam is so replete with artistic sensibility and so intimately linked to folk life that Gandhiji, during his famous tour to promote khadi and swadeshi, was so moved that he remarked : "Assamese women weave fairy tales in their clothes!"


The toys of Assam can be broadly classified under four heads (i) clay toys (ii) pith (iii) wooden and bamboo toys (iv) cloth and cloth-and-mud toys.

While the human figure, especially dolls, brides and grooms, is the most common theme of all kinds of toys, a variety of animals forms have also dominated the clay-toys scene of Assam. Clay traditionally made by the Kumar and Hira communities, have often depicted different animals too, while gods, goddesses and other mythological figures also find importance in the work of traditional artist.

Pith or Indian cork has also been used for toy-making since centuries in Assam. Such toys are chiefly made in the Goalpara region and they include figures of gods, animals and birds, the last of which again dominate the over-all output.

Wood and bamboo on the other hand have been in use for making toys for several centuries, and like the other mediums, come as birds, animals and human figures.

Toys of cloth as also with a mixture of cloth and mud too have constituted part of the rich Assamese toy-making tradition. While the art of making cloth toys have been traditionally handed down from mother to daughter in every household, the cloth-and-mud toys are generally used for puppet theatres. Among the household toys, the bride and the groom are the most common characters, while the other varieties have animals and mythological characters as the plays demand.


Pottery is probably as old as human civilisation itself. In Assam, pottery can be traced back to many centuries.

The Kumars and Hiras are two traditional potter communities of Assam and while the Kumars use the wheel to produce his pots, the Hiras are probably the only potters in the world who do not use the wheel at all. Again, among the Hiras, only the womenfolk are engaged in pottery work, while their men help them in procuring the raw materials and selling the wares.

The most commonly-used pottery products include earthern pots and pitchers, plates, incense-stick holders, earthern lamps etc, while modern-day decoratives have also found place in their latest designs.


Assam has always remained one of the most forest-covered states of the country, and the variety of wood and timber available here have formed a part of the people's culture and ecomony.

An Assamese can identify the timber by touching it even in darkness, and can produce a series of items from it. While decorative panels in the royal Ahom palaces of the past and the 600-years old satras or Vaishnative monasteries are intricately carved on wood, a special class of people who excelled in wood carving came to be known as Khanikar, a surname proudly passed down from generation to generation.

The various articles in a satra and naam-ghar(place of worship) are stiff cut on wood, depicting the guru asana (pedestal of the lords), apart from various kinds of birds and animals figuring in mythology. Modern-day Khanikar have taken to producing articles of commercial values, including figures of one-horned rhino and replicas of the world-famous Kamakhya temple - two items heading the list of demands of a visitor from outside.


With tribal art and folk elements form the base of Assamese culture, masks havefound an important place in the cultural activities of the people. Masks have been widely used in folk theatres and bhaonas with the materials ranging from terracotta to pith to metal, bamboo and wood.

Similarly, among the tribals too, the use of masks is varied and widespread, especially in their colourful dances which again revolve chiefly around thier typical tribal myth and folklore. Such traditional masks have of late found thier way to the modern-day drawing rooms as decorative items and wall-hangings, thus providing self-employment opportunities to those who have been traditionally making them.


Gold has always constituted the most-used metal for jewellery in Assam, while the use of silver and other metals too have been there for centuries.

In the old days, gold was locally available, flowing down several Himalayan rivers, of which Subansiri is the most important. In fact, a particular tribe of people, the Sonowal Kacharis were engaged only for gold-washing in these rivers.

Jorhat in Upper Assam is one place where the traditional Assamese form of manufacture of jewellery is still in vogue, and people flock to Jorhat to get the exquisite Assamese jewellery. Assamese jewellery include the doog-doogi, loka-paro, bana, gaam-kharu, gal-pata, jon-biri, dhol-biri and keru, all of which have also encouraged the modern jewellers to producing similiar designs mechanically.


Terracotta as a medium has dominated the handicraft scene of Assam since time immemorial. The tradition itself has been handed down from the generation to generation without break. Today we have the descendent of such families engaged in improvised terracotta versions of various common figures of gods and goddesses to mythological characters, while toys, vases, etc have also found a new life.

Traditional Paintings

The tradition of paintings in Assam can be traced back to several centuries in the past. Ahom palaces and satras and naam-ghar etc still abound in brightly-coloured paintings depicting various stories and events from history and mythology. In fact, the motifs and designs contained in Chitra-Bhagavata have come to become a traditional style for Assamese painters of the later period, and are still in practice today.