These days, the traditional crafts of India are mainly produced for tourists, but that matters not one jot. If it means a handicraft that has been passed down generation to generation for centuries survives, and provides money for a rural Indian family to survive, that’s a darned fine thing. Some of the most interesting excursions to make in the sub-continent are to small villages to view displays of the traditional crafts of India – and you come away with some great souvenirs too!
With great diversity and a vibrant culture, Orissa is a state boasting hundreds of years of history and tradition. The Oriya people are expert handicraftsmen but the biggest attraction is perhaps the silver filigree work known as Tarakasi. It requires an extremely high level of skill, as fine silver strands are worked into intricately detailed jewelry and decorative objects. One of the traditional crafts of India more than 500 years old, it has traditionally been a strong suit of the artisans on the Eastern shores of Orissa. Though the majority of workers working on this craft are from the district of Cuttack, it is said that the art originally came from Indonesia through the trade links.
Rajasthan is a place of friendly and lively people and of stunning natural beauty. The people of Rajasthan have been gifted with special skills when it comes to woodcrafts. Block printing has a special place among the traditional crafts of India. This involves printing designs on different surfaces using finely carved wooden blocks. The method seems laborious when you hear about it but if you see an artisan in action, they make it look simple. It’s all about precision and placing the wooden block in the right spot. Wooden puppets, known as ‘Kathputlis,’ are also a popular form of woodcrafts in Rajasthan.
Paintings may not be the most widespread of traditional Indian crafts but in Karnataka, they enjoy a special status. Mysore is home to the finest painters in India. They are among the oldest form of handicraft in the country. The paintings are created in a number of painstaking steps. It all starts with the preparation of the hardboard. Then comes the initial sketching and the ‘gesso’ that provides the painting with its subtle embossing. Then, pure gold leaf is pasted and the painting is completed. A work of Mysore art requires a long time and diligent hard work, and a painting may take months before it is completed.
When it comes to handicrafts, Maharashtra boasts many and some of them date as back as the time of Mughals, Marathas and the British. Some of the handicrafts that represent the true spirit and culture of Maharashtra are Sawantwadi crafts, bidri words, weaving, leather works, Mashru and Himru. Sawantwadi is the name of a small town in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra and is famous for its unique namesake crafts. Decorative lacquerware has been prevalent here since the 17th century and is one of the most popular traditional crafts of India. Some of the most common items of this craft include dolls, furniture, board games and candlesticks.
Many of the traditional Indian crafts can be found in the state of Bihar. Bihar’s embroidery works are famous throughout India. The famous type of embroidery is known as Kashida and has a number of different styles. It employs the jhankhana stitch and is mostly done on personal garments. In phulkari, normally a bright colored material is used while the stitches are in a contrasting white or blue thread. Sujini is another craft popular in Bihar. Sujini works of art are paintings mostly made at the time of weddings or festivals, usually depicting the marriages of gods and goddesses.
Assam is one of the most picturesque states of India and when it comes to handicrafts, Assam boasts quite a few. The jewelry of Assam is renowned throughout India. The people of Assam have perfected the art of making jewelry from bamboo and cane. Lockets are a popular item, with the Jon-biri and Dhol-biri as the favorite styles. Gaam-kharu is a popular type of bracelet, while when it comes to necklaces, none beat the famous ‘Galpata.’ There are several kinds of earrings as well and many female tourists buy jewelry as souvenirs when they come to visit the state of Assam.
The textile works of Assam have a special place among Indian handicrafts. However, the most famous of the handicrafts of Assam is the Dhokra. The name Dhokra comes from the Dhokra Damar tribes who are the traditional metal smiths of West Bengal. The technique of lost-wax casting is named after the tribe and is known as the ‘Dhokra metal casting.’ The products of Dhokra depict simplicity and enchanting folk motifs. The same technique used for Dhokra is today also found in other countries including Egypt, China, Malaysia, Central America, Nigeria and other places.
There is as much diversity in the handicrafts of India as the country and its people. Whether you buy direct from a workshop visit or a handicraft market, you’re sure to go home with some unique and beautiful souvenirs. Do you ever have enough room in your suitcase for holiday souvenirs?
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