Handicrafts in India
Art and craft is an integral part of the lives of Indians. Blessed with a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in the intricacy of its handicrafts, India is a true blue shopper's paradise. Your trip to India would be incomplete without getting a glimpse of its beautiful handicrafts that depict the mind-blowing talent of its craftsmen.
Saharanpur (Wood works)
Located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Saharanpur is well known for its wood carving industry. Some of the best wood carvers in the world work out of Saharanpur, where wood working expertise is passed on as a family tradition from father to son. Items are made from the woods of the Sheesham, Dudhi and Sal trees. On demand, they also procure and work with Teak, Mahogany and Ebony. Many times, other materials such as tiles or metal are infused into the design to make it all the more attractive. The finish of wooden handicrafts from Saharanpur is impeccable. Popular designs include religious idols, artefacts, wood carved mirrors, furniture, cupboards, tables, trays and chests. A number of tiny, easy to carry toys, carved key chains, vases and boxes are also easily available.
Orissa (Applique and Metal works)
The state of Orissa boasts of a strong ethnic handicrafts industry. It has carved out a niche for itself in the spheres of applique work, metallurgy and silver filigree. The technique of applique embodies artistically superimposing cut patches of cloth on top of, or alongside, each other. A base fabric is also used, which is normally very colourful. The use of tiny mirrors in such work is very common and provides a vibrant look to the end products. This form of handicraft is very popular throughout the state of Orissa. In Tarva district, craftsmen fashion beautiful utilitarian and decorative articles such as plates, ashtrays and bells, from good old white metal. On the other hand, the town of Cuttack is famous for the inimitable delicate craft of 'Tarkashi', or silver filigree work. Silver is beaten and drawn into fine wires and foils which are then joined together to form articles (usually ornamental) of great beauty.
Assam (Terracotta works)
The word Terracotta has been derived from Latin and Italian words - 'Terra', which is Latin for 'earth' or 'soil', and 'Cotta', which is Italian for 'statue'. Thus Terracotta work is the art of creating statues/figurines from mud, clay or earth. Assam's terracotta handicrafts bear striking imprints of its ancient culture. Back in the day, Assamese craftsmen used to focus heavily on making figurines of religious symbols. Today, the terracotta craftsmen concentrate equally on designer artefacts, toys, dolls, pots, vases etc. The village of Dhubri in the Goalpara district of Assam occupies a prime position in the terracotta market of the world.
South India (Coconut craft, Sandalwood craft, Stone craft, Mask making, Silk weaving)
The state of Karnataka is famous for Wood Carvings, Stone and Ivory Carvings and Sandalwood Handicrafts. The state of Tamil Nadu is famous for Kanjeevaram silk sarees, fine mats, objects made from palm leaves and Palmyra fibres, brass and bronze statues, metal ware, hand woven clothes, cotton and silk fabrics, stone sculptures and beautiful jewellery. The state of Kerala is famous for lace garments, embroidery work, snake boats made of ivory, gold and silver jewellery, spices, bamboo mat paintings, wood carvings, metal idol figurines, sandalwood sculptures, Kathakali dolls, Kathakali masks and doll making. The southern Union Territory of Pondicherry is famous for perfumed candles, incense sticks, handmade paper, pottery, leather items, pickles, jams and Khadi (India's hand spun fabric that was made famous by Mahatma Gandhi) garments.
Gujarat (Textile handicrafts and fabrics)
Gujarati handicrafts and textiles reflect a love for glitz, an eye for detail and a passion for design. They are also bursting with colour and are heavy on mirror work, giving them a funky, tribal vibe. There are a number of different styles like brocade, in which gold thread is woven onto the borders of fabrics. Traditional patterns of stylized parrots, flower borders, tree motifs, mango motifs etc. are very popular. Bandhani is another very famous style. Bandhini is basically tie and dye work. The tied and dyed fabrics produced in India, also known as bandhej, are perhaps the finest in the world. Mirror work is huge in Gujarat and you can also find boxes made of mirrored fabrics. It's all very cool looking.
Kashmir (Woollen handicrafts)
Kashmir has always held an aura of mystery for its relative inaccessibility and tales of beauty and mind numbing splendour. The people are as beautiful as the land and so are the shawls and carpets created by them. One of the more popular kinds of Kashmiri shawls are Jamavars. Jamavar shawls are made of brocaded woollen fabrics, sometimes in pure wool and sometimes blended with cotton. Then you have the Pashmina shawls that are unmistakably soft and whose yarn is spun from the hair of the rare and elusive Ibex found 14,000 ft above sea level. Although pure Pashmina is expensive, sometimes blending it with wool brings down the cost. Shahtoosh shawls are woven with the down hair of the Tibetan antelope and are renowned for their lightness, softness and warmth. They say a genuine Shahtoosh of any size should be able to pass through a finger ring. As for the carpets, Kashmiri carpets are world renowned for two reasons - they are handmade and they are always knotted, never tufted. The soothing blend of colours makes the Kashmiri carpet a prized possession.