"Multiplicity of the magnificent culture and arts of India definitely needs a big stage." -Sadhguru
Handlooms and handicrafts have always been a valuable cultural characteristic of nations and communities from the beginning of civilization. After all, culture and creativity manifest themselves in almost all sectors of life, be it economic, social, or others.
INDIA - the land where traditional melodies merge seamlessly with an enthralling potpourri of beautiful paintings, ancient weaves, divine dance forms, captivating festivals, and scintillating sculptures - has always been recognized for the plurality of its culture. With each of its states and union territories exploding with ethnic flavors that multiply at every turn, this grand country sparkles with enthusiasm and vitality.
So, let's have a look at the varied art forms and handicrafts of India that makes this country what it is.
Jammu & Kashmir
Pashmina Shawls from Jammu and Kashmir are appreciated worldwide for their ethnic beauty. They are considered a symbol of lavishness and luxury. Moreover, the heavenly beauty that Kashmir possesses is well-reflected in its texture.
Popularly known as Pahari Painting, this art has received praise from not only national but also international tourists. These paintings are remarkably colorful and depict the lives of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha. Furthermore, they also display the unique flora and fauna of the state.
Wood Carving is an integral part of the state of Uttarakhand. Renowned for their simplistic yet delicate as well as attractive designs, this art is found primarily in the form of folk, religious, and tantric motifs.
Phulkari, the folk embroidery of Punjab, finds its first mentions in the Punjabi folklore of Heer and Ranjha. Spun from the charkha and patterned on odinis, shawls, Kurtis, etc., Phulkari translates to floral work, but the designs also include motifs and geometrical shapes.
An indigenous carpet made with cotton threads of differing thicknesses, Durries are rugs having spectacular geometric designs. The durries of Panipat, also known as a city of weavers, are exported to countries like Canada, Japan, Germany, and Australia.
Among the fascinating arts and crafts of Uttar Pradesh, Chikankari is perhaps one of the most renowned. In the city of Lucknow, market lanes are filled with shops selling chikan work in multiple forms. You can pick up shirts, kurtas, bedsheets, table cloth, pillow covers, and many other items adorned in chikankari.
Madhubani Painting is a rural art form that was developed by the women of the Mithila region of Bihar. These paintings mostly depict nature and Hindu religious motifs, along with mythological stories. In recent times, this art form has acquired a universal appeal.
The Paitkar Paintings at Jharkhand are one of the most ancient schools of painting in India. Popularly known as the scroll paintings of the east, themes of these are largely drawn from Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Thangka Paintings, with their beauty and charm, are a wonderful expression used to convey messages of Buddhist philosophy. Unique to Sikkim, these paintings depict Buddhism, and its philosophies through scenes, mandalas, and deities.
Assam has a long tradition of mask making. Popularly known as Mukhas in the local language, masks have been a significant part of the state's culture and tradition since time immemorial. Ordinarily made from terracotta, metal, bamboo, and wood, these excellently crafted masks usually depict local deities and characters from Hindu legends.
Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram & Nagaland
Cane and Bamboo Products are an inseparable part of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland. They are used amazingly by skilled craftsmen to create various items such as baskets, hats, cane vessels, cane belts, carved bamboo mugs, ashtrays, and different types of ornamental and everyday use objects.
Manipur is distinguished for its unique Longpi Pottery. This ancient art, known for its unparalleled style and technique, belongs to the Longpi Khullen and Longpi Kajui villages of the state and has gained fame in the global markets, thanks to the elaborate and intricate designs of the pottery items.
Handloom is the largest and perhaps the most magnificent industry in the state of Tripura. The tribes of this state weave and design garments for themselves with luxurious patterns, unique color combinations, and lasting texture. Various street-side shops that showcase these authentic handlooms are every shopper’s delight.
The state of Meghalaya, too, is renowned for its Bamboo artifacts. The Khasi tribe weaves a special kind of cane mat called Tlieng that is quite popular in Meghalaya for its durability. On the other hand, the Garo tribe is known for Dakmanda, a cloth used for their dresses along with shirts, bed covers, bed sheets, and tablecloths. They also make baskets called Meghum Khoks that are used for storing different items.
Well-known for having elaborate motifs on the border as well as pallu, Baluchari Sarees are unique because of the presence of depictions from scenes of mythological tales like Mahabharat and Ramayana. These sarees are considered a sign of aristocracy, the attire of status.
A traditional art form, Pattachitra are miniature paintings, known for their intricate details as well as the mythological narratives and folktales inscribed on it. Practiced widely in Raghurajpur village, on the outskirts of Puri, these bright-colored paintings have become synonymous to the place.
Papier-Mache products are well-known throughout Madhya Pradesh. This beautiful craft is a crucial part of Gwalior's handicraft industry. The articles made using papier-mache are known for their bright and dazzling colors, and one would discover that the color gold is a common feature in most of them.
The intricate, visually stunning, and vibrant Pichwai Paintings of Rajasthan are famous all over the country. They have distinctive features of large eyes, a broad nose, and a heavy body, similar to the features on the idol of Shrinathji, a form of Lord Krishna. Over time, Pichwais have also found a place in the homes of art connoisseurs, owing to their visual charm.
The state of Gujarat is the center of Beadcraft and is often known as Moti Bharat for its gorgeous beadwork handicrafts. Used for making various articles like jewelry and ornaments, this art form is the perfect combination of elegance and vibrancy.
Warli Paintings, a tribal art form, are mural paintings with expressive vocabulary. Activities from daily life like farming, food gathering, village life, and elements from nature and wildlife are the typical components of this ethnic art. In recent times, Warli paintings have attained a broader canvas with designers as well as artists imitating these on clothes, bags, etc.
The renowned Kondapalli Toys of Amaravati are known for their vivid colors and distinguishing features. Made from softwood known as Tella Poniki, these toys used to be an essential part of the Sakranti and Navaratri festivals in older times.
Bidriware is the pride of Bidar and is an indigenous handicraft tradition that has garnered a lot of admiration and recognition. Said to be an amalgamation of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish designs, it is a very refined art and remarkably intricate. This world-famous artistic metallic craft that was on a decline a few decades ago is currently on the path of recovery following the introduction of several innovative designs and new patterns.
Karnataka is surrounded by a lush forest-belt lined with sandalwood trees, and its abundance there has led to extensive usage and creation of gorgeous Sandalwood Products. Used for making exquisite articles like paper-cutters, trays, boxes, fans, walking sticks, and idols of deities, the unique fragrance of sandalwood is what sets this craft apart from all other woodwork.
The beaches in Goa are filled with gorgeous seashells, and Seashell Craft has become a full-fledged art in the state with recent design innovations. From chandeliers, lampshades, curtains, to coasters, mirror frames, ashtrays, etc., the humble seashell is used to make a variety of household objects.
An indigenous art form of Thanjavur, the classic Tanjore Paintings, are known for their surface richness and vibrant colors and are perhaps one of the most popular styles of South Indian paintings. The specialty of Tanjore paintings, which originated in the courts of the Marhatta rulers of Thanjavur, lies in their ornamentation. Gold leaf, gilded metal pieces, and semi-precious stones decorate and embellish the figures on these magnificent works of art.
It does not come as a surprise that Kerala, a state filled with swaying coconut and palm trees, is known for its Coconut Shell Products. From everyday use items like bowls, teapots, cups, and spoons to ornamental items like lampshades, vases, wall hangings, and floor mats, these handicrafts are not only beautiful but also the perfect souvenirs.