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For centuries Indian arts and crafts have been distinguished for their great aesthetic and functional value. In ancient times, the shilpis conceptualized the intricate designs and patterns, which were crafted painfully into the temples and the objects associated with them. India has the widest variety of crafts anywhere in the world. However diverse and intricate the range of craft forms produced by Indian craftsmen, the root of the creative process has always been the artisan tradition. It presents both the widest canvas of creative activity and the broadest spectrum of development.

Handicraft items that were patronized by the Mughal royalty show a remarkable refinement of workmanship. In these crafts the designs were very often influenced by the court paintings and miniature art derived from Persian or indigenous sources. These designs are evident in the Indian carpets, brocades, papier-mache, stone inlay and so on.

Historically speaking the discovery of the Indian arts and crafts by the officers, surveyors and archaeologists of the East India Company and the British Raj and their subsequent display at the India Museum in East India House around the first half of the 19th century was a remarkable event. Indian decorative arts were for the first time carefully studied, collected and appraised with the result that not only in England but also all over Europe, they influenced the public taste and excited the sensibilities of the designers. The Great Exhibition of London in 1851 showed for the first time in the West several Indian decorative objects produced in various materials. Several such exhibitions subsequently held in America, Australia and parts of Europe opened the eyes of the western world to the quality, beauty and sophistication of Indian designs, craftsmanship and materials. The South Kensington Museum, London collected Indian arts and crafts and utilised them for training designers and architects.

Another development was the use of Indian decorative motifs on colonial buildings designed by architects such as Robert Chisholm towards the end of l9th century. In 1904, George Watts and Percy Brown brought together a major exhibition and catalogue of Arts and Crafts of India at Delhi. Indian arts and crafts were thus systematically documented and catalogued for the first time.

Clay craft is probably the earliest of man's creations. Clay pottery is an ancient art form in India dating back to well over 10,000 years. The clay objects found at the excavation sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation point to the high quality of skill and technology of the Indian potter. Jhuker Pottery was related with the people of the Harappan towns like Amri and Chanhudaro situated in Sind. The Red Ware was the most popular type of pottery during the late-Vedic period. It has been discovered from many archaeological sites in western Uttar Pradesh. The Painted Grey Ware was another distinctive form of pottery of the Vedic times that consisted of bowls and dishes, which were used for rituals and for eating. The appearance of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP) marked the beginning of the second phase of urbanisation in India. This was a very glossy and shiny type of pottery made of very fine fabric.

Pottery has been called the lyric of handicrafts because of its irresistible and universal appeal. There is a wide range of clay crafts in India. The Bengali Surai or the common jug; Alwar's Kagzi or paper pottery; Bikaner's painted pottery; the colourful Khurja pottery of Uttar Pradesh; the glazed tiles of Chunar and Chinhat in Uttar Pradesh; the clay ware of Himachal Pradesh in its various forms like gidya, patri and narele; the large-sized storage articles of Khanapur in Belgaum district of Karnataka; Saurashtra's beautiful earthenware made of gopichandan; the dal gate pottery of Srinagar and the unique Karigiri pottery of south Arcot made up of white low-fusing china clay called namakatte are but few examples of the diversity and richness of clay craft in India. The popular but rather unusual Blue pottery of Jaipur was introduced from Persia in the mid-19th century. Another interesting variety of pottery is the Pokran pottery, which combines beautiful moulded forms with interesting geometrical patterns. Black pottery, lac-coated terracotta, temple bricks, decorative roof tiles, lamp- shades and ornaments are some of the other wonderful earthenware of India.

Terracotta is a porous and brittle material formed by the low heat of a traditional Indian kiln. Created by the interaction of earth, water and fire, this medium has found expression through almost every period of Indian history. Most terracotta art and pottery is produced by moulding objects by hand or on the wheel and firing them in an open oven. A smoother finish, when needed, is given by rubbing and polishing the surface with wooden palettes or stones while it is still wet. The terracotta tradition of creating figures of deities on ceremonial and auspicious occasions brings out the religious nature of their pottery. Terracotta sculpture was also commonly used in architectural edifices. The temples of Bishnupur, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Hooghly in West Bengal, the Buddhist viharas of Pala period and some mosques of the Mughal period are beautiful examples of the use of terracotta in architecture.

Clay craft
Indian textiles

The discovery of several spindles and a piece of cotton stuck to a silver vase revealed that the art of spinning and weaving of cotton was perhaps known to the Harappans. References to weaving are found in the Vedic literature on the method of spinning and the various materials used. In northern, central and eastern India, ancient texts speak of Benaras, Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh as famous centres of weaving between the seventh century and second century BC. References to silk artifacts can be found in ancient Buddhist literature. In addition, there are abundant visual references that unveil the evolution of textile designs during different periods of time.

The foundations of the Indian textile trade with other countries began as early as the second century BC. A hoard of block printed and resist-dyed fabrics, mainly of Gujarati origin, found in the tombs of Fostat, Egypt, is the proof of large-scale Indian export of cotton textiles to the Egypt in medieval times. In the 13th century, Indian silk was used as barter for spices from the western countries. Towards the end of the 17th century, the British East India Company had begun exports of Indian silks and various other cotton fabrics to other countries. These included the famous fine Muslin cloth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Trade of painted and printed cottons or chintz was extensively practiced between India, China, Java and the Philippines, long before the arrival of the Europeans.

Textiles came to be associated with social and ritualistic events from very early times. Sacred images are clothed and the texts, whether on palm leaves or on paper, are tied in bright textile pieces. Fabrics that use mill-spun yarn but which are hand-woven are known as handloom. Cotton is the soul of the handloom industry of India today. Before the introduction of mechanized means of spinning in the early 19th century, Indian cottons and silks were hand spun and hand woven. Khadi became a highly popular fabric as a result of the swadeshi movement. Today cotton is an integral part of textiles in India. Nearly four million handlooms are engaged in weaving fabrics of nearly 23 different varieties of cotton.

Each region of the subcontinent developed its own distinct textile identity, reflected in the weave and pattern of the fabric and in the way it was worn. Kanchipuram, Ahmedabad, Aurangabad, Varanasi, Jaipur, Chanderi, Paithan, Gadhwal and Kashmir were important centres of textiles from ancient times. The finest textures of northern parts of the country are the Maheshwari and Chanderi saris of Madhya Pradesh and jamdani of Tanda and Benaras in Uttar Pradesh. The Benares silk saris is a very ancient tradition. In the 19th century, Benares silk manufacturers used vegetable and animal forms which were derivations of the Mughal tradition. The design now widely used is a highly stylised floral motif known as the 'Ashrafi Buti', which is based on the old gold sovereigns. The tangail cottons of West Bengal, Sambalpuri and Vichitrapuri saris of Orissa, tussar silk of Bihar, kasavumundu and karalkuda of Kerala, Kancheepuram silks of Tamil Nadu, Pochampalli telia rummals of Andhra Pradesh and the Irkali saris of Bijapur in Karnataka are fascinating specimens of meticulous workmanship. The Paithani saris, produced in Paithan near Aurangabad, are made of silk in rich, vivid colours with gold embroidery. They find a mention even in the Greek records dating before Christ. Paithani is expressed in designs like mazchar (ripples of silver), bangadi mor (peacock inside a bangle) and dhup chaun (sunshine and shade), which are woven on the pallu. In the modern Paithani saris, silver threads coated with gold are used instead of pure gold threads. Aurangabad is also famous for the Himroo shawls which are made of fine threads of silver and gold. The final cloth appears as "Gold Cloth". Jamdani cottons, traditionally woven in Tanda, Uttar Pradesh, are lightweight patterned cloths that essentially rely on the tapestry technique. Fine white, off-white or cream coloured cloth is woven in Kota, Rajasthan and Palghat and Thiruvanthapuram in Kerala.

Sanganer, near Jaipur, is famous for the finest hand-block printing and design, dyeing and ornamentation. The local craftsmen are experts at crinkling, tie-dye, lahariya, mothra, quilting and multitudinous skills of braiding, plaiting and trimming. This art is also very well developed in other parts of Rajasthan. While the Bagru prints are famous for floral designs in dark vegetable colours the Barmer prints are known for their bold geometric patterns called 'ajrakh'. A later-day development is the method of embossed printing with gold and silver called Khari. Jaisalmer specializes is the wax resistant art printing, a technique that creates some of the most unusual shades. The Udaipur printers take their inspiration from the pichhwai of Nathdwara, which leave their lance in the fold of the cloth. The Kota-dorias are famous throughout the country for the fineness of their quality.

Shawl weaving flourished in Kashmir under the patronage of the Mughals. The pashmina and shahtoosh shawls of Kashmir are woven out of the fleece of the Tibetan goat. The pashmina shawl usually comes in subtle shades of cream, beige, brown and grey, depending on the natural colour of the fleece. They may be dyed to produce brighter colours or livened up with embroidery. The shahtoosh is even more delicate than the pashmina. It is so fine and soft that it passes through a ring quite easily. Ladakh has a most picturesque and fascinating weaving tradition. The natural coloured wool is woven into broad carpets, sacks and saddle-bags.

Kashmir is also famous for its carpets. The art of carpet weaving came to Kashmir from Persia in the 15th century during the reign of Sultan Zain ul_Abadin. The art got a boost in the 17th century during the reign of Ahmed Khan the then governor of Kashmir.

Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat are other states where good shawls are woven. The art of weaving jamawar or tapestry shawls rolled into India from Turkey in the 15th century AD. Woven in shades of cream, brown and grey interspersed with coloured threads to form floral patterns, the best jamawars are now made in Basohli in Himachal Pradesh. Kullu is famous for its vibrantly coloured shawls with striking geometrical patterns. In the North East, each tribe or community has its own specific designs and motifs for shawls and sarongs. The mekhla chadar, pung and rabha kambang have elaborate patterns. Tripuri women wear a scarp, called pachra or ninon, which reaches down just below the knee. They weave in their loin-loom a small piece of cloth called 'Risha', which is used as their breast garment. The Manipuri designs are based on their special legends, traditions and beliefs. The popular akoibi and ningthous phee are patterned on the different designs of a snake and are used mostly in the phanek or women's lungi. The morang phee or the Manipuri sari is distinguished by its border and the likli and lashing phee design.

The Indian dress can be loosely divided into two categories: stitched clothing (tunics, gowns, jackets, waistcoats, skirts and trousers) and unstitched clothing (mantles, shawls, turbans, scarves, saris and loin-cloths). Different regions have become renowned for different kinds of fabric. Masuriya is a rare cotton fabric woven in Masuriya village in Rajasthan. Himroo is a kind of brocaded material woven on a simple throw-shuttle. Varanasi is well known for its kinkab (brocade) with its beldar (scroll pattern) and butidar designs. Its brocade works like chandtara, dhupchhaon, mazchar, morgala and bulbul chasm have great demand abroad. Gujarat's nathdwara pichwai in the brocade style is very famous. The baluchar silk of Murshidabad district of West Bengal have unique designs. The patola weaving involves the subtle merging of different shades of colour. Assam has several varieties of silk like endi, muga and pala.

Embroidery, the art of working raised designs in threads of silk, cotton, gold or silver upon the surface of woven cloth with the help of a needle, has been known in India from very early times. Gujarat and Rajasthan boast of a mind-boggling range in embroideries. Kantha of Bengal, zardosi of Delhi, kasuti of Karnataka, phulkari of Punjab, the gold thread embroidery and gota work of Rajasthan, the zari work of Hyderabad, the appliqué work and metal-wire embroidery are some of the brilliant specimens of Indian embroidery.

Appliqué or Pipli Work: Appliqué or Pipli Work is an integral part of the decorative needlework of Pipli village in Orissa and some parts of Gujarat. It is based on patchwork, in which pieces of coloured and patterned fabric is finely cut in different sizes and shapes and sewn together on a plain background to form a composite piece. They are found in brilliant colours and are highly ornamented with motifs, which include human forms, animals and vehicles. Originally parasols, canopies and pillows were made for the Rath Yatra but now many objects of daily use like lamp shades, garden umbrellas and bed covers have been introduced.

Aribharat: The embroidery of Kutch is very picturesque and has the quality of jewellery. The best known is aribharat, which is named after ari, a hook, plied from the top but fed by silk thread from below with the material spread out on a frame. This movement creates loops, which are repeated to form a line of chain stitches. It is also known as Mochibharat, as it used to be done by mochis (cobblers).

Bagh: The bagh is an offshoot of phulkari and almost always follows a geometric pattern, with green as the basic colour. The embroidery is worked into khaddar (coarse cotton cloth) with silk thread. Sometimes two or three baghs will be stitched together to for a phulkari.

Banjara: The embroidery of the Lambada gypsy tribes of Andhra Pradesh, banjara is a mix of applique with mirrors and beadwork. Bright red, yellow, black and white coloured cloth is laid in bands and joined with a white crisscross stitch.

Chikankari: The Chikan work of Lucknow involves delicate and subtle embroidery done in white thread on varieties of cloth such as mulmul (fine cotton), voil or polyester.. It owes its origin to Nur Jehan. Intricate and complex, this work is similar to what is commonly known as shadow work. Simplicity, regularity and evenness of stitches, combined with very fine thread-knots are the highlights of Chikan work. The different varieties of chikan stitches include tepchi, pechni, bakhia, zanjira, phanda and murri. The Chikan kurtas are very popular.

Crewel: Kashmir is known for phirans (woollen kurtas) and namdahs (woollen rugs) with big floral embroidery in cheerful colours. Crewel embroidery is the same as chain stitch and is usually done with an awl (a small pointed tool for making holes) and is worked from underneath the fabric rather than above.

Gota Work: The gold embroidery of Jaipur, known as gota-work, is an intricate form of appliqué with patterns of amazing richness, worked out in minute detail in fine gold thread. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. Lengths of wide, golden ribbons are similarly stitched on the edges of the fabric to create an effect of gold zari work. The gota method is commonly used for women's formal costumes. Khandela in Shekhawati is best known for its manufacture. Kinari or edging refers to the art of fringed border decoration. It is usually practised by the Muslim craftsmen.

Kantha: Kantha is a kind of patchwork embroidery, typical of Bihar and West Bengal, in which the ground consists of remnants of white cotton saris, while the threads used for the embroidery are picked from old materials. In kantha, the thread is carried over the surface in small stitches to produce a series of dotted lines. To these are added, from the reverse side, longer floats that are mostly used as decorative elements and for filling in the bodies of the figures. Floral, animal and bird motifs embroidered on both cotton and silk are extremely popular.

Karchobi: It is a form of raised zari metallic thread embroidery created by sewing flat stitches on cotton padding. The technique is commonly used for bridal and formal costumes as well as for velvet coverings, tent hangings, curtains and the coverings of animal carts and temple chariots.

Kashida: This is the typical embroidery work of Bihar and is done in different styles.

Kasuti: This is typical of the Dharwar region of Karnataka. Kasuti is delicate single thread embroidery done on handloom saris. It is done in two styles called gavanti and murgi and has a wide range of motifs consisting of temples, peacocks, elephants, flowering trees and geometric forms spread across the sari.

Kathi: This rural art of Gujarat is attributed to the nomadic tribes of the kathi. The work is distinguished by a very unusual technique in which chain stitch embroidery is combined with appliqué work and enhanced by small mirror-like insertions. The embroidery is characterised in particular by its wealth of forms and motifs. Many of the kathi embroideries depict Hindu themes.

Mirror Work: The women of Rajasthan and Gujarat traditionally carry embroidered torans (frieze), dowry bags, shawls, cholis and dupattas as part of their dowry. This work can be identified by its use of tiny mirrors with colourful threads that shape floral and figurative designs.

Patti Ka Kaam: It is the exquisite embroidery work of Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.

Phulkari: The Punjab phulkari is of a spectacular nature. The word means flowering and it creates a flowery surface. Strangely enough, the stitch itself is the simple darning like the damask, done either by counting the threads or with utmost care, since a single miss can spoil the whole pattern. Originally, the designs seem to have been predominantly geometrical but the phulkari now being produced for sale has often a lotus in the centre and stylised animals, birds, worked in harmoniously with flowers. The design is fed into the cloth from the reverse side using darning needles, one thread at a time, leaving a long stitch below to form the basic pattern. The stitching is done in a vertical and horizontal pattern as well as variations from this standard format, so that when the phulkari is finally complete the play of light on its shiny surface can do wonders. Stitching is usually done with silk thread, though occasionally cotton threads are also used. The best work in phulkari is found in Haryana in Gurgaon, Karnal, Hissar, Rohtak and Delhi.

Pichwai: These are colourful embroidered cloth-hangings typical of Nathdwara in Rajasthan.

Rabari Art: This is a typical embroidery work of the nomadic Rabari tribes of the Kutch region. The embroidered motifs are generally camels, royal fans, elephants, scorpions and women bearing water.

Shamilami: It is a combination of weaving and embroidery and was once a high status symbol in Manipur.

Zardozi or Zari: Zardozi or Zari or kalabattu is an embroidery work done in metal wires. Varanasi, Lucknow, Surat, Ajmer, Bhopal and Hyderabad are important centres for zari work. In this work, metal ingots are melted and pressed through perforated steel sheets to convert into wires. They are then hammered to the required thinness. Plain wire is called badla, and when wound round a thread, it is called kasav. Smaller spangles are called sitara and tiny dots made of badla are called mukaish. Zardozi, a more elaborate version of zari, involves the use of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, gota and kinari.

decorated textiles

The tradition of decorated textiles is as rich as the woven one with a vast range of hand block prints, tie-dyed fabrics and embroideries.

Bandhani or Tie and Dye: It is a sophisticated method of tie and dye used for decorating the cloth. It is an ancient art practiced in many places in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. This technique involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour. The rainbow-tinged turbans of the Rajputs and the odhnis of women are shaded by this method of resist dyeing. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red and black.

Batik Art: It is a resist process in which the fabric is painted with molten wax and then dyed in cold dyes. Multi-coloured batik saris, dupattas and bed sheets are popular for their contrasting colour schemes. Batik is done on a large scale in Madhya Pradesh.

Block-Printing:  This art involves printing of cloth with carved wooden blocks. Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Jodhpur and Bikaner in Rajasthan are the strongholds of this craft. The floral motifs favoured by the printers of Bagru and Sanganer are Persian in origin and usually have a white or pale background decorated with colorful twigs or sprays.

Jamdani: It is a type of weaving in which small shuttles filled with coloured, gold or silver threads are used to produce highly decorative material. It is done in various styles like butidar, tircha, jhalar, panna hazara, phulwari and toradar. It is very common in Tanda in Uttar Pradesh.

Ikat: It is a complex and rather meticulous process that involves the repeated dyeing of the warp and weft threads before the cloth is woven. Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are major centres of ikat weaving in silk and cotton.

Kalamkari : This involves hand painting of fabrics using vegetable dyes of deep rich shades. The motifs may range from gods and goddesses to demons, women, animals and other forms. These fabrics are used as tapestries and as hangings in temples. This is practiced in Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh and in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa and West Bengal.

Laharia: It is a special process of the Bandhani technique or tie-and dye in Rajasthan that creates a ripple effect. Turbans and odhnis with laharia patterns are generally used on festive occasions, especially the Teej. Jaipur and Jodhpur are major centres of laharia.

Tanchoi: The tanchoi style of weaving, which resembles fine miniatures, owes its origin to China and is practiced mainly in Surat in Gujarat. The tanchoi saris are very popular.

Ivory carving in India has been an extremely popular craft since ages. The Vedic texts include ivory work amongst the noblest of crafts. According to history, King Solomon acquired Indian Ivory in 10th Century BC, and King Darius used ivory decorations in his palace in 6th century BC. Khadaon or the sandals made of ivory were used in India, particularly by the Brahmins and religious figures who considered shoes made of animal skin unclean.

India is known for crafts on tusks of elephants. The Ivory carvers of Bengal, Jaipur and Delhi produce objects such as the ambari hathi or processional elephant, models of bullock carts, caskets, book covers, sandals, palanquins and frames for the European market. In Orissa, there has been a tradition of offering ivory inlaid furniture to the temple of Puri.

Miniature shrines with delicate pillars and intricate low relief floral work, caskets depicting scenes from myths and legends, and images of gods and goddesses and Christian icons and symbols has been a tradition in Kerala and Karnataka. Kerala has an amazing tradition of painting on ivory. The state specialises in figures of gods and goddesses, scenes from Ramayana and other epic stories and the statue of St. George on a giant charger, killing the dragon with his spear.

Delhi is another important centres for ivory carving. Popular items like chess sets, billiard balls and small articles like scent bottles, paper knives, trinket or pan boxes, and a number of jewellery items like beads, bead necklaces, bangles and rings are made here. Uttar Pradesh is famous for its Hindu and Buddhist figures of deities, dancing poses and decorative plaques. Ivory craftsmen of Gujarat make human figures as also statues of deities in excellent quality. Punjab's highly decorated elephants and figurines depicting characters from folk or heroic tales are superb.

Rajasthan is also famous for its ivory items, which include fans with charming figures for handles and the centre pieces for the dining table with ornately carved receptacles. In Rajasthan, Bharatpur, Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur are important centres for ivory carving. While Jaipur is famous for its carved ivory, Jodhpur specialized in ivory bangles. The bangles were worn to cover the whole arm and they decreased in size from just below the shoulder to the wrist. The Jali-work of a lace like intricacy is testimony to the ivory carvers, fine eyes and unerring hands. Animal figures, birds, fish trays, paper knives and a host of other decorative objects are carved with much artistry in ivory.

The work on the doors of the Amber palace in Jaipur and the exquisite inlay in the Mysore palace doors and the Golden Temple at Amritsar proclaim the architectural decoration with Ivory.possible.

Ivory carving in India

Archaeological and literary evidences point towards the existence of glass in India from ancient times. There is mention of glass in the epic Mahabharata. The Mughals perceived the aesthetic potential of glass. Glass articles like bowls, tumblers and bottles for precious stuff like Indian scents (attars) were popular during that time. New designs and exquisite shapes in a variety of rich colours kept blossoming. The Mughals have left beautiful specimens of engraved glass with delicate foliated decorations.

Glass bangles constitute a world of their own, with infinite varieties, colours and styles. Hyderabad is renowned for the sonabai bangles and the churi ka jodas studded with sparkling semi-precious and artificial gemstones. Glass items such as phials, bottles, jars, lamp chimneys are attractively made and the shapes have a wide range. Glass animals are also becoming popular. Varanasi specializes in glass beads and a type of very thin glass called tikuli. Patna uses the tikuli technique for decorations. The oriental shapes, designs and the typical Indian colours in glass make Indian glassware distinct. Ferozabad in Uttar Pradesh is another important centre for glassware. Saharanpur makes beautiful toys filled with coloured liquid called panchkora.

This is an old hereditary craft with a wide prevalence in the rural areas of India. Leather tanning as an art form reached its zenith in India by 3000 B.C. The earliest skins used were those of tigers and deer.Mats made out of the animal skins were used by rishis and sadhus in the olden days.

India's largest leather products are in the footwear line. The traditional ones are more original, individualistic and colourful and largely embroidered or done up in brocade or decorated textile. The extremely comfortable and fashionable kolhapuri chappals are made in Maharashtra.One of the most popular leather articles of Rajasthan is the Mojadi or lutti - an attractive footwear item. Here the leather is embroidered, punched, studded and stitched in various eye-catching designs. The best-known centres of traditional footwear are Jaipur and Jodhpur. Kupi, a bottle made of camel hide to keep oil or 'attar' (perfume), is a speciality of Bikaner. In the Manoti art, articles like lamps and lampshades are made out of camel hides, which are then coloured and decorated with floral designs and figures and plated with thin gold leaves.

The leatherwork of Kashmir is very ornamental. In Punjab, appliqué is done with coloured leather pieces. Karnataka has been noted for leather with metallic gold or silvery finish or painted with figures or animals, mostly to form epic scenes. Madhya Pradesh's embroidery on red leather with gold and silk is unique. Fascinating articles such as wallets, pouches, handbags and belts are made out of crocodile and snake skins. Leatherwork is also extensively employed in book -binding.

leather products

Both the literature and the metal images excavated by archaeologists establish the fact that the art of bronze casting has been continuously practised in India for more than five millennia. The Indian metal smith is known for various methods of metal-working and has created forms with vision, conception and sensitivity of a sculptor. Copper and tin were the earliest non-ferrous metals to be used by man. Later, these were mixed to form an alloy called bronze. The Matsyapurana describes various methods of casting bronze images.

Nowadays there is an extensive use of brass, bronze, copper, iron and bell metal in India. Ornaments, utensils, icons and figures are made out of different metals. These objects are further embellished through punching, engraving, inlaying and enameling. Interesting brass and iron-work is done in Ladakh, where highly ornamental and soundly effective kitchen stoves are made purely by hand. Many items are made here by the combination of silver, brass and copper. Copper vessels of Kashmir with floral designs and calligraphy show excellent artisanship. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat present wide range of brass items. In South India, metal icons, especially of bronze, are extremely popular. Tamil Nadu is one of the famous bronze producing regions where the artisans or stapathis produce stylistic images conforming to Pallava, Chola, Pandyan and Nayaka periods. The images of Trimurthi and Durga are the most common. Kerala produces distinct bronze statues of Shiva's tandava dance, described as the gaja tandava. Karkal in Karnataka is an ancient centre that specializes in rare Jain icons.

Orissa is known for its Dhocra casting and silver filigree work. Cigar boxes, jewellery, baskets and decorative trays are the popular items made in the silver filigree. Hyderabad is famous for silver objects like paandaan (betel-leaves box), ugaldaan (spittoon), itardaan (perfume-box), silver models of Charminar and bronze statues, especially of Roman soldiers and the statue of Mephisthopheles and Margarita (male and female forms in one statue). In North India, copper and brass lamps are made in a variety of shapes and styles. The pahaldar lamps and Jaipuri lamps are the examples. Uttar Pradesh is the largest brass and copper-making region in India with numerous centres. Centres like Etawah, Moradabad, Varanasi and Sitapur produce lotas or water-pots and ritual articles like tamrapatra, panch patra, sinhasan and kanchanthal.

Metal ornamentation is undertaken at Delhi, Jaipur and Moradabad. Embossing work or repousse is done by raising the design in relief. Engraving is done on a metal by cutting or scratching lines on it. The Jaipuri engravers produce lacquered and engraved brassware in an amazing variety of articles: hanging lamps, boxes, bowls, picture frames and plates. In Jaipur the engraving is done in three styles. Marori work has minutely lacquered designs that cover the entire surface in its effect both rich and subtle; 'chicken' has flowers motifs against a chased and lacquered background and 'bichi' is a delicate pattern of flowers and leaves on a lacquered surface. Marwar in Rajasthan is famous for it zinc-pots called badla. The badlas, which are usually round, semi-circular or rectangular, are sometimes fitted with ice chambers and taps.

Punching creates a decorative effect by arrangement of lines and dots in a definite artistic pattern. The kammalas of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu are famous for metal encrusting work. Moradabad has become famous for khudai or metal engraving work done in nakashi style. They produce a fine and delicate work called barik kam. Koftagiri or damascening is another technique of inlaying a light metal on a dark one. It is mostly practised in Alwar and Jaipur to make popular articles are swords, daggers and shields.

Delhi and Jaipur are known for meenakari, the enamel work on gold. Maharaja Man Singh I introduced the beautiful meenakari work to Rajasthan around the end of the 17th century. Enamelling or meenakari was originally meant to protect gold, which in its pure state is so soft and malleable that it can easily wear away. However, the technique soon came to be used for all sorts of object de arts. The charming technique of laying fine brass or copper wire into carefully chiseled grooves in a metal or wooden surface is called Tarkashi. The patterns, an amalgam of Rajput and Mughal styles, are floral, leaf and creeper.

The bidri work in which silver inlay work is done against dark metal backgrounds is practised in Bidar in Karnataka. Silver and brass are inlaid upon an alloy of zinc and copper, which is blackened by dipping the object into a solution of copper sulphate. It is the contrast between the black surface and the shiny inlay that makes the object look dramatic. It is done in various styles like tarkashi (inlay of wire), tainishan (inlay of sheet), zarnishan (low relief), zarbuland (high relief) and aftabi (cut-out designs on overlaid metal sheet).

A metal craft unique to Himachal is the mohra. Mohras or metal plaques representing a deity are common in Kullu and Chamba. Most of them represent Shiva, but masks of the mother goddess Devi and other deities are not uncommon. The head is sculpted in bold relief, while the neck and shoulders are more summarily treated. These mohras are taken out of the temples on a palanquin in processions during religious festivals like the grand Kullu Dussehra.

Nepal has a unique art called the Newari art, which consists of bronzes with beautiful soft reddish patina. The phurpa or the ritual or magical dagger of Tibetan Buddhists consists of three-sided blades made of copper alloy and bronze in which the hilt usually shows three heads of protective deities, the common being the Mahakala.

Jewellery has been part of the Indian civilization since ancient times. Ornaments made of gold, silver, copper, ivory, pottery and beads have been discovered in civilizations as ancient as the Harappa and Mohenjodaro. The Indus valley goldsmith knew how to make moulds for metal and terracotta ornaments. Gold jewellery from these civilizations consisted of bracelets, necklaces, bangles, ear ornaments, rings, head ornaments, brooches and girdles. Perhaps the earliest finds in jewellery have been excavated from the Chalcolithic sites. Highly decked terracotta figures, copper rings, beads, bangles and hairpins found here are dated between 3500 BC and 2000 BC.

Traditional literature records sixteen modes of female adornment described as the Solah shringaar. Shringaar (adornment) followed certain basic patterns. Alankara (embellishment) consists of floral wreaths, jewellery and garments as well as the various unguents applied over the limbs. Some of the women's decorative ornaments mentioned in the Agamas or traditional treatises include chudamani (crest jewel), mukuta (crown), kundala (ear ornaments) and kila (ear tops). Neck ornaments included muktavali (pearl necklace), harsaka (serpent shaped necklace) and sutroka (gold thread). Bangles called hestali and valaya were worn on the forearms, while ruchika was the bracelet and vecitka was the wrist ornament. The keyura (armlet) and angada (armband) were worn over the elbow. The ornaments for the cheeks were the patra lekha while the padapatra was the jewel for the shanks. An additional embellishment for the feet was the alaltaka. The Indian women use the bindi as an indispensable part of her apparel. She also puts sindoor (vermilion) on the forehead and kajal and surma in her eyes. Some of the traditional jewellery in common use in India consists of the mangalsutra of Maharashtra, the saj of Kolhapur and the panchikam of Gujarat.

The jewellery of the later period is reflected in the sculptures at Bharut, Sanchi, Amarnath and Orissa, and these have influenced the later Indian jewellery both in design and craftsmanship. In certain parts of India excavations have brought to light jewellery pieces of high craftsmanship and skill which show the various influences. The finds of Taxila are particularly noteworthy as they show the Greek influence in Indian art. This art has been perfected with modern styles and use of new materials. Besides gold and other metal jewellery, stones, conch shells, wood and plant seeds were used.

Under the Muslim rulers, gold and silver jewellery became more and more elaborately embellished with precious stones and enameling. Jaipur is the centre for gold kundan work and diamond and emerald cutting. In the Kundankari technique the gemstones are set within solid walls of gold. Kundan jewellery features precious gems on one side and meenakari work on the reverse. The kundan work of Gujarat and Rajasthan is the influence of the Mughals. The Thewa jewellery of Rajasthan is an extremely fine work in gold leaf depicting scenes from rasalila episodes. Pratapgarh in Chittorgarh district is famous for thewa jewellery, where articles like pendants, earrings, small sindhoor boxes and jewel cases are made in this fashion. Rajasthan is also famous for various silver ornaments like the hair adornments (morpatta and rakhadi); ear tops (phul jhumka, karanphul, toti, lathan and papal gatti) and foot ornaments (angustha). Orissa is famous for its silver anklets called painri and paijam and silver knitted ornaments called gunchi. Cuttack in Orissa is famous for its attardans or rosewater sprinklers, bowls and decorative animals and birds, especially peacock figures made in the filigree technique. Madhya Pradesh is famous for its anklets called lauang kasuathi.

The folk and tribal jewellery of India is much varied, in the use of materials, which include lac, glass, shells and beads. Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and the tribal zones in central, eastern and southern India are renowned for ornaments in silver and a particular type of alloy called Pewter, that imitates silver.

Chunky bead-and-metal jewellery of Himachal Pradesh is very popular and is in great demand. The enamel workers of Kangra, Chamba, Mandi and Kullu have produced exquisite ornaments and jewellery. The Pahari women wear necklaces known as chandanhaars (a bunch of long silver chains linked by engraved or enamelled silver plaques), chokers called kach (made of silver beads and triangular plaques) and the collar-like hansali, besides heavy anklets, bangles and silver bracelets (kare). In Lahaul-Spiti, ornaments are studded with semi precious stones like coral, turquoise, amber and mother-of-pearl. The jewellery of Ladakh mainly consists of fi (amber), churu (coral), yu (turquoise) and tiny seed pearls made into necklaces and earrings. Perak is a fascinating ornament of this region.

Motifs of the sun, moon, serpent and images of deities are predominant in the jewellery of the southern states. The thali, an essential component of the marriage ceremony of many communities, is a gold necklace consisting of numerous emblems, usually a phallic symbol, which hangs in the centre. Profusion in use of jewellery is still a feature of the rural countryside.

Wood work

India boasts a luxuriant range in wood and the wood works. The Kashmiri wooden architecture, made from walnut and deodar wood, has flourished from the 11th century AD. The lattice-work called acche-dar and azli pinjra and the khatamband are famous. The Gujarat architecture is lyrical and elaborate with its projected balconies, decorative windows and doors.

The elegant tharavad homes of Kerala, corresponding to the havelis of Gujarat, are brilliant pieces of architecture in deep brown teakwood. Brahmour and Chatrahi in Himachal Pradesh are known for their fine tradition of the temple wood-carving. It is done in various styles called naghbel, dori, kutheri phool and jali. The Bhimakali Temple of Sarahan is an excellent example of wood-carving. The sandalwood of Karnataka is used for carving items like statues of gods and goddesses, utilitarian objects and sandalwood boxes. Red sandalwood of Andhra Pradesh, known as raktachandan, is traditionally being used to carve figures of deities and dolls. Nirmal in the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh is known for its fine woodwork using the burgu and punki types of wood. In Uttar Pradesh wood- carving is done using different types of wood like sisam, sal and dudhi. Kerala also produces good beautifully carved religious figures. It also produces elephants in variety of postures and sizes using the kumbli wood.

There are hundreds of special occasions throughout the country when certain wooden figures are produced for rituals. The magnificent wood sculptures of the Bhuta cult of ancestor-worship from coastal Karnataka are carved from solid blocks of wood obtained from the jackfruit tree. Wood carving of religious figures is common in India. Scenes from the Epics, particularly those from the battlefield, forest and palace, in addition to figures of deities, are recurrent themes in wood carvings. The artisans in Uttar Pradesh are famous for their Mughal designs such as fret work, jali and anguri. The wood carving of the Northeastern tribes are executed in wood, which is locally known as kumisyng. Among the carved objects, the huge log drum is particularly noteworthy. A partitioned stand with three legs, rice pounding tables, wooden cups and platters, smoking pipes and musical instruments are typical Naga woodworks. Assam is noted for its special styles and objects like the namghar or kirtanghar (a wooden house), hukkas, sandals and book-rests. The wood carving of the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan include doors, window frames, "marriage-litters", wedding pillars, tobacco cases and pipes. Elaborate and extensive woodcarving can be seen on the doors and windows of Rajasthan’s palaces and havelis. Barmer and Jodhpur produce the finest wooden carved chairs with woven-rope seats and exquisite jali or latticework on the backrest. An equally charming technique is called tarkashi, which is an amalgam of Rajput and Mughal styles and involves the laying of fine brass or copper wire into carefully chiseled grooves. The Pali district in Rajasthan produces thin bowls and other articles from rohida wood.

Wood inlay, which developed and flourished through Mughal influence involves the placing of small parts of ivory, plastic, horn, metal pieces or other types of wood into carved surfaces of wooden items. This is found in various parts of the country such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Karnataka is famous for the inlay work of rosewood. Surat in Gujarat is famous for its framed marquetry work known as Sadeli. Bhavnagar in Gujarat is famous for its large sized chests known as pataras. Kerala is famous for its decorating wooden chests and boxes bound by brass bands. Its jewel box called netturpetty is an excellent example of this work. The classical style of woodwork like painted cradles, boxes and ganjifa, the traditional set of playing cards are painted with religious and mythological figures.

Wood lacquer work is popular in Rajasthan, Kashmir, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Rajasthan and Kashmir are famous for their nakashi style of lacquer work. Rajkot in Gujarat is famous for its atashi style articles. Udaipur in Rajasthan has a long tradition in lacquering in the zigzag and dana techniques. Ratnagiri in Maharashtra produces lacquered imitation fruits using hale and pangora woods. Punjab has evolved a technique called the abri or cloud work. In Bihar the laheri community makes beautiful containers known as sindurdaans. Naurangpur in Orissa is famous for its highly decorated and brightly lacquered bamboo boxes.

The valley of Kashmir is perhaps best known for the craft of papier maché which was brought to it by a Kashmiri prince who spent years in a prison at Samarkand in Central Asia. Soaked waste paper, cloth, rice straw and copper sulphate are kneaded into a pulp which is then pressed on to clay, wood or metal moulds. Once it solidifies, it is coated with a white layer of gypsum and glue and then rubbed smooth. Finally the piece is sand papered and painted with colourful Persian floral motifs.

In the hands of Indian craftsmen, horn, shola pith, coconut shell, tortoise shell, conch shell and papier maché are used to create excellent products. Combs made out of horn are very common and are made in different forms. Some combs are traditional, double sided with gentle carvings on them, others more decorative with ivory or mother of pearl inlay. Items like small animals and birds, toy furniture, buttons, trays, cigarette cases and lamps are also made.

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh are some of the well-known states for horn work. Shola is a plant growing wild in marshy water logged areas. The shola pith has been utilised in Bengal, Orissa and Assam as art decorations. The artists are said to have begun with making decorations for the deities from very early times. The most masterly work is decorating the big deities at festivals, like Durga for Dussehra celebrations. Craftsmen in Tamil Nadu are famous for structures in pith products. They make remarkable models of temples like Rock Temple and famous monuments of India. Pith flowers are made in Karnataka's sandalwood belt and in Maharashtra. In Andhra Pradesh, the tortoise shell (along with ivory) is used for making trinket boxes.

A variety of articles are made of coconut shell. Kerala produces bowls, vases, roses, teapots, lamps and many other items. The coconut pith is used to make animal and human figures, toys, dolls and Kathakali models. Bengal produces the most decorative measuring bowls by hollowing the coconut tree trunk. Conch in India has religious and social significance since time immemorial. Excavations have revealed numerous conch shell products, including some inlay work requiring great skill. Bengal is known as the home of the conch shell (shankh). Here, the shell bangle symbolises marriage. A variety of items like plain white bangles and coloured bangles are made with shankh. In Kerala small items of daily use are made. A large variety of items are made with cowries, the small closed in-shells. It is used to make necklaces for animals and for decoration on the lids of trinket boxes, on hand and shoulder bags and shawls.In the Mughal times, the silken surface of papier maché was found ideal as the ground for miniature painting, as also for preparing important state documents. Kashmiri craftsmen make a large variety of utility articles. Some items like bowls and vases are brass lined to widen the scope of their utility. Elaborate designs are also done. Madhya Pradesh produces papier maché toys while craftsmen from Tamil Nadu contribute excellent figures which are remarkably expressive.

Papier mache

India has a glorious tradition in toys. The excavations from Harappa and Mohenjodaro have thrown up a magnificent profusion of clay toys. A large variety of materials are used for the manufacture of toys and dolls. Red wood, cow dung, papier-mache, paper and clay are some of them. Clay toys are made in almost all the states in folk style. Some are closely connected with seasonal religious festivals. Almost every region of India is renowned for its distinctive tradition of toys. One of the oldest and most popular media for toys has been that of painted and lacquered wood. In Bihar, the entire story of Shyama Chak festival is related through clay images. Specially carved red wood toys, called Tirupati dolls, are made at the pilgrimage centre of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. Another captivating craft is the leather puppets of Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly, these are about five feet high, translucent and dramatically painted in vegetable dyes. Pith or Indian cork has been used in Assam to make toys and dolls since centuries. These toys are painted to give them a bright look. All kinds of traditional toys carry a deep stamp of the true Indian characteristics. The rattle and its variant dugg duggi is the most common of rural toys along with the wooden cart, lakdi ki katti.The Rajasthani stuffed toys are made from old clothes and fabric.

Although most of the toys are made to amuse children, some of them are used as crafts. The toys of Kondapalli (Krishna district) and Ettikoppaka (Vishakapatnam district) in Andhra Pradesh and the lacquered wooden toys of Chennapatna, Mysore are the best specimens. The Kondapalli toys are made from soft wood called ponki, which is treated with boiled tamarind juice and lime paste. The most famous of the Kondapalli toys is the Ambari elephant. Nirmal, Tirupati and Tiruchanur are other important toy making centres in Andhra Pradesh.

Stone monuments are fairly common all over the country. They are magnificent structures of sublime grandeur with perfect symphony between their architecture and sculpture. A major tradition of stone carving seems to be focused around temples in India. Using a variety of stones, ranging from soft-brittle sandstone and patchy red stone to hard granite, the craftsmen mould replicas of the shore temples at Puri, Bhuvaneshwar and Konark, images of deities in various sizes and postures and utensils of all sorts. The innumerable figures with their exquisite expressions, fine detailing of ornaments and dress, the traditional poses of the epic heroes from Hindu mythology are all gifts of creativity.

The glory of stonework is truly revealed in sculpture and architectural facades. Sculptures of the Mauryan period, Buddhist carvings at Bharhut and Sanchi and the rock-cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora and Khajuraho have no parallels. In Tamil Nadu, the stapathis are engaged in the temple construction and repair works in Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Mahabalipuram, Ramanthapuram, Kanyakumari and other places.The stone carving tradition in Himachal Pradesh is aptly displayed by the giant monolithic carving of the rock-cut temple at Masrur in Kangra district.

The inlay of colourful stones on marble and sandstone surfaces is characteristic of the Mughal period, the most beautiful example of which is Itmad-ud-Daulah's tomb near Agra.Agra is famous for its marble work, especially models of Taj Mahal. In the marble inlay work of Agra, floral, trellis, creeper and geometric patterns are carved on to the creamy-white marble surface, and semi precious stones set into it in the manner of damascene work.The white Makrana marble (sange malmal) of Rajasthan has a great demand as a building and decorative stone.Jaipur is another area that is known for its marble articles.

Vessels for storage, bowls and simply ornamented single-wick lamps are some of the common stone products of Tamil Nadu. Orissa's popular stoneware articles include black stone bowls and plates, multi-coloured stone statuettes and delicate soapstone articles. Red sandstone is widely available in Rajasthan and it encourages the making of a host of everyday articles and ornamental stonework. In Gujarat and Rajasthan the sculptures and stone workers have adopted the Hindu and Jain tradition of temple architecture and image making. Hundreds of artisans in Gujarat are engaged in the art of cutting and polishing semi-precious stones. In Bihar, the black stone is used for making everyday utensils.

Jhansi in Bihar is known for its lampshades, incense stick stands and other products made out of a dark brown stone called sange-rathek. Midnapur in West Bengal is famous for its phyllite stoneware produced by the karga craftsmen.Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh is noted for its stone carving works carried out by the raidas community.Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh is famous for a number of small greenstone items like animals, boxes, trays, etc.

The stone carvers in Himachal Pradesh produce several artifacts of domestic use like the traditional stoves (angithi), circular pots for storing (kundi), pestle and mortar (dauri danda), millstones (chakki) and other things. The centres of sculpting in Himachal are concentrated mainly in Mandi, Chamba, Kinnaur and the Shimla Hills.

Stone work