Handicrafts of India - Part 1

An icon of India's rich and diverse heritage, the art and craft repository is valued immensely across the globe for its uniqueness, intricacy, detailing and myriad narratives. Crafted by skilled artisans, these handicrafts require an abundance of precision, eye for detail, creativity and dexterity. By avoiding the use of machinery and equipment, it ensures each piece is distinct and of the highest quality. It holds a mirror to the vibrant and varied culture of our country that has been immortalised through the ages. From terracotta, ceramic and handlooms to wooden carvings, metalwork and paintings, each indigenous craft carries the essence of India in its core. It's no wonder that they were a highly popular good to be exported to far east countries and Europe via the Silk Route during ancient times. Join us as we take you through these one-of-a-kind crafts that have carved a spot for themselves in our legacy.

Aranmula Kannadi (Kerala)

A handmade metal-alloy mirror crafted in Aranmula, a small town in Kerala's Pathanamthitta region, it is considered to be highly auspicious. It is a front surface reflection mirror where secondary reflections are eliminated and are polished for several days to achieve a unique reflective service. The technique is a closely guarded family secret maintained between 5 families of skilled artisans. It is said that one can see their true and real image only in the Aranmula Kannadi.

Channapatna Wooden Toys (Karnataka)

Hailing from the Channapatna town of Bangalore district, this 200-year-old art form has lead to the region being called the ‘Land of Toys’. Featuring colourful toys and vibrant home decor pieces, the craft makes use of soft ivory wood that is locally called alae mara, along with non-toxic and non-chemical colours that are handmade by the artisans. According to historians, Tipu Sultan's regime played a huge role in promoting and popularising this craft beyond the boundaries of Channapatna and Mysuru.

Kondapalli Toys (Andhra Pradesh)

Also known as Lepakshi handicrafts, this traditional craft form has a distinctive style that procured it a GI tag. With its origin in a small village called Etikoppaka near Vijaywada, these wooden toys are made from a softwood called Tella Poniki that is available in abundance in the surrounding Kondapalli hills. With a 400-year-old tradition, the themes prominently featured in the handicrafts include mythology, folklore, rural life and landscapes.

Dhokra (Chattisgarh)

Dating back to the pre-historic times of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Bastar Dhokra artefacts are made from non–ferrous metal casting that employs the lost-wax casting technique to create stunning figurines of animals, birds, humans, deities and everyday life. They are characterized by a clay core, understated simplicity, folk motifs and powerful visuals. Beyond decor pieces, it is also used to make functional items such as bowls and lamps.

Dhokra
Dokra (engrave.in by Avinash representative image)

Gond Paintings (Madhya Pradesh)

A tribal and folk art form with deep roots in the heartland of Madhya Pradesh, it is centred around the concept of storytelling right from mythological tales to cultural narratives to everyday happenings. Traditionally it was practised on mud walls with naturally extracted colours and where the intricate series of lines, dots and dashes gave a sense of movement to the still picture. With nature being a predominant theme, Gond paintings are considered a sign of good fortune.

Sikki Grass Craft (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh)

An ancient and auspicious craft form, it is made from a special kind of grass that grows in abundance in this region. It is used by the natives to make toys, dolls, baskets, murals and even jewellery. A wedding custom here is for parents to give the bride boxes made from Sikki grass known as 'pauti' to store sindhoor, ornaments and other knick-knacks.

Azulejos (Goa)

A stunning craft brought to Goa by the Portuguese, it refers to hand-painted tiles in a signature blue and yellow combination. The delicate strokes and dramatic details feature a whole host of themes ranging from religious scenes and family portraits to picturesque scenery. While it's common to find it in Churches across the state, it can also be spotted in the older heritage regions.

Toda Embroidery (Tamil Nadu)

Native to the Toda community nestled in the Nilgiris, it is also called Pukhoor locally. A time consuming and complex embroidery technique, it is mainly used to weave a traditional Puthukuli shawl that is worn by both men and women. The classic combination is red and black stripes along with motifs such as flowers, animals, birds, buffalo horns and geometric designs.

Khavda Pottery (Gujarat)

A highly specialised craft from whose tricks of the trade is held only by two families, it is practised in the northern Kutch region of Bhuj. It is made from a soft clay called 'Rann Ki Mitti' that is shaped on a potter’s wheel. Once dried, it is decorated with clay-based paints in red, black and white to create community-specific designs and motifs. It further undergoes baking in the furnace and a coating of geru (a red colour from the soil) to obtain its signature look. This craft is used to make everyday essentials such as matkas, bowls, earthen lamps, urns and kettles.

Khavda Pottery
Traditional pottery, Khavda (kasutours.wordpress.com by Beverley Bloxham representative image)

At Sundari Silks, we take a great deal of pride in preserving the prestige of our country's handicrafts. As torchbearers of this legacy, it is upon us to ensure the wisdom and skill is carried forward to the future generations as well. Our vast range of traditional handicraft and artefacts is available at our showrooms in Chennai/Mumbai and our online store.

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