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Made from cow or buffalo leather, the chappals were tanned and dyes till they possessed a certain strength. They did not tear easily, and were patronised in the villages of Maharashtra.

Kolhapuri chappals are a rage among fashion designers for their indigenous value. The craft originated in Maharashtra and has reached global acclaim today. Owning a pair of Kolhapuri chappals is a matter of pride.

These chappals were created by the Saudagar family in 1920. They were not very special at the time, and attracted crowds because of how durable they were. Made from cow or buffalo leather, the chappals were tanned and dyes till they possessed a certain strength. They did not tear easily, and were patronised in the villages of Maharashtra.


As early as the 13th century, it was known as 'chappal with ear' and by the 18th century, it was developed by famous manufacturers and made into a brand 'Kolhapuri' as it is today. The Saudagar family began to teach others this craft, and that's how it spread to most of the villages in Maharashtra. In the local language, it is called 'pietaan'.

Kolhapurs these days are heavily decorated Image source: Wikimedia Commons


As for style, the chappals were made like sandals with a t-shaped strap. They were made to withstand the strain of being worn even on mountainous terrain. Leather was dyed in vegetable colours, and sometimes the pair weighed even up to 2 kg. These days, it is much lighter and is decorated with pom-poms and other designs.

The coming of fancy fashion brands has robbed kolhapuri artisans of their craft. Synthetic materials are being used to produce the footwear at nominal rates. Rubber soles are being attached and they are made with just about any material. The villagers who do everything by hand are facing a financial constraint because of this.

The original chappals had the medicinal benefits of the old craft, which included wearing herbal leaves to prevent blisters on the feet. The chappal was dyed only in one of three colours to impart a regal look. These days, all this has changed, and cultural appropriation of the footwear has made it as versatile as any other Indian commodity.

Keywords: Kolhapur, Chappal. Leather, Tan, Saudagar


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