New Delhi, September 28, 2017: Handicrafts in India have a long history. From ancient to the contemporary times, handcrafters have preserved this art. This art has been passed on from one generation to the next. Pottery making, in fact, is one of its forms, whose existence can be traced back to the Harappan Civilization.
Handicrafts are products that are produced either completely by hands or involve tools. Mechanical tools could also be used as long as the manual contribution of the artisan remains the central component of the produced object. The production of these crafts require great skill and represents a particular expression, culture or tradition. Handicrafts could hold a number of values, some of them being aesthetic, cultural, decorative, utilitarian, religious, functional etc.
To understand the historical perspective of Indian handicrafts, we need to go back in time. Let's take a look at the development and decline of the artisanal production under three different time periods: before the arrival of British in India, Under colonial rule, and after India got independence.
History of Indian Handicrafts Before the arrival of British:
Art and crafts, as we have already mentioned, has been a tradition in India since long. Textiles, the most important of the Indian handicrafts, reached the zenith of perfection during the Mughal period. While under Mughals, it was the art of weaving and silk spinning that scored refinement; it was metal works, ivory works and jewelry that reached great potential during the Gupta period. The handicrafts production during that time can be divided in four broad categories. The first category dealt with the village economy under the jajmani system, in which the products were articles of daily use. The second category was integrated with the urban areas, where artisans produced crafts mainly for the purpose of sale. The third category concerns the dadni system, in which the merchants advanced cash to the artisans for production. The final category includes the Karkhanas, where skilled artisans produced luxury crafts under the command of kings or high nobles. Handicraft production was the second biggest source of employment in the pre-British India.
History of Indian Handicrafts Under Colonial Rule:
Under the British rule, production of Indian Handicrafts faced a rather sharp decline. When the East India Company was in power, it forced monopoly over the production of artisans from Bengal, and the price of these products were fixed 15-40% lower than their actual market price. What came as the biggest blow to the Indian artisans, however, was the removal of most of the Indian princes and nobles, which as an effect, led to the destruction of the artisan's major market.
History of Indian Handicrafts Post-Independence:
The plight of the artisans and the cultural importance of artisanal production was taken into accord after India got independent. The establishment of All India Handicrafts Board in November 1952, to look at the problems and find solutions concerning Indian Handicrafts; the Handicrafts and Handloom Export Corporation of India Ltd in 1958, to promote handicrafts exports; Opening of Crafts Mueseum in 1953 in Delhi, to develop people's interest in handmade Indian goods, all alluded to the idea that India had finally realized the importance of its art and crafts, and did not want to leave any stone unturned for its development.
Main centers: Uttar Pradesh (Nizamabad and Chinhat), where the pottery is dark black; Bengal which produces large figures of gods, especially on the occasion of Durga Puja; In Kashmir, Srinagar is the place where special glazed pottery is made; Terra-cotta roof tiles are a tradition in Orissa and Martha Pradesh; both Rajasthan and Karnataka are popular for their black pottery; Manipur in the northeast is also famous for its pottery.
Clay craft or pottery. Pixabay
Main centers: The elegant use of wood by skilled craftsmen can be seen in the houses at Gujrat and Kerala. Kashmir acquires a special position in this category of craft, with the walnut and deodar being the most favorite woods there. Saharanpur in U.P is also quite famous for its wooden furniture and objects of decoration.
Wood craft. Pixabay
Main centers: Kashmir (Srinagar) and Ladakh (Zanskar) are the two main centres. In Uttar Pradesh, Moradabad, Aligarh, Varanasi are the main centres of metal craft. Kerala specializes in the bell metal, whereas Bidar in Karnataka is noted for its Bidri work. Tribal groups in India also appear to hold their specific metal craft traditions.
Metal craft. Pixabay
Main centers: Rajasthan due to a large availability of stones tops the list of most prominent places for stone works. Salem district in Tamil Nadu also makes it to the list along with Gaya in Bihar. The stone cutters of Orissa also share a long history with the craft.
Stone craft. Pixabay
Main centers: Western ghats and Matheran in Maharashtra are noted for grass ornaments. Gujarat and Rajasthan share a rich and long tradition of jewelry. Kashmir is one of the most prominent places, again, with its exquisite jewelry, Varanasi and Awadh of U.P. are famous for gold studded jewelry.
Ornaments and Jewelry. Pixabay
Main centers: Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are famous for ikat fabric, Gujarat and Rajasthan for bandhani, U.P. and Bengal for jamdani fabrics. Rajasthan is also noted for Masoria fabric.
Indian textiles. Pixabay
-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha