Monday April 23, 2018

The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Handicraft production was the second biggest source of employment in the pre-British India

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History of Indian handicrafts
History and development of Indian handicrafts. Pixabay
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  • Handicrafts are the products which are mostly made by hand.
  • The history of Indian handicrafts can be divided into three eras: Pre British, British era, and Post Independence.
  • Clay craft is the earliest form of crafts to have existed in India.

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.

What are handicrafts?

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.

Historical Perspective of Indian Handicrafts:

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.

A brief history and development of different form of handicrafts in India:

  • Clay craft and pottery: Clay craft is the earliest form of crafts to have existed, in India or in the world. A simple earthenware made of clay or ceramic has been created and used by the rural population for centuries. Potters have had an integral traditional link with the villages. The earthen pottery has only been developing, with the addition of new colors, figures of gods and goddesses, and decorative elements like flowers.

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.

History of Indian handicrafts
Clay craft or pottery. Pixabay
  • Wood craft: Wood craft is widely produced and used throughout the country, with the most important products being household furnitures, carts and decorative objects. Baskets for storage and Toys, both for play and decoration are also made on a large scale.

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.

History of Indian handicrafts
Wood craft. Pixabay
  • Metal craft: Copper was the most widely used metal in India before Iron joined in. Utensils, jewelry, dagger, axe heads etc in the harappan finds suggest that casting of copper objects made use of moulds. Bronze was also an important metal for the artisan production. The skills of craftsmen on metals are of various types, such as embossing, engraving, moulding etc.

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.

History of Indian handicrafts
Metal craft. Pixabay

Also readMedha Tribe which masters in Weaving unique Bamboo Handicrafts are facing threat of extinction in Mysuru Region

  • Stone craft: Stones, without a shadow of doubt, have been there with humans since the earliest. They have been crafted into various products such as tools, decorative objects, sculptures and even jewelry. Statue of Yakshi of Didarganj is one fine piece of stone sculpture and dates back to the Maurya period. Majestic Qutub Minar in Delhi, and forts at Agra, Delhi, Jaipur are all works of stone craft.

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.

Main centers of Indian handicrafts
Stone craft. Pixabay
  • Ornaments and jewelry: From grass jewelry to that of gold and diamonds, one can witness great diversity when it comes to ornaments and jewelry in India. Gold, gems, silver, diamonds, other metals and precious stones are some materials used for making ornaments. Bones, horns, sea shells, lac, glass etc are also used in many  parts of the country to create ornaments. The Harappan finds revealed a number of ornaments, indicating their existence since long. There are many references in Ramayana and Mahabharata of gold being precious objects.

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.

History of Indian handicrafts
Ornaments and Jewelry. Pixabay
  • Textiles: India had had one of the richest traditions of textiles made from different raw materials. It won’t be wrong to say that Indian textiles tend to reflect Indian culture and religious beliefs. Bengal was the chief center of cotton production and Carpet weaving reached its zenith at the time of Mughals. The most commonly knows fabrics are cotton, wool and silk. The three main techniques used for patterning are weaving, embroidery and dyes.

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 handicrafts
Indian textiles. Pixabay

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Is UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath losing his shine?

His failure to deliver on his promise to get all pot-holed roads fixed by a given deadline last year; the rollback -- under pressure -- in privatisation of the power sector in five cities

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Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath. IANS

Is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — in power for just over a year — fast losing his lustre?

Many here feel so.

A litany of complaints about his public conduct, his behaviour with colleagues as well as common people is fast eroding the aura he had built up as the five-time Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur who was catapulted to the Chief Minister’s office of a socially diverse and politically volatile state of 220 million people.

Adityanath Yogi is known for his aggression and excellent oratory skills.
Adityanath Yogi is known for his aggression and excellent oratory skills.

Last week, 24-year-old Ayush Bansal shocked many when he broke down in front of media in Gorakhpur and disclosed how the monk-turned-Chief Minister mocked him during a “junta darbaar” where he had gone to complain about a land-grab case in which independent legislator from Nautanwa, Amanmani Tripathi, was involved.

He also accused the Chief Minister of calling him “awaraa” (wayward) and pushing him while throwing his file in the air. “Maharaj ji angrily snapped at me and said my work will never be done and that I should get out of his sight,” Bansal told IANS.

While officials got down to damage control and said the matter was being looked into, the fact that Adityanath behaved in a manner unbecoming of a Chief Minister was neither contradicted by officials nor denied by the ruling party.

Barely had the din over this episode died down when two MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) complained of similar behaviour. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP MP from Robertsganj Chhote Lal Kharwar, accused Adityanath of “scolding him and asking him to get out”. The MP said he was deeply pained at the behavior of the Chief Minister as he tried to draw his attention to issues faced by the party faithful.

Ayodhya
In the picture, Yogi Adityanath addressing a rally at Raipur. Wikimedia Commons

“Never did the local administration listen to my plaints and when I went to meet the Chief Minister twice over many issues, ‘unhone mujhe daantkar bhaga diya’ (he scolded me and chased me away),” the lawmaker said in his letter.

The BJP leader has also shot off a letter to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, seeking help. Lal also says that definite proof of wrong-doing and corruption presented by him went unheard and unaddressed. What is surprising is that all this happened to a man who is the state president of the BJP’s SC/ST Morcha.

While Modi is learnt to have assured Lal of action, there are other similar murmurs about Adityanath’s rough behaviour. Etawah MP Ashok Dohre has also written to Modi accusing the state police of lodging fake cases against SCs and STs during the Bharat Bandh. When asked why he did not petition the Chief Minister, Dohre said he considered Modi his leader, and thus petitioned him.

Also Read: Little Known Facts About U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

Alarmed by the sudden “unease” among the party’s lawmakers, Amit Shah summoned Yogi to New Delhi over the weekend and is learnt to have asked him to mend his ways. Adityanth also met Modi. Interestingly, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who party insiders admit doesn’t see eye to eye with Yogi, was also called to Delhi at the same time.

Ironically, till not long ago, the 45-year-old Chief Minister was being venerated by the party faithful as a man next only to Modi. Insiders, however, now admit that not only has Adityanath failed to show his “pakad” (hold) on the party, but is also “awkwardly arrogant in his public conduct”, and not very able in his administration.

“He may be a busy man, so have been his predecessors… he remains inaccessible and uses foul and unacceptable language at times,” conceded a senior minister who did not wish to be named. Though stopping short of calling the Chief Minister arrogant, he suggested that “Yogi-ji is better advised to be more courteous and improve his time management”.

A senior party functionary too noted “the changing ways of Maharaj-ji”, though he felt “mood swings and the tongue-lashings could be because he has to handle a big state like Uttar Pradesh”.

Yogi Adityanath
Yogi Adityanath is losing his shine. (IANS)

A senior bureaucrat also alleged that the Chief Minister often “goes off the handle” and could be very acerbic in his dealing with officials. The Chief Minister’s loyalists, however, point out that he does not like people to hang around him and wants officials to deliver fast and work within the system that has been set up. When there is any breach, he loses his temper, a close aide told IANS.

His failure to deliver on his promise to get all pot-holed roads fixed by a given deadline last year; the rollback — under pressure — in privatisation of the power sector in five cities; the poor showing in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-polls and reports that he and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya, don’t get along well have already rung alarm bells in the establishment, sources said. IANS