Indian Arts and Crafts

India, with a rich cultural heritage, is well known for her deep rooted tradition in arts and crafts.  The centre of traditional crafts in India has always been the village community.  During medieval period Indian crafts reached their acme of perfection.  Mughal emperors like Akbar  and Shahjahan were particularly known for their love of the crafts and their love of the crafts and their patronage to artisans.  Influence of Arabic and Persian elements made a strong impact on Indian crafts.

Indian crafts are classified into three types: 1) folk crafts which are created by the people for their personal use, or by the village craftsmen for a limited clientele; 2) crafts associated with religious centres; 3) commercial crafts which are made by specialized craftsmen who belong to a group or a caste, who work together often in centres specializing in specific skills.



Cotton Weave

          Among  cotton weaves Daccai sarees of West Bengal are famous for of the finely woven cotton called mulmul or muslin.  The fine varieties of mulmul are shabnam (dew) and abi-rawan or running water.  West Bengal is also known for its cotton weaves,  Jamdani or inlay technique of patterning.  This technique is also found in centres like Tanda in Uttar Pradesh (here patterns are more leaborate), Venkatageri in Andhra Pradesh, Morangfi in Manipur and Kodialkaruppar Saree of Tamil Nadu.

The Paithani technique which resembles tapestry technique of weaving and involves  the interlocking of non-continuous wefts threads is used to make borders and pallus of sarees, shallus and patkas.  Once popular in Chanderi it now survives only in Paithan.  The other notable cotton weave sarees are Maheshwari sarees of Maharashtra, Illkal sarees of Karnataka, Narayanpet sarees of Andhra Pradesh. The cotton sarees of Andhra Pradesh have a rich variety such as Gadwal, Wanaparti, a Nander and Venkatagiri. Kalashetra sarees from Tamil Nadu are also very popular.  Karalkudi sarees of Kerala are woven from unbleached cotton with rich broad gold borders and pallus.


Tie-Dye, Bandhani Technique

The important centres of this technique are Kutch, Jamnagar and Saurashtra in Gujarat and Jaipur, Jodhpur and other places in Rajasthan.  The Gharchola saree of Jamnagar uses tie & dye patterns within the gold checks of the saree.  Lahriya and mothra, a form of tie and dye, is a specialty of Rajasthan.  The technique of tie and dye of threads before weaving is known as patola or ikat.  Ikat weaving is done in Andhra Pradesh (Pochampalli) and Orissa.  The distinctive style of ikat in Orissa is known as bandha.


Hand printing &Dyeing and Painting

Batick printing and Kalamkari printing are important examples of hand printing & dyeing.  The important centres for hand printing in Rajasthan are Jaipur, Sanganer, Bagroo, Palia and Barmer.  Masulipatnam in Andhra Pradesh specializes in hand-printed Lamkari prints, resit prints, block printing band batik.


Folk Embroidery

The famous folk embroidery are Heer embroidery of Saurashtra, Bagh and Phulkari of Punjab, Chikan of Lucknow, bead and mirror work of Sauashtra and Kutch, Chamba rumal – a double sided embroidery of Himachal Pradesh, Kashida of Bihar, Kantha of Bengal, appliqué work of Orissa and Kasuti of Karnataka.


Shawls & Woollen Weaves

Kashmir shawls are known all over the world for their superfine wool and intricate designs.  The various varieties of it are Kani shawl, which are woven pashmina shawls also called jamewars, double coloured pashmina, the soft shahtoosh, majestic woolen shawl-dhussa, and very fine amli or embroided shawls.  The Shahtoosh and pashmina shawls are made from special wool taken from the underside of wild pashmina goats  which are found at high altitudes.  The Kulu shawls of Himachal region have checks and motifs inspired by Buddhist traditions.


Tribal Weaves

Among tribal weaves are Tusungkotepsu – a warrior shawl of Nagaland, Mekhla (a type of lungi) and Chaddar (to be worn over mekhla) of Assam, Morangfi sarees of Manipur are notable.


Floor – coverings and carpets

The duree, which is essentially a cotton woven thick fabric, is an indigenous floor covering produced in India in varied designs.  It includes the panja duree of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, woolen durees of Jaislmer and Barmer, jah-namaz (a prayer mat of Muslims) of Uttar Pradesh, Jamkhans or Navalgund duree of Karnataka, bhawani duree of silk and cotton from Salem (Tamil Nadu) and bandha or ikat durees of Warrangal (Andhra Pradesh).

The important centres of carpet weaving in India are Srinagar in Kashmir, Bhadohi, Mirzapur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Amritsar in Punjab and Warrangal and Elluru in Andhra Pradesh.  Kashmir specializes in weaving designs based on Persian and Central Asian traditions. Kashmir besides producing carpets also produces other floor coverings such as namdas, hook rugs and gabbas.



Though India has known glazed pottery since centuries ago, it produces the finest pottery of unglazed type.  The wide range of unglazed pottery includes the fine paper-thin pottery produced in Kutch, Kahnpur and Alwar, kagzi. (paper like) or highly refined light-weight pottery of Alwar, black- pottery for domestic use of Kangra, stylized pottery with incised decorative patterns of Pokhran, Slim-necked surahis of Meerut and Jhajjar (Haryana), black pottery with the patterns worked in silver-developed in Kutch but now found only in Nizamabad, in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh.

Glazed pottery has only a few centres of production, Chief among them are Delhi, Khurja and Jaipur which produce blue- pottery.  Some new forms of pottery have also been developed.  Chunar where raised designs made on surahis were adapted for glazed pottery.  These raised forms were given a slip of brown glaze and sections were then coloured blue, green and yellow, but now only brown slip is given to the finished pottery.  In Karigari in Tamil Nadu biscuit ware is created with incised patterns and given a blue or green glaze.



Clay figures of god and goddesses are created during a number of festivals.  The common examples are sanjhi figures made on the walls of clay hut during Navaratri celebrations in the villages around Delhi, figures of Govardhan during Diwali day, Bankura horse of West Bengal, relief-worked plaque of Moela –a village in Udaipur, Aiynar figures of Tamil Nadu and figures of horses with riders of Poshina made by Bhils of Gujarat.



Innumerable metal techniques have been mastered in India.  Indian craftsmen are also experts at creating shapes out of sheet metals using hammer strokes.  The objects of daily use are normally not engraved, but the decorative pieces and those used for rituals or on ceremonial occasions are.  One important technique of sheet metal perfected in India is the deep repousse work.

Moradabad in UP and Jagadhri in Haryana use a technique wherein first the mould of vessel to be made is prepared and then cast.  Decorating the surface of metalware is also done by combining of two metals using techniques such as Ganga-Jamuna technique (brass representing Ganga and copper Jamuna) and damascening technique.  In damascening other metals are encrusted on the basic material such as in bidri or bidar work (silver  on oxidized vessels made of copper and zinc) of Mysore, kaftagiri (silver wire inlaid on iron metal sheets ) of Kerala, zarnishan, tarkashi (wire patterns) and Tanjore plate work.  Deep repousse and surface engraving is another form of decoration to which is added enamelling work and meenakari Different styles of motifs used in enameled metalware are chikan, marori, bidar and siah kalam. Siah kalam is the finest engraving in enamel work of Morabad and Jaipur.  The niello work similar to siah kalam is done in Kashmir.


Basket and mat weaving

Baskets in India are made of twigs, bamboo, cane and the wild monsoon grass and are covered with the golden grass or the golden outer skin of rice plant.

Some of the famous baskets are sturdy spirally-built baskets using sarkanda (wild grass) in Punjab, willow baskets using fresh twigs of willow tree in Kashmir, baskets made by using monsoon grass moonj in UP, coiled baskets in Bihar, bamboo and cane baskets in the north-eastern region, chettinad baskets having intricate patterns using date palm leaves in Tamil Nadu and kulas or winnowing baskets in Bengal.

Mats in India are made of materials such as reeds, grass, cane and bamboo.  Varieties of mats woven in India are: pattamadai mats- the finest ones of Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, kora grass mats having intricate designs of Kerala, screw-pine mats of Kerala, reed mats called phak of Manipur and sitalpatti mats woven with green cane of Bengal.


Floor and wall decorations

Floor and wall decorations form an important part of festivals and rituals in India.  Flowing linear patterns are made on the floors which have different names for different places – it is alpana in Bengal, aripana in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, mandana in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, rangoli in Gujarat and Maharashtra and kolam in South India.

Wall decoration is done by painting on walls for festive occasions.  Madhubani style of painting  of Bihar is an important example of wall decoration.  Sanjhi figure is made using mud on walls during Navaratra in Rajasthan, UP and Haryana.  Mud work created by Dhebaria Rabaris of Kutch is bold and large mirrors are embedded in the walls.  Pattachitra of Orissa are paintings made by painters for the pilgrims who visit Puri.