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Indian Handicrafts - An Introduction

A walk through the time-honored gallery of Indian handicrafts showcases the cultural brilliance and munificence of the nation. Emblematic of a country that is a melting pot of diverse communities, customs, tribes, traditions, festivals and languages, the lineage of Indian handicraft dates back to antiquity and captures a rich blend of functionality with artistic ingenuity. Infusing prolific designs on timeless substrates like textiles, stone, metal, papier mache, glass, grass, wood, cane, bamboo, clay, terracotta and ceramics, they beautifully articulate the artistic mastery and excellence of Indian craftspersons who have inherited, preserved and honed this ancient skill throughout the ages. Today, globally extolled for their dynamic combination of form, design and color, Indian handicrafts enjoy a large export market, especially in places like Saudi Arabia, U.S.A. Japan, U.K, Germany, Canada, Italy, France, to name a few.

Popular Indian Handicraft Items

Metal Craft: Metals such as gold, silver, copper, brass and bell metal are shaped to perfection to create an exquisite wealth of jewellery, figurines, idols, utensils, etc. These intricately crafted items are special to Bihar, West Bengal, Kashmir, Orissa, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Metal Ornamentation: Use of techniques such as inlay, overlay, appliqué, etc, gives birth to the exclusive repertoire of metal ornamentation in India in the form of Bidri – a kind of surface ornamentation relived with silver and gold inlay, and Enamelling – an artwork where surfaces of various metals are subjected to color treatment and etchings.

Pottery & Stone Craft: A distinguishable variety of utilitarian and decorative products are fabricated by potters and craftsmen of Alwar, Bikaner, Jaipur, Kutch, Saurashtra, Kangra, Meerut, Hapur, Khujra, etc, under this handicraft category.

Stone Craft & Marble Inlay Work: Stones in different shapes, sizes and colors are sculpted, inlaid and polished to produce an artistic range of utensils, statues, candle stands, medicine grinders, lampshades, etc. This craft is extensively practiced in Bihar, Varanasi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Agra and Vrindavan.

Terracotta: Baked earth is shaped to produce a laudable variety of containers, jars, stools, statues, tiles, jewellery, etc.

Wood Craft:
Craftsmen of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala use different types of wood like Rosewood, Sandalwood, Teakwood and Shisham to produce items like furniture, toys, wall plaques, idols, etc.

Precious & Semi Precious Stones: Indian craftsmen exhibit their creative mettle by carving an eye-catching collection of jewelery using precious and semi-precious stones such as pearls, ruby, sapphire, amethyst, lapis, lazuli, etc.

Paintings: From floor paintings, wall paintings to phad paintings, Indian handicrafts clasps it all. Of special mention are the Miniature Mughal Paintings of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and Madhubani Paintings of Bihar.

Textiles: Skillful weaving techniques, vibrant colors and inventive designs combine to bring out the fascinating textile based handicrafts of India. Popular handwoven fabrics include silk, brocade and figured muslin, and popular handprinted textile motifs include block and screen painting, kalamkari, batik, and bandhanis.

Cane & Moonj: Drawing on the spirit of rural India, Indian artisans create an inimitable line of cane furniture and moonj baskets that are traditional in outlook but comes with contemporaneity functional utility.

Carpets & Durries: The floor coverings of India, especially Indian carpets with their brilliant colors, fine weaves and unmatched designs are a rage in the global market. Premium quality carpets in India are available in three varieties – Persian, Turkoman and Aubusson. Even durries and jute floor coverings of India are famed for their brilliance in quality and appeal.

Handicrafts Export Markets In India

Labor-intensive in nature, the Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Industry is a major revenue generator of the country providing employment opportunities to more than 6 million craftsmen throughout India. Today it enjoys a strong presence in the world market with a turnover of USD 1.9 billion. It has also shown a consistent annual growth rate of more than 15 per cent over a period of 10 years, with a steep rise from a mere 3.6% to a 10% share in global handicraft exports. Major Indian states that contribute to exportation of various handicraft items are Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. Moreover, popular handcrafted gift items manufactured and marketed from India includes vases, candle stands, Christmas ornaments, pen stands, brassware, papier mache gift items, ceramic pots and handmade paper products in matchless variety and designs.

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