Indian Handicrafts : Art and Culture | UPSC Notes

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Handicrafts are any of a wide range of activities in which useful or pretty things are made by hand or with only simple tools. It is a traditional main area of craft, and it includes a wide range of artistic and design activities that involve making things with one’s hands and skills, such as working with textiles, soft and hard materials, paper, plant fibres, etc. Handicrafts are also known by the terms artisanry, handicrafting, creating, and handicraftsmanship.

India has some of the most beautiful arts in the world. Simple things that people use every day have been made with intricate designs that show off the talent of the Indian Artisan. Handicrafts from India have been around for almost 5,000 years. The Indus Valley Civilization made a lot of things that were made by hand.

Types of Handicrafts

Some of the most important crafts made in India are:

• Crafts made of cloth, like tie-dye and embroidery;

• Carvings made of ivory;

• Crafts made of terracotta;

• Crafts made of silver;

• Crafts made of clay and pottery;

• Crafts made of metal; • Leather goods;

• Making toys

• Making stoneware

• Making embroidery crafts

• Designing floors


• In the Indian classic Mahabharata, people first talked about making glass. But there is no sign that glass beads were used in the early Harappan Civilization from the things that have been found. Beautiful glass beads from the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Ganges Valley (1000 BC) were the first physical proof. In the Vedic book Satapatha Brahmana, glass was called either kanch or kaca.

• Archaeological evidence shows that there was a glass industry in Brahmapuri and Kolhapur, Maharashtra, between 2 BC and 2 AD. This industry made lenticular beads, which are a type of glassware.

• In the Sanskrit text Vyasayogacharita, there are references to glasses, so it seems that the glass business got into making lenses for them.

Archaeological proof of glass has been found at Maski, a Chalcolithic site in the Deccan region of southern India. Ahar in Rajasthan, Hastinapur and Ahichachhatra in Uttar Pradesh, Eran and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, etc. are all places where glass has been found.

• During the Middle Ages, the Mughals supported glassblowing and used it to decorate their buildings like the Sheesh Mahal. Other well-known glass items made for the Mughals were engraved cups, perfume boxes called ittardans, and glass hukkas.

• There are many parts to the glass business right now, but glass bangles are the most well-known. The ones made in Hyderabad are the most beautiful. They are called “Churi ka jodas.” Firozabad is also known for its glass lamps and other pieces of decoration. The city of Saharanpur is also a centre for glass in Uttar Pradesh. It makes “panchkora,” or glass toys for children.In the same way, Patna, in the state of Bihar, makes a strange kind of artistic glass beads called “Tikuli.” In the rush to make things faster and cheaper, this skill was almost lost. The Santhal people of Bihar still wear it, though.

At the moment, the Tikuli Art of Bihar is also made on glossy hardboards to bring the art form back to life in a modern setting.



India has a long and varied history of making textiles. Textiles have been made in India since the time of the Indus valley culture.


• Jamdani is one of Bengal’s best silk fabrics. Mughal rulers gave royal orders to support the production of jamdani in the past. It is one of the hand loom weaving styles that takes the most time and work.

Jamdani has its roots in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is a fine cotton fabric that is made by hand and has intricate designs that are woven into the fabric.

In the past, mill cotton thread, resham silk thread, muga silk, and tussar silk thread were used to make jamdani. It is a special kind of weaving in which designs are woven into the cloth.

Ikat (Ikkat):

Ikat, or ikkat, is a way to make patterns on fabrics by dying them. Before dying and sewing the fabric, the yarns are dyed in a way that prevents the dye from sticking to them.

• In Ikat, the resist is made by tightly wrapping individual yarns or groups of yarns in the pattern that you want. After that, the yarns are stained. Then, the borders could be changed to make a new pattern, and the yarns could be dyed again to make a different colour. This can be done more than once to make complicated, multicoloured shapes.

• In tie-dye and batik, the resist is put on the fabric after it has been made, but in Ikat, it is put on the yarns before they are woven into fabric. In Ikat, the design is made in the yarns, not on the finished fabric, so both sides of the fabric have patterns.

• The most difficult and best double Ikat is made in Patan, Gujarat. It is called Patan Patola. (See Picture)

• The method of making Ikat in Odisha is called Bandha. The Odisha style of Ikat has patterns that flow in a unique way.

• The Andhra Pradesh version of Ikat is called chitki. Telia Rumal, which is a square-shaped printed cloth, is a double-lkat weave product that is very hard to make. Oil is put on the yarn, and then it is tied and coloured.

Surface Decoration of Textiles

It includes things like drawing, printing, tie-dying, and embroidery.

Printing on textiles

Some ways to print on fabrics are direct printing, which uses cut blocks of wood to print on white cotton or silk, resist printing, which uses a paste of different materials to print on parts of the fabric that haven’t been dyed, and mordant printing.

Tie and dye:

In India, tie and dye is one of the most common and ancient ways to decorate the surface of textiles.

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• The art of Bandhani or Bandhej is a very skilled process that includes dying a fabric that is tied tightly with a thread at several points. Depending on how the fabric is tied, different patterns are made.

• Nails, beads, or grains are used to tie the fabric in complicated patterns. This keeps the dye from getting into the knots while they are being dyed.

• Different places call it by different names:

 Bandhini (Leheriya Pattern): Rajasthan

 Bandhej: Gujarat

 Chungidi: Tamil Nadu

• Laharia is a type of tie-dyeing that makes ripples or wave-like designs on the fabric. Most of this is made in the cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur.

• Ikat, which is also known as the “resist dyeing” method, is another type of tie-dye. Before the cloth is made, the resist dye is put on the yarn over and over again. Telangana, Odisha, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh are the places where this work is done the most.

• Kalamkari is another old technique that is still used today. It is the art of hand-painting on fabrics with deep colours made from plants. In Andhra Pradesh, it is a normal thing to do.

• Batik art is a beautiful way to decorate fabric. One end of the fabric is soaked in melted wax, and then it is dyed with cold wax. This makes multicoloured saris and dupattas called batik. Both Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal are known for their batik art. Indonesia is where the art of batik came from.


Kalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton fabric made in parts of India and Iran. It is also called qalamkari.

Its name comes from the words qalam, which means pen, and kari, which means art, which means drawing with a pen.

• The Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style are two different types of kalamkari art in India. Andhra Pradesh is home to both of the sites.

• The Srikalahasti style of kalamkari is all done by hand. The “kalam” or pen is used to draw the subject freehand and fill in the colours.

Applique Work:

• Applique work is a type of decorative work in which pieces of cloth, glass, metal, wood, or metal lines are stitched onto fabric to make it look nicer. Many places in India do this art, but Odisha, Punjab, Gujarat, and Rajasthan are known as centres for it.

• Applique work is a big part of the temple culture in Odisha, and most of it is made in and around Pipli, a small town near Bhubhaneshwar. Odisha’s applique work is traditionally used as canopies during Puri’s yearly Rath Festival to cover the chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and his sister Subhadra.

• Kathiawar, in Gujarat, is known for its applique work, which is called katab. Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan, is known for its applique pillows, which are called ralli. Rajasthan also has work called gota and kinari, which is made up of gold and silver lines.

• In Punjab, needlework and applique work are done together. Small pieces of different clothes are made and then sewn onto a bigger piece of cloth.


India’s Embroidery


Phulkari is a type of embroidery from the Punjab area. The word “Phulkari” only refers to embroidered shawls and head scarves.


Zardozi embroidery is a beautiful type of metal work that was once used to decorate the clothes of Indian kings and queens.

It was also used to decorate the walls of royal tents, scabbards, wall hangings, and the equipment of royal elephants and horses. Zardozi embroidery involves using gold and silver threads to make intricate patterns. The pearls and valuable stones that are set into the work make it even more beautiful. Today, artists use copper wire with a golden or silver polish and a silk thread. Zardozi embroidery is a speciality of Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Delhi, Agra, Kashmir, Mumbai, Ajmer and Chennai.


The needlework of Kutch is very beautiful and looks like jewellery. The most famous is called aribharat, which comes from the word ari, which is a hook that is plied from the top but fed silk thread from the bottom. The material is spread out on a frame.

Banjara Embroidery:

The Lambada gipsy groups of Andhra Pradesh use banjara embroidery, which is a mix of applique, beads, and mirrors.

• Bands of bright red, yellow, black, and white cloth are sewn together with white crossing stitches.


The Chikan work of Lucknow is fine needlework done with white thread on different kinds of fabric. It was started by Nur Jehan. This work is hard and complicated, like what is often called “shadow work.”

• The best things about Chikan work are how simple, regular, and even the stitches are, and how small the thread knots are.


• Kashmir is known for and phirans namdahs (woollen rugs) with big floral embroidery in bright colours. • Crewel embroidery is the same as chain stitch and is usually done with an awl (a small pointed tool for making holes) and is worked from underneath the fabric rather than from above.

Gota Work:

Jaipur’s gold needlework, called “gota-work,” is a complicated form of applique that uses fine gold thread to make patterns with a lot of rich detail.

Gold zari work is made by stitching lengths of wide gold ribbons on the ends of the fabric in a similar way. The gota method is often used for formal dresses for women.


• Kantha is a type of patchwork stitching that is popular in Bihar and West Bengal. The background is made of pieces of white cotton saris, and the threads are taken from old fabrics.

• Both cotton and silk are often stitched with designs of flowers, animals, and birds.


Karchobi is a type of Rajasthani needlework made with raised zari metallic threads. It is made by sewing flat stitches on cotton padding.

This method is often used to make wedding and formal dresses, velvet covers, tent hangings, curtains, and even the coverings for animal carts and temple chariots.


Kashidakari, which is more commonly known as Kashmiri embroidery, grew because Persian and Mughal masters supported it.Kashidakari is highly based on the state’s plants because it was inspired by the beautiful landscapes there. The Kashmiri tea pot is a unique part of Kashidakari. It is known for its simple chain stitches.


This is typical of Karnataka’s Dharwar area.Kasuti is a type of stitching done on hand-woven saris with a single thread. It is made in two different styles called gavanti and murgi, and it has a lot of different designs on it, like temples, peacocks, elephants, flowering trees, and geometric shapes.

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Kathi (Rabari Art):

This rural art of Gujarat comes from the nomadic Rabari tribes of the Kutch region. It is made with a very unusual technique that combines chain stitch embroidery with applique work and small mirror-like insertions to make the designs stand out. Common motifs include camels, royal fans, elephants, scorpions, and women carrying water.

Patti Ka Kaam

• It is a beautiful type of needlework from Aligarh, which is in the state of Uttar Pradesh.


These bright embroidered cloth hangings are typical of the city of Nathdwara in the Indian state of Rajasthan.


• It is a mix of weave and embroidery, and it used to be a sign of high status in Manipur.

Toda Embroidery:

• The Toda embroidery comes from Tamil Nadu.

The Todu people who live in the Nilgiri Hills have their own stitching style called pugur, which means flower. This embroidery, like Kantha, is done by women.


Ivory Crafting:

Ivory carving has been done in India since the Vedic time. It was called “danta” back then, which may have been a reference to the elephant’s tusk, which was where the ivory came from.

During the Harappan era, when recent excavations were done, India sent ivory and things made of ivory, like ivory dice, to Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and parts of the Persian Gulf.

Ivory craft is found almost everywhere in India, and each part of the country has its own specialties. The ivory carvers of Jaipur, Bengal, and Delhi are known for engraving models of “ambari hathi,” or parade elephants, bullock carts, sandals, caskets, and palanquins.

There are also experts in:

Odisha: The Odisha way of giving furniture with ivory inlays to the Jagannath temple in Puri.

Ivory bracelets made in Jodhpur.

Jaipur is known for its jali work, which is used in homes and on small pieces of art.

Kerala is well-known for how well it paints on ivory.


Wooden Work

Carving in wood

• It’s an art form that involves shaping and decorating wooden things to make useful and beautiful handicrafts.

• Most of the time, woods like teak, sal, oak, ebony, mango, sheesham, etc. are used for this craft.

• The “Shisham Wood Village” or “Wood City” of India is Saharanpur, which is in Uttar Pradesh. It is known around the world for its wood carvings.

• The cities of Manipur, Bhopal, Nagpur, Chennai, Madurai, Mysore, etc., are also important places for wood art in India. Kashmir is known for its carvings made of walnut wood.

Wood Inlay/Marquetry:

Wood Inlay/Marquetry is the process of decorating the surface of wood by putting in pieces of materials like ivory (traditionally), bone, plastic, shell, or wood of different colours.

• Doors, jewellery boxes, plates, boxes, bowls, cigarette cases, and animal models, especially elephants, are all made with inlay. In the 1800s, this type of craft was brought to India from Persia.

• There are many historic buildings in Mysore that have beautiful wood carvings and enamel work. Shade effects are used in this craft to show Indian royal processions, scenery, pictures of Gods and Goddesses, and scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

• Most of the work is done in the Karnataka cities of Mysore and Bengaluru. This skill is also done in Bijnor, which is in Punjab, and Saharanpur, which is in Uttar Pradesh.

Wood (Turning and Lacquerware):

In wood turning, a fast-spinning piece of wood is shaped with a tool to make cylinders, spheres, or cones. This is done on a lathe.

Painting the smooth wooden forms is what gives this craft its beauty. Most of the time, coloured paint is used to cover the turned piece.

Today, there are many different kinds of lacquerware made because markets have changed. It now has jewellery, decorative pieces, items that are useful around the house, and teaching items like handles for jump ropes, chess sets, pen holders, paper weights, and rubber stamp holders.Lacquerware comes from Etikoppaka, which is in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Chennapatna lacquer toys are also well-known and have been given the Gl tag.


Clay and Pottery Work

• Pottery has been called the “lyric of crafts” because it is so appealing to everyone.

Clay work is possibly the first thing that people ever made. Indian clay pottery is a very old art form that goes back more than 10,000 years. The things made of clay that were found at the places of the Indus Valley Civilization show that the Indian potter had a high level of skill and technology. People in Sind’s Harappan towns like Amri and Chanhudaro, where Jhuker pottery was made, had ties to it.


Metal Crafts

Iron, copper, bell metal, and other metals can all be used to make different kinds of casts. These crafts are special because they use engraving, embossing, and damascening to add decorations to metal. When embossing or repoussé work is done, the image is raised in relief. For engraving, lines are cut or scratched into a metal surface. These works are well-known:

• Marodi: In Rajasthan, metal is used to make etchings on the base metal, and plastic is used to fill in the gaps.

• Badla Pots: These are zinc pots made in Rajasthan’s Marwar area. Most badlas are round, half-circles, or rectangles, and some have ice compartments and taps.

• Nakashi: Khudai, or metal engraving done in the nakashi way, has made Moradabad famous. They make something called “barik kam” that is beautiful and fine.

• Koftagiri, also called “damascening,” is another way to put a light metal on a dark metal. Most of it is done in Alwar and Jaipur to make swords, daggers, and shields, which are famous items.

• Meenakari: Meenakari is the metal work on gold. It is well-known in Delhi and Jaipur. Maharaja Man Singh I brought the beautiful meenakari work in Rajasthan.

• Tarkashi is the beautiful art of putting thin brass or copper wire into holes that have been carefully cut into a metal or wooden surface.

• Bidri Work (Bidriware): Bidri work is done in Bidar, which is in the state of Karnataka. In Bidar, silver inlay work is done on dark metal backgrounds.

• Mohra: The mohra is a metal craft made only in Himachal. Mohras, which are god-shaped metal plaques, are popular in Kullu and Chamba.

Bronze Crafts

• In ancient India, metals were used more for weapons than for art. Still, people have been making things with metal casting for more than 5,000 years. Bronze work is one of the oldest kinds of art, as shown by the bronze statue of a Dancing Girl from Mohenjo-daro, which dates back to between 3500 and 3000 BC.We know that copper and tin were the first non-ferrous metals used by people. Copper and tin were mixed to make Bronze. The Matsya Purana is the oldest piece of writing that talks about different ways to make brass. Rasaratnakara, a later book, also talked about the purity of metal and how to distil zinc.

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• Uttar Pradesh is the best place to make bronze crafts because it has important centres like Etawah, Sitapur, Varanasi, and Moradabad. They make things like flower pots and statues of Gods and Goddesses that are used as decorations. They are also known for making sacred items like the tamrapatra, the kanchantal, and the panchpatra.

Tamil Nadu is another important hub. It is known for making beautiful ancient statues that look like art from the Pallava, Chola, Pandyan, and Nayaka periods.

• At the moment, the following places in India are important for brass work:


Leather Products

• This art has been around since 300 BCE.

• The largest leather goods made in India are shoes. The traditional ones are more unique, bright, and original. They are often embroidered, made of brocade, or made of decorated fabric.

• Maharashtra is where the trendy and very comfortable Kolhapuri chappals are made.

The Mojadi or Jutti is a beautiful piece of footwear that is made of leather and is one of the most famous leather items in Rajasthan. Here, the leather has been embroidered, punched, studded, and stitched in different ways to make patterns that stand out. Jaipur and Jodhpur are the most well-known places to buy traditional shoes. Bikaner is known for its Kupi, which is a bottle made of camel hide to hold oil or “attar” (perfume).In the Manoti art of Bikaner, things like lamps and lampshades are made from camel hides that are coloured, covered with floral designs and figures, and plated with thin gold leaves.


• Because India is in a tropical and geographically diverse area, it makes sense that stonework is one of the most famous arts there.

In the past, artists needed to know how to carve and sculpt in order to make beautiful statues. South Indian towns have some of the best woodwork in the world. The artists used different kinds of stones to make their works of art, like soft, brittle sandstone, patchy red stone, and hard granite. The goal was to make structures that look like real people and have natural poses. Monuments from the Mauryan Period show that there were statues and a front facade made out of architecture. The best examples are the Ajanta and Ellora rock-cut caves, the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho, and the Buddhist carvings of Sanchi and Bharhut. In the rocky areas, the rock cut temples at Masrur in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, which were made in the early 8th century AD, are a good example.

During the Mughal era, this style changed a lot. brickwork gave way to marble brickwork. They did a lot of Pietra Dura Work, which is inlay work with coloured stones on marble. They also used sandstone to make a lot of structures. The Taj Mahal and Itmadud-Daulah’s tomb, both made of white marble, are two of the most beautiful structures. Rajasthan is one of the best places to get marble. It is there that the famous “Sang-e-Marmar” or white Makrana marble is made. Jhansi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is another important place. There, people make things out of a dark brown stone called Sang-e-Rathak.

Floor Designs

• Floor designs have a universal draw. This wide range of art crosses state lines and can be seen in many States. Often, they are made during religious or happy family events.

Most of the time, the designs are made by hand, starting with a dot in the middle and then adding circles, squares, triangles, straight lines, and curves in circular patterns. It is a natural way to draw, starting in the middle and getting bigger as the design is repeated.

• Most of the time, natural materials and patterns are used that won’t stain the floor and are easy to clean up. Because of this, they are not meant to last forever. For white, dry white chalk, lime powder (chuna), powdered marble, or a mixture of rice powder and lime are used. Squares, circles, and triangles are used as the main design in the Chowk Purna of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and the Aipan of Himachal Pradesh. The word “square” comes from the word “chowki,” which means the seat of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. They are made at fairs and other happy times.

• The word Mandana means “decoration” in the language of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Again, there are squares, hexagons, triangles, and circles in the designs. When making a mandana, the ground is cleaned with cow dung and sometimes ended with reti (red earth) to make it look like blood. Mandanas in Madhya Pradesh come in a wide range of forms and designs, depending on the event.

In Gujarat, people make santhis to put at the front of their homes on special events. Rangoli of Maharashtra uses elegant forms and motifs like lotus, swastik, etc.

• South Indian Kolam designs are made by drawing lines between a bunch of dots that change in number, shape, and arrangement. On a wet ground, the thin lines are made with powdered rice or the white powder from crushed stone. Kolam drawings have red geru around the edges. It is also known as Hase in Karnataka, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh, and Golam in Kerala. The Sun and the Moon, among other celestial bodies, are also drawn. Mandapa Kolams are the big shapes on the floor that are only made for weddings. Made of wet rice paste, these kolams make the wedding hall feel more holy. Every morning, a Graha Kolam is used to bless the place of worship in many houses. The Jhonti designs of Odisha and the Aripana designs of West Bengal and Assam are very stylized. Motifs are often things like conch shells, fish, snakes, flowers, and so on. The shapes are drawn on the floor with chalk powder and filled with coloured powder or rice paste coloured with alta (sindoor) for red and turmeric for yellow. Each Aripana pattern usually has a flower in front of it.