Arts and Crafts

The first thing that startles most visitors to India is the sheer abundance of color. Just look around you – the many idols of gods and goddesses, the clothes, the trucks and all the knick-knacks in the dozens of shops you see at Delhi’s Janpath are a riot of color.

¤ Skilled Artisans

All this is the work of thousands of unsung, unappreciated artisans and crafts persons who make magic with their very hands. They are the ones who make those fabulous tie-and-dye skirts, those fantastically embroidered Gujarati cholis, that lacquered furniture and that beautifully studded silver jewellery. India may be a land of farmers but it is equally a land of artisans.

Unfortunately, Indian arts and crafts have been teetering on the edge of extinction for a long time. Demand for indigenous arts and crafts nose-dived with the setting up of large-scale industry in India. After all, in a poor country like India, machine-made saris – to give you but one example – are cheaper and therefore more affordable than handloom saris. The list is endless. This has left artisans with little choice but to abandon their age-old professions and become common laborers, factory workers or government clerks. In either case, the loss has been of ours.

Thankfully, efforts have been made by both government and non-government agencies to keep our art and craft tradition alive and kicking. Here then is an overview of the major arts and crafts of India.