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are an integral part in the life of an Indian, despite the rapid social and
technological changes that are taking place. In the Western world, special artists
create craft objects and they are considered as luxury items.
But in India like
many other developing countries it is the main source of employment for a vast
majority of the population, next to agriculture.
can be defined simply as objects made by the skill of the hand and which carry a part of the creator as well as centuries of evolutionary tradition. It can range from the simple clay- lamps to the diamond -studded jewellery items. Handicrafts consists of objects created by skilled people for religious rituals, like wedding and celebrations and for personal use as well as luxurious ones created by specialized craftsmen for specific requirements. Handicrafts bring a great sense of grace to every home be it the poor hut or the opulent star hotel. There is a timeless quality in these craft objects, for they have evolved over centuries and continue to be made even today with the same sentiment.
There are three main classifications
of crafts .
- Folk crafts
- Religious crafts
- Commercial crafts.
People for their
personal use, or for a limited client base create
folk crafts. Folk embroideries done by the village women
folk of India are a good example. There are craftsmen who are specialized
in creating textiles or jewellery
which meet the criteria set up by a particular
group of people, usually a particular caste or community. They have their
own distinctive designs and styles.
Bihar Folk Embroidery
Bronze lamp used for worship
crafts are developed around religious centers and themes.
These craft items are connected with religious institutions and relevant
ceremonies. Various religious places in India are specialized in particular
craft items. For example, Varanasi and Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu specialize
in weaving clothes for religious ceremonies, particularly silk materials.
Similarly Puri in Odisha, which is a big pilgrim center, is connected with
crafts like patacharita- a painting on cloth and wood and stone carvings.
Specialized craftsmen of a particular
group who are specialized in a particular skill and who can completely master
the craft do commercial crafts.
They even have sub groups, which work for particular groups, and their tools
and techniques may vary. The Weavers, the Dyers, the Printers, the Goldsmiths
and the Carpenters are some of the commercial craftsmen.
of crafts in India
Crafts were an important commodity for world trade and they were a part of the
economy in India, since ancient times. Trade links between India and the rest
of the world existed from ancient periods. India being the home of cotton had
textile trade with the Far East and the Western world. Indian textiles and their
permanent dyes were accepted throughout the world. Roman trade
documents mention that silk was exported from India to Europe
from the 6th century A.D. The Arab sailors brought silver and gold from their
countries and took back shiploads of handicraft objects from India to the Far-
East. In the North, caravans carried woven textiles along the Silk route and
went right unto Moscow by the Fur- route.
Under the good patronage of the early
Mughals, India's handicrafts reached its pinnacle of perfection. Crafts like
carpets, textiles and jewellery were developed into fine arts. The famed Mughal
Emperors namely Akbar, Shah Jahan and Jehangir invited skilled craftsmen from
all over the world and blend their native ideas with our own techniques and
skills. Brocading and velvet manufacturing developed rapidly in India than in
their native countries. But with the break- up of the Mughal Empire and the
growing enmity between the smaller Princely states, local crafts lost their
centuries- old local patronage. With the East India Company coming to India,
the volume of trade reduced though they managed to strive.
England flooded the Indian market
with its cheap machine-made items, which ousted the homemade crafts. A number
of craftsmen were turned destitutes overnight. Those who continued with their
craft had to compete with the machine-made goods, that quality was made to suffer.
Gandhiji's Swadeshi movement focused on the plight of the Indian
craftsmen and on the need for maintaining the ancient craft traditions.
After Independence, The Handicrafts
Board was set up to look into the plight of the dying crafts. Slowly
demand grew for these items both at home and also abroad. Recent export figures
show that India is lagging behind in many handicraft commodities except in the
case of gems and jewellery items.
Despite the growth of handicrafts
industry in India, the average earnings of the craftsmen when compared to other
fields is very low. Hence the younger generation is moving onto other fields
with only the elder craftsmen left over. The average age of many master craftsmen
is around 50 years.
Improving educational system and
lifestyles of the middle class people contribute a lot for the eroding of the
native crafts in India. Cheap plastic items have now flooded the market and
people have left out the age-old clay and metal containers. They do not understand
the harmfulness of plastic items, which may react with their food . Also they
have moved onto wearing synthetic clothes avoiding good, comfortable and cheap
cotton woven items, just for their patterns and cost.
The need of the hour is assistance
for the craftsmen to improve their techniques, availability of good raw materials,
direct marketing channels, credit and enough wages and socio-economic benefits