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Craft Heritage of India- NCERT Notes UPSC

Mar 24, 2022

craft heritage of India

Art and Culture is one of the most important subjects of the UPSC CSE exam. Its preparation is often considered a challenging task by most IAS aspirants. However, with the right study material and UPSC coaching, it can be easily mastered during the UPSC Preparation.

In this detailed article, we will talk about the Craft Heritage of India that will help you immensely in your CSE preparation. So, let’s get started. 

Crafts are also known as Handiworks. These refer to objects made with craftsmanship, i.e., specialised skills of the hands which are also artistic.

Characteristics of the Crafts:

  • Aesthetics is an intrinsic part of such objects.
  • In addition to their utility, these objects are pleasing to the eye.
  • A handcrafted object is seldom decorative.
  • Common Indian words for handicrafts are hastkala, hastshilp, dastkari, karigari.

Crafts and Culture:

  • Crafts are closely related to concept of form, pattern, design, usage, etc.
  • When all these aspects are rooted in the culture of the people, crafts become a part of its cultural heritage. 
  • Handcrafted objects act as a means of livelihood as it engages traditional craftsmen and women.
  • Crafts symbolizes various ceremonial and religious aspects.

Cultural and Social Needs for Crafts:

  • Forest communities, even today, lay so much store by painting the inside or outside of their homes, or adorning their bodies with decorative tattoos or ornaments.
  • People are affected and often spiritually guided by colours. Such as women draw wall paintings to invoke the blessings of the Gods.

Wall decoration in a house, Jharkhand

Crafts Through the Ages:

India has a culturally diverse, rich heritage of craft skills influenced by historical events combining with local practices and religious beliefs. These influences have come from multiple sources.

  • Trade movements: Changes and enrichment have taken place from trade movements. For example, the Silk Route brought demands and resources from the Middle East and Central Asia to the Far East, up to China.
  • Industrialization and Technology: Industrialization, Technology, and dominant economic groups within and outside India have also modified craft practices.
  • Kashmir Influence: The skill of weaving carpets and superior forms of shawls was brought to Kashmir by the pre-Moghul king, Zain-ul-Abedin
  • Persian Influence: Persian artisans enriched carpet-weaving and shawl-making according to the needs of Indian courts
  • Hindu caste system: Static nature of the Hindu caste system has kept many craft forms alive since artisan had no opportunity to move away to other professions as social boundaries were rigid.
  • Court Crafts: The courts of various maharajas encouraged excellence in many courtly crafts connected with the making of armoury or jewellery
  • Temples: Temples kept alive the finest metal work, stone carving, mural painting and even textile weaving right across India, and particularly in South India.
  • The practice of art is seen as a striving for the ideal through the dedication of their skill to the Gods.
  • The Kammalars (descent of the five divine artisan sons of Lord Vishwakarma), followed the Shilpa Shastras which is the technical tomes on the practice of art in Sanskrit.
  • The high priests among the artisans follow these rules even today when creating large vessels out of metal alloys for temple use.

Also, watch a detailed video lecture on Pala Miniature Painting  by Hemant Jha Sir, our DREAM TEAM Faculty for History and upgrade your IAS Preparation.

Tribal Crafts:

Tribal communities comprise about eight per cent of the population of India. Spread out in different parts of the country, they have continued with ancient cultural practices related to their specific ways of life.

  • Jammu and Kashmir: Gujjars and Bakarwals are mountain tribes.
  • They spend their lives crossing over from one side of the mountains to the other in search of grass for their cattle.
  • Their jewellery, blankets, embroidered caps and tunics, saddle bags and sundry animal accessories are like the artifacts of the people of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Central Asia.
  • Western India: Tribal are found in Saurashtra and desert regions of Kutch (Gujarat) and Rajasthan.
  • Robust manner of the people and the heavily ornamented women folk is reflected. 
  • Mirror work in embroidery stems from the use of mica from the desert sands.
  • Both, the identity of the tribe and the marital status of a woman, are embedded in the style of the embroidery and the colour and cut of the upper bodice worn by its women.
  • A mere glance is enough to identify their tribe and profession.
  • North-east India: The various tribes live among the rich bamboo forests where the finest quality of skill in the weaving of bamboo, cane and other wild grasses can be seen.
  • This group links itself culturally to the people of Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and even Japan and China, where mat-weaving and basketry are of the highest quality. 
  • Handloom weaving too is a common skill of this region. 
  • Apart from weaving ceremonial shawls and lungis, headscarves and waist belts, small scarves for ceremonial greetings are woven in almost every household. 
  • These clothes establish the identity of the tribe or the status of the wearer.
  • They serve as ‘welcome’ scarves to greet a visitor, they honour the achievements of a chieftain.
  • They pass on skills from generation to generation through their womenfolk.
  • Central and South India: The tribes spread across the states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and to some extent, in Kerala.
  • The making of craft items is a daily practice, a ritual, and a celebration of creativity in everyday life.
  • In each region, they have different cultural practices and urbanization has affected the way they make or use handcrafted objects.
  • Their deep and spiritual connection with the forest and nature has enabled them to retain a distinct style of making bamboo items such as bows and arrows, musical instruments, and baskets.
  • Their metal work incorporates the world of trees, animals, and human being.
  • Earthen vessels and toys are painted with bold black and white stripes. 
  • Winnows for grain take on wondrous hues with strips of bamboo dyed in brilliant yellows and magenta pinks. 
  • Palm leaf brooms are playfully embellished with decorative handles, and baskets carrying the trousseau of the bride to her new home are capped with plumed birds made of bright coloured strips of bamboo. 
  • The textiles of the tribals of central India have their own distinct identity:
  • They spin and weave thick cream coloured yarn with madder red borders and end pieces reflecting images from their lives. 
  • Birds, flowers, trees, deer or even an airplane decorate these cloths. 
  • In Orissa, ceremonial cloths worn by the priest or priestess are of a certain colour
  • Each colour has an auspicious meaning and unity of communities is expressed through the similarity of dress and adornment.

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Formation of Social Groups:

  • Those who worked with their hands in artisanal skills were denied easy access to the tasks assigned to the upper castes. 
  • Even today, artisans such as prajapati or kumhar (potter), vankar or bunkar (weaver), ashari (carpenter) are recognized by the caste groupings whether they practice their skill or not.
  • Ramayana also mentions about the trade guilds of artisans such as jewellers, potters, goldsmiths, weavers, carpenters, armourers, blacksmiths, glassmakers, etc.
  • In present-day India, broad groupings of major practitioners of craft can be formulated such as potters, weavers, metalsmiths, woodcarvers, cane and bamboo weavers, and stone carvers.
  • Apart from these larger skills, there are many other crafts from shola pith work, papiermâché, innumerable styles of mural, miniature and floor painting, paper crafts, glass work, and carpet and duree weaving. 
  • In the area of textiles, India has the largest range of skills in the world. Textile crafts may be grouped based on the events:
  • Pre-loom processes: Plain weaving, patterned weaving
  • Post-loom processes: Embroidery, beadwork, block printing and tie-and dye techniques, and zari (metallic thread) work.

Empowerment of Women Artisans:

  • In Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of women took up carpet weaving since young boys went to school after the anti-child-labour campaign. 
  • Women weave baskets with local moonj grass. With some minor modifications, the women can end up getting higher prices for their products.
  • They had control of the raw material, production, creativity, and sales also.
  • Design workshops and the produce exhibition help the women to sell more than six lakh rupees worth of baskets in one year. 
  • This is the closest example of empowerment actually and transform abstract jargons into reality.

Women weaving baskets with local moonj grass, Uttar Pradesh

Interesting Point:

  • The Arts of India’ is a book written by G.C.M. Birdwood.

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