6 Craft Heritage Destinations of India
India’s rich cultural heritage lives and breathes crafts. Every region in India identifies itself with its own signature craft and there are destinations where travellers arrive to visit craft centres and villages and marvel at artisans and their families who have taken pains to preserve their authentic craft form for many centuries. They practically live every minute to preserve the very essence of this craft form.
Kutch region, north of Gujarat (Western India) is home to 30+ villages that are specialised and dedicated to many different types craft forms such as embroideries (such as Mutua, Ahir, Soof, embroidered footwear), weaving (such as Pitloom Weaving), painting (such as Rogan Painting), wood carving, tie dye and metal craft.
A 3-day exploration of the region with the base in Bhuj (the capital city of Kutch) will give you the opportunity to visit these villages, meet artisans, understand their heritage and even make a purchase.
Kutch is best explored as part of an ex-Ahmedabad craft heritage itinerary of Gujaratcombining other areas such as Sayla, Jetpur, Patan, etc.
Odisha is renowned for craft forms that are unique to the region. There are a number of villages around Bhubaneshwar such as Dandasahi (Pattachitra Painting), Raghurajpur (Pattachitra Painting) and Pipli (Appliqué). It is a fascinating experience to spend a couple of hours interacting with these craftsmen, who, like many generations before them, have dedicated their entire lives to developing a particular craft form. Ex. Pattachitra Painting requires ample creativity, deep understanding of the mythologies on which the paintings are based, a lot of patience and the ability to create flawless paintings (a large painting may take many months).
Dhokra is the most renowned metal craft of the region and one of the oldest craft forms practiced by nomadic craftsmen centuries ago. Dhokra is linked to the tribal heritage of Odisha and popularly bought as a souvenir.
Ekamra Haat is a craft bazaar in the heart of Bhubaneshwar, where you find authentic crafts of the area.
A 2-day exploration of craft villages around Bhubaneshwar will offer a comprehensive insight into craft heritage of the region.
The craft heritage of Odisha is best explored as part of an ex-Bhubaneshwar Odisha itinerary combining craft heritage, temple heritage and tribal heritage of Odisha.
Jaipur is perhaps the most visited craft destination in India. The Old City here is home to a number of craft centres and artisans (silversmiths and banglemakers) making exquisite items using age old traditional techniques. Visit the Old City specially for Jaipuri quilts, which are heavily hand crafted items with extensive use of embroidery that is unique to Jaipur.
Different markets and localities of Jaipur specialise in different kind of crafts. Johri Bazaar is where you will find exquisite silver jewellery and Kundan (gemstone jewellery, typically used in necklaces). Then there is Bapu Bazar, Tripolia Bazar and Nehru Bazar for speciality crafts of Jaipur such as Batik paintings, Bandhej (tie and dye), block prints and Mojri (handcrafted shoe). There is even a jewellery museum for travellers to explore the history and heritage of the jewellery in Jaipur.
Sanganer (16 kms from Jaipur), is renowned for textile printing and handmade paper industry. Here, you visit bylanes such as Kagzi mohallah renowned for skilled artisans who create exotic handmade paper alongwith a number of showrooms and factories of hand block printing and blue pottery.
Crafts of Jaipur is explored as part of the craft heritage itinerary of Rajasthan.
Jodhpur lies on the edge of the desert circuit of Rajasthan and is renowned for its craft heritage. There are a number of craft villages around Jodhpur where you have the opportunity to live in one of the rural homestays and with the craft community for the sheer experience.
Jodhpur itself is renowned for tie dye (Bandhani). Villages around Jodhpur comprise Salawas (22 kms – weavers village – renowned for their Dhurries – rugs and carpets – locally known as Panja dhurries), Kakani (12 kms – potters and block printers village) and Gudha village (11 kms) where you interact with local Bishnoi families engaged in craft making for many generations.
Visit Pipar City (64 kms) enroute where you may visit the block printers who use hand-carved wooden printing blocks to produce colourful designs.
If you are travelling towards Udaipur, then you may visit Molela (220 kms from Jodhpur, 60 kms short of Udaipur), a potters village and a renowned centre of Terracotta Art.
The Old City of Jodhpur is where you will find old shops selling some exquisite authentic crafts of the region.
Crafts of Jodhpur is best explored as part of the craft heritage itinerary of Rajasthan.
Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana and one of the large cities of India is also known as the ‘Pearl City’ for being the largest trading centre for pearls in India. There are shops in the old city near Charminar that are more than 100 years old where you may find some exquisite necklaces, pearl pendants, bracelets, pearl rings, earrings, brooches, stud earrings, cufflinks, etc.
Hyderabad is also where you may visit families engaged in ikat, block printing and screen printing. You may visit a handloom unit, which is reviving dying brocade techniques such as himroo, mashru, paithani and jamavar. The unit also produces kalamkari and ikat. The craft here is taken up as means of social reform and wealth generation within the community. You may also get items of other crafts such as dhokra metal craft, papier-mâché masks, lacquer work here at the centre.
You may also visit a Zardosi (embroidery) unit, lac bangle making unit, the famed bidri (metal handicraft) workshop and a basket makers’ colony.
Hyderabad is well connected with all major cities of India, best visited as an independent extension of a regular India holiday or craft itinerary of other regions such as Rajasthan / Gujarat.
Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu)
Thanjavur (or Tanjore) is a major centre for crafts in South India. Thanjavur is renowned for Thanjavur Dolls, the unique traditionally hand painted dancing dolls.
Tanjore painting is a 16-17th century art form that still thrives here. These are wooden plants where objects (Hindu gods, goddesses, saints) are painted with vivid colours and then decorated with gold foils, gesso work and then eventually studded with glass beads, precious and semi-precious gems. There are a number of Tanjore painting centres and art boutiques that sell genuine paintings in Thanjavur.
Thanjavur is renowned for its Veena, a traditional musical instrument, India’s national instrument and one of the most ancient. You may visit families that are making the Veena for many generations and understand their commitment and devotion towards keeping the art of making Veena alive.
There are a number of silk weaving units that keep the traditional weaving craft alive.