Gujarat is one of the leading states and has rich heritage of art & culture especially in the field of handicrafts and hand-looms. The crafts of Gujarat are enriched by a confluence of country traditions which provide a wide variety of handmade artefacts and textiles that are both vibrant and adaptable for various daily needs. Gujarat has always accepted innovations and enterprises of rich folk cultures to merge with its own traditions, giving skilled craftsmen opportunity to prosper themselves. The hand woven and handcrafted master pieces from the artisans of Gujarat are a true expression of the craftsman’s dreams and emotion. From every corner of the state comes exquisite crafts which range from intricate embroidery, batik, terracotta, silver jewellery and leather craft of Kutch, block prints and kalamkaris of Ahmedabad, tie and dye (Bandhani) of Jamnagar, lacquer furniture of Sankheda, woven brocades and zari work of Surat, cane and bamboo crafts, carpets of Dahod and Dangs, clay and ceramic of Than and Morbi, double ikat patola and mashru weaving of Patan and many more crafts scattered all over Gujarat. The skilled craftsmanship combined with famous Gujarati entrepreneurship qualities has led to wide spread acceptance of Gujarat crafts not only in the country but all over world.
Textiles & Handlooms
Ahmedabad once called the Manchester of India in Gujarat was famous for its textiles. The large range variety of hand woven as well as textile mills produce a product rich in colour and textures. The rich tradition of Gujarat’s crafts is reflected in its wide range of textiles which extends from women silk patolas, fine tie & dye, block printing, Ajarakh and kinkhab brocade.
The Patan ‘Patola’ continues to be one of the finest hand-woven textiles product of today. It combines the art of tying and dyeing of the warp and weft threads and their weaving together, where each warps threads is carefully placed against the corresponding colours. There were four distinct styles in the patolas such as Patolas with patterns of flowers, parrots, dancing figures and elephants woven originally in Gujarat by the Salvi community of Patan. Rajkot and Surendranagar are also at present producing single ikat sarees.
The fabric is woven with combination of cotton and rayon / silk yarn in varying texture of plains, stripes and dots. Use of bright colours is synonymous with this type of yardage. This is a specific technique by which the fabric is produced on pit loom.
Tangalia Weaving from Surendranagar, in which weft thread is inlaid during the process to create different patterns and motifs, is a complex technique.l
Tanchhoi was introduced in Surat by the Chinese wearing and was used by the Parsi community. The extra weft weaving did not have floats but was woven into the fabric. Parsi weaver continued in silk sarees as well as yardage produced for local use.
Tie and Dye
The famous tie and dye fabric popularly known as bandhej or bandhani is prepared by a time consuming and delicate process. Saurashtra and Kutch are the finest producers in the world. Amongst these the most intricate and refined styles are to be found in Jamnagar, Bhuj, Mandvi, Anjar. The Mandavi and Bhuj work is on gajji with a gold boarder at one end. This is the base material for the special red bridal gharchola-odhani worn over a white sarees with an orange red border known as panetar. Blue, black and red bandhani-odhani prepared on siolk with a woven gold border have motifs, embroideries in gold wire known as Badla. Since the design are circular and on a blue, black background they are known as Chandra khani or moon shaped.
Gujarat has the distinctions of producing the oldest known patterned fabric from India. Pethapur is famous for its block making. Intricate patterns are carved on a block of wood. The block is dipped in the dye and stamped on the fabrics. The Famous block printings are representatives of this fascinating art. In Gujarat hand block printing is mainly found in Ahmedabad, Disa and Kutch.
In Kalamkari a pen made of cane stick is used. The hand painted and block printing hangings for mother Goddess in her different form are made by this process. The creator of the pachhedi is often the priest who dedicates the cloth to the mother Goddess. Colours are always in maroon, black and white. Mata-ni-pachhedi made for ritual purpose is a combination of block printing for the outline of the pattern and the paintings of the mordant. The central figure of the Goddess is often painted by hand. The outline is woven in black, originally with the use of iron oxide and then a red alizarin colour is painted in the pattern. The whole family participates in the work with the master craftsman making outlines and the women and children filling in the colours. Now a days craft is transformed into sarees, dupattas & wall pieces.
This is a rare form of fabric painting. Hand pounded castor oil is turned in to a paste by boiling. Coloured powder mixed with oil paste is then squeezed on to the fabrics in the desired free hand patterns. This painted fabric was used by Charens, Banjaras, Rabari and Bharvads etc. those engaged with cattle breeding. It is also used for dress material and wall pieces. Speciality of this printing process is that the fabric becomes brighter and brighter after every wash; even after several washes the cloth might tear but nthe paint will remain as new as ever.
The tiny mirrors embedded on cloth is a distinct identity of the embroideries of Gujarat, twinkling like little stars which beautify the traditional garments worn by the village peasant woman and now largely found in the ethnic garments worn by the women of today.
Beads colourful and varied in sizes and hues are used in the most innovative and creative ways to create objects such as purses, belts, door hangings (Torans), covers for fans, pillow, and ropes of swings. This is a major crafts of Gujarat, mainly found in Saurashtra and Kutch.
Leather crafts are developed mainly in Kutch and Banaskantha. Calf and camel leather in natural tones is used for making products such as shoes, mojadis, chappals etc. To fulfill today’s trends the craftsmen have started making large size wall piece in cut work, purses, pen stands, shoulder bags, belts, jackets and small mirror embedded in leather with colourful beautiful tassels and embroidery all around it. Toys like horses, camels, dinosaurs, elephants in leather are made at Ahmedabad and Anand.
It is created by the adivasi Rathwas of Chhota Udepur a fortnight after Holi to honour Baba Pithora. Apart from the five horses of lord Gandeh, Ramdev, Pithora, Pithorani, Walan (the rain God), they also include images of the world around them where myth and reality merge.
Wood carving & Lacquer work
An important material in the buildings of Gujarat is found to be wood. The wood usually teak was brought from Valsad, Daman and even Malabar. The wood carver derived his inspiration from the various monuments in stone. Nirona (Kutch) situated on the border of the desert of Kutch and the community who lives here since long is known as the Vadhas. They produce small house hold lacquer wooden items like spoons, boxes, roller, pins, small chains, bajoths, stools, etc.
Pottery, Terracottas & Mud Mirror Work
The potter creates many forms which meet the most important needs of man, the pot to carry water, tiles for the roof. Ladai, Palaswa in Kutch, Visavadar, Savarkundla, in Saurashtra, Patan in North Gujarat, Santrampur in Central Gujarat and Moourdri in South Gujarat are well known for their pottery. The terracotta of Kutch, bears a resemblance to the pieces excavated from Mohanjodaro. Sun dried pieces are painted and baked. Popular patterns are created with lines, flowers, leaves, fish and peacocks on pots, diyas, plates, horses, miniature toys, tea kettles. Clay with a glazed ceramic finish is used to make chinaware and clocks at Morbi. Pots, waterfilter, flower-vase, colorful original looking fruits, flat griddle for roasting Roti/ Rotla as per required size are made at Wankaner. Murals fashioned with clay, camel dung, embedded with mirrors. They are also made as outer decoration for small cupboards and large storage jars, whitewashed on drying. Very attractive as paneling for sophisticated interiors, designs include flowers, leaves, animals, birds and the sun.
Gujarat has been a home for metal workers, who used the method of metal working traditionally by hammering, forging and casting. The technique of hammering metal sheets to different shapes was used most frequently for making utensils. In Gujarat the contemporary craftsman who make and deal in utensils of copper, brass, bronze are commonly known as kansara. Bangle box, pen stand, cupboard, chairs, bajoths, wall pieces are most popular.
Puppets, animals and little birds are made from an assortment of Fabrics, some embellished with beads, embroidery of metallic ribbon also. Puppies, camels horses, elephant (complete with decorated saddles) in all sizes and strung together to make hangings, king, queen and other dolls in traditional dresses are made in Kutch and Ahmedabad.