Rustic yet popular Gujarati arts were originally created by the predecessors for household utilities and eventually got acclaimed at a global level. Today, traditional craft in Gujarat is a big industry which, besides being a global pride, is a source of income to many local inhabitants. Some of the most fashionable Gujarati arts and crafts are jewelry design, metalwork, embroidery, dhurries textile, pottery, stone crafts etc.
Gujarat is one of the fastest growing states of India. Its social and economic growth is recognized both in the domestic and international arena. But, the state has, by no means, left its traditional and cultural values aside. Notable crafts in Gujarat are discussed as below -
Iron and Brass Work
Elite in their arts and customs, the neighborhoods of Saurashtra and Kutch are most famous for their iron and brass work. This metal creativity has its roots in the erstwhile jewelers and metalworkers of the Raj Drabars (courtrooms). Cutlery knives, copper coated iron bells, and beetle nut crackers are few famous iron works, while notable brass items include brass cutlery, utensils, knives and scissors. In Gujarat, the laborers who have gained an expertise in metalwork are known as Kansara.
Interesting metalwork of Chalcolithic age and Harappan Civilization namely forging, hammering to cooper and bronze casting have been excavated in abundance by the archeologists from multiple regions.
Pottery and Terracotta Clay
Pottery is an age old craft of Gujarat. The most popular amongst all the potteries are earthen vessels and terracotta toys manufactured in the Great Rann of Kutch. The colorfully painted earthen pots and vessels are quite popular among the foreigners who visit this princely state of Kutch in millions every year.
The terracotta clay modeling is quite distinctive and in huge demand for both utility and ornamentation purposes. The name terracotta has an Italian origin where Terra means the 'Earth Soil' and 'Cotta' means a statue. Terracotta is generally a rural tradition, however not every countryside population is blessed with this art. It is believed that Rathwas and Bhils have an inherent talent to perform this art seamlessly.
Again, the pottery of Lothal region in Gujarat is as old as Harappan civilization and is in existence till today. It is said that Gujarat has specifically succeeded in carrying forward the heritage of the pottery in the form of modern ceramic items.
Real like clay figures of different animals including cow, bulls, buffalo, hoarses etc. are pretty popular. Horses are offered at temples and hence are in great demand. While as per the ritual Dhabu variety, dome shaped houses, are offered to the dead people’s spirits and are in good demand too.
Traditional wood carving in Gujarat is a blend of Islamic and Hindu cultures. Most amusingly, the yesteryear works which are cautiously preserved by the state are made up of the woods imported from the neighboring areas. This is due to the lack of availability of quality wood within the state at that point of time.
Other than generic public demonstrations, Havelis (palaces), Jharokhas (windows), cantilevered balconies, majestic doors and similar wood carving pieces are also preserved and cherished here. The former princely regions of Palanpur and Vaso are exclusively known for these antiquities.
Today, Sal, Teak, Sheesham, Deodar, Redwood, Rosewood, Red Cedar, and Ebony are the major wood varieties present on the land of Gujarat. Mainly, all the regional wood crafts are made up of this special quality wood. Meware Mistri is a specific term given to the workers involved in wood carving.
The region has popular wood crafts staged in different forms and content. If the Hindu carving promises an awestruck prominence in design, the abstract Muslim carving offers varied geometrical blueprints. Special ceiling and house front carvings are also in great vague both in rural and urban Gujarat.
Specific stone carving for the building of temples in Gujarat is also passed on through generations. Along with local shrines, the stone carving of memorial canopies, great idols, satis, and daily household articles are also in good demand.
Jewelry wearing tradition in Gujarat runs heavily from the blue blooded aristocrats of the 16th and 17th centuries. Special craftsmen used to get appointed during those days to design jewelries not only for the rajgharanas but also for the Deities, horses and elephants.
Gujaratis have a unique way to express their love for traditional jewelries. Natural material ornaments made up of seeds, leaves, berries, fruits, and flowers are created by the tribal population who also simultaneously make and wear neckpieces, earrings, bangles etc. out of animal bones, feathers and teeth.
Printing and Embroidery
Textile embroidery is a great business and the craft is learnt and emulated not only by the Indian mainstream fashion designers but also by designers abroad. In Gujarat villages, cloth embroidery is a source of livelihood for many women.
Magnificent arts ranging from Bandhani and Rabari to Maldhari and Bharvad have gained immense popularity even in the Paris and Milan Fashion Week. Other specific embroideries are Bavalia, Banni etc.
Gujarat in the 21st Century is very much known as ‘Manchester of the East’. But, evidently the textile craft like Patola (Saree) of Gujarat is dated back to 4th Century AD and is one of the earliest milestones in the history of world textile.
The term Patola is derived from the word ‘Patt’ meaning silk in Tamil and Malayalam. The origin of Patola (Saree) is the Patan region of northern Gujarat. Specific type of Patola woven in the Patan region is called 'Double-Ikat'. The wrapping and filling technique gives a mesmerizing double-clothed effect to the Patola. Till date, no machines have been able to imitate the traditional Patola making process.
Bandhani – the tie and dye fabrics – has an international demand and is widely exported from Gujarat. These colorful ripple-round print fulfills both style and comfort statements for Indian women.
Bandhani or Bandhej of Jamangar, Mandvi and Bhuj are specifically acclaimed all over the world. Among all the bandhanis the one made up with ‘Jamadani’ technique and produced in the superfine cotton ‘mulmul’ muslin is most famous. ‘Jamadani’ can also be a mixture of gold checks and thematic art.
In the earlier period, dye colors were extracted from plants and flowers. During that time, Sarkhei suburb situated near Ahmedabad was one of the leading indigo producing as well as exporting centers of Gujarat.
The life style of the Gujarati community is such that the outsiders love to savor and imbibe Gujarati mannerism into their own tradition with great interest and pleasure. For instance, a handicraft called Tangalia (sarong like garment) from Surendranagar district is recognized in all over India.
Tangalia is a traditional garment worn on special occasions by the Bharvad community women. Again, a special design known as Ramraj Tangalia is most worn in the Motabhai Bharvad community.
Gujarati primitive embroideries have a huge decorative value and are an inspiration to many contemporary interior designers. Toran, Pachhitpatis, Bhitiya, Chaklas, Abhala etc. are the few recognized ones.
Toran is a flap-shaped hanging decorative piece on the threshold which brings in the good luck to the house. Pachhitpatis are a similar kind of ornamentation hanging from the door corners to welcome guests and visitors.
Bhiitiya and Chaklas are wall and furniture decoratives respectively. Gujarati embroidery is specifically rich in mirror discs with well knitted silken threads called Abhala. Mainly all the decorative items have Abhala present in them.
Other well known decorative arts include Pachhitpatis (embroidered frieze) and Chaklas (embroidered square pieces) which are equally popular and creative.
Handmade carpets, popularly known as dhurries, embrace the art of cloth designing, color-mixing, and complex weaving. The extensive weaving to produce finest rugs, blankets and carpets is one of the most astounding ingenuity of Gujarat.
Technically, the dhurrie making process is extremely tough, demanding a very high level of intricacy and concentration as it is woven on the most primitive pit looms. But, as the global demand of the traditional durries is very high, a large number of people have accepted it as their profession.
Handmade woolen sheets ornamented with customary embroidery are in great use for hospitality purposes in Gujarat. Namda is a traditional floor covering, used during get-togethers, repasts, rituals and other social functions. It is known that the artisans of Kutch eventually adopted Namda craft form their Kashmiri counterparts, and hence the word Namda evidently has an Urdu origin.
Namda embroidery is created in a woolen yarn using natural adhesive techniques. A non-woven felting is used to produce a layered compressed wool.
Namda rugs are also used as linens, decorative and of course as sitting mats. The warm cloth is in high demand in the cold countries where these rugs work appropriately as insulators.