The history of Indian handicrafts is an old saga. There are a myriad of craft traditions in India. The crafts which flourished in India are basically subject to the social, economic and regional factors. The present status of craft in India owes much to the rich craft traditions of the past. Most of the crafts from the past continue to boom due to their utilitarian nature, their availability to the common people and popularity in domestic and foreign markets. The special needs of the patrons and royalty with vivid eye on foreign and domestic trade became the focal point of crafts of Indian subcontinent. Till date it is continuing to boom owing to the assimilating nature of Indian culture. Highly accommodative nature of the craftsmen to accept and use new ideas is also responsible for the boom.
Artistic production of crafts, too, proliferated during Mauryan Empire, a landmark in Indian history, starting from 3rd century B.C. It is believed that during the time of Ashoka , 84,000 stupas were constructed in India. The “Sanchi stupa” is a part of it and has gained worldly fame for its beautiful stone carving and relief work. Wearing fashionable jewelries was in vogue. Several sculptures were found in Bharhut, Mathura, Amravati, Vaishali, Sanchi regions depicting female figures decked up in beautiful jewelries bear a proof of this. The iron pillars of Vaishali and Delhi, created during the time of Emperor Ashoka, are a spectacle of metallurgical works.
The foreign invaders, leaving aside their tradition of cultural and traditional glories, ennoble the history of crafts of India. The time period was during 1st century B.C and 1st century A.D .The impact of these intrusions can be noticed in the Buddhist sculptures from Taxila, Begram, Bamiyan, Swat valley etc. A high degree of Greek influence is immensely found, especially in the statue of Buddha, having curly hair and wearing draperies. The same trend is maintained in the sculptures of the Kushan king Kanishka. These originated in the same period, depicting the influence of the central Asian Culture on Indian craftsmanship. In other exquisite craft pieces, namely, jewellery, textile making, leather products, metal working etc. inherited these influences and also absorbed them in accord to the Indian scenario.
In present day scenario, growth and development of crafts in India is no less significant. Each and every Indian state has its own unique culture, their own designs, colors, materials in use and individual shapes and patterns, which is demonstrated in the Sholapith from West Bengal handicrafts of that particular region. For instance, Kashmir is known for its Pashmina wool shawls as well as carpets, silverware, ivory works etc. Easter states like Assam and West Bengal are far-famed for their exquisite ‘Sholapith’ and ‘Shital Patti’ works. Others regions are acclaimed for crafts pieces, namely, Karnataka for its rosewood carving, sandalwood crafts etc. The engraved and enameled meenakari brassware found in Rajasthan, silk materials from Varanasi and Kanchipuram, colorful embroidery, mirror work, quilting and fabric painting from Gujarat etc are some of the exclusive crafts popularized not only in India and also abroad. Stone crafts are in thing and few regions are popular for crystals and semi precious stones. The contemporary crafts vary from products like bed sheets, table mats, napkins, household furnishings etc. These instances of art made out of different textile and the usage of masterly printing range from tie and dye, block printing, hand printing etc are in great demand now a days. To know more read: