India is one of those countries that always leaves people in awe! Whoever visits this beautiful place will be surprised by the plethora of cultures, rituals, and beliefs that co-exist together. If you look deeper, you will see that India’s diversity is not just limited to traditional practices. Indian handicrafts are the finest works of local artisans, giving you a glimpse of their traditions and practices. These are the existing proofs of our glorious past and they are definitely a treat to the eye!
The crafts of India unite the people of the country in admirable ways. The corporate worker in Bangalore can be fascinated with the Lac Bangles of Rajasthan. The tea seller in Assam can dream about wearing the Kanjivaram sarees from Chennai to his child’s wedding. The DJ in Mumbai can travel several miles to reach Kashmir so that he can get his hands on the soft Pashmina shawls. No matter where you stay or from where you belong, the arts and handicrafts of India will beckon you to their land. And trust us when we say that the pull is too strong to ignore!
We have a list of the best Indian handicrafts here. Look at the spectacular pieces, where you can find them, and embark on a journey to get these gorgeous possessions.
Admirable Indian Handicrafts To Look Out For
1 – Indian Puppets
If you ask Indians, they’d say that their childhood is incomplete without puppets. These are simple dolls that are attached to strings that you can use to manoeuvre them. The popular local name for puppets is ‘Kathputli’. ‘Kaath’ means wood and ‘Putli’ means doll. The basic body of the toy is made of wood and then covered with clothing and accessories that are custom-made to suit its size. Also, you will find cotton stuffing in a few dolls to make them more bulky. Indian puppets are made in large quantities in the Rajasthan region. People here also gift puppets on festive occasions and weddings. Don’t be surprised if you receive the puppet dolls of Bride and Groom on your wedding day from a Rajasthani guest! This is considered to be a symbol of love and blessings. You will be amazed to know that south Indian states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu also make glove puppets that you can wear on your hands to manoeuvre.
Where to Buy: Rajasthan, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala
2 – Warli Art
Well, didn’t like Geometry while you were in school? You will change your opinion once you look at the geometry that Warli art brings to you. This is a form of tribal art that originated almost 3000 years ago and still stands strong as one of the most outstanding Indian handicrafts in the country. These are simple squares, circles, rectangles and triangles that are put together to depict the common life of man. You will find the Warli art on walls of houses, as rangoli in front of homes, on vases and pottery, and even textiles like sarees and shirts. Palghar district in Maharashtra is a place where Warli art is seen as the predominant source of income and people here dedicate their days to making the best Warli art over and over again.
Where to Buy: Gujarat and Maharashtra
3 – Dhokra
Dhokra is considered to be one of the most famous Indian handicrafts because of its ancient and rustic charm. It will remind you of the bygone era, the sheer magnificence of our country when the royal kings walked around. Why is that? Dhokra art is made out of shiny metals like grass, copper, and other richer metals like Gold and Silver too! These Indian handicrafts are almost 4000 years old but still did not lose their charisma. Initially, a clay mould of the desired shape and intricate details is made and then molten metal is poured into it. Once completely dried, the structure is taken out and final touches are given to make it look marvellous.
Where to Buy: Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal
4 – Moonj Baskets
Moonj is a type of grass that is known to be very stiff and strong once it dries up. The Moonj baskets are made from Moonj and Kasa grass that are woven together in a special coiling technique. These baskets do not need much processing and local artisans can do everything from the comfort of their houses. However, the end result is absolutely stunning! The Moonj grass only grows for two months during the winter months but it grows in abundance. To make the Indian handicrafts, the artisans collect the grass during October – November, remove the outer layer, dry the inner layers and use them for weaving the baskets with their talented hands.
Where to Buy: Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
5 – Terracotta
Terracotta are one of the most special Indian handicrafts that are made out of clay or thick mud. The literal translation of the word Terracotta means ‘Baked Earth’, so it is not very surprising that everything about his artwork is natural. Artists create beautiful sculptures that are made by cutting pieces of clay from a thick slab of clay-mud mixture that measures at least a quarter inch. The amount of clay being taken depends upon the end result if the artist is making pots, vases, toys, figurines or items for home decoration. These are the best eco-friendly Indian handicrafts that are famous throughout the country.
Where to Buy: West Bengal
6 – Bandhani Print
Tie-dye clothing is the new cool, isn’t it? Bandhani is the Indian version of the tie-dye pattern. It is also popular by the name ‘Bandhej’. Fabric is taken and tied in specific knots using a thread. Then it is dipped in either one or more colours and left to dry. The dye is absorbed by the clothing except in places where the thread holds the cloth together. The artisans then print different patterns on the fabric which are usually a series of small circles and dots. Bandhani fabrics are very popular in the country and available as sarees, salwar-kameez, duppattas, scarves, shirts and even frocks.
Where to Buy: Ahmedabad and Mandavi, Gujarat
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7 – Pattachitra
Pattachitra is one of the best eco-friendly Indian handicrafts. Everything used to make this masterpiece, from fabric and tools to colours and paints, is derived from natural sources. Pattachitra blends Indian mythology perfectly with native folklore. The main aim of these intricate paintings is story-telling, usually tales of the past or lessons that teach us the way of living. The Pattachitra scroll paintings have been around for thousands of years and are usually made on fabric or palm leaves. You will most often see Pattachitra made around religious themes where our Gods become the main characters.
Where to Buy: Raghurajpur, Odisha
8 – Zardosi Work
Whenever Indian women want to get their blouses stitched for weddings or special occasions, they most of the time have the request “Zardosi ka kaam kar sakte aap?” (Can you do Zardosi work on the blouse?). Zardosi is one of the most beautiful Indian handicrafts that you will come across. These are detailed embroidery designs made with shining threads, beads, stones, and other small accessories. Not just on blouses, Zardosi work can be found on lehengas, sarees, shawls, and Dupattas. Even men like to have simple Zardosi work done on the hems of the sleeves of their shirts or on top of their pockets. The designs increase the beauty of fabrics by several folds! Apart from Zardosi, Chikankari is yet another embroidery design that mostly involves stitching intricate patterns with white thread and reflective mirrors. Both of these are popularly found in Uttar Pradesh.
Where to Buy: Lucknow and Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
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9 – Pashmina Shawl
Pashmina Shawls are the most sought-after Indian handicrafts because of their delicate design and fur-soft texture. High-end cashmere wool is used to weave the shawls and they are known to provide the best warmth against the chilling cold in Jammu and Kashmir. When you go to buy them, you will hear people saying that Pashmina shawls are even capable of hatching eggs because of how much heat they can keep trapped within their molecules. This is a famous folklore in the region! The shawls can prove to be the perfect fashion statement because of their intricate designs and out-of-the-world embroidery designs. Some Pashmina Shawls also come with embedded accessories like stones, kundans and more. You can get them customised according to your preferences.
Where to Buy: Jammu and Kashmir
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10 – Tanjore Paintings
The Tanjore Paintings have a 3D effect and no technology of any sort is used while making these wonderful Indian handicrafts. The expert painters use vibrant colours, shining stones, 22K gold and silver foils, along with gems like ruby and emerald to make these paintings. So, when you are going to purchase them, know that the cost can range from low-end to very high-end. Some of them can have a price tag as low as INR 1000 while others can go up to INR 1,00,000 or beyond too! Tanjore paintings are surely royalty and involve a lot of work. They also have precious stones and pure gold foils that are carefully incorporated into the art.
Mostly, Tanjore paintings are those of Hindu Gods and some scenes from the Hindu Mythologies like Ramayana, and Mahabharata. You will also come across paintings that are related to the mighty Chola empire that once ruled the lands of Tanjore. The pigments or paints used in Tanjore paintings come from natural sources. Note that people can cheat you by selling fake Tanjore paintings. There is a technique called Raman spectroscopy that can distinguish between an ordinary painting and the infamous Tanjore one. Do not shy away from asking the shopkeepers for authenticity proofs.
Where to Buy: Tanjore, Tamil Nadu
11 – Lac Bangles
There is a popular saying that goes like this – ‘The jingling bangles always awoke a sense of happiness in the listener’s heart’. Bangles are a very important part of an Indian woman’s attire. They add a sense of elegance and beauty to the complete appearance. Lac is a natural resin secreted by an insect on the bark of trees. This is then collected, washed, and even heated to let the impurities settle down on cooling. This lac is initially in a crimson-red colour. The artisans mix wax and titanium to increase Lac’s bulk and cohesiveness to make bangles. It is at this stage that natural dyes are added to obtain the initial material of desired colours. To make bangles, lac is heated and moulded into the desired shape, scrapped neatly with stones or sea shells. Some would also go a step ahead and add glittering stones, reflective glasses, and kundans to the bangles.
In states like Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Bihar, the Lac bangles have great cultural significance. It is considered very auspicious to wear lac bangles on special occasions.
Where to Buy: Jaipur, Rajasthan.
The beauty of Indian handicrafts lies in the fact that each of them represents the culture and transitional practices of the country. Be it the impressive paintings or the gorgeous textile designs, decorative vases or playful puppetry, every single handicraft is sure to bring a smile to your face! If you are planning to go to any of these places in India, pick one of these 11 Indian handicrafts as souvenirs and you won’t regret spending your bucks on them.