Traditional Crafts of Himachal Pradesh - India   Encyclopedia of Tours and Travel to Himachal Pradesh, featuring information on Fairs & Festivals, Wildlife, Excursion, Adventure & Weather of Himachal Pradesh.
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Traditional Crafts

Ready - Made Garments | Shawls | Leather Craft | Metal Crafts & Jewellery | Carpets | Paintings | Wood Crafts & Wicker Works

Isolated as they are, due to the high altitudes, the people of Himachal Pradesh are by and large, self contained and have developed through the years a rich tradition of handicrafts, totally original and distinctive. These range from wood-work to leather embroidery, metalwares to carpets and woolen textiles. New designs are being added to the traditional ones and new markets, both in India and abroad, are being discovered.

Ready - Made Garments, Accessories & Dolls
Himachal Pradesh with its strudy hill people is well-known for its centuries old costumes and other garEmbroider Clothments. The 'Gujjar' folk have a unique mode of dress, quite different from the usual woollen sarees and gowns worn by the rest of Himachal women. Gujjar men and women alike, wear a cotton shirt known as "Kurta". Delicately embroidered with circular and linear patterns, the 'Kurtas' are in deep colors. Interestingly enough the lines and circles on the Kurta symbolise milk, and the dark background the color of the buffalo.

The Chamba folk are extremely fond of adornment. Head scarves are worn by the women, and these are usually of bright printed cotton and knotted at the back. Bangles and rings made of horse hair are the typical accessories worn by the Chamba women.

To climb blithely over the rocky hill-sides, the people wear sturdy grass shoes, comfortable and warm inside and brightly patterned on the outside.

The local traditional costumes are reflected in the exquisite dolls made by the Himachalis. These beautiful and life-like figurines lend charm to modern environs.

Shawls are speciality of Himachal Pradesh. In summer, the wild Himalayan goat sheds its fleece on the high mountains. From this, the hill people spin aShawlsnd weave exceptionally fine and valuable shawls during winter, when the fields are covered with snow. Mostly notable of these is the soft Pashmina Shawl made from the hair of the Pashmina Goat. The exquisite shawls of the Himachal are both plain and designed. The colour of these, largely depend upon the wool, is mixed. The right mixture can result in beautiful greys, blues, mustards and blacks. If the designs of the Himachal Shawls are varied, so are also the methods of wearing them. Every district has improvised its style of drapping the shawl, the most popular styles being 'Dhobroo' and 'Pattu'.

Movement in embroidery! The Chamba embroiderer has captured it on his rumals. It may be mischivious Krishna at his pranks stealing butter, or dancing with Radha. It may be a lamenting women parted from her lover, or people frolicking at a local fair. All are worked in fine detail with vivid silks and in constrasting colours. The art of embroidery is largely based upon the indigenous Kangra and Chamba schools of paintings. The stitches are so closeby, spaced that no gaps are visible. The word 'Rumal' may conjure up visions of a handkerchief to the layman but to the Chamba people, it is a form of adornment. Men drape these colourful embroidered rumals over their shoulders and the women use them as flowing veils. A Chamba rumal is such a priceless possession, that a bride's trousseau would be incomplete without it. Today, Chamba rumal are also used as wall-hangings, door and fire screens, cushion covers while the designs have been adopted for table-cloth and bed-spreads.


Leather Craft
The origin of the present Chamba Chappal makes a very interesting story. An English adviser to the Raja of Chamba State wanted a pair of Chamba Chappals. But the original pattern was too heavy and uncomfortable, so he designed his own chappals and explained to the local cobbler exactly how they should be made. But the chappals eventually produced were nowhere like the ones he had in mind. They were better. The open tow and the partly woven vamp proved exceptionally comfortable and light, and worn with leather socks were ideal for waling and hiking. The Chamba Chappal has survived till today, plain as well as embroidered with Lanthana flowers, leaves and other belt which the locals use to lend glamour to their dresses.

Today, in keeping with the modern trends, new varieties and designes of leather goods have been added to the traditional list, fancy shoes, sandals, embroidered leathers, socks and belts.

Metal Crafts & Jewellery
Metalcraft is oMetalcraftne of the most ancient and developed crafts of Himachal Pradesh. the traditional metals ar pure copper and silver. Local craftsmenship in casting, ornamenting and engraving, show great skill, delicacy and taste. Legend ha it that Sita, in the great Indian epic, the Ramayana wore jewelled butterflies and other precious ornaments in her hair and that these types of ornaments were made by the silversmiths of Himachal Pradesh.

Jewellery is still a popular product of the Himachal silversmiths. And although the designs are still traditional, the ornaments are lighter and more practical. Modern innovations in the crafts include the making of intricately carved silver lamp stands, tea pots, wine or butter cups and metal scultpture. These follwo indigneious shpes and are decorated with finely carved patterns, which in addition to the local flora and fauna, depict stories from the epics.


Brilliant hues, dragons, a garuda on a flowering tree and swastikas for luck are traditional patterns found on carpets from Himachal Pradesh. Sometimes, the weaver may capture the delicacy and colour of spring flowers on his carptes. Traditional symbols like the flute, castanets, fish a ornate knots are also woven into carpet patterns. All these symbols carry a meaning behind them - flutes signify happiness, the lotus signifies purity. Most highlanders use capets for furnishing. Even their sturdy ponies have colourful carpet saddles. 'Chuktu', a blanket, is actually a modified version of a carpet. Some of the earliest carpets were made by weaving four strips about nine inches wide and sewing them together afterwards.

Himachal Pradesh is the home of the Chamba and Knngra schools of painting - well reputed in the world of art for their excellent portrayal of court and romantic scences blending of colours and minute details of figures. But there is yet another school of painting that survives in Himachal - the Gompa school. It is Buddhist in origin and at one time was limited only to the Buddhist monasteries. Gradually however, some of the romantic ifluences of the Chamba and Kangra schools seeped into the Gompa style. New local craftsmen have incorporated the Gompa art of painting into contemporary patchwork pictures.

Wood Crafts & Wicker Works
Amidst the abundant pine and deodar forests of Himachal also grow walnut, horse chestnut, wild black mulberrry and birch - the basic material for Himachal woodcraft.

Woodcraft is an ancient traditional art prized for its delicacy and detail. Ancient treastises have been written on the subjects of carpentry and carving on wood. Wood workers occupied an esteemed - place in society for hey made the chariots for the warriors, and also drove them. Evidence of Himachal woodcraft is to be found in old buildings on seats, doors, windows and panels. Most notable was the Vice - regal Lodge at Shimla beautifully carved ceilings and panels. The present day wood work displays all the intricacy of the old. The main objects of work are fruit bowls, beer mugs, wooden jewellery and carved images, both romantic and mythological in origin.

All along the crystal clear streams of Himachal grow the bamboo and the willow. When winter approaches, the hill people strip the bamboo. And when the country side is blanketed with snow they sit around cosy fires and fashion intricate and sturdy bowls, trays and baskets out of the dried bamboo. Oval-shaped, lotus-shaped or egg baskets with tall graceful handles are some of the typical basket patterns of Himachal Pradesh.


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