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 &
Himachal Pradesh with its strudy hill people is well-known for its
centuries old costumes and other garments.
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 and
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
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.
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 one
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
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
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.
Information on Traditional Crafts, arts, handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh - India