The craft of zardozi or silver and gold embroidery was brought into
India by Delhi's Turko-Afghan sultans in the 12th century. Down
the ages, the craft became equally popular with the wealthy Hindu,
Muslim, and European classes. Today several families in Varanasi,
Agra, Lucknow, Rampur, Bareilly, and Farrukhabad, in the state of
Uttar Pradesh, have revived this old craft to supply exquisite zari
embroidered bridal outfits and salwar kameezes to boutiques round
the country. But prices are considerably lower in Uttar Pradesh.
Innovative designers have added functional bags, belts, caps, cushions,
and wall hangings to their stock of ready to wear and custom made
zardozi garments. A lighter and flashier offshoot of traditional
Indian zardozi finds its way to top fashion houses around the world.
Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh is a veritable treasure house of traditional
designs ranging from the classical butis (dots) to the famous '
Tree of Life ', The butis are restful even though sparkling when
tinted in solid colors. Mango, paisley as it is known
in the West, is made in a vast variety of shapes, and used in bold,
medium and even fine designs.
The composition is first printed in harmonizing colors and later
elaborated with delicate details painted in with a brush. A variety
of blossoms merge in this luxuriant tree. It is primarily a decorative
piece unrelated to any symbol but has a flavour of growth, prosperity
and immorality. The spirited heraldic lions that guard the tree
speak of a Hindu tradition.
Lucknows specialty is paisley. Other designs
seem to be influenced by the local chikan embroidery patterns. Jehangirabad
is distinguished for its bold lines and toned down colors, influenced
by the jamdani and jamevar weaves.
Uttar Pradesh's capital, Lucknow, is closely associated with another
fine embroidery, chikankari. These cool summery shadow-work saris,
kurtas, and veils have been in vogue in this city for hundreds of
years. Prices vary according to the quality of material used, and
the work done on it. Table and household linen in white or pale
pastel muslin, organdy and voile are also popular buys.
The jewelers of this region specialize in making lightweight, hollow
gold and silver ornaments, with emphasis on filigree and open work.
So the huge jhumka earrings won't hurt your ears, and the impressive
gold bangles don't cost a fortune! Semi- precious stones, artificial
pearls, glazed quartz, and glass are used to recreate elegant old
designs, which can pass off as family heirlooms. Of course, for
those with a penchant for the best that money can buy, there are
centuries old jewelry shops selling the real stuff like the Basra
pearls, emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Then there are hair ornaments
fit for nawabi weddings, riyasati signet rings, status conferring
gold toe rings, and key rings to tuck into smartly draped saris.
The silver hookahs (hubble-bubble) and paan dans (betel nut containers)
of this area are in a class of their own. Again, status symbols
of the feudal zamindari era, these antiques are really replicas.
Mostly made in Lucknow, Agra, Allahabad, and Rampur, they come in
many sizes and designs and varied prices.
Engraved, embossed, enameled and burnished brass vessels bowls,
stools, coffee tables, vases, candle stands, beer mugs, statues,
door knobs and knockers, drawer handles, towel and napkin rings,
and mirror frames are just some of the items made and sold in Uttar
Pradesh. Benaras brass workers specialize in engraving stylized
flowers, vines, leaves, birds, geometric octagons and roundels on
highly polished brass. Muradabadi craftsmen turn out colorful enameled
brass, good copies of famous bronzes, Tibetan tantric statues and
Buddhist ceremonial vessels in mixed alloys, which can pass off
Khurja and Cinnahat near Bulandshahr and Lucknow produce pottery,
which is popular with young homemakers and single working men and
women. Modern abstract or traditional animal, paisley, and floral
designs decorate tea sets, dinner plates, coffee mugs, soup bowls,
serving dishes, and indoor pots. Bhadoi offers stylish black pottery,
which few seem to know about.
Handmade Indian cloth dolls dressed in colorful regional costumes
are other popular, inexpensive souvenirs and gift items. Uttar Pradesh's
dhoti clad peasant farmer, fez capped Nawab, sari draped bride and
jeweled Kathak dancer dolls are usually in great demand by children,
collectors and tourists.
Leather craft in Uttar Pradesh, though largely rural based, has
developed links with well-known metropolitan designing and manufacturing
units having good marketing outlets, show rooms and export tie-ups.
Kanpur and Agra are the main centres for shoes, sandals, chappals,
country jooties, saddles, harness, leather jackets and other garments,
gloves, handbags, wallets, belts, puppets, and musical instruments.
Indian leather goods especially shoes and handbags are very reasonably
priced compared with similar designer items available in the West.
Firozabad's colorful glass bangles find their way into every Indian
home. Opaque, clear, or decorated with silver and gold metal wire,
artificial seed pearls, beads, or glittering kundan, glass bangles
are must for every Indian bride.
The color and cut glass items of Firozabad include glasses, jugs,
bowls, vases, animal figurines, ashtrays, and chandeliers. They
don't have the perfection of Belgian, Bohemian, or Venetian crystal
and cut glass, but are certainly more easy on the pocket. And the
hand blown milky colored glass items are sophisticated and pretty
enough to be displayed.
Shakespeare may have identified perfumes with Arabia (Macbeth),
but India has been the prime producer of natural fragrances since
civilization began. Uttar Pradesh in particular produces not only
the attar of roses popularized by the Mughal Empress Noorjahan,
but also Heena, Chameli (jasmine) and Khas. Rose and jasmine farming
is done at Agra, Aligarh, Meerut, Lucknow, Ramnagar, Saharanpur,
Gazipur, and Kannauj. Most of this attar goes to satisfy the colossal
domestic and foreign cosmetic and perfume industry demands. But
tiny phials and large flagons are available from stockists.
Agra's long association with the fabulous Mughal Court gave rise
to many arts and crafts including stone carving. Replicas of Taj
Mahal, marble boxes, wall plates, table tops, coasters, and ashtrays
inlaid with semi-precious stones and mother of pearl in pleasing
pietra dura designs taken from Mughal monuments and paintings are
very popular purchases. The simpler Gurara stone carvings, paperweights,
and Rubic cube like candleholders, which take four different sizes,
make excellent gifts and mementoes.
Quality and price wise, Indian carpets give you great value for
money. The Mughal emperor Akbar established carpet-weaving centers
at Lahore and Agra to supply his imperial court with good hand-knotted
carpets in Persian, Turkish and Central Asian designs. These are
still being made and sold in Agra, a major tourist center. The carpet
weaving centers of Varanasi, Bhadoi, and Mirzapur were set up by
a Persian master weaver in the 17th century. The handmade carpets,
rugs and prayer mats from Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir, and Rajasthan
are finding their way into Arabian palaces and American mansions.
Information on Traditional Crafts, arts, handicrafts of Uttar Pradesh - India