Madhya Pradesh, "increasable"heart of India is a melting pot of people and traditions. Its mélange of textiles and crafts, beautifully and painstakingly produced by its skilled craftsmen for generations, reflects this rich cultural diversity.
A result of local needs, customs and beliefs, as well as availability of raw material, almost every social group practices its own craft. The varied tribal crafts of own craft of Madhya Pradesh , practiced and honed over centuries –notably, dhokra of Betul, wrought iron craft of Tikamgarh, jewellery of Jhabua, and traditional Pithora and Gond paintings – are today internationally prized as decorative art.
A walk in the narrow by –lans of towns and villages in the state is more than likely to reveal craft cluster with artisans diligently at work. One can hear the click –clack of looms in Chanderi and Maheshwar, see papier mache carvers in Jabalpur or find wood carvers in Sheopur crafting intricate panels and windows. With government and private endeavours, today these colorful and deftly –made fabric and crafts are showcased not just at the local haats, but also in markets and craft fairs outside Madhya Pradesh and exhibitions abroad.
With over 150 stunning photographs, and details on major craft centres including Chanderi, Maheshwar, Bhopal, Ujjain, Gwalior and Indore, the Handlooms & Handicrafts of Madhya Pradesh is a perfect companion craft enthusiast, but also the intrepid tourist as well as the armchair traveller.
Madhya Pradesh, the 'incredible' heart of India boast of a rich natural and cultural heritage, Playground to the holy Narmada, and two hill ranges, the Vindhya and the Satpura, it has fascinating landscape of plateaus, river valleys, rolling hills and forests.
The states is a melting pot of people and traditions, visible in its remarkable architecture, cultural diversity and the vibrancy of its craft and handloom tradition. The teeming bazaars, state emporious and modern shopping centers in the big cities provides a wide range of crafts from pottery and metal craft to textiles and carpets.
Centuries ago, invited by the ruling kings and the nobility, skilled craftsmen from neighbouring regions came and settled in Madhya Pradesh: goldsmith, printers and dyer, weaver of cotton and silk, stone and wood carvers, metalsmiths, all encouraged profusely and awarded handsomely.
Simultaneously, the large tribal population settledin the forests of Madhya Pradesh tapped into available resources, creating diverse craft products with an innocent charm and spontaneity. Drawing inspiration from nature, as well as from their traditions and beliefs, each tribal group developed its own distinct style. This can particularly be seen in their jewellery, where ornaments are fashioned from a range of materials –metals, beads, feathers, leaves, terracotta, among others.
The state is dotted with craft clusters, each region, and often community, specializing in its own local craft. Craftmen can be seen diligently at work in villages, and in mohallas and narrow by –lanes of small and big towns carrying this legacy forward.
The Indian handicrafts thrived through the ages helped by a vigorous folk tradition, a benigion culture and an age when individualism was cherished and detail and precision valued.
From time immemorial, the craftsman of Madhya Pradesh have been weaving tales of folk cultures and histories in the wrap and the weft. One look at the delicate, soft Chanderi and Maheshwari fabric is enough to establish its weavers as the finest in the country. Today, a fashion connoisseur's delight, these fabrics woven in vivid colours and embellished with different techniques, are a reflection of the sublime hues and vibrant shades of the state.
Bold and ecletic block prints, batik in silk and cotton, and even the colours used, have been born and inspired by the assimilation of ideas from the surrounding areas. It is the fusion of these design sensibilities that makes them stand out. The chippas, or printers, of Bagh in Dhar district produce some of the most beautiful designs with their intricately carved wooden blocks in many colours and patterns.
The carpet weaver of Madhya Pradesh have established an enviable reputation as undisputed masters of weaving as well as dyeing. Gwalior is the main carpet weaving center, though a wide range of cotton and woolen durries are women in many other parts of the state.
As soft and fresh as blossoms, as light as smoke and as delicate and transparent as the vapours of milk, are the fabrics that flow from the looms of the Indian weaver.'
In the words of the artist Haku Shah, 'the making of an object and living with it are the two interconnected elements that have government tht craft tradition for centuries. The craftsman and trible are linked by a close bond, the creative urge of the former and the religious needs of the former and the religious needs of the latter form a wonderful combination.. are in fact inseparable'. Honed and perfected over centuries, today, nearly all traditional crafts have come to surpass their original function as objects of daily use or of religious significance and are widely popular as decorative object d'art for their aesthetic value.
The traditions of metal casting using the lost wax technique has been preserved by the Bharewas of Betul and the Swarnakas of Tikamgarh, who have for centuries churned out the most simple yet stunning pieces, symbolizing the simple living of the local people. On the other hand, iron crafts has a seen transition, especially with its diversification into contemporary products like candle stands, lamps, furniture, among others, keeping the urban tastes in mind.
Bopal's Old City comes alive with embroiders deftly working with fine needles to produces some of the most intricate zardozi work, once ptroniesed by its enterprising Begums. The most popular products include dazzling batuas, heavy traditional Indian wear and juttis.
Dolls and toys, made of cloth, wood or clay are created in Gwalior, Bhopal and Jhabua and are popular with the young as well as the old. What most of us would dismiss as child's play is a serious cottage industry in Madhya Pradesh.
The painting traditions of Madhya Pradesh are living expressions of its tribal people, intrinsically linked with the socio –cultural ambeience of the area. Both Pithora and Gond paintings, traditionally done on the mud walls of houses using natural colours, grace elegent interiors in big cities today.
Tazia making has, for centuries, found a significient place in Madhya Pradesh, drawing a passion few other crafts receives. The artisans, otherwise engaged in different occupations –they may be the zardari craftsman in Bhopal, farmers in Rewa, or even those working far away from home in other states –takes leave from their work to return to their hometown to make tazias in the months leading to Muharram.
With its immense diversity, the crafts and handlooms of Madhya Pradesh play a significant role in Marketing this central Indian state one of the richest in the country.
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