India, the world’s democratic giant, is a sprawling subcontinent of languages and cultures, home to well over one billion people. It has brought forth ancient wisdom, from astronomy to mathematics, as well as enduring art forms. It was the birthplace of four major world religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism – and home to the Mauryan, Gupta and Mughal empires, and their massive achievements.

Today India is an economic powerhouse, with global impact from a booming financial hub in Mumbai, thriving industries (from Bangalore to Uttar Pradesh) and Bollywood films. But Indians remain deeply attached to their rich and varied cultural traditions – from Gandharan sculpture to the monumental architecture of the Chola dynasty. The country’s love of colour and design is expressed even in ordinary clothing – a peacock-blue turban or saffron-orange sari, perhaps adorned with India’s famous block-printed or woven patterns.

Each state has distinct craft traditions that are an important source of income, as well as symbols of local identity. Indian textiles are second to none, with distinct styles ranging from the ikat-bhandara weave found in the eastern state of Orissa to the kantha stitch from Bengal, a classic technique used on pieces of silk to create wonderful abstract and figurative patterns.

India possesses an astonishing range of crafts and artisanship. From the muga silk and cane mats of Assam to the woodwork of Karnataka and the jewelry of Rajasthan or the Dravidian style of Tamil Nadu, Indian fashion and decorative arts involve a riot of colour and myriad forms. By combining traditional function with modern flair, these iconic crafts will continue to thrive as their products reach new markets, giving artisan communities fresh opportunities to innovate with age-old techniques.


Murshidabad, West Bengal State in India. Photo courtesy of House of Wandering Silk.

 

 

 

 

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