India has always been known for its many-layered, culturally diverse, rich heritage of craft skills, imbibed through the ebb and flow of historical events, societal practices, and religious beliefs. Through the ages, its temples, all across the country, have kept alive the finest metalwork, stone carving, mural painting, and even the art of textiles weaving. Indian vast tribal communities have exhibited their masterly skills in embroidery, handloom weaving (of ceremonial shawls, headscarves, waist belts), and a vast variety of other objects. India’s crafts and textiles are often compared to a mighty river, fed by many streams, ever moving forward. Just as a river is never the same at any one given point, crafts too keep changing according to the hands and creative impulses of their makers. Yet they are constantly on a move, carrying the might of lives, traditions, cultures, in a never-ending process of evolution. And certainly within an Indian identity.
Involving over ten years of the author’s persevered research and study, this Atlas is a brilliant exercise to map pan-India’s crafts. Written in at-once readable style, the book presents a huge variety of crafts, practiced in different states and regions of India, by potters, weavers, metal smiths, wood carvers, stone carvers, cane-and-bamboo weavers, and others. Besides the creations of these craftspeople that call for larger skills, the Atlas also focuses on myriad other crafts, including shola pith work, papier mache, paper crafts, glass work, carpet-and-durry weaving, and, in addition, the vast diversity of mural and miniature painting styles.
Replete with exquisite illustrations, the book contextually also considers India’s traditional arts that eloquently tell its cultural history. At the base of this Atlas is the enormous research effort of the Dastkari Haat Samiti: a national association of craftspeople, which, ever since its inception, has been collecting, documenting, and creating beautiful maps about the skills and crafts of each state.
Jaya Jaitly, who graduated in English Literature from Smith College, Massachusetts, USA, is the Founder-President of Dastkari Haat Samiti – a national association of craftspeople that trains its members and also helps them market their produce through different innovative strategies. Read More