January , 2020
Folk tale of Indian handicrafts
16:14 pm

Ellora De

Indian folk arts are integral parts of Indian handicrafts. Every community in India has its own art forms - known as folk art. The ethnic but colourful, simple but vibrant folk arts of India convey a lot about Indian heritage.

Integrity in diversity

Kasturi Gupta Menon, Honorary President of the Craft Council of India (CCI) and former Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, Government of India, told BE, “The colourful folk arts of India give the best message of national integration on today’s date.” She added, “Every folk art has its place and location. Some are associated with local festivals. Some have national markets. Some also have international markets. This type of art form cannot be generalised. Some states of India have come more forward to promote their crafts and arts due to the proactive approach of the state administrations, for example, Odisha, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.”


Under Gandhiji’s influence, the Central Cottage Industries Emporium (CCIE) was set up in 1948 by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to popularise and market handicrafts. It was an outcome of Gandhiji’s efforts.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay - the driving force behind the renaissance of Indian handicrafts

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (3 April 1903–29 October 1988), an Indian social reformer, was very successful with the Refugee Handicrafts Centre. Impressed by her success, in 1952, Pandit Nehru handed over CCIE to the Indian Cooperative Union. The government set up the All India Handicrafts Board (AIHB) in 1952, with Chattopadhyay as its chairperson. Under her leadership, the first report on Indian folk art titled the ‘All India Report on Handicrafts’ was released in 1954.

Journey of a Bengali folk art form from Bankura to Delhi

Kasturi Gupta Menon narrated an interesting incident related to handicrafts of Bengal. She said, “In 1944, Kamaladevi, in the capacity of the President of All India Women Conference (AIWC), visited Bankura, West Bengal, to check the condition of famine there. She stayed at our house. Our servant ‘Hari’ had a pair of Bankura terracotta horses which drew her attention. She took those horses and showcased the same in the capital of India.” Since then, the terracotta horse has become one of the iconic items of Indian handicrafts.

Along with Alleen Webb and Margaret Patch, Chattopadhyay co-founded the World Craft Council in 1964. In the same year, Chattopadhyay established the Craft Council of India (CCI). The retail outlets of the Crafts Council of  India – Kamala (Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi), are named after Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. According to Kasturi Gupta Menon, Kamaladevi felt that empowering folk art meant empowering rural and tribal India. She set up a series of craft museums to hold and archive Indiaʼs indigenous arts and crafts.

Economic side

I. V. Lakshminath, General Manager, Andhra Pradesh Handicraft Development Corporation (APHDC) Ltd., Gandhi Nagar, Vijayawada, told BE, “About 200 artisans are engaged in the Kondapalli craft with an estimated annual production of Rs 50 lakh. The annual production of Kalamkari paintings is around Rs 50 lakh against the annual production capacity of Rs 80 lakh. There are around 500 women engaged in the craft of mat weaving with annual production to the tune of Rs 25 lakh approximately.  There are about 30 artisans engaged in the craft of wooden block making with an estimated annual
production capacity of Rs 25 lakh. They are supplying wooden blocks on receipt of orders. At present, around 60 artisans are practising the craft of wooden cutlery with an estimated production of Rs 5 lakh per annum.” Lakshminath also added, “Lepakshi and Development Commissioner for Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India, New Delhi provided improved tools to the artisans. APHDC extended lot of support through training to new generation of artisans and has encouraged them by providing marketing options. Still the new generation is not willing to practise handmade crafts as income levels are low.”

Vir Singh, Deputy Manager, Punjab Government Emporium, Kolkata, said to BE, “In the last financial year, our organisation earned around one crore through embroidery art and 50 lakh through other handicrafts nationally.”

The Indian folk craft has emerged as one of the sources of foreign currency earnings of the country. According to the government data, around seven million artisans are involved in the handicraft industry. It plays a significant role in the Indian economy.

Rhythm of the Indian folk art

Sujit Kumar Mandal, Asso-ciate Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, told BE, “Indian handicrafts originate from Indian folk art. Every folk art is related to an anthropological com-
munity, for example, Patachitra (scroll paintings) of Bengal. The scroll painters do not have the practice of signing on their paintings because they represent their community. Similarly, every art form has an economic side since ancient times. Art forms are very much connected to livelihood. The scroll painters used to go from village to village, carrying the scrolls door to door and on request, they used to narrate stories through the scroll paintings for a fee, either in cash or kind. But the marketing of craft items had emerged later in post-independence era.” Professor Sujit Kumar Mandal also mentioned about the fair (Poush Mela) in Shantiniketan, Birbhum, India which was initiated by Rabindranath Tagore in the 19th century. He said, “The folk artisans of Birbhum take part in the fair since its initiation.
But commodification of craft was not there then.” Professor Mandal added, “Every folk art carries the rhythm and essence of the community and of the geographical area of
its origin.”

Art forms

All the states and union territories of India establish their identity through their distinct art forms. Other than folk art, there is yet another form of traditional art practiced by several tribes, which is classified as tribal art. Tribal art generally reflects the creative energy found in tribal areas.

Pottery as an art form is found more or less in every part of India with different characteristics of each state. Same is applicable to jewellery art and embroidery art.



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