History of Artisans in India


India shares a brief history in cultural and regal heritage of Artisans and their craftsmanship that has been practiced and celebrated for almost 5000 years now. An artisan is someone that works with their hands to create unique, functional and/or decorative items using traditional techniques. Artisans are masters of their craft and create products such as clothes, toys, tools or furnishings. These artisanal techniques are learned through decades of tribal knowledge. Originally, artisans made products that they needed for their everyday activities in their communities as there were no factories or shops around. As industrialization occurred, most of artisanal products became decorative or special objects to be bought from the people outside their communities. The craft of each state in India reflect the influence of different empires. Throughout centuries, crafts have been embedded as a culture and tradition within rural communities. Like inlay work, glass engraving, carpet weaving, brocades, enameling etc. One can still find traces of the highly skilled, fine intricate work done by our artisans over the years , right from the Indus valley civilization we find a rich craft tradition and a high degree of technical excellence in the field of pottery, sculpture (metal, stone and terracotta), jewelry, weaving etc.

The Harappan craftsmen not only catered to all the local needs but traded with the outside world via sea routes. In the Vedic age (1500 B.C.), we find numerous references in the Vedas of artisans involved in pottery making, weaving, wood craft etc. The Rig Veda refers to a variety of pottery made from clay, wood and metal. In the Maryann age we find great development in the field of sculpture. During the Kushana period Jewelry, sculpture, textile making, leather products, metal working etc. were the main handicrafts that assimilated foreign influences and used them in accordance with the Indian setting. The Gupta age saw rapid advancement in the field of handicrafts and art forms. The murals at Ajanta and Ellora bear testimony to it. In The Medieval period the handicraftsmen flourished in the field of pottery, weaving, wood carving, metal working, jewelry etc. The contribution of the Cholas and the Vijaynaga Empire in the field of bronze sculpture, silk weaving, jewelry, temple carving is simply unparalleled. The Mughal period was the golden period in the history of Indian art, craft and culture. The Mughals brought with them a rich heritage. The Mughals introduced methods the crafts of India are diverse, rich in history, culture and religion.

 Today, consumers have a newfound appreciation for these handmade artisanal goods as they are   not mass-produced and full of meaning. Some specific technique examples include ceramics, pottery, textile, metalworking, wood, jewelry, saddlery, glass. Artisans are the backbone of India’s non-farm rural economy, a notable aspect about these rural artisans is that they belong from the un-organized sector. This unorganized sector can contribute a lot to the Indian economy by providing employment opportunities, generation of rural income and improving the purchasing power of rural people. The craft and handcraft sector forms the second largest unorganized Employment sector in India, second only to agriculture.

In India craft can be described not merely an industry But a creation symbolizing the inner desire and fulfilment of the community, at present nearly 23 million handcraft people in India today. They are indeed a scared thread that keeps our culture as well as economy intact.

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