All over the State of
Madhya Pradesh, craftsmen spend their days in a whirl of precious
activities. The materials that are used may have changed and the
articles that are produced may be on a wider utilitarian range, but a
long heritage of tradition continues to add a highly distinctive,
individualistic touch to the crafts of Madhya Pradesh. Thousands of
craftsmen practice hand printing, generally with vegetable dyes that
hold fast and true, at a string of hand printing centresJawad,
Bhairongarh, Mandsaur, Umedpura, Burhanpur, Bhopal,Indore, Gotampura,
Sohawal, Tarapur and many more.
table cloths and curtain material are produced at Umedpura and
Tarapur in nandana prints that were once in vogue amongst the
villagers of the legendary Nimar plain. From Bhairongarh come printed
quilt covers in attractive colours and designs, lungis, odhanis,
jajams (floor coverings), bedspreads and table cloths. Tie and
dye chunaries are the speciality of Tarapur and Mandsaur.
Textile weaving in Madhya
Pradesh is as refined as the hand printing craft. Soft, subtle shades
in delicate weaves come off the looms in Chanderi, near Gwalior.
Here, silk is used as the warp and cotton for the weft to produce the
famous Chanderi sarees. Some sarees have gold checks and these
combined with the traditional rich gold border along with two gold
bands on the pallav, give each saree a special touch.
are woven at Maheshwar. The Maheshwari craftsmen have perfected the
art of weaving a wide variety of checks. Madhya Pradeshs
craftsmen are equally adept at producing tassar silk handloom
Skilled craftsmanship is
also on display in a variety of zari (gold and silver threads)
embroidered articles. There are zari wall hangings, handbags, sarees
and splendid brocade borders. Even though the number of zari
workersmostly womenhas dwindled in recent years, Bhopal
remains an important centre for this specialized embroidery.
In the princely fort city
of Gwalior, steeped in history and legend, carpet weaving made a late
debut in 1902, but the fine quality of weaving in imaginative designs
soon earned Gwaliors carpet industry an excellent reputation.
More than a thousand looms are in operation in and around the city.
Gwalior is much more than
a carpet weaving centre. It is, in fact, a veritable Mecca of crafts.
In the shadow of the imposing old fort, craftsmen hew and chisel
marvelously delicate stone jails (perforated screens). And in
the narrow, teeming lanes and by lanes of the old city, work
craftsmen who still savour memories of a glorious, not too distant
past when their crafts were renowned even far beyond the borders of
The craftsmen at Gwalior
produce striking papier mache articles, coloured lacquerware, glass
beads, wood, shell and white metal jewellery, terracotta figures and
containers, rag dolls and toys. Gwaliors Batto Bai
dolls, named after an enter praising craftswoman, measure some four
to five feet in height. Made of bamboo, paper and rags, these dolls
are extremely popular.
However, these crafts are
not the monopoly of Gwalior alone. Coloured lacquerware, for
instance, is also produced at a number of other centres such as
Ratlam, Rewa, Sheopur and Bhopal. Rag dolls are crafted at Khandwa,
Indore and Burhanpur. Striking papier mache articles are made at
Indore, Ujjain and a few more centres. In addition to crafts that are
common to a number of specialized centres, there are others which are
the monopoly of a particular area and there are still others where
craftsmen in a specific centre lend to their work a highly
Take for example
terracotta. Even though this craft is practiced all over Madhya
Pradesh, the terracottas of Bastar stand apart, both for their
variety and workmanship. The terracotta craftsmen of Bastar make
terracotta figures of the gods, of humans and of animals, along with
utilitarian articles such as pots and containers.
Besides, the Maria and
Abujmaria women of Bastar design a wide, colourful range of jewellery
from glass beads which they buy at the weekly markets (haats).
Bell metal casting in the cireperude (lost wax) process has also
long been practiced in Bastar and at a few other places such as Datia
and Sagar. Tribal deities, votive lamps, some items of tribal
jewellery are amongst the bell metal articles that are produced
through the cireperdue process. The wood carvers of Bastar are
reputed to be an exceptionally gifted lot, adept at bringing wood to
life in a number of formsritualistic, religious and
aesthetically appealing articles.
Perhaps the greatest
number of craftsmen and workersmore than 150,00in Madhya
Pradesh are engaged in crafting the most beautiful of bamboo ware.
Leather toys too, generally wild animals, are a speciality of Madhya
Pradesh. At Bhedaghat, situated in picturesque surroundings on the
banks of the Narmada river, craftsmen, their fingers hardened by
constant use, fashion decorative items from the soft marble rocks in
the area. And in places such as Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain and Alirajpur,
craftsmen work patiently on wood carvings. There are carved
furniture, door jambs, boxes, panels and figures in various sizes.
Tribal designs and motifs
are an interesting feature shared by a large number of crafts in
Madhya Pradeshfrom fabrics to papier mache, wood, bamboo and
bell metal articles. But perhaps the greatest appeal of the crafts of
Madhya Pradesh lies in their strength of tradition and the beauty,
sometimes subtle, sometimes stunning, that permeates each craft and
inspires the craftsmen to refine their skills.
STOP AND SHOP
Shopping for handicrafts
in Madhya Pradesh is a classic experience which epitomizes far more
than the delights of hunting for objects of beauty, followed by the
pleasure of finally selecting a piece to purchase and take home to
admire. Almost everywhere in the State, there is a dual
choicebetween old bazaars where shops specialize in
offering certain items, and modern streamlined shopping centres which
tend to stock a cosmopolitan range of goods.
The older shopping
centres in Madhya Pradesh have retained the lingering ambience of a
bygone age. There is a hustle and bustle in the teeming bazaars and
narrow by lanes, but once inside a shop, the trader or shopkeeper
displays an abundance of courtesy without a mite of impatience as one
goes through the wares haggling and bargaining. In Bhopal for
instance, the Chowk, which forms the heart of the old city, is a
fascinating shopping centre. Old mosques and havelis around
the area provide reminders of a splendid past while the shops in the
narrow alleyways are a feast of traditional crafts which entice the
shopper. There are delicately embroidered cushions and velvet purses,
exquisite silver jewellery, exotic zari borders
And if one is in a hurry,
and has time only for a quick shopping spree, one heads towards the
modern, streamlined shopping centre at the New Market in TT Nagar.
The Madhya Pradesh State Emporium with its range of handicrafts at
fixed prices is situated here.
The city of Indore with
handicrafts from all over the State is a virtual nucleus for
shoppers. Its oldest market, the Maharaj Tukuganj Cloth Market,
popularly known as MT Market, has a range of fabrics that could warm
the heart of a princess. The famous Maheshwari sarees with their
distinctive borders can be found here, as can the prized Chanderi
sarees. Brocades and zari work in a host of designs charm the senses.
There are lungis, odhanis in traditional designs
Jail Road and the Top
Khana rank as the second oldest markets in Indore. Smocking done at
nearby Mhow can be found here, along with an assortment of
handicrafts of Madhya Pradesh ranging from the odd tribal memento to
utilitarian papier mache articles, terracotta pieces, wood carving
The range is truly imposing.
The old market at Rajwara
has a predominance of traditional fabrics, while the Bara Sarafa and
the Chotta Sarafa offer an impressive array of jewellery in designs
perfected at a time when goldsmiths and silversmiths were patronized
exclusively by clients who had an eye for rare beauty. The Madhya
Pradesh State Emporium is located on M.G. Road.
In the holy city of
Ujjain, near Indore, beautifully carved objects such as penholders,
glasses, plates, images of gods and goddesses are carved in stone
with delicate hues ranging from pale green to a rich, creamy brown.
These can be bought, along with papier mache articles, lacquerware,
and beadwork from the numerous stalls and shops outside the Mahakal
Temple and in the small main bazaar at Ujjain.
Perhaps the oldest
bazaars in Madhya Pradesh are in Gwalior. In the lanes near the Chowk
at Bara, shopkeepers claim a line-age that dates back several
centuries. Chanderi sarees can be found here, along with choice
fabrics with a traditional weave. The shops near Rajwara and Laskar,
particularly at Patankar Bazaar, offer a mix of arts and crafts that
are native to Gwalior, such as dolls, lacquerware, hand woven
carpets, wall hangings in the Gwalior style of painting, jewellery
and crafts from other centres in Madhya Pradesh.
Objects in the delicate
jail-work of Gwalior can be obtained from several masons who
work on the roadside leading to the Parade Ground. The Madhya Pradesh
State Emporium which houses a large range of handicrafts is located
in Patankar Bazaar and is an ideal place to shop at if you are in a