Indian crafts are known throughout the world for their artistic work and grandeur. The vast cultural tradition and ethnic diversity, has enabled a variety of crafts with different materials, motifs and techniques to flourish in this land.
The first references to Indian handicrafts can be found from the Indus Valley Civilization (3000 B.C.-1700 B.C.). This civilization is well versed in the craft of bead making, ceramics, shell etc. The Mughal era and the Gupta period were also the golden period in the history of Indian craft.
Works on woodwork, Pottery, hand looms, terracotta, paintings, beadwork, jewellery and embroidery etc have survived through centuries with fewer changes since it remained integrated with the everyday existence of the locals. The materials that are used may have changed over the years with the advent of modernity, but their technique of production have not changed much.
Crafts not only cater to the day-to-day needs of the people but are also used for decorative and religious ceremonies in India. Thousands of craftsmen makes crafts from nature – clay, plants, trees and animals etc. Articles of daily use like chairs, bags, cushions, hats, purses, sofas etc are made from these natural sources. Increasing use is made of recycled materials like wire, plastic and tin.
In India, every state has its own unique culture, their own designs, colours, materials in use and individual shapes and patterns which is manifested in the handicrafts of that particular region. For instance, Kashmir is known for its Pashmina wool shawls as well as carpets, silverware, ivory works etc, Assam and West Bengal for their delicate 'Sholapith' and 'Shital Patti' work; Karnataka for its rosewood carving, sandalwood crafts; and the engraved and enameled meenakari brassware found in Rajasthan, silk materials from Varanasi and Kanchipuram, colourful embroidery, mirror work, quilting and fabric painting from Gujarat etc are some of the unique crafts from the different states. Certain other regions are famous for crystals and semi precious stones. In India, Craft making and dealing is a major occupation today with around twenty three million people engaged in the field.