Gujarat has a very rich heritage of handicrafts. The handicrafts of Gujarat are very unique. These handicrafts have been given a fillip by the government and some private individuals. Craftsmen and women who left their villages to work as stone crushers for the living have been brought back to practise their traditional arts. Their products can be seen and purchased in emporiums in Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai. The excavations at the Harappan sites in Gujarat at Lothal, Rangpur, Rozdi etc. have brought to light some of the very ancient handicraft articles. Gujarat also has a rich tradition of embroidery, leather work, bandhani and hand-block printing. Gujarat is also known for the famous and unique Kutch embroidery.
The Patola of Patan is a unique fabric of Gujarat. This special variety of women’s wear is strikingly attractive with its colourful geometrical patterns. This lovely silken fabric, which resembles a printed saree is not an apparel printed by blocks. Its tie and weave method result in identical patterns on both sides of the fabric, involving complicated designs, and is entirely based on the geometry of the design. The process consists of dyeing the warp and the weft threads in conformity with the proposed design on the fabric. Hand-woven and silk yarn is used for weaving. The Patola silk sarees are extremely fine and quite expensive and made by very small master craftsmen at Patan.
The Zari or gold thread embroidery work of Surat is one of the oldest handicrafts whose origin can be traced back to the Mughal period. Surat is one of the biggest and important Zari manufacturing centres in India. The principal types of products are real gold and silver threads, imitation gold and silver threads,
embroidery such as Chalak, Salama, Kangari, Tiki, Ring and Katori for motifying in the Kinkhab and the Zari border weaving, laces, caps, turbans, sarees, and blouse pieces. The Tanchoi or silk brocade is woven on silk cloth and decorated with the designs of birds, animals, leaves, fruits etc. The cloth is used for costly sarees, blouses and tapestry. The Kinkhab or the Indian brocade is woven on the silk with gold and silver threads. Surat is also known for the Kinkhab gold brocades.
Dyeing is a hereditary art. In the past cloth was dyed in colours extracted from trees and flowers. The Sarkhei suburb of Ahmedabad was one of the indigo manufacturing and exporting centres. The Bandhani, tie and dye variety of saree is a very popular women’s wear. It involves an intricate process of tying knots on the fine white fabric, which is dipped in colours. The hues of deeper shades are used over the previous ones to form the coloured background of the cloth.
Cloth printing is a complicated and specialised job. It is done with engraved wooden blocks and screens. Certain craftsman are doing the work of printing different varieties which are locally called Chundadi, Patola, Plain Gala, Lehria, Bandhani, Pomcha, Nagaria. Household utility and decorative materials such as table cloths, bed covers, curtains, tapestries, hand bags and carpets are also prepared by this type of printing process. The hand-painted cloth is available in traditional black, red, maroon and ochre colors and is also inexpensive. The tie-and-dye fabrics are known all over the world for their variety and excellent colors. Temple curtains popularly known as Mat-no-Chandarvo is another type of printing work. The Vahari-Harijan families of Ahmedabad were engaged in this type of printing. It is prepared in the old process and depicts goddess Durga seated on the throne or on the back of a tiger and surrounded by her devotees.
Wood carving is an ancient art of the state which has attained very high standard of technical skill. Some of the best examples of wood-carvings are found in temples and houses in many parts of Gujarat. The wood carvers produce life-like figures of animals, artistic objects of every-day use such as tea pots, table lamps, stools and toys for children. Mahuva and Idar are famous for their lacquer toys. Sankheda in Baroda district is known for its lacquer work. The work is done on country-wood which gives darker shades. The coating is done with fine lac. Women folk of Saurashtra prepare idols, toys, ash-trays, toilet-boxes, lamp-stands and flower-pots from the pulp of rags, banana stumps and bamboos. Artistic Jars, water-pots and other utility articled are prepared from clay.
Embroidery has been a craft for women. Banni, a small village in the Rann of Kutch is known for its artistic embroidery work. Small mirrors are interspersed to lend glitter and charm. The finest type of such embroidery work with small mirrors is called Abhla-Bharat. When a bride is sent to her husband’s house, she carries with her some pieces of skirts and cholis exquisitely embroidered with minute details.
Ivory in Gujarat is mostly used in inlay work. Bangles and sandal wood articles are inlaid with it.
Bead-work is a speciality of Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Junagadh. Decorative pieces like torans, chopat, carpets, caps, and belts are some of the fine articles of bead-work.
The art of making jewellery and precious stone-cutting and processing is a traditional handicraft of Gujarat. Gold smithy includes filigree-work, open wire-work, carving etc. The folk jewellery of excellent designs, characteristic of each village and each community is a typical art of Gujarat. The silver craft is a specialty of Kutch, in which light embossing is done on thin silver plates and is enhanced by etching and scrapping. Attardanis, Gulsbdanis, Flower-vases, trays, jewellery boxes, powder boxes, ash trays and cigarette boxes are some of the articles of silver craft. Agate is a semi-transparent mineral composed of quartz in different colours and found in river beds. The raw stones are processed by heating, chiselling, surfacing, polishing and drilling before they are turned into artistic articles such as ear-rings, necklaces, studs, bowls, and trays. The industry is located in Cambay.
The oldest ancient craft and famous Pottery from Gujarat is popular as it achieve excellence with traditional crafts. Village potters turn wonders of clay into artifact pieces that attracts. Clay utensils are made which are used by village homes even today. Terracotta toys are another craft of the potters of Kachchh, but it is in the Aravallis and Chhota Udepur tribal lands that potters make the famous long necked terracotta figurines of the Gora Dev (tribal horse God), said to protect crops, villages and families from evil spirits, evil intentions and natural calamities.
Potter communities also specialise in mud wall paintings, and you could get plaques, inset with mirrors, made for your own house or garden decor from Kutchh.
Another thing that cannot be missed while in Gujarat is the impressive stone carvings. All the carvings look real and are designed with excellence craftsmanship. It is believed that this culture motivated the development of the existing folk tradition, which represents the true feelings of Gujarat. The marvelous shrines, hero and sati stones, memorial canopies, household stuffs, and architectural fixer are some of them that are worth seeing. The people of Gujarat have still kept the stone carvings works, even today. Some of the important temples and monuments still have the impressive works that attract thousands of people from all over the world.