Art & Craft

art_craft.jpgArts & Crafts of Madhya Pradesh a Rich & Vibrant Tradition

In the heartland of India lies its largest State, Madhya Pradesh. Filled with lush forests, magnificent monuments, exuberant festivity and blissful solitude. In this land of wonderful and contrasting variety, handicrafts lend a touch of mystique - a charm unique to Madhya Pradesh. They radiate an aura, exhibit hereditary skills, whisper painstaking craftsmanship and evoke an urgent desire to learn more about the land and its colourful people.

A deftly woven silk or a cotton blended saree. Block printed fabrics, stuffed leather toys or floor coverings. Folk paintings, bamboo, cane or jute. Woodcraft, stonecraft, ironcraft. Metalcraft, terra-cotta, papier mache. Zari work (gold thread embroidery), ornaments, dolls...each hand-crafted product of Madhya Pradesh is charming enough to sweep you off your feet.

Bamboo & Cane

Bamboo & Cane occupy an important place in rural life: utility articles such as agricultural implements, fishing traps, hunting tools and baskets are made of bamboo. In Madhya Pradesh these are generally made by a community called Basor or Basod, who sell them in weekly markets. Shahdol, Balaghat, Mandla and Seoni regions of Madhya Pradesh are main bamboo producing centres apart from Chhattisgarh and Bastar. Here the artisans have skillfully harmonized their age old knowledge and techniques with new designs, to meet modern market demands. The Gond, Baiga and Korku tribal communities are highly skilled in the craft of bamboo 


Cute little dolls made out of small cloth pieces are produced in Gwalior, Bhopal and Jhabua. The work of Battobai, a craftswoman from Gwalior has achieved international fame. The dolls made here are interesting pieces of work, influenced by different cultures and traditions of India mirroring the diversity and uniqueness of the country 

 Floor coverings

(a) Durries
The floor coverings of Madhya Pradesh consist mainly of durries and carpets in a rich variety of designs. A durrie, essentially a thick cotton woven fabric, is meant for spreading on the floor, and is made all over Madhya Pradesh, especially near Sironj. The basic technique of weaving a durrie in its most primitive form, can be seen in rural areas. The more universal durries are made by women in their homes, in the 'Punja' technique. They are usually in bold patterns and bright colours with folk designs. Apart from Sironj, Jhabua, Raigarh, Jabalpur and Shahdol are leading centres of durrie weaving in Madhya Pradesh. Cotton and woollen punja durries, handwoven in various colours are designed to suit traditional as well as modern home decor. Patterns are generally based on kiln designs, geometric traditional motifs & animal and human figures.

(b) Carpets
Since the Mughal times, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh has carved a niche for itself in the weaving of carpets. Later on, weaving also began in the Shahdol & Mandla belt. The carpet weavers of Madhya Pradesh are undisputed masters of not only weaving carpets but dyeing also. The colouring was earlier done by means of natural dyes, but presently it is being done with synthetic dyes as well. Pattern is an integral part of knotted carpets and traditional patterns have continued with varying combinations since the last 200 years. Woollen carpets are available in vibrant colours with both floral and geometric designs. The weavers have used their ingenuity to transform traditional motifs into modern designs; drawing from the treasury of ancestral motifs: trees and flowers in carefully blended colours. 

Folk Paintings

Throughout different periods of history, we find a definite established tradition of painting on various objects, particularly on intimate objects of everyday use, floors and walls; and in almost every instance the depiction being associated with some ritual.

Folk paintings of Madhya Pradesh, specially the wall paintings of Bundelkhand, Chhattisgarh, Gondwana, Nimar and Malwa are living expressions of people, intrinsically linked with the socio-cultural ambiance of the area. They are not mere decorations but also spontaneous outpourings of religious devotions.

The paintings, based on local festivals like Karwa Chauth, Deepawali, Ahoi Ashtami, Nag Panchmi, Sanjhi etc. are usually done by women using simple home made colours.

In Bundelkhand, painting is usually done by a caste of professional painters called Chiteras. In the paintings of Chhattisgarh, mud plaster base is used, over which linear patterns are etched with fingers: the process is called 'Lipai'. The women of the Rajwar community are specialists in 'Lipai', whereas Pando & Satnami communities make linear designs similar to a woven fabric. Chhatisgarh is also the home of the art of tattoo which is done by women of Badi community. The tattoo patterns are complex and beautiful and have immense potential of being further modified and incorporated into designer prints.

The Bhils and Bhilala tribes of Madhya Pradesh paint myths related to creation called Pithora paintings. Horses, elephants, tigers, birds, gods, men and objects of daily life are painted in bright multicoloured hues. In the Gondwana region, unmatched creative vision has been shown by the Gond and the Pardhan tribes who have impressed audiences at exhibitions in Japan, France, Australia and other countries.

The Malwa, Nimar and Tanwarghar regions of Madhya Pradesh are known for their Mandana wall and floor painting traditions. Red clay and cow dung mixture is used as base material to plaster the surface against which white drawings stand out in contrast. Peacocks, cats, lions, goojari, bawari, swastik and chowk are some motifs of this style.

Iron Craft

The tradition of iron craft in Madhya Pradesh has been passed down from generation to generation and stands unmatched in skill and creativity. In the interiors of Madhya Pradesh's villages, the craftsperson's practice traditional skills and techniques to craft iron in myriad inimitable forms. Iron crafting begins with obtaining iron ore from local mines which the ironsmiths mould into various shapes and forms. Gond, Muria, Bhatra, Dhruva tribals, practice the tradition of offering horses, swings, trishuls etc. made out of iron, to gods on fulfillment of their wishes. There is also a custom of gifting to daughters exquisitely carved "Deeyas" on their wedding. Keeping pace with changing times and tastes of buyers, today craftsperson's produce various objects : birds, carved deeyas, candle stands, lattice, furniture, lamps and decorative items, each piece an object 'd' art enabling the craft to reach its zenith. Tribal statues have come to occupy a very special place in modern day interior decoration and tribal artisans have won the recognition they so rightly deserve. 


Next to cotton, jute is the cheapest and most important of all textile fibers. It is used extensively in manufacturing different types of packaging material for agricultural and industrial products. Its coarse character has a unique charm while natural colour, heavy texture and twilly kind of body typify its earthiness. Jute handicrafts are available at Bhopal, Raipur, Indore and Gwalior. The items include hanging lamps, baskets, flower vases, swings, hammocks, purses, table mats and footwear etc 


Emerging from the fogs of time, steadfast with centuries of changeless tradition, yet keeping tune with contemporary styles, the Metal Craft of Madhya Pradesh stands apart, in concept and workmanship alike. Metal ornaments boxes of Bundelkhand, lamps of Sarguja, rice measure bowls animal figurines of Raigarh, sculptures of Bastar are a few examples of the ingenuity of craftspersons of Madhya Pradesh. These metal images invested with peculiar indigenous socio- religous history are considered auspicious. 


The folk jewellery of Madhya Pradesh is most distinctive, highly artistic, elaborate and varied. The various cultural regions have their own distinct styles. Jewellery from Chhattisgarh is available in a variety of gold, silver, bronze and mixed metal. Other major centres for folk ornaments are Tikamgarh, Jhabua and Sheopur-Kalan. Ornaments made of beads, cowries and feathers are part of tribal costumes. Tribal metalsmiths often fashion ornaments by the age old process of cire perdue casting, or lost wax process. For each technique, there is a specialised craftsperson whose family has been practicing this hereditary craft for over three to four generations. The rural and tribal women folk of Malwa, Nimar and Bastar regions are exceptionally fond of ornaments, and both men and women wear ornaments. 

Papier Mache

Papier Mache, a craft practiced since time immemorial, finds expression in varied forms. In Madhya Pradesh, the main centre for papier mache is Ujjain, but it is also practiced in Gwalior, Bhopal and Ratlam also. The Nagvanshi community, which makes mud toys and dolls, is also engaged in making of papier mache articles. The traditional expression of this craft was creation of ornate articles like vases, figurines and icons. Today, craftspersons in Bhopal and Gwalior make statues, birds, animals and decorative panels. In Ujjain, the craft of papier mache brings to life different kinds of splendidly crafted birds with the artisans using natural colours to create exact replicas of living birds. Presently, the craftspersons are also experimenting with ways of creating decorative pottery and furniture in papier mache. 

Stone Carving

India's stone carving tradition is perhaps one of the richest in the world. Guilds of masons and stone carvers have existed since the 7th century B.C. A system of apprenticeship was initially prevalent. Later skills were handed down as family lore, from father to son. The famous rock cut temples of Vidisha, the sculptured stone temples of Khajuraho, the monuments of Orchha and Gwalior, all stand testimony to the excellence and originality of the stone carvers of Madhya Pradesh. Each region has a distinct style. Gwalior specializes in jail (lattice) work, Jabalpur and Tikamgarh in decorative items such as statues of animals and human figures and Bastar in icons of tribal gods and goddesses and memorial pillars. 

Stuffed Leather Toys

Delightful looking in various forms, skillfully crafted and gaily painted, the stuffed leather toys of Madhya Pradesh are a very attractive. Leather work has been practiced since a number of years in Madhya Pradesh. Craftspersons in Gwalior, Indore, Dewas and Bilaspur specialize in making leather shoes, jutties, leather bags, mushk etc. With time the craft has evolved and given rise to new products. Today, Indore and Dewas are making leather garments & Gwalior is making shoes on a big scale. 


Pottery has been called the lyric of handicrafts. It symbolises man's first attempt at craftmanship. The colours of terracotta articles and figures vary from pink, red, brown to light and dark grey. The terra-cotta products of each region in Madhya Pradesh have their own identity and distinctiveness. The art of moulding terra-cotta in Madhya Pradesh shows a mature ability, the pantheon being even more varied and localized. In the rural areas, it is common to see terracotta animal figures placed under trees and in shrines made by potters. The famous traditional statues of elephants, serpents, birds and horses from Bastar are incomparable in simplicity. Similarly the decorative roof tiles and rukha padki of Raigarh have no equal. The life-size images of human forms are among the finest examples of Bundelkhand terra-cotta. 


The art of wood carving has flourished in many parts of Madhya Pradesh, and the beautifully embellished wooden ceilings, doors and lintels with finely carved designs are silent testimonials of its glory. The wood carvers of Madhya Pradesh, with great sensitivity and skill transform different varieties of wood such as shish, teak, dhudi, sal and kikar into works of art. Besides the famous wooden memorials, the craftspersons of Bastar and Chattisgarh, Malwa, Nimar and Bundelkhand, Sheopur-Kalan, and Rewa also make pipes, masks, doors, window frames and sculptures. Madhya Pradesh also offers a variety of painted and lacquered woodcraft items such as toys, boxes, bedposts, cradleposts and flower vases. The major centres of this art are Gwalior, Sheopur-Kalan (Morena), Rewa and Budhni (Raisen). 

Zari Work

The craft of Zari work is concentrated in Bhopal, which is famous for its exquisite craftsmanship. Also practiced in Gwalior and Indore, its origin can be traced back to 300 years. Today traditional articles have been replaced by modern purses, bags, tea cozies, and "jutties" or slippers.

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