Travel Tips

A Guide to Exquisite Indian Handicrafts and Where to Buy Them in India

A Guide to Exquisite Indian Handicrafts and Where to Buy Them in India
Published: 21 Feb, 2019/

Since the days of Indus Valley Civilisation, artisans and craftsmen have been respected for their excellence in various kinds of handicrafts. That tradition continued well into medieval and colonial times, and flourishes even to this day. From jewellery and potterware to furniture and textiles, Indians handicrafts have always been highly sought after. Tourists visiting India are often enamoured of its superb handicrafts, as much as its people. However, some, if not all, find the best places to buy unique handicrafts in India quite a challenge. An even bigger challenge is looking for places that sell authentic handicrafts. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to spend your hard earned money on fake items masqueraded as authentic ones, would you? In this blog, we tell you where you can lay your hands on authentic and exquisite handicrafts. Read on!

1. Kripal Kumbh, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Kripal Kumbh, Jaipur, Rajasthan

While traveling to Rajasthan in West India, make your way to Kripal Kumbh, a small showroom in Jaipur’s Bani park. This showroom was set up in the 1960’s by Kripal Singh Shekhawat, a famous artist of the time. It is believed that blue pottery made its way to Jaipur from Kashmir under the reign of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II during the 19th century. He was so impressed by its design and appearance that he decided it should be taught at all art schools. Today, the showrooms exhibit a variety of pottery designs, both classical and modern. You can buy a wide range of blue pottery items here, from trays to animal figures.

What can you buy?

There are a variety of blue pottery items available at the showroom. Some of these are:

  • Vases
  • Trays
  • Jars
  • Incense holders
  • Paper weights
  • Mugs
  • Visiting card holders
  • Coasters
  • Cups
  • Dinnerware
  • Egg holders
  • Sugar pots etc.

Interesting Fact

Kripal Singh Shekhawat, the founder of Kripal Kumbh, was conferred the Padma Shri in 1774 and awarded with the title “Shilp Guru” by the Government of India in 2002.

2. Must Art Gallery, Delhi

Must Art Gallery, Delhi (2)

Must Art Gallery, located in the posh Panchsheel Park area in Delhi, showcases Indian handicrafts belonging to the Gond community (one of the tribes belonging to central and south central India). This art gallery is perhaps the first of its kind in India to showcase Gond tribal art. Apart from tribal art belonging to the Gond community, paintings belonging to other styles like patachitra, madhubani, roghan, kalighat, bhil, gond, baiga and kalamkari are also showcased here.

Things you can buy

  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Masks
  • Photographs

Interesting Fact

According to traditions prevailing in the Gond age, a good image is believed to bring luck and prosperity. This is why the Gonds decorate their houses with traditional tattoos and motifs.

3. Sambhali Boutique, Rajasthan

Sambhali Boutique, Rajasthan

Sambhali Boutique, located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is run and maintained by Sambhali Trust. It is an NGO which provides employment opportunities to underprivileged women while promoting traditional handicrafts of the region.  Some of the items which you can hope to come across in this boutique are shoulder bags, curtains, block printed scarves and silk items of various types. All the clothes displayed at the boutique are made from locally sourced cotton fabric. You also have the option of placing your customized orders!

Things you can buy

  • Zip purses
  • Hand embroidered kurtas
  • Blouse Kimono
  • Embroidered tunics
  • Shalwar trousers
  • Scarfs
  • Bags
  • Accessories like laptop cases, waist and hip belts,
  • Handmade toys
  • Cushion covers
  • Wall hangings
  • Table mats
  • Key chains
  • Greetings cards

Interesting Fact

Any, and all profits, accrued from the sale of items at the boutique are invested back into the organisation to strengthen its projects and enhance its self-sufficiency.

4. Kala Madhyam, Bangalore

Kala Madhyam, Bangalore

There are many things that make Karnataka one of the most visited holiday destinations in South India. It’s lovely handicrafts is one of them, and one of the places where you can purchase them is Kala Madhyam in Bangalore. With branches all over India, it seeks to promote livelihood by encouraging and promoting traditional art and craft. The Kala Madhyam Store houses a wide variety of exhibits, from handicrafts and wall murals to tribal paintings.

Things you can buy

  • Ceramic items
  • Baskets
  • Jewelry
  • Statues
  • Applique work
  • Home products
  • Home furnishings

Interesting Fact

It is visited in large numbers by international tourists because of the uniqueness and incredible designs of the products.

5. Raghurajpur Heritage Village, Odisha

Raghurajpur Heritage Village, Odisha (2)

Raghurajpur Heritage Village in Odisha is one of the must-visit villages in India to buy Indian handicrafts. This village is located about 10 km from the temple town of Puri, and to reach here, you will have to hire an auto rickshaw or any other private vehicle. No sooner do you arrive at the village, than you get the feeling of having entered a large art gallery. The walls of every house are adorned with a lovely painting or mural. Wherever you look, your eyes meet a motley of colours.

The style of painting prevalent here is called “pattachitra” art, which dates back to the 4th century CE. Some of these paintings take their inspiration from demons, gods and goddesses, while others are inspired by the three principal deities of Odisha – Lord Jagannath, Lord Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra.  While some painters have begun using synthetic colours in their paintings, others still prefer using organic colours or natural dyes found in plants and minerals.

What can you buy?

  • Pattachitra paintings
  • Wooden toys
  • Coconut products
  • Paper mache toys

Interesting Fact

Raghurajpur was declared a heritage village in 2000 by the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (INTACH). Kelucharan Mohapatra, the legendary Odissi dancer, was born in this village.

6. Devrai Art Village, Maharashtra

Devrai Art Village, Maharashtra

One of the places in Maharashtra where you can buy handicrafts is Devrai Art Village. Located in Panchgani, it is managed by an NGO which seeks to encourage rural traditional handicrafts among the villagers. What makes the products different here is the combination of wood, bamboo, stone, brass, fabric and iron. One of the messages that the organisation seeks to put across through the handicraft products in the harmony of man with nature. It believes that the resources of nature don’t exist solely for the purpose of being exploited.

One of the examples of the unique art forms which have flourished in this village is Devrai Rock Dhokra, where a fusion has been accomplished between stone and art. Another reason for visiting the village is that you don’t just get to see a variety of exquisite handicrafts but also watch the artisans at work. You can also custom order products if case you don’t come across anything to your liking.

Things you can buy

  • Metal sculptures
  • Lamps
  • Artefacts

Interesting Fact

Dhokra is a non-ferrous metal casting art which has been around in India for over 4,000 years.

7. Dilli Haat, Delhi

Dilli Haat, Delhi (2)

Dilli Haat, located in Delhi, is a place which gives you a glimpse of various handicrafts practiced in India. From home decor items to handlooms, this bazar houses it all. Inaugurated in 1994 by Delhi Tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, it provides an opportunity to craftsmen from all over the country to showcase their skills. Spread over an area of almost six acres, it recreates the village atmosphere with its thatched roof cottages and kiosks. There is also an exhibition hall inside the Dilli Haat which conducts shows on history of handlooms and handicrafts of India, with the aim of promoting and encouraging their use. Some of the products which are extremely popular with the tourists are wood carvings, drapery, beads ornaments and gems.

Things you can buy

  • Phulkari dupatta
  • Home decor
  • Kashmiri shawls
  • Baskets
  • Jewelry
  • Khadi products
  • Paper mache
  • Chikankari
  • Leather based products
  • Kantha work saree
  • Kolhapuri sandals

Interesting Fact

The haat also houses a food plaza which lets visitors enjoy various cuisines across the country.

8. Tilonia, Rajasthan

Tilonia, Rajasthan (2)

Rajasthan has always attracted domestic and international tourists for its splendid palaces, forts and havelis. When it comes to local handicrafts though, this state has a lot to offer. One of the best places to buy handicrafts in Rajasthan is Tilonia Bazaar, located in the village of Tilonia in Ajmer district. It was established by Barefoot College, also known as The Social Work and Research Center, an NGO working for the upliftment and development of women in rural areas in various fields.

At the Tilonia Bazaar, more than 400 artisans engage themselves in creating various crafts, from block printing and weaving to needle work and embroidery. The handicraft products sold at this market reflect an amalgamation of traditional and contemporary styles. You should definitely visit this place during your trip to Rajasthan and gain an insight into its method, functioning and objectives.

Things you can buy

  • Quilts
  • Duvet sets
  • Bedspreads
  • Shower curtains
  • Table linens
  • Scarves and Shawls
  • Wall hangings
  • Gift certificates
  • Paper journals
  • Bags

Interesting Facts

Not only do the artisans in the Tilona project belong to rural areas, but most of them are women. It is to the organisation’s credit than so far, more than 15,000 women have been employed in other sectors apart from handicrafts.

9. Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh

Moradabad

The district of Moradabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh is one of the best places in India to purchase brass products. The handicrafts industry has flourished here since ages, and for that very reason, it’s also called “pitali nagri”. During your visit to this district, you will come across several families which have been practicing this art for decades. There are several shops where you can buy excellent brass products like Kohinoor Handicrafts, AFS Handicrafts, Creative Brass Handicrafts and Metal Town Handicrafts.

What can you buy?

Some of the brass handicraft items which you can purchase are:

  • Candle stands
  • Garden accessories
  • Light products
  • Home decor
  • Decorative candles
  • Decorative urns
  • Food chafing dishes
  • Plated cufflinks
  • Nickel plated cutlery

Interesting Fact

The brassware handicrafts industry developed quite rapidly in the early 19th century, with the result that the British took the art to foreign markets. As a result, artisans from Banaras, Agra and Lucknow were attracted to Moradabad.

10. Channapatna, Karnataka

Channapatna, Karnataka

Channapatna, in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka, is one of the best places to go handicrafts shopping in South India. This quaint town is famous for its wooden toys, with its craft so developed that it is also known as “gombegala nagara”, which means, town of toys. All the toys are produced here by the small scale industries. The credit for the introduction of wooden toy making in Channapatna goes to Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. It was he who encouraged the Persians to come here and teach others this lovely art.

Most of the toys are made from ivory wood which lend them a shiny texture. Vegetable dyes are used to color them. Other kinds of wooden products including bangles, necklaces etc., are also made. One of the best places in Channapatna which showcases a wide variety of wooden toys is Bharath Arts and Crafts.

What can you buy?

  • Snails
  • Pen stands
  • Beads
  • Vintage cars
  • Animals
  • Massage rollers
  • Ornate boxes
  • Tableware

Interesting Fact

Bacas Miyan is considered to be the father of Channapatna toys. It was he who introduced certain Japanese techniques to perfect the art of wooden toy making.

11. Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

Most people are familiar with the city of Kanchipuram as the land of temples, and they are right. Apart from being one of the best travel destinations in South India, it is also famous for its silk saree. If the people of Benares can pride themselves on the Banarsi saree, then the people of this beautiful city in Tamil Nadu take equal pride in the “Kanchipuram saree”.

The weaving of silk sarees in Kanchipuram traces its history back to 400 years, when it flourished under the patronage of King Krishna Deva Raya, the founder of Vijayanagara Empire. It is believed that two famous weaving communities from Andhra Pradesh, Devangas and Saligars, came to Kanchipuram and introduced this art to the local weaving community. The fine sarees are made from pure mulberry silk, while the zari (a type of gold thread used in Indian clothing) arrives from Gujarat. Most of the designs on the sarees feature various gods, goddesses and other figures from Hindu mythologies. When the saree is finally complete, it can weigh as much as two kilos!

Things you can buy

  • Silk sarees

Interesting Fact

Some of these sarees, which are made from pure zari and pure silk, can cost as much as 2,00,000 INR! About 5,000 families in Kanchipuram are involved in the making of silk sarees.

12. Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Agra, Uttar Pradesh (2)

Yes, Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal and other Mughal era structures which make it a highly visited travel destination. However, the next time you visit it, take some time out and explore its bustling markets which showcase a wide variety of stone cut products. The most common of these is the “Bric-a-Brac”, a replica of the Taj Mahal. Apart from that, there are other souvenirs and items made from marble. Two of the best places in Agra for buying local handicraft products are Marble Handicrafts and Gems & Art Gallery.

Things you can buy

  • Bric-a-Brac
  • Wall hangings
  • Jewelry pieces
  • Animals
  • Toys

Interesting Fact

Other than the famous “petha”, Agra is famous for being the largest shoe manufacturer in the world and the largest shoe exporter after China.

13. Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu_

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, is a highly visited holiday destination in India. What makes it so popular are its Group of Monuments which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were built by rulers of the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is fascinating to know that all these statues were built out of stone. The art of carving statues out of stone is well alive and flourishing even to this day. In fact, it is a major handicraft industry here, so much so that the it was declared a World Stone Carving City in 2015 by World’s Craft Council, a body affiliated to UNESCO.

Just take a trip through the town, and you will come across artisans engaged in the carving of marvellous statues representing various gods and goddesses. So much for the history and facts. If you are wondering about the best places to purchase stone handicraft items in Mahabalipuram, then the Mount Road Market would be a great option. Here, stores display different kinds of stone items, from figurines and statues to artefacts. Other places which are famous for their stone handicrafts products are Mayan handicrafts and Sky Blue handicrafts.

What can you buy?

  • Stone sculptures
  • Jewelry
  • Wall hangings
  • Cushion covers

Interesting Fact

After visiting Mahabalipuram, you should head towards Cholamandal Artists’ Village, which is a self-supported village of artists. You can also attend one of the painting exhibitions which are often held here.

14. Kutch, Gujarat

Kutch, Gujarat_

The district of Kutch in Gujarat is one of the most visited tourist destinations in India. Rann of Kutch (a large salty marsh dry in summers and flooded during monsoons) and Rann Utsav, two major festivals in Gujarat, attract visitors in large numbers. While the landscape is certainly barren, the traditional handicrafts more than make up for it with their bright colors and exciting designs. There are various villages which are dedicated to a specific handicraft. While Hodka is famous for leather bags and quilts, Nirona is famous for its wooden utensils and copper bells.

If you are looking for authentic handloom textiles, visit the village of Bhujodi. In this village, the Vankar community weaves the finest fabrics and display their excellence in block printing, dye painting and weaving. While in Kutch, you should definitely not miss visiting the Khamir Craft Resource Center. It was established after the devastating earthquake of 2001 to encourage and strengthen the local arts and crafts of the region. It is most famous for Kumbhar pottery which involves the use of local clay decorated with lines and dots before being baked.

Things you can buy

  • Ajrakh prints
  • Leather bags
  • Quilts
  • Rogan
  • Copper ware
  • Kitchenware
  • Shawls
  • Penknives
  • Nutcrackers
  • Sea shell toys

Interesting Fact

In the Banni region in Kutch district of Gujarat, the houses are adorned with fabulous paintings. These are made by Harijan and Rabari women folk who are known to create artistic depictions of their dreams.

15. Murshidabad, West Bengal

Murshidabad, West Bengal_

Murshidabad is famous for being the seat of prosperous Nawabs of Bengal. It is also famous for being home to a very developed handicraft industry. Some of the crafts which have been practiced since historical times are sholapith, wood and bell handicrafts. Silk industry is also quite developed, with the Baluchari sarees being in demand all over India.

Things you can buy

  • Baluchari sarees
  • Decorative headwear
  • Peacock boats
  • Palanquins
  • Elephant howdahs
  • Decorative furniture
  • Locks
  • Iron chests
  • Betelnut cutters

Interesting Fact

Murshidabad hosts the Hazarduari Mela every year and is visited by people from all over the country. It is held between the Hazarduari Palace and Imambara and displays a variety of handicrafts popular in Handicraft. The festival also witnesses some amazing folk music and dance performances.

16. Assam

Assam (2)

Assam is one of the topmost travel destinations in northeast India, famous for places like Kaziranga National Park, Majuli Island etc. It also prides itself on a flourishing handicrafts industry, which goes back two thousand years. Cane and bamboo are two materials used extensively in the production of handicraft products. Silk industry is also very developed in Assam, with the Muga silk found exclusively in this region.

There are various places in this state which are famous for excelling in a particular type of craft. For example, Goalpara district in Assam is famous for producing brass related products. Then there is the town of Sarthebari in Barpeta district which has traditionally been involved in bell making industry. In fact, in a book titled “History of Assam” by Sir Edward Gates, it is mentioned that Kumar Bhaskar Burma, a king of Assam, presented various articles produced from bell metal to King Harshavardhana of today’s Uttar Pradesh region as a sign of goodwill.

Assam is also the third largest producer of jute in the country, with the majority of jute products found in the district of Tinsukia, Goalpara, Morigaon and Nagaon, besides others. No mention of the handicrafts in Assam is complete without bamboo products. Bamboo mats are mostly manufactured in the districts of Karbi Anglong, Barpeta, Goalpara and Nagaon. Another handicraft product popular in Assam is Sitalpati (mat made from murtha plants), which is found in the villages of Kaliganj, Karimpur, Sri Durgapur and Katakhal of Goalpara district.

Things you can buy

  • Utensils
  • Utility items
  • Lamp stands
  • Decorative clocks
  • Japi (traditional conical hat in Assam)
  • Bamboo mats
  • Waste paper baskets
  • Cradles
  • Office trays
  • Bottle carriers

Interesting Fact

The handloom industry in particular, holds an important place in the traditional lifestyle of Assamese people. The importance given to it is so great in many villages that girls are required to learn weaving before being considered for marriage.

17. Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh_

Madhya Pradesh is one of the most visited tourist destinations in India for a number of reasons, from Khajuraho Temples to wildlife sanctuaries. It is also one of the top destinations in India for handicrafts shopping. Apart from metal work, the state also produces other crafts. Some of the handicraft products extremely developed in the state are chanderi silk sarees, cushion covers, bedspreads, maheshwari stoles and others.

Wood carving is one of the most developed handicrafts in the state, with some of the most popular products being carved boxes, wooden spears, combes depicted with animal motifs, funerary pillars and furniture. Metal crafting is also quite developed in the state and is practiced by bhatra, gond, muria and dhruva tribals. Some of the popular metal products are rice measure bowls, oil lamps and animal figurines. Weaving is another craft that enjoys an enormous popularity in Madhya Pradesh. While the Malwa and Nimar regions are famous for their block printed cotton textiles, Batik is widely practiced in Indore and Bhairavgarh.

Textile weaving is also famous, with Gwalior and Maheshwar manufacturing sarees with the subtlest shades. Stone carving is highly developed in Bhopal, while Gwalior is known for its intricate lattice work.

Things you can buy

  • Animal figurines
  • Oil lamps
  • Rice measure bowls
  • Cradle Posts
  • Bedposts
  • Toys
  • Flower vases
  • Silk sarees
  • Stone sculptures
  • Silver ornaments

Interesting fact

The various tribes of Madhya Pradesh have been practicing various kinds of handicrafts since ancient times.

18. Kashmir

Kashmir_

Kashmir, besides being one of the best places to spend your holidays in India, also boasts a thriving handicrafts industry. The handicraft products in Kashmir reflect the traditions, cultures and values of the state. One of the most popular crafts in Kashmir is carpet weaving. What makes Kashmir carpets so highly sought after is that they are completely hand woven. The second most popular handicraft product is Namdas, or rugs. Made from cotton and woolen fibre, they are adorned with chain stitch embroidery.

Of course, how can you miss out on Kashmiri shawls? They are made from three fibres, pashmina, sozni and motifs. Kashmir is also renowned for other crafts like papier mache, wood carving, silverware and wood carving.

Things you can buy

  • Shawls
  • Carpets
  • Rugs
  • Baskets
  • Lampshades
  • Silver products

Interesting Fact

Did you know that Kashmir contributes around 98% of the country’s total walnut production?

19. Punjab

Punjab

Most people assume that handicrafts in Punjab is limited to the phulkari. They couldn’t be further from the truth. While phulkari is certainly a highly sought after item, with its beautiful embroidery that employs geometric shapes and patterns, there are other products to watch out for. One of these is wood carving and lacquer work which is popular in the districts of Jalandhar, Kartarpur and Hoshiarpur.

Being in Punjab, you cannot forget the “jutti”, which is worn with pride. While the embellished juttis are worn mostly on ceremonial and special occasions, unembellished ones are worn for everyday use. Durries, which are flat woven rags used as carpets or bed sheets, are also extremely popular in Punjab. Adorned with a variety of designs, they remain warm during winters and cool during summers. Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Nakodar and Anandpur Sahib are primary centers of durrie production.

Things you can buy

  • Juttis
  • Wooden toys
  • Carpets
  • Mud toys
  • Baskets

Interesting Fact

Durrie is held in such high esteem in Punjab that during weddings in some villages, parents of the bride gift a durrie as a symbol of goodwill to the bridegroom and his parents.

20. Jharkhand

Jharkhand

The handicraft products of Jharkhand are mostly produced wood and stone, and that’s not surprising, since most of the state has an abundance of these. Tribal folk culture heavily influences the handicrafts and reflects their heritage. Some of the crafts practiced by the local people are stone carvings, dhokra crafts, terracotta crafts, cane and bamboo crafts. Toy making and metal works are also popular in the state. JHARCRAFT (Jharkhand Silk Textile and Handicraft Development Corporation), an agency of Jharkhand government, was established to promote tribal art, heritage and culture and has branches spread all over the state.

Things you can buy

  • Musical instruments
  • Dhokra Art
  • Tribal Art Work
  • Gonda grass items
  • Leather products
  • Terracotta products
  • Jute products

Interesting Fact

During the 34th National Games held from 12th to 26th February in 2011 in Jharkhand, around 14,000 mascots (known as chauua) were produced and supplied by the local artisans.

So, there you have it! The best places in India where you can enjoy shopping for handicrafts and get a glimpse into rich traditions of folk art and craft. If you find the blog to be an exciting read, please like and share it as much as you can.

You can also contact us on +91-9212777223/24 and info@tourmyindia.com in case you are planning a trip to India, as we offer the best holidays packages and deals.

First Published on: 21 Feb, 2019
Vishwajit Sharma

About

Writing, for me, is an artistic expression of the countless thoughts flooding my mind. For now, travel content writing is what keeps me going! In my spare time, I like nothing better than immersing myself in a book, along with a cuppa! A classic movie helps too! I define traveling as a process of self-discovery. Hailing from Darjeeling, my ultimate desire is to escape to the hills, with the mountain air and solitude as my constant companions!

LET'S PLAN YOUR TRIPLet us Plan Your Trip