Crafts of Gujarat



Handicraft Heritage

From the early civilizations, Gujarat is home to handicraft traditions. The presence of a kiln at Lothal, one of the sites of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, indicates that pottery was a well-established craft in the state. Some of the oldest and the best textiles that were in great demand in West and Southeast Asia were created in Gujarat. A visit to Gujarat, however fleeting, is replete with images of colorful and fascinating textiles, elaborately carved wooden and stone jharokhas and beautiful handcrafted silver jewelry. In Gujarat it is customary for a bride to have exquisite hand embroidered ghagras, odhnis, animal covers, bags, quilts and house decorations as part of her trousseau.


Textiles are Gujarat's forte and one can find an immense variety of textile traditions here that range from robust folk textiles to fine brocades. In fact, the oldest known printed fabrics from India were the resist dyed and printed cottons of Gujarat. These printed fabric traditions are still going strong in Gujarat and are considered an essential part of any fashionable Indian woman's wardrobe. The ajrakh prints of the Kutch region and the sodagiri prints of Paithapur are just two examples of Gujarat's excellently printed textiles. The Matani-Pachedi print produced by the Vaghari

community priests in honor of the mother goddess is another example of Gujarati skills in printing. Gujarat also boasts of the patola, one of the finest hand woven textiles found in Patan. In this process the warp and the weft are first tie-dyed and then woven together, an act requiring highly specialized skills.

One cannot ignore the intricate bandhej (tie-dyed fabric) of Jamnagar, Mandavi, and Bhuj, which are used for wedding outfits such as the gharchola odhni and saris. Brocades woven in Jamnagar, Mehsana, Ahmedabad, and Surat with traditional patterns of popat vel, (stylised parrot-flower borders) or asharfi (circular gold coin) were once highly prized possessions. Unfortunately, brocades are no longer produced, as they were earlier. The only types available now are the brocade borders woven on the power loom in Surat or simple patterns done in Mehsana. Gujarat also has a vibrant mashru tradition, a fabric with an interesting story behind its creation.

Mashru is woven with a combination of silk and cotton, the cotton being the lower layer in touch with the skin. The fabric was woven for Muslim men who were prohibited from wearing pure silk. Though mashru is found all over India, Gujarati mashru has bold patterns and colors that lend it an attractiveness of its own.

Gujarat has a splendid tradition of ornamented household linen. From ancient times, the people of Gujarat have reveled in being surrounded by some of the most beautiful and ornamented household goods. The toran, a heavily embroidered and ornamented decoration hung over the entrance door is quintessentially Gujarati and is considered a sign of welcome. Quilts from different regions of the state showcase the best of the ornamentation techniques of the region, be it embroidery, appliqué or patchwork. The quilts in the family are usually stacked and covered with a gorgeously decorated dharaniya, full of mirrors that glint in the dark. The chakla is a wall hanging usually depicting religious figures and themes and is embroidered in different styles in different parts of the state. Embroidered pieces such as the Ganesh and surya sthapanas from Saurashtra are made for special religious purposes. Bags of all kinds and for different occasions, pillowcases, and covers for food containers are all embellished with mirrors, embroidery, beads, and cowries. During weddings and other festivals even animals are covered with brightly colored, heavily embroidered pieces, often with holes in them for the horns to go through.

Handicrafts Trade
Suggested Reading