Papier Mache



The craft of papier-mâché is a unique craft that developed during the Mughal era and is still being practiced by a large number of artisans. During the time of the Mughals, papier-mâché was used to make utilitarian items like boxes, bowls etc and the surface of these items were painted in the traditional miniature style.

The process of making papier-mâché items, involves use of waste paper and the creative inputs of the craftsmen. The process of making papier-mâché begins with soaking of paper in water. This is done to degenerate paper. The degenerated material is then pounded to pulp, mixed with adhesive solution or starch and shaped over wooden moulds. Each successive layer of this material is applied to get the required thickness. Finally it is allowed to dry and set before it is decorated with paint and varnished. Smooth papier-mâché items are created if the pulp is pounded properly or else the finished product is rough.

A variety of utilitarian and decorative papier-mâché items are produced in India. Kashmir is known all over the world for its exquisite papier-mâché items. A large variety of utilitarian items made from papier-mâché are made here. Boxes, vases, replicas of Samovar (metal container used for heating water for tea), houseboat models etc in all shapes and having bright colours and designs are created by the craftsmen.


The craftsmen of Kashmir have turned utilitarian papier-mâché items into highly ornate decorative pieces. Papier-mâché items are mainly painted in bright ethnic colours like red, orange, green, brown, blue and yellow. Gold leaf, bronze and gold poster paint is also used on papier-mâché items, to beautuify them. Papier-mâché items are decorated with intricate patterns and also have depiction of flowers and animals on them. Some papier-mâché items are lined with brass to increase their durability.

Madhya Pradesh is also known for papier-mâché items. The main center for papier-mâché is Ujjain but thia craft is also popular in Gwalior, Ratlam and Bhopal. Craftsmen from Gwalior and Bhopal make statues of birds, animals and decorative panels. The craftsmen of Ujjain make papier-mâché birds. These birds look lifelike, owing to the expertise of the craftsmen in handling papier-mâché and use of realistic colouring. Decorative papier-mâché furniture and pottery is also made in here.

Craftsmen from Tamil Nadu contribute with their excellent life sized human figures, which are remarkably expressive. Dancing dolls made here are also very popular.

In India puppets made from papier-mâché are created in different parts of the country, each following their own unique tradition.