Madhya Pradesh, situated in Central India, witnesses more diversity than any other state in the country. It is an enchanting cosmos of landscaped beauty, heritage monuments, historical shrines and a vibrant culture. The most noteworthy of everything is the tribal heritage of the state. Home to different tribes and aborigines; the tribal matrix has begotten the inimitable handicrafts of the region. In fact, the art and craft prevalent in Madhya Pradesh makes it an exclusive museum that showcases the indigenous beauty of Indian handicrafts, and also presents the inventive adroitness of its people.
Whether it is showing skills through bamboo whittling, toy making or textile weaving, the various regions in Madhya Pradesh specializes in different handicrafts. These contrasting varieties of arts and crafts in the state also reveal the hereditary skills of its people and are often segregated based on the sexes. For e.g. durries are woven by women, whereas strenuous jobs like iron craft falls in the male domain. In the following lines, we have provided you a comprehensive account of the various arts and crafts practiced by the people of Madhya Pradesh, which magnifies the cultural wealth of the state.
Coppices of bamboo trees envelop Madhya Pradesh and are extensively used by tribal people of the state, to give shape to various articles. Utility and ornamental objects deftly whittled from bamboo and cane, by people belonging to the Baiga, Gond, and Korku tribal communities of the region, are very popular. They skillfully amalgam their traditional knowledge and expertise of bamboo work with various contemporary designs.
Traditional floor coverings of Madhya Pradesh include durries and carpets. Durries are thick cotton fabrics knitted in a variety of designs, with bold patterns. Geometric traditional motifs and human and animal figures are incorporated into the patterns. Carpets, on the other hand, are woolen floor coverings. In cities like Gwalior, carpet weaving is a legacy of the erstwhile Mughal rulers. Colorful carpets in floral and geometric designs are masterstrokes of the state's weavers.
The wall paintings of Bundelkhand, Gondwana, Nimar and Malwa constitute a major chunk of the folk paintings of Madhya Pradesh. They are considered creative outpourings that exhibit the rich tradition and culture of the state. These paintings also reflect the various local festivals celebrated in the state. Mandana wall and floor paintings, Lipai paintings and Pithora paintings are splendid examples of folk paintings of the region.
Iron crafting is a traditional skill that the craftsmen in the remote villages of Madhya Pradesh have mastered for many generations. Iron ore extracted from local mines are molded into desired shapes. People of Gond, Muria, Dhruva and Bhatra communities practice this art form. Beautifully carved iron 'Diyas' (lamps) are given to daughters as a part of their bridal gifts. Today, iron craft of the state gets global recognition and adorns many contemporary homes.
The ingenious metal artisanship of the craftsmen of Madhya Pradesh is legendary. Inventive designs are curved into metals and shaped into boxes, figurines & ornamental statuettes. Considered auspicious, these metal images speak volumes of the indigenous religious aspects of the tribal culture of the people. The Gadhavs, Gonds, Murias, Bhatras and the Dhruva are some of the tribal communities that practice this art.
The versatility of jute comes alive in the traditional handicrafts of Madhya Pradesh. The rugged and unfinished texture of the fiber has its unique charm. Moreover, its cheap and eco-friendly nature enhances its creative potential, and makes it suitable for weaving items like lamps, hammocks, floor coverings, wall coverings, baskets, bags and even footwear. Bhopal, Raipur, Indore and Gwalior are major centers that produce jute handicrafts in Madhya Pradesh.
One needs to see the variety and distinctiveness that the folk jewellery of Madhya Pradesh displays, to believe it. From gold, silver, bronze to alloys, the tribal people had made use of various metals to adorn themselves. In addition, different ornaments made of beads, cowries and feathers form a part of tribal costumes.
An ancient art form practiced in places like Ujjain, Gwalior, Bhopal and Ratlam; the beauty of papier mache is demonstrated through ornate items like birds, animals, statues and vases. Ujjain, being the major center of this traditional art, makes use of natural colors to simulate and create immaculate replica of living birds. The Nagvanshi community, which is known for making mud toys and dolls, is also known for their deftness in papier mache.
The majesty and wealth of Indian stone carvings gets best expression in the monuments of Madhya Pradesh. The temples of Vidisha and Khajuraho and the monuments of Orchha and Gwalior are living examples of the imaginative and individualistic architectural magnificence of artisans here. Gwalior is renowned for lattice work, while Jabalpur & Tikamgarh are famous for decorative pieces.
Handmade rag dolls of colorful cloth pieces produced in Gwalior, Bhopal and Jabua form a major handicraft of the state. These dolls are known as 'Batubai Dolls' and are painted in vivacious colors to bring out their exoticism in the global market. Apart from dolls, places like Gwalior, Indore, Dewas and Bilaspur, also specialize in leather items like shoes, jutties, garments, bags and mushk.
Invested with many religious connotations; tribal people earlier made terracotta animals and used them as sacrificial offerings to various deities. Generally, terracotta artifacts are available in a variety of colors like red, pink, brown and grey. In some places, like Sarguja, Raipur and Rajgarh, exquisite terracotta tiles adorn the roofs of various homes.
Brilliantly infused with the textiles of the neighboring states, textiles in Madhya Pradesh unravel a heady collage. Nevertheless, the distinctiveness of its own textiles remains skillfully intact. Various forms of printing include Block printing, Nandana printing, Bagh printing, Bandhani printing and Batik printing. Apart from excellence in the field of printing, Madhya Pradesh is also very popular for its delicate weaves, in the form of its rich variety of Chanderi and Maheshwari saris.
The craftspersons of Malwa, Nimar, Bundelkhand, Sheopur-Kalan, and Rewa make various decorative pieces and home accessories that simply invite you to explore more about the state. Woodcraft items include toys, boxes, bedposts, flower vases, wall hangings, candle stands and the like. Embellished wooden ceilings, doors and window frames form popular items of home décor.
A traditional craft of the state, zari work is a specialized form of delicate embroidery done with metallic threads, and practiced in places like Bhopal, Gwalior and Indore. Though the origin of zari work date back to about 300 years, it still preserves its inherent and exquisite charm. Earlier, used to embellish traditional items, zari work today finds a niche in the contemporary market. Richly embroidered purses, bags, cushions, jutties (shoes) & dresses are very popular.