There is so much of brilliance in craftsmanship in Rajasthan, that we will probably take days to write about it all…but as we explore the rich crafts from the state – how can we talk about Rajasthan and not mention the amazing leather work? It’s marvellous and not just that, there is some wonderful history behind it too. The story goes that great warriors of Rajasthan used a lot of leather in items such as leather saddlery, water bottles, armour and shields and of course shoes. Today, of course, the warriors have ceased to exist but the fine leatherwork, including the art of doing embroidery on leather continues to be popular and is used to create absolute masterpieces. This leather craft of Rajasthan is a joint effort of the local men and women. While the men do the tanning, cutting and stitching, the women do the embroidery and highly skilled decoration. A great example of team work too!
Alwar in Rajasthan is known for this craft that became well known way back in the 19th century under the rule of Maharaja Banni Singh. It is believed that in the 19th century, such leather artwork was favoured greatly by him. Well, who doesn’t like a few elegant pieces of leather-bound books in their book-case? It was loved then and it is loved now. This artistic state has a lot to offer when it comes to book binding in leather. The good part is that it is ‘cruelty-free’ leather, and uses vegetable-based tanning process. Apparently, the binding of the book ‘Gulistan’ by Sheikh Sasdi was completed by a craftsman called Karim Ahmed, who hailed from Rajasthan too.
Moving on to footwear…Jaipur and Jodhpur are known the world over for the gorgeous footwear, popularly known as ‘jootis‘. A lot of different kinds of ‘chappals’ and shoes can also be found in the some parts of southern Rajasthan too. The ‘jootis’ design reflects the unique style of every district they belong to. Did you know that the way ‘jootis’ are made in totally different styles in these two places? Apparently, the common factor is the embroidery, known as kashida, that is done on the jootis. The difference lies in the fact that in Jaipur the kashida is first done on velvet which is then made to cover the shoes while in Jodhpur it is applied directly to the leather. Also, these lovely ‘jootis’ neither have a left nor a right foot! Now, that’s called making life easy…Who doesn’t own a pair of ‘jootis’? Well, if you don’t, please get one right now…
Another amazing work on leather in Rajasthan that can be found in Bikaner is the making of water bottles using softened camel hide, also known as ‘kuppies’. Today, they have added a lot many products to their portfolio such as water jugs and lampshades but ‘kuppies’ is still what they are known for.
There have been a lot of innovations by the artisans, and new-age entrepreneurs are experimenting with combining techniques like never before to present a lovely range of products for us. One example that stands out is hand-block printing on leather, batik printing on leather to create a range of bags, trays and footwear.
I could go and on and on but you will lose interest and that would be so wrong…So, before you leave this page, I’ll like you to have a quick browse of my lovely findings of leather creations from this state.
We need to keep buying these lovely hand created creations from these artisans to allow them to continue to exist! Carry these exquisite pieces with love and pride. It’s hand made, it’s unique, what’s not to love? You will be able to find a lot of similar work in your local craft fairs and shows. Of course, the likes of ‘Dastkar’, ‘Suraj Kund Mela’ will house these kind of products too. So, please, pretty please, go and support these lovely craftspeople by buying such products or else one day, this will become a dying craft, just like the ‘Manoti Art’, a type of leather art from Rajasthan, that is now on the blink of extinction.
We possibly cannot miss mentioning Jawaja Leather Craft and it’s revival spearheaded by Ravi Matthai of IIM and Ashoke Chatterjee of NID, Ahmedabad in 1975. Read all about it here.
Do what you can, after all, you are notjustashopper, you are so much more...