Indian Arts and Crafts – An Overview

India! A land celebrating diversity! Diversity, which defines its distinguished lifestyles. Lifestyles, which reflect its rich and glorious heritage of pluralistic society. What has kept such a vast country intact for ages is the tradition of communication through various media. These media have not been limited to mere political dialogues, trade, student exchange programs, sports etc. as we might infer from what we know about such things today and how we are used to perceiving them in the modern age of the internet. Rather, the communication was established through numerous forms of art that flourished in this country and a responsible sense of mutual acknowledgement, respect and acceptance among all the regions. There have been many factors responsible for these many distinguished cultures, making India to rightly be known as a subcontinent. These factors include diverse physical characteristics like geography and climate of different regions along with the deep-rooted spiritual consciousness among all the societies. In addition to this, the great quality of absorbing all the cultures that poured into it from all over the world at different times in history has shaped India how we know it today.

When we travel across India, we find that the art forms have a strong connection with each other and that they take inspiration from each other. For example, the tradition of history telling through poetic descriptions is translated well into wall paintings in the palaces and the regular households, sculpture, architecture, handicrafts etc. The same is also true when it comes to reflecting proverbial and colloquial language in the handicrafts and vice versa. All the classical and traditional folk dance forms also pose an excellent example of this. The very culture is enriched by the rituals performed at various occasions of life which of course vary from region to region and from people to people depending upon several factors like religion, ethnicity, local traditions (lokaāchāra), family traditions (kulāchāra), availability of resources, density of population and many more. This again is reciprocated and adds to defining and framing the customs and rituals at different times. Moreover, the migration of people for business or studies from one place to another is also held responsible to create a mixed culture in many places, thus evolving a new mix of art forms. With the fast means of transport, this has become more evident than ever in the present day.

India features as a very receptive and dynamic country when it comes to arts and crafts which has played a major role in carrying the multi-flavoured culture of this oldest living civilization through ages of being at the top of world trade, being invaded many times, being spiritual and moral guru, being a consumer-oriented market-driven economy and being a home to almost all kinds of people on the planet. All through these times, there have been a number of great kings and queens who, for their love and appreciation for different art forms, encouraged artisans and provided them with a free space to flourish and nourish their work. Having gained such patronage from the rulers, the varnāshrama system, even in its deteriorated form of the caste system, allowed the talent to be passed on to the generations in the family. When art becomes a family occupation, it receives full focus and attention and gets more refined with the course of time. In our times, we can relate it with the families of folk artists, jewellers, handicraft artisans, musicians, handloom workers, sculptors, painters etc. When the economy meets the arts, life becomes enjoyable for those who take it forward. Local festivals add more colours to this system and celebrate it by thus marking it complete. The social fabric of India is woven in such a holistic way that there can be felt a link and interdependence on each other based on their work which adds to the strength of the country and gives its people one identity. One is simply left mesmerized when one experiences it.

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