Handicrafts in Maharashtra




MSSIDC is a Nodal agency for implementation of various schemes for development of handicrafts and to preserve the languishing arts of handicrafts in the State of Maharashtra. MSSIDC implements the schemes for development of handicrafts of State Government as well as Government of India.

Handicraft Artisans can register themselves with MSSIDC. MSSIDC also undertakes periodic surveys to register artisans. In addition to giving prime display space for selling at MSSIDC's Marhati Emporia and annual exhibitions, MSSIDC provides training to next generation of younger artisans and supports artisans through assistance.


Some of the well-known handicrafts of Maharashtra are -

Kolhapuri Chappal - Leather Footwear  - कोल्हापुरी चप्पल

Kolhapuri Chappal 01_40

Kolhapuri chappal making is a major handicraft industry that employees over 20,000 craftspersons in the district. Kolhapuri chappals are flat, intricately patterned, handcrafted leather footwear traditionally made in Kolhapur by the community whose hereditary occupation is tanning and leather work.  Originally the footwear was made for daily use by farmers and field workers but the simple ingenious design has reached out to a wider spectrum of people all over the world.  The cords used to stitch the sandals are made of leather. Surprisingly, no nails are used in their making.  Made of buffalo hide, fine goat leather is used for the plaited strips that decorate their upper portion. Dyed in natural tan, deep maroon, mustard yellow and dark brown colours they are decorated with leather braids and golden zari (tinsel) cords. Though traditional designs have thong-like straps with a toe strap for further strength, the craftsmen now produce simple variants of these designs such as kachkadi, bakkalnali and pukari. Numerous designs, along with the introduction of new colours, have evolved over time to cater to contemporary demands.


Warli Painting - वारली चित्रे

Warli Painting 01_50

Living in Thane district of Maharashtra, the Warli tribe is known for the sacred pictographs that they paint on the walls of their huts during wedding rituals. Rice paste and straw was smeared on the walls as base and motifs inspired from their life, nature, epics, legends, local incidents and tales painted on it with a brush made of twigs. Palaghata, the goddess of trees and plants symbolizing creative energy, is the central theme of these paintings. The visual energy of the Warli painting is attained through line drawings of multitudes of tiny human forms engaged in hunting, dancing or cultivating land, colour is not the main criteria. In recent years the medium of these painting has transferred to paper and cloth layered with cowdung paste which produces the characteristic natural and dull background with the motifs painted white.


Wooden Toys - लाकडी खेळणी

Wooden Toys 04_60

Sawantwadi is popularly identified with wooden toys that are made from mango tree. Though the craft is traditionally done by the Chitari, other communities have also adopted this craft due to its commercial success. The toys are made by several techniques: wood and lac turnery, by assembling flat shaped pieces and by sculpting solid wood. Seasoned mango wood is turned into cylindrical shapes with chisels and, its surface finished. At least four to five toys are turned together on the lathe at a time. Before removing the turned items, lac mixed with colours is applied to the finished surface. These are separated and the base of each item is finished with a sander. Toys are also made by cutting different profiles with the jigsaw, which are later assembled into a whole product. The cutout pieces are finished on a sander, smoothened with sandpaper, painted and assembled.


Ganjifa Cards - गंजीफा

Ganjifa Cards 02_40

They are circular playing cards made from paper that is covered with a mixture of tamarind seed powder and oil, painted and coated with lac. Darbari cards have decorative borders and Bazaar cards are without borders. It used to be a popular pastime at the Indian courts. The classic Mughal ganjifa   with its 96 cards and 8 suits penetrated into the social milieu of India and the Deccan that later, with its themes and characters from Hindu mythology, gained widespread acceptance. The most popular was the Dashavatar depicting the ten incarnation of Vishnu. Ganjifa cards were introduced in Sawantwadi. The Chitari community in Sawantwadi, known for their skill in lacware and wood craft, learnt to make these cards. Today the cards are used as gift items and educational aids.


Silverware - चांदीचे काम - ('Chandi Che Kaam')

Silver ware 02_40

Silver artifacts, an integral part of Maharashtrian religious ceremonies has now evolved into a flourishing trade. Untreated silver is first melted, allowed to take the desired shape and size in rectangular moulds, and intricate designs are created by using embossing tools. Parts of the products are made separately and then soldered together. The final matt or gloss polishing is done with a brush using soapnut powder solution. Silver jewellery is an ancient craft of Hupri.  Silversmiths at Hupri specializing in making popular oxidized jewellery embellish it further with meenakari and patterns based on the delicate shape of the papal tree, the champak, babul and aonla flowers and the ambi (mango).


Bidriware - बिद्री काम

Bidri ware 04_50

Bidri is a specialized and refined technique using complicated sequences of inlay and enamelling found only in India that follows in essence the techniques of the Persian way of inlaying gold and silver on steel or copper. It involves four distinct processes of casting, engraving, inlaying and finishing.  The principle of sandcasting is integral to the manufacture of bidriware. Once the object is made and smoothened with sandpaper and blackened, a kalam is used to chisel the required design, and then strands of silver wire are hammered into these grooves. If the design is chiseled into larger patterns, small pieces of silver and brass cut out from sheets are pressed in. A black colour is given to the surface and rendered permanent by rubbing it with a mixture of earth and ammonium chloride after heating it slightly. When burnished with oil, the inlay is revealed. Bidri uses a rust-proof and non-corrosive metal alloy which is believed to be an ingenious innovation introduced at Bidar. This form of decoration is often worked on round containers such as bowls, as well as caskets, jewellery boxes and other small boxes and includes delightful combinations of fine lattice work interspersed with floral clusters, leaves and flowers. There are two principle techniques - tarkashi (inlay of wire) and tehnishan (inlay of metal sheets).


Dhurrie Weaving - दरी

Dhurrie Work 02_50

Satrangi, sataranji, striped flat weave dhurries are woven on frame looms in several districts of Maharashtra - which is one of the largest cotton-growing states of the country. The weavers of the Maniyar community weave three types of dhurries - plain flat weave shataranji, jainamaaz, prayer mats, with single or multiple prayer niches, and chindi or rag dhurries. They are woven in various sizes. Chindi dhurries are being woven by displaced mill workers from the Vidarbha region who have been assisted and trained by NGOs to produce these rugs. Cotton dhurries are used as floor spreads to sit or sleep on, and as prayer mats with the prayer niche placed in the direction of Mecca.


Banjara Embroidery - बंजारा भरतकाम

Banjara Embroidary 05_40

The nomadic banjara communities, who trace their origins in Rajasthan, create beautiful embellishments on cloth. The Banjara women, locally referred to as Lamani, make symmetrical embroidery by lifting the wrap thread of the fabric with a fine needle and making triangles, diamonds and lozenges, parallel to the weft thread, giving the effect of an extra weft weave. They specialize in making borders of long skirts that are part of their traditional costume. The base cloth is usually, handwoven madder (red-coloured cloth), over which embroidery is done in yellow, green, red, off-white and black. Cowrie shells and tassels are also used with the embroidery. Since this embroidery is laborious and time-consuming it is usually done when the women are free from their main occupation of harvesting sugarcane.


Bamboo Work - वेताच्या वस्तू

Bamboo workers of the Thakur community make baskets, fans, containers and ghoghada or rain shield that are treated to prevent attack from moths and to ensure durability making them popular with the locals. The technique of basket weaving is similar to cloth weaving. A variety of techniques are used to make shapes. Thakur, Mahadev Koli, Kokna and Warli are some of the tribal communities residing in Raigad and Thane districts are engaged in Bamboo work.


Brass Musical Instruments - पितळी वाद्ये (टाळ, झांज व घंटा)

Brass Musical Instrument 01_40

Taal, Jhansh and Ghanta are metal instruments which accompany songs and rituals. Taal and jhanjh are both circular paired brass percussion instruments played by striking the two heads together. Taal is a small-sized instrument in which the pair is tied together with a string. The jhanjh is like a cymbal and used during the community festivals and also during weddings. They are now made by the sandcasting technique though until some years back they were made by beating the metal into the required shape.


(Text & Pictures - Courtsey - Government of India's Book on Handicrafts of India)


To Purchase above Handicraft Items, We Welcome Customers at Marhati Emporium of MSSIDC.