Indian Handicrafts

History of Indian Handicrafts – An Introduction

History of Indian Handicrafts
Indian Artisans at work

History of Indian Handicrafts – An Introduction


Indian Handicrafts

Ancient Handicrafts

Pre British Handicrafts

British Period Handicrafts

Post-British Period Handicrafts

Brief history and development of various handicrafts


Stone Craft

Metal Craft

Wood Art

Clothing and Textiles



The art of making the items and crafts by hand is known as Handicrafts.

In ancient times, hands were used to make the daily need items. The weapons to hunt, equipment for farming, utensils for making and preserving food, building homes to reside, etc. – all were handcrafted.

However, the technical excellence in making these items led to the evolution of ‘crafts’ or ‘Handicrafts’.

Creation of handicrafts required high skill and creativity.

Indian Handicrafts

The history of Indian handicrafts is as old as the Indian civilization of Indus valley civilization i.e., almost 5000 years from now.

Handicrafts in India have evolved with the growth in civilization, the need of the people, their religious beliefs, and later on as per the needs of the elite and ruling clan. 

The craftsmen in India are said to be very adaptive. Their craft withstood the challenges of time and flourished when the foreign and domestic trade, as well as invasions, started. 

The Indian handicraftsmen not only embraced the foreign techniques of craftsmanship but able to create a fusion of both Indian and foreign crafts.

The history of Indian handicrafts can be broadly classified into three phases – Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. We can also classify them as Pre British Era, the British Rule era, and the post-independence era.

History of Indian Handicrafts – Ancient Handicrafts

As mentioned earlier, handicrafts in India has a long tradition. The oldest handcraft items can be traced back to the Harappa Civilization.

The art of pottery, sculpture (metal, stone, and terracotta), jewelry, weaving, etc. are known to craftsmen since the Vedic age. There are references in the Vedic age write-ups of artisans involved in the art of pottery, weaving, sculpture, etc.

There are evidences about these artworks that they were traded by traders with other civilizations of the world. Traders brought new techniques that further improved the local craft.

History of Indian Handicrafts – Pre British Handicrafts

In Pre British India, the production of handicrafts was the biggest source of employment for people. Gupta dynasty were the first rulers who categorized the art of handicrafts viz craft for daily needs, for trade, for the elite class and the industrial production. Metalcraft, ivory craft and Jewelry were prominent during the Gupta dynasty. 

The art of stone carving was prominent in south India. The other crafts like weaving and spinning flourished when the Mughals acquired power.

The Mughal Art has a significant impact on our handicrafts till day.

During the British period, Handicrafts of India suffered setbacks due to the decline of patrons like princely states and mechanization.

The policy of suppressing local crafts by Britishers led to a sharp decline.

Post-British Period Handicrafts

After India got independent, the plight of artisans and craftsmen was taken into accord and various measures were taken to improve their condition and preserve the traditions. The measures resulted in creating awareness among the public about the handmade Indian goods and the importance of its art and culture.

Brief Development & History of Indian Handicrafts


History of Indian Handicrafts -Pottery

The craft of making earthenware from clay commonly known as Pottery, is one of the earliest forms of Indian handicrafts known to us.

From a simple earthenware made of clay used to make or store food, the art of pottery has been developed to new heights.

The earthen pottery has changed a lot with the advent and use of new techniques, colors, and other elements like figures of deities, man, woman, flora, and fauna, etc.

Terracotta, glazed tiles, and ceramic pottery are the new forms of Indian Handicraft pottery these days.

Stone Craft

Stones are said to be with humans for a long and it is believed that the earliest items were carved out of stones only.

Tools are said to be the first handicraft item made up of stones. The handicraft found its zenith in India during the medieval period. Magnificent temples, palaces, forts, sculptures, and even jewelry – all boast of the rich Indian stone craft.

Wood Art

History of Indian Handicrafts - Wood Craft
Wooden Handcrafted Toys

Indian Handicrafts cannot be complete without the exorbitant woodcraft. All over India, artisans produce variety of handcrafted furniture and other household objects.

Wooden toys are famous all over the world. The minute carvings on the wood is a perfect example of the high-level craftsmanship of Indian artisans.

Metal Craft

The history of Indian Handicrafts dates back to Harappa’s findings. This suggests that copper and other metals were used by the ancient people. 

Most of the tools, weapons, and utensils were carved from copper and after the invention of iron and bronze, the craft was extended to embossing and carving. 

Modern-day artisans also use metal mould and create wonderful art pieces.

Clothing and Textiles

History of Indian Handicrafts - Textiles
Textiles of India

Indian Handicraft clothes and furnishings are world-famous and carry the trademark of Indian culture.

Indian artisans are using different techniques and raw materials for ages to produce various types of cloths and textiles. The techniques of weaving, handloom, dye, and embroidery are still used on fabrics like wool, silk, and cotton.

Indian textiles reflect the traditions, culture, and religious beliefs of the country and it changed with the incoming of foreigners. 

During the Mughal Empire, carpets and rugs making reach its zenith.


The History of Indian Handicrafts - Jewellery
Kundan Jewelry

Jewelry or ornament making is the most skilled Indian handicraft.

Since the Vedic period, wearing ornaments and jewelry by both man and woman has been like an obsession.

There is mention of Gold ornaments in both the Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. There are evidences that in the Harappa age, people wore several ornaments.

India is the primary producer of gemstones and other precious metals like gold, silver, and diamond. Apart from these precious metals, jewelry made of glass, lac, ivory, and brass are also famous.

The History of Indian Handicrafts is very vast yet we have attempted to give an introduction of major arts and crafts skills of India.

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