Handicrafts of India

अभिनन्दन from Gaatha

Gaatha project was originally conjured only for researching and documenting the rapid erosion of Indian craft clusters and heritage. However, we soon learnt from the artisans themselves that need was not to do research alone, but to restore ‘pride and serious commercial opportunity’ in their ecosystem. Today Gaatha thus aims to bring the lost respect and wealth back to these beautiful and aesthetically rich Indian handicraft clusters. These researches are important because just like Industrial goods sell on ‘features’, crafts sell on the processes / stories / heritage that go into making them.

We should give crafts a fair chance, someone is right now merrily making something for us, singing a folk song, in a humble house, deep inside India.

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The distinctly peculiar characteristics of indigenous tribes of India have always been found fascinating, whether one has come across them virtually or physically. They not only add to the diversity of our country but also brings back the historical significance of tribes which remain untouched by the wave of westernisation. In order to preserve and celebrate our native Indians, Gaatha brings you Know Your Native, where we help you join hands with various different tribal communities in India and distinguish one tribe from another by understanding their culture, ornamentation, clothing, hairstyles and other various practices.


Baiga Tribe, Madhya Pradesh

Dominantly residing in Madhya Pradesh & chhatisgarh, the Baiga tribe got it’s name from the Hindi word ‘Vaidya’ (healer) because of their profound knowledge about the medicinal and healing properties of the various species of flora and fauna found in the forests. The Baigas which are a sub-caste of Gond tribe are further divided into sub-castes like the Narotiyas, Bharotiyas, Reimeina, Kathmeina, Kodwan, Kundi Godwen and Nagar.

Unattached to their material possessions, minimalism and simplicity of the Baiga tribe has always been a point of highlight while discussing the history of this community. Each Baiga-God carries a positional power and designation that is inseparably linked to the God hence, Baigas do not worship Gods as ubiquitous supreme lords.

Festivals and dancing also hold a significant importance in the Baiga culture, Karma dance being the most important dance from with others like, Baigani, Saila, Bhilma and many others. They have separate dances for men, women and all of them together. Four to five Mandar/dhol drums are played around the necks of Baiga men which make the most common instrument to the Karma dance, around which, generally, colourfully decked Baiga women dance in a circle.

Mahua (local alcohol) is an integral part of their wedding ceremony, during which the groom’s family brings around 40 liters of alcohol to the bride’s house while the guests move around in circles consuming alcohol and blessing the married couple. The couple then travels around the village praying to all the gods and goddesses. Polygamy is not uncommon.


Bhil Tribe

Many years ago, Bhil kings permitted many innumerable immigrants from the plains to settle in the mountainous regions, who later in return fought and rebelled against the Mughals, Marathas and the British to safeguard their rule. The name “Bhil” was derived from the word billee, which means “bow“. The men always carry their bow and arrow with them, which has been their characteristic weapon for years. Traditionally the Bhils lived by practising shifting, cultivation, hunting and gathering in the dense forests that used to cover the terrain. A week before Holi, a festival called ‘Bhagoria‘ is celebrated by the Bhils of Jhabua district in MP. It is an occasion where young unmarried men and women come exquisitely groomed in order to propose to their matrimonial preferences. They apply ‘gulal‘ (red holy powder) on the face of their beloved, in the presence of their entire village and if the latter is also mutually in love, the gesture is returned, followed by the ceremonial act of eloping. Once the boy and girl are back from their romantic adventure, the elder folk gear up to get the young couple married.

The Bhil people love their independence and often indulge themselves in drama, music, dance, festivals, etc which is a large part of their innately rich culture. Their illustrious homes are plastered every year and clay relief work, mittichitra, paintings, etc reveals their distinguished sense of aesthetic. People of Bhil tribe have been under a severe threat because of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project which is being constructed on the lands where Bhils live. Re-settlement plans have been discussed but they remain incomplete.


Dhanetra Jat Kutch, Gujarat

The spellbinding Jat community are a part of the Maldhari pastoral nomads who breeds the most superior kind of buffaloes and camels. Keeper (dhari) and animals (mal) literally translates to keeper of the animal stock. They are believed to have migrated from Persia and Sindh region of Pakistan hundreds of years ago. While the women take care of the houses and fields, the men herd cattle and search for greener pastures through the day. The people of this community are known for being reclusive which makes it difficult to interact with the locals.   


RAMNAMI Tribe Chhatisgarh

Casteism has always been a rampant part of our country’s societal structure. We have come across various protests due the course of time, some of which have been mind-numbingly aggressive and others, rather peaceful. The Ramnami community of Chattisgarh can be considered one amongst those who chose to peacefully resist against the practice of untouchability in India. The Ramnamis covered their bodies, from head to toe, with the name of Ram after not being allowed to enter Hindu temples and worship Hindu gods, and made the Ramcharitmanas a part of their daily lives. It was their way to demonstrate that god can be accessible to everyone and is omnipresent.

The presence of god can faithfully be seen in every aspect of the life of a Ramnami, including their houses, clothes and bodies. They have dedicated their lives to proving that god is everywhere and not just in temples


The Gadabas are considered as one of the early settlers of our country and trace their origin to the time of Ramayana. It is believed that their ancestor semigrated from the banks of river Godavari (a river flowing through AP) and settled in Nandapur.
The Gadaba women are fond of wearing several ornaments generally made out of brass or aluminium. Males prefer to wear rings in their finger, bracelets in the wrists and earrings (guna). Women use different types of hair pins and wear earrings, nose rings and finger rings made with coins. Gadaba women wear heavy neck rings that are about a kilogram each. As part of their tradition, it is removed only after their death!
The art of spinning threads, dying them and wearing textiles by the traditional loom reflects the aesthetic life of the Gadabas. The Gadaba Colourful cotton cloth used by the females is manufactured at home by women. These cloths are made with a fibre of a plant, locally known as Kerenga, which is found in the local forest. Gadaba men collect the kerenga fibre from the forest. Then the kerenga fibre is dried and dyed blue and reddish-brown.