top of page

Developments Of Crafts In India

History And Background

According to archaeological evidence and literature, textile creation is an early Indian art form that predates the Harappan civilisation by at least 5,000 years.

Cotton, wool, and silk are the most common materials used in textiles.


Cotton and wool appear to have played an important role in Indian history, dating back to the Harappan civilization. Indigenous silk was produced by the tribes of Bihar and Orissa in the north-eastern states.

The natural single gold tussar and moonga silks have their own distinct feel.


Metallurgy is another ancient Indian skill that dates back over 5,000 years to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Fabrication of metal sheets that could be connected and pounded into shape was required for making metal utensils, pots, and pans.

  • These massive cooking vessels were occasionally cast in a mould using the lost wax method, such as when the Kerala urli was created.

  • Jewellery making, sculpture, textile production, leather product production, and metalworking were the primary handicrafts influenced and absorbed into Indian craftsmanship by numerous invaders during the post-Mauryan period.

Artisians Across the Land

The weaving of silk and cotton textiles is mentioned in the Sangam classics. Weavers had their own streets, known as karugar vidi or aruval vidi, and were already a well-established and respected group in society.

Weavers lived in and around the temple complexes of the Chola and Vijayanagar empires (ninth to twelfth centuries), weaving textiles to clothe the priests and local populace, as well as cater to trade from across the sea.

The following locations were known for their textiles:

  • Gujarat, Sindh, and Rajasthan in western India

  • The Coromandel Coast in southern India

  • Bengal, Orissa, and the Gangetic plain in eastern India.

Craft Productions

Various economic organisations and techniques for integrating craft production into the macroeconomic system existed throughout Indian history.

The Arthashastra distinguishes between two types of artisans: those who hire a team of artisans to do the actual work for the client and those who set up and run their own workshops.

Artisans were compensated in one of two ways: with goods or with money. Nonetheless, in areas where money was not introduced, service connections and in-kind transfers may have occurred.

The jajmani system most likely arose from these service relationships.

Ancient India's Shrenis, or Trade Guilds

Shrenis are mentioned in the Ramayana, Gupta-era dramas, and Tamil Sangam literature, among other texts.

These were organisations made up of jewellers, weavers, and ivory carvers who banded together to ensure high-quality products, good business ethics, and fair wages and prices.

They occasionally operated as cooperatives, regulating newcomer entry by enforcing apprenticeship rules and establishing high standards of craftsmanship.

  • Each guild had its own leader, who was backed up by others, and these officials were chosen with care.

  • Guild members had the power to dismiss and punish a bad leader.

  • The shrenis were known to migrate from town to town and were not always local.

  • Shrenis from merchants and artisans would occasionally arrive. united under the nigama, a common organisation that functions similarly to a chamber of commerce and industry.

  • Some nigamas also had a class of exporters who travelled long distances to sell the town's specialities at a higher profit margin than they could get locally.

  • The shrenis were incredibly sound and stable institutions with high moral and social standing.

The Origins of the Jajmani System

In many parts of India, the majority of transactions in the craft sector are conducted through the jajmani system.

The jajmani system is a mutually beneficial arrangement between artisans and the larger village community regarding the delivery of goods and services.

Caste System: The upper castes were barred from certain occupations.

  • Purjans (cultivators, artisans, barbers, washermen, cobblers, and sweepers) were therefore reliant on patrons or jajman to provide essential commodities and services to the village/urban economy.

In exchange, a guaranteed payment in kind was made. This could include non-rentable real estate, housing developments, credit facilities, food, or even waste products such as cow dung. Because the majority of higher-caste people own property, the jajmani process ensures a steady supply of labour.

Rock-Cut Caves

Among the most famous structures in ancient India are a number of rock-cut cave temples. The term "rock-cut architecture" refers to the process of carving a structure out of solid natural rock, which is frequently found on mountain slopes or in hills.

  • The rocks that will not be used to construct the structure are removed until only the structure-forming rock remains. Indian rock-cut architecture has a long history dating all the way back to ancient India, and it was primarily religious in nature.

Indian Architecture

India has over a thousand rock-cut monuments. Numerous these structures are adorned with magnificent stone sculptures and house works of international renown. These ancient and mediaeval structures are marvels of structural engineering and craftsmanship.

Ajanta Caves

The most famous of them are the Ajanta cave temples and monasteries, which are Buddhist rock-cut cave temples and monasteries located near Ajanta and famous for their wall paintings.

The temples are located on the inner side of a 20-meter valley in the Wagurna River valley, approximately 105 kilometres northeast of Aurangabad.

  • Between the first and seventh centuries B.C., a group of approximately 30 caves was excavated. The caves are classified as caityas or viharas.

  • While the sculpture is noteworthy, particularly the ornate decoration on the caitya pillars, the trattoria paintings are Ajanta's primary attraction.

  • These vibrant Buddhist stories and divinities are depicted in these paintings with intensity and vitality unmatched in Indian art.

In 1983, the caves were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Ellora Caves

The Ellora Caves in southern India are a collection of 34 magnificently sculpted rock temples. They are located 80 kilometres southwest of Ajanta Caves, near the settlement of Ellora. The two-kilometre-long temples, which feature intricate facades and internal walls, were carved from basaltic cliffs.

Ellora was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.

Buddhist caves

The 12 Buddhist caves in southern India were discovered around 200 B.C. Between 500 and 900 A.D., the 17 Hindu temples in central India were constructed, while the five Jaina temples in northern India were constructed between 800 and 1000 A.D.

Hindu caves are the most ornate, while Buddhist caves are the least ornate. Ellora was home to a number of monasteries (viharas) and temples (caityas), with some of the caves housing sleeping quarters for travelling monks.


The most impressive of the cave temples is Kailasa, named after the mountain range. Unlike the other temples on the site, which were dug horizontally into the rock face, the Kailasa complex was dug downhill from a basaltic slope, where it receives the most sunlight.


bottom of page