The essence of life in Gujarat is in its cuisine, heritage sites, museums, and temples. The Rann Utsav and Navratri celebrations in the state are truly unmatched. Both of them have Gujarati style, traditional wear in common. The textile industry of Gujarat is renowned not just in India, but abroad as well. Here’s my list of some of the most beautiful handicrafts in Gujarat that would add grace to your wardrobe, and souvenirs that I’m sure you’d love to have.
Bandhani is a tie-dying technique, which derives its name from the Hindi word bandhan which essentially means “the bond” or “tying”. It used to be the prime choice for bridal dresses in traditional Gujarati weddings, however, things are changing pretty fast now.
This labor-intensive handicraft demands time and expertise. In fact, some sarees with intricate patterns often take somewhere between 6 to 10 months for completion, sometimes even more. The workers mark specific areas or points on fabric that are then covered in wax or other kind of materials that resist dye. These points are often tied with strings or knotted to make sure that the dye isn’t uniform. But at the same time, the artists allow these points to form a repetitive pattern across the length of the fabric.
Jamnagar city in Gujarat is known for its handicrafts industry that specializes in Bandhani. Just like most other traditional handicrafts across India, Gujarat also has specific communities of artisans who have dedicated their entire lives to this art.
Zari ka kaam or Zari-work is perhaps the most popular embroidery work in India. Gujarat and Rajasthan are the base of Indian handcrafted-textile industry, and their products are sold in all states on India, and even exported abroad. Many people living in Surat district of Gujarat earn their livelihood by working in the textile industry there. These people specialize in making intricate embroidery designs, which are sold for hefty amounts of money.
Zari originated in India, and the artists originally used threads made of gold or silver. Artists use long needles with fine metallic threads wrapped around cotton string. Obviously the craft was meant for the royal families who could afford to wear them. Now that the times have changed, you could find affordable/cheap zari designs made of copper-alloy or plastic threads. But no matter what, original Zari would never lose its charm.
3. Mirror-work Handicrafts in Gujarat
Mirror-work or Abhala Embroidery is a traditional art of attaching sheesha (mirror or something reflective) onto fabrics through careful embroidery. The materials used are of various shapes or sizes, and give an ethnic look to outfits.
Centuries ago, artists used small pieces of silver or similar shiny metals for the embroidery. Gradually, polished glass took their place in order to make the final pieces affordable. Now plastic pieces have replaced all of them. You could still find glass or metal embroidery handicrafts in Gujarat. It’s not easy to find them, but definitely possible.
This art is mainly used on female wear that are common choices for weddings/rituals or celebratory events. You might also find traditional style mirror-work on accessories like caps or handcrafted handbags, sling-bags, etc. Chances of finding mirror work on male outfits are pretty low, they generally have either Zari or block-printed designs.
4. Pithora Paintings in Gujarat
Pithora painting is a traditional style of tribal painting native to the state of Gujarat. It’s an art inspired by tribal lifestyle and rituals. Pithora style paintings were mainly carried out by Rathwas community. Artistic handicrafts in Gujarat has been practiced by certain communities for centuries, just like in most of the other parts of India.
Pithora Painting gets its name from the Pithora Baba, a deity worshiped primarily by the Rathwas community. So naturally the paintings were dedicated to their deity as offerings. Centuries ago, entire villages were decorated with Pithora paintings. Unmarried teenage girls would prepare walls around the village with cow dung and put layers of white powder. Then flowers and vegetables extracts were used as pigment for paintings.
Rathwas and other communities of Gujarat originally created Pithora art pieces either for worshiping their deity in times of hardships like famine, illness, etc., or for auspicious rituals and celebrations. Thus, the paintings usually include people dancing, singing, celebrating, feasting, and having a good time together as a happy and thriving community.
The original traditions have faded away with time, but the painting style is still alive. Artists in Rathwas community are now bringing the style onto canvas and textiles, and you can find some amazing art-pieces in handicraft fairs across Gujarat.
5. Agate Handicrafts in Gujarat
The Khambhat (or Cambay) district in Gujarat is home to handmade agate-stone jewelry items industry. Historians believe the industry in that region is around 4000 years old! Agate stones are mined by villagers in Rajpipla Hills and riverbeds that are located almost 200 km away from the main town of Khambhat.
The agate stones are brought to the town after mining; where the industry workers process them. These translucent stones are categorized based on their color composition and hues. Then the stones are sawed, chiseled into shape, and finally polished into perfection. The workers carefully turn those weird looking pieces of rock into astonishing pieces of handcrafted jewelry. I’m sure you’d love to have one with you, I would!
Khambhat’s Agate jewelry finds its way not just into Indian markets, but into European and Arabian markets as well, and the demand for this pious stone doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon.
also read: List of Popular Indian Handicrafts: Assam