India’s rich handicraft culture:

Handicraft work of India is diverse and rich in history. It has its roots in early civilisation. Each state in India has its own uniqueness when it comes to craft. The culture of craft In India has grown around religion, need of common people and ruling empires. Domestic and international trade plays an important role in Craft culture and its evolution in India. Crafts are generally family oriented economic activity. It isa mirror of the cultural identity because people (craftsmen) learn the skill and gain the knowledge which is passed on to them from generations to generation.

In Indus valley civilization we find high technical expertise in the field of pottery, metal and stone sculpture and stone. Harappan craftsmen traded with the world. In the Vedic time (1500 B.C) artisans were involved in pottery making, weaving and wood craft. In the Mauryan age (323-185 B.C) there was great development in sculpture (out of stone) making. During Kushana period jewelry, textile, leather products were the main products. The artisans understood the foreign empire designs and implemented it according to indian setting. Mughal age is considered to be the golden age in the History of Indian art and craft.Mughals introduced methods like carpet weaving, glass work etc.

The two broad sections of Indian Handicraft items are:

  • Consumer goods for daily use
  • Decorative items manufactured by the skilled craftsmen

The main products produced by India’s rural handicraft industry are metal and wood wares, hand printed  textiles and scarves, embroidered and crocheted goods, Shawls as art wares, and zari good. Products like Madhubani painting, Kashmiri woolen carpets, zari and silk fabrics has retained its exclusiveness.

Handicraft contribution to India’s rural economy :

In India 65.5 percent of population resides in the rural areas. According to 2011-12 data Rural economy contributes to total 46.9 % of India’s NDP and 70.4% of workforce. Crafts form the second largest sector of employment after agriculture and generate substantial foreign exchange. Indian Handicraft industry is mainly based in rural areas.It provide employment opportunity to people of rural areas and underprivileged community. In India more than six millions of people of rural community including large number of women (some estimating it 47.2%) make a living byproducing handcrafted goods.Handicraft also provide supplementaryincome for the village people who cultivate seasonal agricultural products. Indian craftis one of the reason to attract tourism.

Statistics from All India Handicrafts shows that contribution of craft sector export has risen enormously in last 50 years.According to Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), India in 2014-15 handicraft accounted for US$ 4.5 billion of exports (excluding carpet). Indian handicrafts are being exported to various parts of the world. The top destinations are the US, the UK, the UAE, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada.


Handicraft industry is suffering inspite of some well-known design house using handmade products.With rising cost of materials, growing consumer demand for affordable products, lengthy production time, low wage, loss of markets, low exposure to new technologies, craft sector is struggling to uphold.Craft industry is an unorganized sector, so is vulnerable to low wages. Most of the crafts men and women, who produce the crafts, are below poverty line andstruggle for the very basic needs. In the age of globalization artisans face a grate competition with industrial mass-produced products. With time people of India stopped using the items produced by the artisans and this directly affected the rural people who depend on it for their livelihood. In the hope of better economic opportunity and for survival artisans are leaving the craft and taking up low, unskilled employment opportunities. According to United Nations over the past 30 years, the number of indian artisans have decreased by 30%.


For the age-old craft and handicraft industry to survive it is necessary to bring up new design to reach wider audience. Artisan and designers are bringing craft designs which are the mixture of traditional craft and modern design to strike a balance. It is more visible in textile industry and jewelry.Indian craft sector’s low or some time non-existent energy consumption means it has negligible carbon foot prints. Handicraft sector is seeing a sector of buyers who are interested in sustainable and environment friendly products.

In 21st century preserving and protecting the skills and knowledge of ancient traditional craft has become important. It is necessary establish a proper wage rate, skill development of the artisans,bring awareness about the crafts among the people, creating demands, promoting the craft works and linking the artisans to markets. Shilpworld is one of such organization who link the artisans to markets.Many government and Non-Government organizations have been setup to promote the industry in India and abroad. Indian Government has various financial assistance programs to help the artisans. It motivates the rural artisans and craftsmen to take up new business to self sustain their family.

India’s Cultural heritage is embodied in craft. Handicraft Industry is the backbone of India’s non-farm  rural economy. Growth of handicraft industry is essence for the growth of rural economy.




https://www.epch.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76&Itemid=181 http://handicrafts.nic.in


The Contribution of Handloom and Handicraft Industries for Rural Economic Growth: Study with Reference Sagalee Sub-Division of Papum Pare District, Arunachal Pradesh

This article is published by Deepti Nahak and she is reachable at Linkedin.


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