Leatherwork in India

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This is an old hereditary craft with a wide prevalence in the rural areas of India. Leather tanning as an art form reached its zenith in India by 3000 B.C. The earliest skins used were those of tigers and deer. Mats made out of the animal skins were used by rishis and sadhus in the olden days.

India’s largest leather products are in the footwear line. The traditional ones are more original, individualistic and colourful and largely embroidered or done up in brocade or decorated textile. The extremely comfortable and fashionable kolhapuri chappals are made in Maharashtra. One of the most popular leather articles of Rajasthan is the Mojadi or lutti – an attractive footwear item. Hyderabad is famous for the Saleemshahi Jootas. Here the leather is embroidered, punched, studded and stitched in various eye-catching designs. The best-known centres of traditional footwear are Jaipur and Jodhpur. Kupi, a bottle made of camel hide to keep oil or ‘attar’ (perfume), is a speciality of Bikaner. In the Manoti art, articles like lamps and lampshades are made out of camel hides, which are then coloured and decorated with floral designs and figures and plated with thin gold leaves.

The leatherwork of Kashmir is very ornamental. In Punjab, applique done with coloured leather pieces. Karnataka has been noted for leather with metallic gold or silvery finish or painted with figures or animals, mostly to form epic scenes. Madhya Pradesh’s embroidery on red leather with gold and silk is unique. Fascinating articles such as wallets, pouches, handbags and belts are made out of crocodile and snake skins. Leatherwork is also extensively employed in book-binding.


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