In India, there’s no dearth of the ways to discover and rediscover this country from innumerable aspects. One of the many things that India boasts of is its generational skills in art and crafts, which are more than just visually appealing. They carry with them a proud history that you can take back from India. The following art and craft villages in India are actively engaged in preserving these artisanal skills and are worth a visit to witness how these small villages bear the weight of this heritage on their shoulders. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Andretta, Himachal Pradesh
Apart from the towering mountains, gushing rivers, and lush jungles, Himachal Pradesh bears a significant craft to its credit in a village called Andretta where an Irish woman called Norah Richards laid the foundation for its artistic future back in 1935. Later came to be known as the ‘nani of Punjabi theatre’, Norah’s vision shaped Andretta as one of the most well-known pottery villages in India. Artists from as far as Lahore, who fled during the partition to India, call it their home. The Andretta Pottery and Crafts society is now run by Gurucharan Singh, a prominent Indian potter’s son, Mansimran Singh and his wife Mary.
Distance from Palampur: 13 km
2. Bishnupur, West Bengal
This humble and unassuming village in West Bengal carries the heritage of not one but two crafts — terracotta, known across the country, and the Baluchari Sari, a result of long and meticulous labour by the artisans. The terracotta temples dot the whole village and the ‘Bankura Horse’ can be seen in the smallest of shops run by individual terracotta artists. The reason behind the rise of this art form? Lack of stones in the area. As for the Baluchari Sari, if you visit one of the small factories, you will know just how much effort, labour, and time one of these take to make.
Distance from Kolkata: 138 km
3. Raghurajpur, Odisha
Even though a small visit to Raghurajpur will do no justice to this heritage village, it is still worth every minute of your time. The village indulges in the age-old art of ‘pattachitra’ or painting on scrolls, an art form that dates back to 5 BC. Besides, it has its dance troupes, produces poetry, and is engaged in a number of other art forms that make it a heaven for every tourist who come and stay here for months to seep in its artistic brilliance. It’s safe to say this village thrives and survives on its art, even in the present age of globalisation and industrialisation.
Distance from Puri: 10 km
4. Poochampally, Telengana
Home to one of the oldest crafts of India and some of the most skilled weavers, Poochampally village in Telengana gave birth to what is now widely known and loved as Ikat, a process of intricate tie and dye. You are most welcome to witness the process as it not only allows you to take away a piece of heritage but also be a part of the process of making it. Remember that tourism is not rampant in Poochampally, and only a day’s trip is advised since there is a lack of accommodation here in the village.
Distance from Hyderabad: 43 km
5. Cholamandal Village, Chennai
Known to be the largest self-supporting village in India and one of the most successful ones in Asia, Cholamandal village in Chennai is a gift to the arts and craft community all over India. Each and every house you see in Cholamandal is built by its artisans, a majority of which are sculptors. Here, students of art who share an intense passion for multiple art forms are welcome to learn of its proud history, and leave not only as better artists but better people in general.
Distance from Chennai: 15 km