|Crafts of Maharashtra
|The growth of crafts in society is a sign of the
cultivation of sensitivity and the stirring and mellowing of humanism. It
stands for man's endeavour to bring grace and elegance into an otherwise harsh
and drab human existence. Actually, man's elevation from gross animal existence
is marked by his yearning for something beyond the satisfaction of mere needs
and creature comforts. It is the yearning that found natural expression in
|- Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay
| Crafts do not grow in isolation. They are basically in the service of the
society. Society's culture can be measured from the arts and crafts it lived
with. Arts and crafts find unhindered patronage and wide appreciation in a
society that has been elevated to great cultural heights. Such society
establishes values and norms that give the guidelines of life to all its
members, rich and poor. Artists and craftsmen in such society exist as an
integral part of it and crave to achieve excellence and reach to perfection in
|From the law-books, the Niti-Shastra, from the writings of Manu and Kautilya,
we learn the responsibility of the state and the public to protect and
patronize the artists and craftsmen. The system of taxation makes it compulsory
for society to foster and support the artist and craftsmen Matsya Purana
mentions that every home should have a door frame in carved wood as a sign of
welcome to visitors.
|This tradition of carved wooden frames and carved wooden balconies supported by
brackets of animals, birds, and human forms is a part of architectural design
of homes, palaces and temples as well as other community places built all over
| There are many palaces, temples and private homes in Maharashtra, in which we
see plenty of intricate and charming woodwork. In places like Pune, Wai,
Satara, Nasik Chandwad, Palshi, Paithan there ar Wadas (havelis) full of
excellent wood carvings. Several temples in Konkan (Sindhudurg), in places like
Achre, Kunkeshwar, Sawantwadi, Aakeri have pillars and projected beams very
intricately carved by the local craftsmen.
|Since our contemporary architecture is totally changed and has no place for any
carvings or others crafts, the craft of wood carving gradually disappeared and
with that vanished all our craftsmen.
|When we probe into the cultural history of Maharashtra of the last
three hundred years, we come across very interesting accounts of our crafts and
craftsmen which have been meticulously recorded in gazetteers and reports of
various collectorates during the British rule. Our crafts were shown in several
exhibitions in the Western counties and they were highly praised. George C. M.
Birdwood published his book, 'The Arts of India' in 1880, in which he had given
plenty of information about, the then prevailing crafts in Maharashtra. Several
crafts mentioned by him are not being executed today. But some major which have
survived or have been revived and handed down to the present generation of
craftsmen were also going through a difficult period due to lack of patronage,
because under the British rule, the lifestyle of patrons of arts and crafts was
also undergoing a great change.
| George Birdwood had paid high tributes to the craftsmen of Maharashtra as he
had given several examples of their crafts in great detail. It is very
interesting to know that the Thakurs and Katharies of Matheran Hill were
imaginative craftsmen who could design ornaments. Birdwood records. "Mr.
W.G.S.V. Fitz Gerald sent to the Annual International Exhibition of 1872 a
collection of grass ornaments worn by the wild Thakurs and Katharies of
Matheran and the Western Ghats of Bombay, which had been made by Dr. T. Y.
Smith, the accomplished Superintendent of that hill station, and by the side of
these grass collars, necklaces, bracelets, anklets and girdles, were exhibited
also examples of the gold jewellery of thick gold wire, twisted into girdles,
bracelets, anklets, necklaces, and collars worn all over India and which are
fashioned in gold exactly as the Matheran ornaments are fashioned in grass."
|Writing about the gold jewellery, Birdwood has
mentioned that, "the repousse gold jewellery of Sawantwadi in mythological
design is the best in Western India." He has also stated that "the
hemispherical golden ornament worn by women, both at Bombay and Cairo, on top
of their heads, of which ones sees in collection such fine specimens from
|Vizianagram". No goldsmiths in Sawantwadi make such ornaments
| Some reference about wood carving in Maharashtra has already been made. From
the documentation of Birdwood we come to know that the craftsmen from
Sindhudurg (Ratnagiri) were experts in designing and executing carved articles
for various purposes. They used Sinsapa (Shisam) or Bombay black wood and teak
for various carving purposes. According to Birdwood, "teak for the beams and
pillars, brackets, and door-posts and doors of native houses is carved in
|Rajapur and Deogarh talukas of the Ratnagiri Collectorate."
| A good deal of inlay work was being conducted in Bombay in the latter part of
the 19th Century. This inlay was made up of tin wire, sandal-wood, ebony,
sappan (Brazil) wood, ivory, white, and stained green, and stag horn. "Bombay
inlaid work" was familiar for ornamental furniture such as book-stands,
work-boxes, blotting- cases, ubiquitous glove, boxes and card cases, which go
by the name of "Bombay boxes".