History of handicrafts in India

Which is the oldest Indian handicraft?

India is a land of ancient civilizations and diverse cultures. It has a rich heritage of handicrafts that stretches back thousands of years. The oldest Indian handicraft is difficult to pinpoint with absolute certainty due to the country's rich and diverse cultural history. India has a long and ancient tradition of handicrafts that dates back thousands of years. Different forms of handicrafts have been practised by different communities and civilizations across the Indian subcontinent. Despite the ruptures of history, attacks, and foreign trade, the Crafts of India held the legacy in many respects.

Over the centuries, Indian handicrafts evolved, incorporating influences from different cultures, religions, and regions. Each region of India developed its unique style and techniques. It is upgrading to a rich tapestry of handicraft traditions thriving today.
Today, Indian handicrafts remain important to the nation's cultural heritage and contribute significantly to its artistic and economic landscape. They continue to be appreciated and admired both within India and globally for their beauty, craftsmanship, and cultural significance.

1. Pottery

Pottery is one of the oldest Indian handicrafts. It traced back to the famed Indus Valley Civilization, flourishing around 3300–1300 BC. The gifted potters of this ancient civilization crafted practical and decorative pieces using clay, showcasing remarkable artistry. Functional pottery included storage jars, cooking dishes, and water containers designed to serve people's everyday needs.

Wicker Basket with white jars
Decorative pottery featured delicate figures, decorative tiles, and intricately designed pottery art pieces that added a touch of elegance to their surroundings.
Today, Indian pottery remains a unique tradition, with regions like Khurja, Uttar Pradesh. And Rajasthan is famous for its unique styles. Indian pottery has also adopted modern innovations, blending tradition with contemporary design. Artisans now experiment with new glazing techniques, colours, and forms, breathing new life into this ancient craft. This fusion of old and new has helped pottery to find a place in modern homes as functional and decorative art pieces.

2. Painting

The desire to document life and surroundings can be traced back to India's earliest history through the mesmerizing cave paintings in the north. These ancient artworks, dating back thousands of years, show scenes of hunting, dancing, and farming, providing valuable insights into the lives of our ancestors. 

Another important form of Indian painting is the tradition of temple art. The temples of South India boast superb and complex paintings that adorn their walls and ceilings. It reflects the devotion and artistic brilliance of the artisans. 

In the north, palm leaves, woodblocks, and cloth were famous canvases for painters until the introduction of paper in the 20th century, which further revolutionized the art of painting.

Indian painting is not limited to grand monuments and religious institutions alone; it permeates people's daily lives through vibrant folk art traditions.

warli Art 

From the enchanting Warli paintings of Maharashtra to the colourful wall paintings of Rajasthan and the intricate Madhubani art of Bihar, these folk paintings showcase the unique identity of different regions and communities.

3. Weaving

The weaving roots in India can be traced back to the Vedic period when the art of textile design and production began to take shape.
In the ancient past, skilled weavers produced fabrics using handlooms, creating clothing that reflected those times' cultural and social norms.
One of the unique parts of Indian weaving lies in its regional diversity, where each area showcases its unique style and techniques.
In the southern city of Kanchipuram, the vibrant silk-woven Pashmina shawls of Kashmir. On the other hand, they are a testament to the finesse and craftsmanship of the artisans in the north. From the complex brocades of Banaras to the beautiful Chanderi weaves, each region tells its tale through its woven masterpieces.

4. Wood Art

Hand-made Pine & Sheesham Wood Train Decorative

Indian woodcraft is a testament to the unique artistry and creativity of the country's artisans. From handcrafted furniture that decorates homes with elegance to wooden toys that captivate hearts across the globe, the high-level craftsmanship is the ideal of India's rich cultural heritage.

Each region of India contributes its unique flair to woodcraft, showcasing diverse styles and techniques. The detailed Jali work of Rajasthan, the vibrant lacquered toys of Andhra Pradesh, and the elegantly carved rosewood articles of Kerala are just a few examples of the regional diversity in Indian woodcraft.

5. Metalworking

Small Dhokra Key Hook in Mango Wood

Metalworking is an ancient craft in India. That has withstood the test of time, showcasing the brilliance and mastery of its artisans. Metalworking continues to exude elegance and finesse from the majestic eras of the Maurya and Gupta dynasties to the contemporary world. 

Intricate bronze sculptures, delicate silver jewellery, and ornate brassware serve as testaments to the exceptional craftsmanship of Indian metalworkers.

The art of metalworking in India dates back to ancient times, with the Maurya and Gupta dynasties being significant periods for metal craftsmanship.

The skilled artisans of those eras produced beautiful bronze sculptures depicting gods, goddesses, and mythical beings with intricate details. These sculptures are iconic examples of the artistic finesse and cultural significance of metalworking in India.

In contemporary times, Indian metalworking has adjusted to the changing tastes and demands of the world. While traditional techniques are kept and preserved, modern metalworkers combine innovation and creativity into their designs.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the traditional of Indian handicraft?

The traditional handicrafts of India are skilled crafts made by hand. These crafts have been passed down through generations and reflect the rich cultural heritage of India. They include things like pottery, weaving, jewelry-making, and carving. These crafts often carry stories, traditions, and techniques that make them unique and special. They're an important part of India's history and culture.

Q: How old is handicraft?

Handicrafts have been around for almost 5,000 years, even before machines were used to make things. People have been creating items by hand using their skills and tools for thousands of years. So, handicrafts are old and have a deep history in human culture.

Q: What is the oldest form of Indian handicraft?

The oldest form of Indian handicraft is Dhokra Art. It's all about making metal things, like sculptures and jewelry, using a technique used for 4,000 years and still used.

Q: Why is India famous for handicrafts?

India is famous for making things by hand that are really special. The people there are really good at using their hands to create beautiful and unique items. These things show the country's history and culture and are made with great care and skill. That's why India is known for its unique handicrafts.

Q: Which Indian handicrafts is most demand in international market?

Some things from India that people really like worldwide are colorful fabrics, shiny jewellery, pretty furniture, soft carpets, nice leather stuff like bags, and items made from metals. These things are made with care and are special, which is why people in other countries want them.


As we journeyed through time records, we discovered the timeless beauty of India's oldest handicrafts. Each craft has significantly shaped India's artistic legacy, from the wheel of pottery that turned centuries ago to the looms that weave threads of tradition. These ancient treasures inspire modern artisans, preserving their cultural identity and captivating the world with their timeless appeal.
The legacy of Indian handicrafts remains a source of pride and admiration, a testament to the originality and creativity of our ancestors. So, let us celebrate these artistic wonders, cherish their heritage, and support the skilled artisans who keep these ancient crafts alive for generations. Explore the captivating world of Indian handicrafts and be enchanted by the artistry that has endured through the ages.