India - A Shoppers Paradise

India, the country which boasts of its rich culture has to its credit the diversity in its, costumes, traditions. India has a wealth of knowledge and skills, which have been passed down from generation to generation. Rajasthan and Gujarat stand out above other states for their colourful embroidery, mirror work, quilting and fabric printing. The variety of art and craft in India can be attributed to it's variety in climates, geography and culture. Different states and regions predominate in art and craft, which is unique to that area. Kashmir is widely known for its Pashmina wool shawls as well as carpets, silverware and ivories, while engraved and enameled meenakari brassware can be found in Rajasthan.

Certain regions are famous for crystals and semi precious stones. You can witness the richness of colours in Indian textiles in the seven-meter silk sarees and the intricate detailed work in small silk brocades from Varanasi. Every handicraft sold in the country is made by tightly knit communities.
Agra's marble workers whose shops look out on to labyrinthine bylanes in the area around the Taj Mahal, for instance, are the descendants of those who lavished the Taj Mahal's walls with pietra dura. In Ahmedabad, Gujarat, narrow alleyways still bear the names of those guilds that once lived in them. It is possible to actually watch craftsmen at work in any city or town in INDIA.

Each state in the country has something different to offer. The theme shopper who wants to collect only paintings can buy miniature paintings on silk, marble tiles, parchment or ivory from each of the several schools of miniature paintings in the country; religious paintings on pressed rags from Orissa and simplistic tribal graphics from Madhuban in Bihar and Warli in Maharashtra. Textiles, wooden dowry chests, embroideries - all these produced in various corners of the country, each being unique in its design element and in its motifs. Sarees are the best known subjects of daily wear. Widely used by much of India's female population, sarees range from gossamer thin Chanderis woven in silk to the thick Kanjeevaram silks of Tamil Nadu.

Both types are distinguished by the restrained use of motifs, but ikats from Orissa, in hand spun cottons of earthy colours, are woven with traditional motifs of a highly distinctive blurred appearance, obtained by precise dyeing and weaving techniques. Indian sarees take as their theme parrots or elephants, seashells or stylized flowers, and sometimes an architectural motif - geometrical patterns or Muslim architectural details are also echoed in sarees.

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