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Take a tour of India’s handicraft heritage at India Craft Week 2021

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India Craft Week 2021 returns to Delhi for its third edition. Explore the country’s rich handicraft traditions through exhibits, masterclasses with local artisans, film screenings and bespoke heritage tours crafted by boutique hospitality organisation RARE India.

From intricate Pichwai paintings to vibrant Kantha-embroidered saris, India’s rich tradition of indigenous crafts offers travellers plenty of opportunities to bring home unique souvenirs. More importantly, however, these handicrafts provide a window into the culture, heritage and geography of a region. Baluchari saris from Bishnupur in West Bengal, for example, immortalise local tales and mythology in fabric. Goa’s distinctive Azulejos tiles are a link to the state’s Portuguese heritage. Craft tours can help actively preserve this artistic heritage by allowing visitors more than just a casual glimpse. Through guided experiences with artisans, one can experience the culture of a place first-hand, meaningfully engage with and help sustain the local communities that the tourism industry of a region has been built on.

Pashmina shawl weaver indian handicrafts
Award-winning Pashmina weaver Majid Mir. (Photo: Courtesy India Craft Week)

At India Craft Week 2021, you can traverse the wealth of Indian handicrafts under one roof, with Warli painting, Ajrakh printing, Bidriware, Dhokra art and Kantha embroidery among the several works on display. The four-day event, held in partnership with British Council India, runs from February 18 to February 21 at the British Council and Bikaner House in Delhi. This edition is centred around the theme ‘Crafting Tomorrow’ and aims to help revive the Indian handicrafts sector which has been badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a more hands-on experience, you can sign up for a masterclass in Phad painting, Pashmina weaving, Phulkari work or Rogan art. Each day will also feature film screenings that profile artisans, document their craft and delve deeper into their work. Highlights include Phad: The Wandering Shrine, which offers insight into the intricate religious paintings by Rajasthan’s Rabari tribe, and Maheshwari, which explores the creation of Maheshwari saris from Madhya Pradesh. India Craft Week will also hold panel discussions on the role of handicrafts in interior design and the business of craft.

If you’re inspired to explore India’s handicraft heritage further, boutique hospitality brand RARE India has partnered with India Craft Week to provide bespoke experiences at partner hotels across West Bengal, Rajasthan, Kutch, Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh. These will include guided tours to explore the various crafts of the region.

Shoba Mohan, founder of RARE India, gives us a peek at the experiences on offer:

Gujarat

Gujarat Patola sari weaving Indian handicrafts
An ikat patola sari being woven in Gujarat. (Photo: Shutterstock/Nisha Rajani)

This week-long journey will immerse you into Gujarat’s architectural heritage and textile handicrafts. The itinerary includes visits to explore the Indo-Islamic architecture of the Adalaj stepwell, Rani Ki Vav, a stepwell that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Sabarmati Ashram. The tour also features stops at the Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum, Patan Patola Heritage Museum and the Shrujan Museum, which works with craftswomen to revive Kutchi hand-embroidery. In addition, you’ll have the chance to interact with Bandhani and Rogan artisans.

Central India

Madhya Pradesh Chanderi sari indian handicrafts
A craftswoman weaves a delicate Chanderi sari. (Photo: Shutterstock/ImagesofIndia)

This eight-day experience explores the textile heritage across Indore, Maheshwar, Bagh, Bhopal and Chanderi. It includes guided tours of the Rehwa society, where you can witness the making of Maheshwari saris; a block printing workshop at Bagh village; a zari workshop; a visit to the Museum of Man, which focuses on Adivasi culture, at Bhopal; and interactions with weavers of Chanderi fabric.

West Bengal

West Bengal Chhou mask Indian handicrafts
An artisan paints a Chhou mask of the goddess Kali at a workshop in West Bengal. (Photo: Shutterstock/Abir Roy Barman)

This week-long experience will familiarize you with a variety of artforms across Bengal. Among the itinerary is an interaction with Patua artists of Midnapur; a Chhou mask-making tour at Baghmundi; a performance by Baul singers and an interaction with Kantha embroiderers at Shantiniketan; and a tour of the Tantipura weavers’ village on the outskirts of Murshidabad, which is known for its fine handloom saris.

For more information on India Craft Week 2021, visit Indiacraftweek.com.