Philkuwa hand blocks are part of the textile printing tradition of Uttar Pradesh. Here the inventive artisan has used blocks to crate frames and handles for hand mirrors, recalling an age where aesthetics defined even utilitarian objects.
This tribal art underlines the symbiotic relationship in nature between birds, animals and plant life. Characteristic of Gond technique are fine stripes and stippled dots, as are drenched primary colours. However, the innovative artist here has chosen a more urbane black-crimson-ivory palette.
Agra bursts with creativity. ‘Jaali’ or lattice work on wood, stone and marble, was originally used in Indo Islamic architecture to create cool, delicate, light-shedding screens. Here the craftsman has turned his skill at filigree to an inspired black stone saucer set off with a pristine white porcelain cup.
‘Jaali’ or fretwork is a Mughal legacy to Uttar Pradesh. The artisans once carved blocks of ebony for fine lace-like tracery. Today they use the more easily available sheesham wood, with equally exquisite results.
Madhubani is a heritage folk art form, done by village women of the Mithila district in Bihar. The closely packed designs were originally painted as ritual expressions of mythological tales on the walls of homes. Here is a quirky modern adaptation on a stack of steel. Take your pick.
The great Mughals brought marble carving, sculpting, fretwork and inlay with precious stones to Agra. The most glorious example of these skills is of course the Taj Mahal. Descendants of artisans originally trained by Persian marble-craft experts carry on the tradition. The inlay work is so smooth that it is indistinguishable from the marble to the touch.
Fine ‘korai’ grass grown on the banks of Tamarabarani river, is cut, drenched in water, split and woven into fine quality mats as smooth as ‘pattu’ or silk. They are created by Muslim women in Pattamadai who originally made them, against orders, as ritual mats for high caste Hindu bridal couples. An exquisitely woven ‘pattu pai’ was India’s wedding gift to Queen Elizabeth in 1952.
Unique to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh are tiny wooden birds, animals and toys. Originally working with ivory, the craftsman now uses fine-grained Kahema wood which allows him to carve with equal intricacy. Notice the details on the truck, including the driver in his seat.
Curving floral motifs of Kalamkari, noted for its laborious, many-stages process, from Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh, brightly coloured Madhubani painted designs done by women of the Mithila region of Bihar, palm leaf sewing, etching and engraving from Odisha and brightly coloured birds typical of the Gond art of Madhya Pradesh speak of the richness of tribal art in India.