The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the earliest cradles of civilisation in the world. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that it was home to some of the earliest inventions in the world like buttons, rulers, and more. The rich tradition of Indian handicrafts can be traced back almost 5,000 years to Harappa in the Indus Valley Civilization.
The Harappan craftsmen not only catered to all the local needs but traded with the outside world via sea routes. There are numerous references in the Vedic age (1500 B.C.) of artisans involved in pottery making, weaving, woodcraft, etc. The Rigveda refers to a variety of pottery made from clay, wood and metal.
Handicrafts are a mirror of the cultural identity of the ethnic people who make it. India has the most diverse ethnicity in the world. No other country can boast of ethnicity as rich and diverse as that of India. Ergo, no country can boast a culture of handicrafts as rich and diverse as that of India. No visit to India is complete without shopping for handicrafts like Kashmiri woollen carpets; Zari embroidered fabrics, terracotta and ceramic products, silk fabrics, etc. The production of handicrafts is the largest source of income for the rural population of India after agriculture.
During the Mughal period, the art of weaving and silk spinning was significantly refined. During the Gupta period (AD 320-647), metal works, ivory works and jewellery reached a zenith of perfection. The spectacular rock-cut temples of Ellora and Ajanta were also constructed during this period.
Stonework, in particular, is one of the most shining examples of Indian handicrafts. This handicraft mainly flourished in the medieval period, when the Kings of India took a particular interest in arts. A considerable part of the royal treasury was spent on temples and caves, with the sculptors being paid handsomely for their efforts. Different Indian states embody their own style and origin of art, building an extraordinary treasure trove of unique craftsmanship.
One of the oldest (more than 4000 years) handicrafts of India that is popular even today is called Dhokra, which is a distinct style of metal casting.