Carpet weaving came into prominence during the Mughal era, when Akbar brought Persian weavers to India. The main centres of carpet making were Srinagar , Lahore, Amritsar, Sind, Multan, and Allahabad. At one time Delhi was a centre for the production of Herati carpets, which were designed after the style of those made in Herat, Afghanistan.
Known for their harmonious colours, the design of these carpets was kind of standard. The border was usually a broad band separated from the centre and edged on the outer side by one or two narrow bands filled with bold and conventional flower designs.
GEMS, KUNDAN & MEENAKARI JEWELLERY
Delhi is home to two very special kind of jewellery encouraged and patronized to the level of an art form by the Mughals. The meeting of Hindu and Muslim cultures during the Mughal rule created a rich variety of designs and during this time the art of Kundan was introduced to India. Western influences during the British rule prompted the use of open-claw settings in preference to the traditional kundan gulband (choker), dastband (bracelet) and karnaphul (earrings) settings.
The 17th century saw the greatest proliferation of design and forms, which evolved then, have endured. In this century advances have been made in the technique of enamelling and stone encrusting. Today, new forms, requiring harder metal have come into vogue. Pure gold being extremely pliable was found unsuited to these forms and of necessity a quality of alloy became acceptable.
Kundan is the Mughal-inspired art of setting of stones in gold and silver. Gems are bedded in a surround of gold leaf rather than secured by a rim or claw. Hindu Punjabis brought Meenakari, or the skill of enamelling, from Lahore to Delhi. The Mughal fashion was to enamel the reverse side of jewellery to protect it from contact with the wearer's skin.
Enamelling is a technique, in which hollows made in metal surface are filled with coloured enamels. With intricate designs executing detail, meenakari articles have a delicate and lyrical quality about them.
Do visit Dariba Kalan near Chandni Chowk, which is known as the jewellers' street. Another special thing to look out for is setting of the 'navratanas' or the nine precious stones in gold, which comprise of rubies, diamonds, blue sapphires, emerald, yellow sapphires, cat's eyes, coral, hessonite garnet and pearls. This is a traditional skill practised by Muslim craftsmen called 'saadegars' who settled in Delhi during Shahjahan's reign. Sarafs, traditional Hindu jewellers who have been around for centuries, are still present and doing good business too
Chicks are window screens made of bamboo slats and are tied with plain or coloured string in designs all over northern India. Delhi also happens to be an important centre for chairs and stools made of the tall golden-white sarkanda grass, which grows in abundance in the capital's area.
Delhi is where the art of ivory carving flourished under the influence of the Mughal princes. The art developed a characteristic form with the use of floral motifs and intricate geometrical patterns worked in fine jali-lattice work.
Delhi craftsmen also make the elephant with the hoodah, the whole structure carved out of just one piece. The chains and jewels decorating the elephant are all delicately caved out of a solid piece of ivory and each link can be separately lifted. Besides, the virtuosity in technique, the stylisation is similar to the Mughal tradition of sculpture. Delhi has also grown in importance as a manufacturing centre of ivory jewellery.
Craftsmen over here also excel in manufacturing small items, such as intricately made beaded necklaces where each bead is worked in the form of a rose bud or chrysanthemum in full bloom with its leaves and tendrills in the background carved in an intricate jali. Carved ivory bangles, ear-studs and a variety of other utility items such as paper knives, cocktail pins, decorative hairpins, ivory cuff links and buttons are some articles produced in Delhi in large quantities. Ivory Palace in Shahjhanabad a 300-year-old shop that used to attract the best craftsmen back then and a place to check out for.
During the Mughal period, Delhi was an important centre of leatherwork. Traditional leather jooties or ethnic footwear and slippers, which were sometimes ornamented with pearls, gold and silver were the piece beyond resistance. Embroidered bags, shoes, leather garments, leather seats, puffs or pidis were other popular items.
The Delhi school is a direct offshoot of the Mughal School. Mansoor, a famous painter of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir's court, is said to be the author of this school and his direct descendants can still be found following in his footsteps. Known for its dynamism and naturalism, this school used a strong contrast in colours and the paintings, which were done on ivory. Now because of the ban on ivory, a special handmade paper is used to create these exquisite paintings
Throughout history Delhi has been associated with the making of musical instruments, along with Calcutta, Lucknow, Banaras, Lahore, and Tanjore. There are still some old shops located in the capital where musical instruments are assembled. Check out Bina Musical Stores at Nai Sarak, Delhi Musical Store at Jama Masjid and Lahore Music House at Daryaganj, to hear the mesmerising sounds of the traditional musical instruments.
Talk of paper craft brings one inside the patang (kite) market in Lal Kuan bazaar in Old Delhi. These colourful, feather-light kites come in all shapes and sizes, as kite flying is an important national pastime.
Tazia is the next most popular paper craft. A commemorative paper structure, it consists of coloured bits of paper pasted on a bamboo frame and carried in the Moharram procession. Tazias are used for a happy purpose too during the Phoolwalon ki Sair held every September in the capital.
Another papercraft that takes a lot of hard work is Effigy-Making. The real effect of this art can be seen when the Hindu festival of Dussehra comes round. Huge effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnath are laboriously erected and then burnt on Dusshera to uphold the victory of truth and justice.
In Delhi, terracotta pottery, is the one whose products make perfect souvenirs to take home. Some prominent terracotta items include cutwork lamps, long necked surahis (water-pots), gamle (flowerpots), pitchers and cups of all shapes and sizes. To get hold of quality earthenware, check out the Crafts Museum in Pragati Maidan, Dilli Haat and just outside the New Delhi Railway Station.
The art of making blue glaze pottery came to Delhi via Kashmir, the Mughal emperors' favourite retreat, and rolled on to Jaipur. The traditional Persian designs are much more in demand nowadays. Apart from the predictable urns, jars, pots and vases, one can also find tea sets, cups and saucers, plates and glasses, jugs, ashtrays and even napkin rings. The colour palette is restricted to blue derived from the oxide of cobalt, green from the oxide of copper and white, though other non-conventional colours such as yellow and brown have jumped into the fray too.
Delhi and Rajasthan are two main places in India, which are regarded as the home of shellac work. Do check out the brightly coloured dazzling bangles, often studded with glass gems, spirals of base-metal wire, foil and spangles. They make inexpensive but an unusual present for friend's too.
WOOD INLAY OR WOODWORK
Because of the Mughal patronage, Delhi became a thriving centre for all sorts of crafts, among them wood inlay work too. The Mughals loved decoration done with woodwork and their demand encouraged communities of Persian inlay artisans to settle in Delhi. Coloured woods, horn and even plastic are lovingly set into carved surfaces of a range of household objects, jewellery boxes and curios.
Recently Delhi has developed a number of successful designs for furniture. Well-known designers, entrepreneurs, and furniture firms have revived several local designs for lathing, carving and inlay and the number of successful workshops for artistic and functional furniture continues to increase.
ZARI, GOTA, KINARI & ZARDOZI
Zari is gold, and zardozi embroidery is the glitteringly ornate, heavily encrusted gold thread work practised in Delhi and a few other cities of India. Zari threads are used extensively in handloom and powerloom saris, which are manufactured all over India. Either real silver thread, gold-plated thread or an imitation, which has a copper base gilded with gold or silver colour, is used for zari work.
Traditionally made for Mughal and Rajput nobility, it has now been officially adopted as bridalwear. Nowadays synthetic or 'tested' zari embroidery is done. Cast metals are melted and pressed through split steel sheets, to be converted into wires. Then they are hammered to the required thinness. Plain wire is called badla, and when wound round a thread, it is called kasav. Smaller spangles are called sitara, and tiny dots made of badla are called mukaish.
Associated to appliqué, gota work involves placing woven gold cloth onto other fabric to create different surface textures. Kinari or edging is the fringed or tasselled border decoration, predominantly practised by Muslim craftsmen.
A Celebration Of Style
Zardosi is heavy embroidery with silver and gold threads as also wire - known as salma or sitara, on rich textiles like silk and velvet. The pattern is first drawn and carved on wooden blocks. The embroidery process begins by stamping the pattern with aid of gum and chalk or occasionally with paper stencils onto the fabric, which is streched on a wooden frame, known as karchob.
The craftsmen then start the actual embroidery, using needles of different sizes. Often readymade shapes of maal, with names such as nakshi, sadi kora and kangani are stitched on to form a variety of zardosi patterns. This material is purchased by weight and is available in grouped sections or bunches known as lachis, held together with a fine string.
Says famous designer Abu Jani " Zardosi is done with regular needle so each stitch is what is called pukka kaam or finished work, it endures since each stitch is knotted." Designers like Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla have added real value to Indian fashion by reviving the almost dying styles of garment embellishments like zardosi. Kinari Bazaar in Delhi has a wide range of these dazzling garments on display and for sale.