Evolution of Leather Craft in Gujarat
Ancient hunter gatherers used to use the skin of the hunted creatures for making garments for themselves. The activities of tanning and processing animal hides for several purposes like making clothes and other beneficial products. The 'Rig Veda' contains many references to leather and the utilization of leather for making leather pouches for collecting and storing water. Ancient Hindu scriptures and legends have spoken about deities like Lord Shiva utilizing animal hide as his attire.
The community of 'Meghwals' in Gujarat has been practising the art of leather crafts since ages. This wonderful craft has trickled through generations and has survived the impact of modern civilization and technology even today. Gradually, the leather crafts performed by the Meghwals have adopted multiple styles to make themselves convenient to the demands of the modern society. The Kutch district of Gujarat has a historical significance as it manufactures saddles, swords, armours and shields and other goods. The exclusive quality of leather to be tanned, coloured and processed enables it to be used as various items which are essential to the modern man. It possesses certain features like longevity and durability which lends a unique touch to leather crafts.
Concentration of Leather Craft in Gujarat
Leather footwear is an illustrious form of leather craft of Gujarat. The artisans of Bhuj are also known for the creation of vibrant leather panels using multicoloured threads, mirrors and cotton cloth that are exemplary of excellent craftsmanship of the artisans. The raw materials for these products are derived from Ahmedabad. Gujarat's Kutch district is renowned for producing excellent leather crafts. This unique form of leather craft is made in the areas of Nirona and Hodka. The raw materials employed in this craft are camel hide, goat skin, embroidery fibres and mirrors or 'abhalas'.
Leather Crafts of Gujarat
The leather crafts of Gujarat cover several kinds of goods that encompass 'batwas', mirror frames, purses, 'sapats', bags, 'mojdis', fans, bells, cushion covers, horse saddles, spectacles cover, stuffed leather toys, slippers, wallets, letter boxes, leather footwear, wall-hangings and kit boxes. Leather artisans in Gujarat create different sorts of leather crafts like home d‚cor accessories and other objects by utilizing various techniques like embroidery, leather sculpting, leather stamping and patch work of leather. These intricate and exclusive artworks are not only marketed in India but are also famous in the international market. Toilette delights, appliqu‚ work, filigreed embellished boxes, combs, beautifully stitched leather bags, belts and sculpted leather dolls are the other leather fineries of this Indian state. The local men and women of Gujarat manufacture all the leather crafts in this region. While the Gujarati men conceptualize the specific patterns and colours of the leather crafts, the women contribute by developing intricate embroidery work. The finished products are enriched with rich mirror work and bead work, along with attractive and colourful designs.
The manufacturing process of leather craft includes a few steps that the artisans follow. First, the leather is cut into the shape of the desired items. After the shape is perfected, the items are embroidered and then dyeing is done before making the final product. After this, the leather is punched with designs and then coloured cotton cloth is attached behind the punched patterns as a backing. The leather items are created by hand-stitching and are again stitched for further adornment. Some simple tools like needles etc are used for making these leather products. The craftsmen of 'Harijan' community practice this craft and are considered as the masters of this workmanship.
The leather craft artisans of Gujarat bestow all their finesse and dedication in creating many exquisite masterpieces of sheer artfulness. Gujarat boasts of a rich heritage in the field of leather handicrafts and the Gujarati leather crafts are much sought after in India. Chain stitch embroidery or 'mochi bharat' is among the several kinds of leather crafts of Gujarat which possesses traditional characteristics. Artisans use camel hide or goat skin to create diverse objects which vary from domestic to fashion accessories.