Andhra Pradesh's traditional arts & crafts, like Ikat weaving and Kalamkari painting, have survived despite the onslaught of industrialisation.

Andhra Pradesh is home to various ancient handicraft, with several specialist guilds of craftsmen attributing their skills to sages of antiquity, scriptures and even divinity. Subsequent influences from invasions also added a foreign dimension to the aesthetics.

Many of these practices, Passed down from generation to generation, have retained the original techniques and designs, while simultaneously absorbing fresh techniques in order to stay relevant. Andhra Pradesh has the distinction of having as many as 13 Geographical Indications from the Government of India for its cultural heritage.

The Kalamkari fabrics-which are hand-painted or block-printed-derive their name from kalam, or pen, which is the tool used by Kalamkari artisans. Kalamkari paintings done on cloth panels narrate entire stories from the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Ikat weaving technique is widely practiced in Andhra Pradesh. In this technique, both warp and weft can be tie-dyed in such a way that the programmed pattern appears on the finished fabrics upon weaving. The oldest Ikat centre in the state is Chirala. Telia is a trademark offering Chirala. It is a multi-purpose cloth used as a lungi, loincloth and shoulder-cloth. Telia gets its name from the extensive use of tel (oil) in the process of weaving the yarn.

Ponduru, in Srikakulam district is renowned as the land where the finest khadi is woven, so much so that even Mahatma Gandhi is said to have preferred khadi from Ponduru.

Machilipatnam has emerged as an important carpet-weaving centre. Wool-pile carpets from Eluru's thriving woollen carpet industry said to have been established by Persians during the Mohammedan rule-are largely exported.

Usually named after the villages or towns where they are produced, saris woven using traditional techniques are highly sought after not only in India, but overseas as well. In Dharmavaram alone, there are over a thousand shops that sell silk saris. These saris are ideal to wear during cold weather and are preferred by Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancers. They are especially appreciated for their double colours and shaded effects. Dharmavaram also has the distinguished claim of being the only Silk Exchange in the country.

The handmade saris of Venkatagiri and Nellore, are characterised by fine crafts-manship. Even the most elaborate power loom products are no match for the intricate patterns of these saris, which are woven using locally made jallas, a type of handloom.

Uppada Jamdani saris, woven in uppada in East Godavari district, are known for being extremely light in weight. The weavers use zari, which is a silk thread that is often dipped in pure gold, to make these intricately designed saris.

Mangalagiri, in Guntur district, produces cotton saris that usually feature zaris on the borders, with little or no designs on the body.

Machilipatnam Kalamkari technique employs the use of vegetable dyed wooden blocks that have various designs carved on them. The blocks are dyed with vegetable based colours and their designs are pressed on to the surface of the fabric.

The Srikalahasti school of Kalamkari involves the use of hand painting instead of block printing. Kalamkari saris of this style are especially noted for their borders and elaborate pallus.

Chaya nataka, or shadow puppetry, employs leather dolls painted with vegetable dyes with the same painstaking attention to detail one sees in the Kalamkari tradition. More than 200 families in the village of Etikoppaka, 65km from Visakhapatnam, produce lacquered wooden toys carved in the shape of mythological figures found at the Harappa and Mohenjodaro excavation sites. Artisans from Varigonda and Nupuram villages make toys from sawdust in traditional designs, featuring characters from Hindu epics. Artisans in Kondapalli, known as Arya Kshatriyas, whose lineage can be traced back to Brahmanda Purana, use soft poniki wood to create toys with expressive faces.

And More
The Brassware artisans of Budithi village in Srikakulam district are highly versatile in their skills, offering items as varied as cooking utensils to flower pots and planters.

The saraswathi veena made in Bobbili in the district of Vizianagaram is known for its aesthetic superiority, as well as its depth and fullness of tone. Craftsmens of the Bobbili Veena Sampradayam make this form of the veena. These veenas are carved out of a single piece of wood from the jackfruit tree, instead of the standard three pieces. A miniature version of the Saraswathi veena is available for sale.

The craftsmen from Chittoor district involved in bronze icon casting have to study the Shilpa Shastra (Science of Arts and Crafts) carefully in order to produce ornamental brassware, which this region is famous for.

In Visakhapatnam district, exquisite trinket boxes made of tortoise shell and bone are characterised by intricate perforated designs on the bone fretwork, through which the orange glow of the shell can be seen clearly.

In Narsapur in West Godavari district, the women of the fishing community use their familiarity with net-making to create lace and crochet designs, a craft that was introduced in the region by Dutch and Portuguese missionaries that had once lived here.

Wood carvings from Udayagiri, made from Red Sander wood, are highly sought after by architects and interior designers. This craft has also been adapted to make kitchenware such as spoons. Red sandalwood found in Chittoor district is used to carve images of Lord Venkateswara and the Tirupati Temple.


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