Located on the western edge of India, Gujarat is the treasure trove of hidden gems — each of its regions is rooted in its unique culture, art and handicraft. Simple and colourful, these folk and tribal Indian art forms are vibrant enough to speak volumes about the country's cultural diversity and rich heritage. Popular and admired across the globe, they have carved a niche of their own in the history of Indian art.

Let’s explore the hidden treasures of Gujarat, from Rogan art to tie-dye textiles to Pithora paintings to beadwork to woodcarving to lacquer work to pottery and more!

  • Rogan Painting — Kutch

The word ‘Rogan’ comes from Persia, meaning oil or varnish.

Practised in the Kutch district of Gujarat, these delicate and precisely painted artworks are often created from the artist’s own imagination. The paint used is  derived from easily available thick brightly coloured castor seed oil and natural colours made from vegetables or flowers. The oil is heated for long and later on mixed with cold water to turn it into a sticky elastic paste called rogan.

Made on textile, oversized blunt needles or rods are used by artists to gently twist the strands of the gummy paint, which they place meticulously on the fabric surface in elaborate patterns. The motifs used are drawn from the history and folk culture of the Kutch region including geometric flowers, peacocks, tree of life and geometric flowers etc.

Done entirely with hands, every piece requires long hours, patience and effort.  An extraordinary aspect of this painting technique is that during the entire process, the blunt needle never comes into contact with the cloth.

“The designs are not planned. They just flow from within us and that is why no one is able to replicate Rogan art” Sumer Gaffur Khatri, Rogan artist

Today, this rare art is practised by a lone Muslim family, the Khatris, also called the sleepy hamlet of Nirona. This family of traditional artists has worked tenaciously to keep this 300 years old art alive, and protecting it from vanishing into the folds of history.

Capturing the true spirit of cultural Indian, this extraordinary ancient art form now adorns the walls of the White House in the United States. ( During his visit to the country in 2014, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India gifted exquisite handcrafted traditional Rogan paintings including ‘tree of life' as souvenirs to Barack Obama.)

  • Bandhini

The Jamnagar, Surendranagar, Anand and Kutch areas of Gujarat are associated with the ancient intricate art of Bandhani. The Sindhis, Muslims and Khatris of Kutch are known to have primarily practised this art form which gets its name from ‘Bandhan’ (the Hindi word for tying).

The art of making these cotton and silk clothes of vibrant colours, arresting combinations and dramatic designs have been passed down through generations.

It is a highly skilled process wherein the textile is specially tie-dyed by hand. Firstly, the fabric is pinched together using fingernails in selected places as per the pattern drawn or block-printed on the surface in temporary fugitive colours. Then, it is tied round with thread or twine and dipped in a dye-bath. Finally, the strings are removed to reveal a pattern in the original colour. The process is often repeated quite a several times to create a variously-coloured bandhani pattern.

It is a time-consuming process, can take up to six months to a year for most fabric to be completely dyed and even the simplest patterns can take more than a month before the product is ready for the market.

Today, this traditional Indian art form is crossing fashion barriers and entering a global market, thanks to the growing popularity of bandhej sarees.

  • Glass Beadwork

The splendid beadwork of Saurashtra requires good skill, patience and hard work. Created by attaching handmade glass beads to one another with a needle and thread or thin wire, these intricate beaded jewellery were initially a part of identity of women of tribal communities of Gujarat such as Rathwa.

Apart from the jewellery, these multicoloured glass beads are used to create hanging square-shaped chaklas, indhonis, mangal kalash, nariyal, and torans, which are essentials in every Gujarati marriage ceremony and in every traditional Gujarati home.

Over the years, the technique of bead craft has not changed but the motifs and colours have undergone a major transformation to meet the growing demands of the market. Also, the beads used now are made from machines having uniform size and shape.

  • Wood Carving

Wood carvings have always been an integral part of the glorious culture of Gujarat. Began in the 12th century, the design and exclusiveness of this art form are unmatchable. A unique cross-cultural style of motifs featuring Mughal style flowers and vines,  parrots, peacocks and elephants adds a distinctive character to the products.

Done by the mewara mistris (wooden carvers), this art form is used primarily to highlight architectural features and design decor including furniture of homes in Gujarat such as door brackets, edges and corners of chests etc. Large-sized chests called pataras, from Bhavnagar region in Saurashtra are a part of the bridal trousseau, often used to store bedrolls, jewellery, documents, oil and grain. Subtle colours and intricate designs in the tin foil style are used in making furniture in Sankheda which is popular for its traditional low rise seats, tables, stools and swings.

Junagadh and Doraji in Rajkot district are known for cradles with stands, cupboards with cubicles and typical Gujarati style jhula (indoor swings).

Wood inlay work of Surat which involves inlaid placing pieces of ivory, plastic, horn, bone, metal, and fine wires into carved surfaces of teak rosewood or sandalwood are quite trendy among millennials.

  • Zari

Finding its origin in the Mughal period, the Zari industry of Surat is one of the oldest traditional Indian handicrafts.

Made using yarns of cotton or silk with gold, copper or silver polish primarily on silk fabrics, this intricate Indian artwork plays an important part in Indian bridal dresses owing to its rich and royal look. Using a long needle on fabric stretched over a cot-like frame called khatla, intricate patterns and elaborate designs of embroidery called zardozi are handcrafted by skilled artisans.

The most popular kinds of Zari embroidery of Surat are kataoki bel, kamdani, mina work, makaish, kinari work.

The increased use of embroidery machines has quickened the process, a small piece of embroidery which would take days to complete can now be done in minutes. This has also led to the manufacturing of many home decor items, like bedsheets, pillow covers and wall panels made of zari embroidery.

  • Patola

A native of Patan region of Gujarat, Patola artwork is primarily practised by the Salvi community.

It is actually a double ikat (dyeing technique) woven sari, usually made from silk. Involving an extensive dyeing process, it takes around six months to one year for creating one saree. Hence, these handmade sarees are very expensive and used to be worn by royal families only.

Motifs of shikhar (the square) which denotes security, elephant, parrot, peacock, kalash (jug) and humans symbolic of saubhagya or good luck for women are used extensively in this artwork.

This 900-year-old craft is not just a piece of cloth, but a tradition, and a sacred one. The craftsmanship of this exquisite art form is only passed to the family members belonging to the same community i.e. the Salvis. Also, Patola acts an heirloom wherein the sarees were given to aristocratic women as a part of stridhan during their marriage and passed on to generations.

“A Patan Patola may tear over time, but it will never lose its colour.” —  Rahul Vinayak Salvi, Patola weaver (showing a 200-years-old Ptaola saree during a colloquium in Dubai).

With its fine intricacy and wonderful colouring, Patola saree has become renowned not only in India but overseas.

  • Clay Relief Work

Bhirandiyara, Ludiya, Dhordo, Hodka regions of Gujarat are well-known for their terracotta clay work. It is also called ‘Lippan Kaam’ (adorning things with hands).

Every year before Diwali, the communities of Kutch plaster their bhungas (traditional houses)  with terracotta clay or lipan with hands, later embellishing them with mirrors and okli ( textures created by hand imprints). Intricate designs comprising people (women especially brides, animals (peacock, camel,  camel), mango tree, flowers and geometric patterns are usually created along the walls, doors and windows. In some parts of the region, this clay craft is combined with traditional paintings in mineral rock colours on the exterior of the huts.

With the increase in popularity of this clay craft, decor and furniture items inspired by this art form such as handis, lanterns, wall pieces, plates, bowls, and sculptures are produced by the artisans.

  • Painted Pottery

Dating to the Indus Valley Civilization, painted pottery is a timeless craft tradition of India. Primarily made by the artisans of Lodai, Bhuj, Khavda in Gujarat, these clay vessels are made from the mud of a specific area near the lake, called ‘Rann ki Mitti.’ The soft clay is shaped into a pot by hand or on a potter’s wheel, baked in the sun and coated with a thin wash of subtle earthen red colour (geru). Later, the kumbhar women (potter’s wife) paint the distinct community-specific motifs such as black-and-white dots and stripes using a frayed bamboo twig. Finally, the vessel is fired in a kiln to set the colours.

The pottery making process remains the same, however, the subtleties of this craft vary from village to village.

The demand for these pottery items has decreased dramatically in the local market, but these are slowly gaining international prominence.

  • Mata Ni Pachedi

This ritual clothing is an impressive form of textile art practised by the Vaghari community who live along the edges of the Sabarmati River in Gujarat.

Printed using blocks and painted with strong bold forms, filled with natural colours and dyes using bamboo brushes, this Indian art form usually features the image of a female deity in several manifestations surrounded by images of the other incarnations, legends, portions from religious epics and even demons. Certain religious elements such as the sun in top right corner, the moon, Ganesha in the upper left portion, remain fixed in this traditional art form.

Traditionally, serving the purpose of a shrine for the marginalised and excluded Vagharis, these sacred textiles are now widely used to decorate the religious places in India, particularly during Navratri, the nine days when incarnations of the Goddess Durga are worshipped.

  • Terracotta Mud Craft

Found in almost every household of Gujarat to store food and local liquor (tadi), many tribal communities of the region also put handcrafted votive animals such as elephants, horses, camels in their places of worship, these figurines now hold decorative value.

Some of the well-known areas for terracotta craft are Chhota Udepur, Devgad Baria, Patan, Poshina. Though these terracotta figurines have geometrical patterns almost identical to the ones excavated from the sites of Indus Valley civilization, each region has its own distinct style of figurines.

Terracotta decor items and toys of Gujarat are popular across the country.

  • Block Printing

Birthplace of India’s oldest printed textiles, Gujarat’s block printing designs are fascinating.

Done majorly in the areas of Ahmedabad, Dhamadhka, Khavda, Jetpur, block printing requires skill and practice. This craft form involves the application of natural dyes in definite patterns and designs on textiles using intricate hand-carved wooden blocks.

Renowned for its distinctive design elements, colour schemes and motifs, block printed textiles of Gujarat are quite popular in urban India.

  • Mashru Weaving

Mashru refers to a mixed fabric woven with a silk warp and cotton/ satin weft textile. The silk yarn forms the outer surface of the fabric while the cotton forms the inner lining close to the body. It was primarily used by Muslim men who were prohibited by their religion to wear pure silk fabric.

This fabric is also used in the regions of Saurashtra and Kutch, where women stitch mashru kanjari (backless blouses), skirts, and cholis and other dowry garments.

The weaving of Mashru fabric was practised in many regions of India in different forms including Deccan, Lucknow, Bengal, Bhuj, Surat. However, now only weavers from the small towns of Gujarat, mainly Patan and Mandvi practice this traditional craft.

This royal craft was produced in large quantities until the 1900s for local elite and export markets in Turkey and the Middle East, however, there has been a significant decline in the export market in last few years.

Traditionally used in making garments, Mashru fabric is now used for making quilts, cushions and bags fusing with other folk art of the region such as bandhini.

  • Leather Handicraft

Bhujodi village, a major textile centre of Kutch, is renowned for its high-quality leather handicrafts.

Practised for generations by the Meghwal community (who migrated from Sindh and Rajasthan to Kutch), leathercraft of this region has a historical significance as it used to manufacture saddles, swords, armours and shields in early days.

As the community is blessed with the mesmerising embroidery skills, zari work involving silver and gold threads is done to create traditional design and motifs on the various leather items. Often, torni work is also done to create colourful patterns using coarse yarns on borders of the products.

The traditional leather craft products include fans, footwear, mirror frames and lanterns. However, to cater to the demands of contemporary times, products such as belts, wallets, handbags, toys, cushion covers and other artefacts.

  • Silver Work

Gujarat has a rich tradition of silver ornaments, which served as the portable assets of women of some local communities, wherein some tribal communities wear up to three kilos of silver jewellery. The distinctive style and design engraved in the ornaments also helped to reveal the identity of the owner’s community.

Though Anjur, Bhuj, Mundra region of Kutch are the main centres of silver craft in the state, areas of Patan, Ahmedabad, Porbandar, Jamnagar also have a tradition of crafting silver ornaments.

Ornaments made of silver including neckpieces, earrings, anklets, toe rings, bangles, inspired by tribal style, design, and patterns are quite a hit among the young women of urban India.

  • Quilting

Originated as an effective method to recycle and strengthen old pieces of cloth, at the same time creating utilitarian products such as large canopies, tents for ox carts, hangings with aesthetic appeal.

It is practised primarily by the communities of Bhuj, Banni, Pachchham and Saurashtra region. With every community using quilting technique of their own, varying from patchwork (sewing together different scraps of fabric), applique (cut-work in cloth lining it with other fabric), khambira (sewing in a step-like grid to create a semblance of varied textures) tanka (using running stitches in concentric circles to hold the material together). However, the colour palette of this craft remains similar cool to warm colours and bright to neutral tones.

  • Tangaliya Work

A rare and unique weave, Tangaliya is a 700-year-old indigenous craft native to the Surendranagar district, of Saurashtra-region Gujarat. Primarily done by the Dangasia community, this textile is usually used as a shawl and wrap-around skirt by women of the Bharwad shepherd community of the nearby village clusters including Wankaner, Amreli, Dehgam, Surendranagar, Joravarnagar, Botad, Bhavnagar and some areas of Kutch.

These textiles are woven in pit looms at homes and knots in contrasting colour threads are added with the warp to create the pattern of raised dots  — the signature style of the tangaliya work. Besides dots, several geometric patterns like concentric circles, straight lines, hyperbolic or parabolic designs are also created.

With the efforts of National Institute of Fashion Technology and several other local handloom associations, handwoven Tangaliya shawl received GI status in 2007 and is now a well-renowned textile.

Nowadays, the textile is also used for dupatta, dress material and home furnishing products like bed sheets and pillow covers. However, merino wool and eri silk are widely used instead of traditional cotton or sheep wool yarn.

  • Lacquer Art

Carried out by the skilled artists of Wadhwa families in Nirona village of Gujarat, lacquer is another popular traditional Indian art form.

A naturally extracted resin, lacquer is mixed with colour dyes and applied to wood using heat and friction creating patterns in kaleidoscopic designs. Later, groundnut oil is applied to make the objects look shiner.

Household objects such as rolling pin, boxes, ladles and furnitures with lacquer finishing are quite common in Gujarati homes.

  • Copper Bell Art

Originated in the Sindh region about a thousand years back, the bell work is primarily done by the Lohar community of Nirona and Zura villages of Gujarat.

Artisans shape and colour these bells from metal sheets using a meticulous process and later set its pitch with the help of an instrument. These are popular particularly for the melodious sounds such as those of bird voices, musical instruments.

Traditionally used to keep track of grazing animals by placing it around their neck, these bells are finding a place in urban homes as decorative pieces — wind chimes, door bells.

Wrap Up

Today, machine-made products and techniques are quickly displacing the local art and craft traditions of Gujarat. Still, these Indian art forms remain strongly embedded in the culture of the country and continue to enhance its ethos.