The State is well known for its handlooms and textiles and its silk sarees are among the best produced in the country. The people of the State too have been patrons of the arts and crafts and this has resulted in the traditions being kept alive through the ages.
It is not only such exclusive and delicate material as silk that the artisans of Andhra Pradesh deal in, but metalware, carpets, wood and stone carvingtoo. From the exquisite silver filigree and brass and sheet metalware, artisans of Andhra Pradesh strive to bring out the best and it is sheer magic when they get down to producing their ware.
Kalamkari, using a quill (kalam) and vegetable dyes, is an art found nowhere else but in and around Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti of the State. While the Srikalahasti style is to draw outlines with a pen or quill and fill in the colours through a wax process, the Machilipatnam practice is to use wooden blocks carved into designs for printing.
All dyes and colours are natural and the painstaking process of Kalamkari printing on fabric goes through as many as a dozen stages.
Wall hangings come in another style from Siddipet in Medak district. This method, known as Batik, utilises the ‘cold’ process involving wax to create graphic designs and figures. Batik cloth also comes in the form of dress material, scarves and even sarees.
Cherial Scroll paintings done on cloth in earth colours is one of the traditional crafts practised mainly at Cherial in Warangal district. Painted in freestyle and depicting mythological stories, they are used as visual aids, and have attained great popularity as wall decorations.
Decorative hand-crocheted lace from Narsapur and Palakollu of West Godavari district adorns many a dining table in the form of mats. Curtains and bedspreads are some of the lacework produced here.
Bidriwork originated some three centuries ago at Bidar, which was part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State. Alloys are used in moulds to create shapes and the dark metal is then inlaid with designs using silver thread. Decorative pieces, bangles, ashtrays, pen-stands, caskets, cufflinks and paper-cutters are some of the Bidriware manufactured in and around Hyderabad.
From sheet metal to wood, craftsmen vie with each other to produce delicate and intricate designs. Wood carving in Chittoor district is one of the oldest traditional crafts. The carvings depict scenes from mythology as well as figures of deities.
In other parts of the State, wood carving is done to make musical instruments and in places like in Vizianagaram town and in Nuzvid of Krishna district, such instruments as Veena and Tambura are carved out of a single block of wood.
The Simple Wood
Kondapalli is a small village in Krishna district and it is here that toys and dolls that have won international acclaim are made. The simple-looking dolls depict the typical rural Indian life. Kondapalli dolls take the shape of humans, birds, animals and fruits.
The craftsmen of Nirmal too take advantage of the locally-available soft wood to carve brightly coloured vegetables, fruits and animals. Wooden dolls are made of the soft Poniki or Ankudu wood and Etikoppaka in Visakhapatnam district is another centre that makes exquisite dolls with a rustic touch.
Among the cottons, Narayanpet and Venkatagiri are preferred. Venkatagiri in Nellore district is known for its excellent cotton sarees with gold borders and large golden ‘pallav’. Narayanpet cotton sarees are less expensive and long-lasting. Silk sarees from Dhamavaram compare with the rich silks of Kancheepuram in broad borders with extensive gold ‘zari’ work.
In Pochampalli sarees of Nalgonda district adjoining Hyderabad, a unique method of tie-and-dye is used and this is known as ‘ikat’. Weavers in Andhra Pradesh have mastered the art of using cotton and silk alternately for warp (length) and weft (across). Known as ‘Himroo’, the art originated in Kashmir and was brought down south by Moghal rulers.
Hyderabad is also known as the ‘city of pearls’. Though not close to the sea, Hyderabad has had a flourishing trade in pearls, as the Golconda kingdom was famous for its diamonds. The processing of pearls has been skillfully mastered in Hyderabad in that craftsmen can sort, refine and polish pearls with ease.
Andhra Pradesh has turned out to be a gem of a State even in the sphere of arts and crafts.