Harappan Handicraft - The inception of handmade culture in India

As the rising sun marked the beginning of a new day, the citizens of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation ventured out of their houses to see a vibrant scene unfolding before their eyes. In various parts of many towns and cities, workshops and factories were set up, where skilled craftsmen were engaged in manufacturing various products; some workers carefully arranged precious beads to make beautiful necklaces; some of them worked with ivory and shell to make aesthetically-pleasing bangles; some of them designed head-dresses, shawls and skirts and some of the craftsmen dedicatedly made toy-carts & well-shaped figurines out of clay and wood.

Once these wonderful products were ready, they were transported to market places, within the Indus realms and also outside of it. Some of these goods were sent to the major centres such as Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Men, women and children came to see and procure the products of their liking. A babel of voices emerged from some shops as a crowd gazed at a beautiful collection of items; shawls, skirts, necklaces, bangles, combs, earrings, pins, decorative beads, anklets, pendants, toys, figurines, pots, head-dresses and much more.

Some people bought bangles made of ivory for their friends while some gifted themselves with beautiful jewellery made of glassy-faience. Couples discussed amongst themselves whether they should purchase precious items of gold and silver, which they will have to store in hoards. All in all, the demand for many items went up. As the demand went up, the work of the craftsmen also increased. Skilled craftsmen at workshops based in many different parts of the civilisation were notified that more items need to be manufactured. The workers at the warehouse in Lothal, near the Sabarmati River, busied themselves with manufacturing bracelets and other ornaments, made out of shells and ivory. Workers at the factories of Chanhu-dharo engaged themselves in working with beads and ladles while the craftsmen based in Nageshwar worked with shells to make pretty bangles. Those based in Dholavira used drills made of ernestite to work on beautiful beads made of various materials; terracotta, shell, steatite, agate- carnelian, turquoise, faience and many more.

For many Harappans, the entire day went with them dedicatedly spending hours to master the craft of their works. Some busied themselves with collecting items, while some helped in manufacturing, some transported goods on bullock-carts while some helped in arranging these items in various shops. After an exhausting day of work, these workers began their journey home. Workshops closed for the day and the sun settled down. Lights were lit up in handcrafted earthen lamps as another day in Indus came to an end.

t’s been 5000 years since the Indus Valley civilisation flourished in areas of what is now  India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Thousands of years later, we can still witness the various continuities from the past when it comes to designing our accessories even today; be it the manner in which we adorn our bangles, design our handcrafted necklaces or wrap our shawls. Rings beautified by the use of carnelian and household items of faience, have still not gone out of fashion.

It is this tendency to associate ourselves with a false notion of what we are told defines ‘modern’ without crediting the past it is based on and built up on, that lands our new breed of people floating baselessly. The creativity which flourished in the past is the mother of all innovations today and the forms of it existent today as craft clusters, often the most ecofriendly… teaching everybody who went too far from nature what life on earth should truly be about.

This glorification of modern- day industries and an overshadowing of crafts which are considered ‘primitive’ by the flagbearers of modernity, is the reason behind the suffering of many. However, if we slow down, take some effort and revisit time, like we did today, it will be revealed to us that the past has a lot more to offer than what we are made to believe. It offers an inclusive lifestyle which prioritizes respect towards our resources. Therefore, for the time being, we can only admire the great craftsmanship left behind by the Harappans, for the story of the people behind these crafts is yet to be told.


Source: Gaatha

Older Post Newer Post