Hampi Craft Diaries

Of Craftspeople & Processes

Living Crafts

hampi-map-4

The Vijayanagara empire was renowned for its prowess in architecture, art and crafts during its era. Even today in its current state of ruin, the Hampi region is brimming with temples and monuments that stand testimony to the skills of the artisans who constructed them centuries ago. 

With respect to Hampi, most studies conducted appear to focus on architectural typology, historical accounts, or archaeology, and not on its living heritage. The objective of the Hampi Crafts Project is to create a digital archive of living crafts in the Hampi region, digitally document craft-processes followed, and create an online end-user experience suited for the public dissemination of the stories of these crafts.

The role of craftspeople and their communities in the creation of the heritage site has not been dealt with, and their perspectives on their crafts have been largely ignored. The current project hopes to open up a new chapter on Hampi, giving due recognition to craftspeople and their role in the making of significant cultural heritage sites.

Find below pictures, video interviews and notes on the 17 crafts of the Hampi region that this research has found to be still in existence, in no small measure because of the dedication of the craftspeople. 

Akkasaliga : : Goldsmithy

  • The Akkasaliga or goldsmith is representative of the Vishwakarma limb of Tvashtr, or air. They are traditionally responsible for handcrafting gold into jewellery and other artifacts in the Hampi region. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]


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  • Gold jewellery and ornamentation form a large part of the history and culture of India and Vijayanagara. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • The gold used is usually melted down from old jewellery that the clients themselves bring to the smith. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Traditional copper moulds are used alongside mechanised blowers. Historically, goldsmiths blew into the forge themselves. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

Chitragara Gombay : : The Making of Lacquer Idols and Toys

  • Chitragaras are a class of Oriya painters originating in Ganjam. They are also decorators, gilders and lacquer-toy makers. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • A section of the Chitragara community specialise in the making Gombays - colourful lacquer idols that often adorn temples across the Hampi region. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • These idols are first carved from wood, wrapped in cloth, covered in a special taramind ­based paste and painted and lacquered. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • Traditionally, squirrel-hair brushes were used to paint Gombays. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • The kind of wood used depends on the type of deity to be carved. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Kammara : : Blacksmithy

  • The specialized art of making and repairing iron implements falls under the Kammara banner. A small section of blacksmiths restrict their trade to the creation of farming implements such as scythes and ploughs. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • The Kammaras represent the Vishwakarma limb of Manu, or earth. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Traditional tools have almost entirely been replaced by ready-made tools that are cheaper and more enduring. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Easy access to factory-produced tools today has ensured that this craft is on its way to extinction. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Kammaras have dwindled so drastically in number that it is unlikely that future generations will have a chance to learn their traditional trade. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

Chitragara : : Mural-Painting

  • The Chitragara community of artisans is responsible for painting elaborate murals depicting the lives of the gods and religious legends on the walls of temple complexes and village shrines. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Artistic murals adorn the stone ceilings and walls of the ancient Virupaksha temple in Hampi. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • With the advent of computer-aided design and cheap flex-banner printing, mural artistes no longer find employment. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • With the advent of computer-aided design and cheap flex-banner printing, mural artistes no longer find employment. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

Budagajangham Vayshyagara : : Street Theatre

  • Budagajangham were a nomadic tribe of artistes who traditionally stage theatrical performances based on religious epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. [Photo Credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • The clan used to make their own costumes and pigments, which maybe why townsfolk considered them craftspeople rather than performing artistes. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Before a performance, they used to paint their faces with a pigment made by grinding mineral stones. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • They travelled together with their goats an hens and pitched tents in villages for the duration of their performance. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

Bovi : : Stone-Cutters

  • The stone cutters of the Hampi region have, for centuries, been responsible for cutting suitable stone blocks from the stone and granite quarries around the area that eventually go into the making of intricate stone temples and carvings. [Photo Credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • The government ban on stone cutting in their traditional quarries within the boundaries of the world heritage site has adversely affected their age­old craft. [Photo Credit: Marina George]

Bajantiri : : Musicians

  • Bajantiris play the traditional brass and percussion bands in temples and villages during festivals and other occasions. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Shilpi : : Stone Carvers

  • The Shilpis of the Hampi region were stone­carvers who were historically responsible for the intricate stonework of the various monuments. [Photo credit: Marina George]

  • The Shilpis of the Hampi region were stone­carvers who were historically responsible for the intricate stonework of the various monuments. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • The Hampi region is filled with elaborate sculptures, ancient temples, and other historical monuments all carved out of stone. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • This artform is receiving a lot of recognition today because of its religious and historical relevance. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • There has been a surge in demand for stone idols, especially for temple rituals. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Kanchugara : : Coppersmithy

  • Kanchugaras, or coppersmiths, represent the element of Fire, or Tvashtar, within the Vishwakarma clan. [Photo credit: Neeraj]

  • The Kanchugaras undertake the crafting of metal idols, armour, backdrops for temples within the Hampi region. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Kanchugaras create copper artifacts for religious and everyday purposes. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

Kasoothi : : Embroidery

  • Practised by the Lambani Community, this form of Embroidery is native to the Hampi Region. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • This form of craft is seeing an increase in demand because of the interest in handicraft and clothwork. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • Traditionally, the womenfolk of this community took up clothwork and embroidery not as a mode of earning, but to cater to the needs of their families. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • Products are now predominantly made for sale, and no longer exclusively cater to the needs of the community. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Kattigay : : Timber-Works

  • The specialized art of building timber frame structures falls under the banner of Kattigay. Timber framed building are still popular in certain rural pockets and the amount of work has been consistent through the years. The art does not use nails to hold timber wood structures together, rather the entire frame is erected only using timber dowels and joints. The frame is first built on a one to one scale at the workshop, after which it is dismantled and re-erected at the building site.

  • Some workers favour neem wood from within the Hampi region as it is termite resistant. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Timber framed buildings are still popular in certain rural pockets and the amount of work has been consistent through the years. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • They first build the frame on a one to one scale at the workshop. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Korava : : Basket-Weaving

  • Koracha, Koraga or Korava communities were originally aboriginal tribes who developed in a multiplicity of trades - hunters, fortune-tellers, cattle breeders and basketmakers. [Photo Credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • Putti (baskets), and Kasabarigey (brooms) are the products majorly in demand, but other cane products like mats and fans are also made. [Photo Credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • The grass used is picked directly from the kaluve, or canals, ensuring zero investment in raw materials. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right kind of grass. This is proving to be a major setback, as they do not buy raw-materials. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Koudhee : : Patchwork-Quilting

  • The traditional form of Koudhee patchwork uses scraps of cloth to create elaborately designed quilts. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • Cotton yarn or noolu, is bought from the market and the women spin their own thread on the charakha, or spinning-wheel. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Work seems to be steady because of continued need for such quilts and bedcoverings in villages. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • The women engaging in this craft in the region belong to the Mochi community of cobblers. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Kumbara : : Pottery

  • The traditional craft of making handcrafted clay pots on a wheel and firing them in kilns fall under the purview of Kumbara. [Photo credit: Marina George]

  • Many villages now buy pots for sale from other areas, as the production of clay pots have ceased in their own towns. [Photo credit: Krupa Rajangam]

  • Many villages now buy pots for sale from other areas, as the production of clay pots have ceased in their own towns. [Photo credit: Krupa Rajangam]

  • Broken pots serve as perfect chimneys to vent hot air out of clay kilns. [Photo credit: Krupa Rajangam]

  • Metal utensils are durable and do not need to be replaced regularly, leading to a drastic fall in the sale of clay pots and pans. [Photo credit: Krupa Rajangam]

Madiki : : The Making of Agricultural Implements

  • Madiki is an aspect of Badigathana or carpentry that focuses on the creation of wooden agricultural implements like ploughs, hoes and bullock-carts. [Photo credit: Marina George]

  • The making of agricultural implements involves a combination of carpentry and blacksmithy skills. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • Land parcels are larger, limiting the usefulness of small manual tools, making them less popular with farmers. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

Ratha Shilpi : : Temple Chariot Making

  • The Ratha, or Chariot, a vāhana, forms an important aspect of the religious tradition of temples in Karnataka. The craft of creating wooden temple-chariots has traditionally been undertaken by the Rathashilpi. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • As the vehicle of the Gods, the Ratha plays a crucial role in temple processions and festivities in the Hampi region. [Photo credit: Neeraj Jain]

  • Chariots especially for temples are constructed to be reminiscent of their mythological past. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

    Temple Chariots

  • A temple chariot takes between 6 to 8 months to build. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

  • The intricate work is done layer by layer, and all the carvings are done by hand. [Photo credit: Pinky Gandhi]

Badigathana : : Carpentry

  • Badigas have traditionally been carpenters and woodworkers. They are part of the Vishwakarma community, a South Indian smith tribe that consists of five artisans, each representing one of the five faces of Brahma (Creator) - earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. Carpentry represents the water element of Brahma, known as Maya. (cc) Pinky Gandhi

  • All villages within the Hampi region have at least one resident carpenter practising the general craft of carpentry. (cc) Neeraj Jain

  • Customers are unwilling to pay as much for their work as they do for readymade, finished products, and thus their profits are meagre. (cc) Neeraj Jain

  • Easy access to ready­made furniture is reducing the scope for their trade. (cc) Pinky Gandhi

  • Customers are unwilling to pay as much for their work as they do for readymade, finished products, and thus their profits are meagre. (cc) Neeraj Jain

ABOUT

This research project was started in 2011 and completed in 2014. The Crafts Council of Karnataka was funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, to conduct an extensive survey, digital documentation and an end-user experience for crafts of the Hampi region.

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Though this rich online experience we present the highlights of our research in an engaging way for public consumption, with the objective of generating public interest and increasing awareness of the crafts and the people who create them. 

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It would have been impossible to execute this project without the support and contribution of several organisations and individuals in the crafts, design, technology and research space.

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All content on this website is under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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We hope that this work lays a foundation for others to build on. Please contribute to the Hampi Crafts Researcher Wiki.

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Research Wiki

Credits

RESEARCH

Principal Investigator: Vimala Rangachar
Co-Principal Investigator: Archana Prasad
Project Researcher: Krupa Rajangam
Asst. Researcher: Marina George

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WEBSITE IMPLEMENTATION

Aysha Siddique & Michelle Fiesta
GIEP, University of Michigan

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PHOTOGRAPHY

Pinky Gandhi

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SUPPORTED BY

Jaaga.in

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FUNDED BY

Department of Science and Technology, Government of India

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A Crafts Council of Karnataka Initiative

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