When it comes to earning a living, art typically takes second place. People choose more “practical” alternatives and occupations that provide a steady income. With the emergence of contemporary art and technologies, the traditional arts and craft practices are on the verge of shrinking. This approach has endangered the understanding of many of the country’s indigenous arts. Here is a list of a few of the art practices of India which are fading away.

1. Handmade Veena from Thanjavur 

It is originally named after the Goddess Saraswati, who is seen holding the musical instrument- Veena. Artisans notably handcraft this instrument in Thanjavur’s South Main Street. Each Veena takes around two months to construct. It is fashioned from mature jackfruit tree wood. Pieces of wood are put together to form the bowl shape, meticulously carved into a thin shell. A wooden arm connects to the bowl, encased in a thin piece of carved wood. Finally, the sculptor uses sandpaper to smooth out the instrument and decorates the bulb with complex motifs.

At the end of the arm, a smaller bulb is attached, which is now primarily constructed of paper-mâché or fiber. Today, only 15 families presently make these instruments. Because of the city’s growth, there is an increasing scarcity of essential trees, making it difficult and costly for the artists to obtain the wood. They also receive a tiny portion of the final goods sold by merchants.

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Handmade Veena _©

2. Rogan art from Kutch

Around 400 years ago, this skill was brought to India from Persia. It is a type of cloth printing that is done with specific oil paint. “Rogan” derives from the Farsi word for varnish or oil. The foundation for the paint is castor oil, which is heated for two days until it reaches a honey-like consistency. This is risky since a massive volume of oil might catch fire. A few artists have only perfected this procedure. The oil is then mixed with pigment to create the paint.

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Rogan art _©

In the Muslim Khatri clan, it is a craft passed down from generation to generation, and each procedure can only be perfected by experience and practice. The prints are made by rubbing and swirling the paint on the palm, which creates heat and allows the paint to thin out to form the trademark single-thread motifs.

Once prominent in India for ceremonial apparel, the craft has waned since the 1980s with the emergence of mass-produced and comparatively cheaper industrial textile. Abdul Gaffer Khatri‘s family of ten craftsmen is the only group practicing this technique. To maintain the skill, they have taught it to 300 women since 2010. The epidemic, on the other hand, cost the family money because there were no tourists to buy from.

3. Ganjifa Cards from Nashik

Ganjifa arrived in India with the Mughals some 500 years ago. Its origins may be traced back to the late 14th century in what is now Syria and Egypt. Small groups in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Mysore, and Sawantwadi in Nashik continue to pursue the skill.

The Mughal version of Ganjifa was a 96-card game with eight suits, each representing a royal court function. However, the Hindu Dashavatara variant is played with 120 circular cards and is the only form now in existence.

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Ganjifa art _©

Traditionally, these cards are constructed of leather, pine leaves, and papier-mâché. Previously derived from minerals and plants, synthetic watercolors are now used to paint the 64-68 mm broad cards. After that, they are sun dried for around 15-20 minutes. Some cards are embossed with glued gold leaf for embellishments and borders, then varnished.

The Mughal cards were coated with tamarind paste, boiled with mud and Arabic gum, dried, and polished with stone for a flawless finish. Some cards were constructed from fabric and stucco (chalk or zinc oxide mixed with gum).

By the 1970s, Sawantwadi had just one Ganjifa artist who produced one set each year. The royal family of Sawantwadi has taught traditional artists to preserve the art alive, and there are presently five painters working in the palace.

4. Toda embroidery

This embroidered art of Tamil Nadu, created solely by women of the Toda pastoral people, has such a complete appearance that it looks like woven cloth. Toda embroidery is performed on white cotton fabric using red and black threads.

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Toda art _©medium

The Toda people are immensely proud of their embroidered cloaks and shawls, which they wear. Funding from development groups has guaranteed that Toda embroidery art has not been lost in recent years.

5. Dokra Art

Dokra, or lost wax casting, is the oldest known form of nonferrous metal casting. This type of metal casting has been utilized for 4,000 years in India and is being used now. The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro is one of the earliest and most famous examples of Dokra art. These items are in high demand and have gained an international reputation. However, there is concern that this art form will be lost as the number of artisans/tribals practicing it declines.

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Dokra art _©

6. Manjusha Paintings 

Manjusha art of Bhagalpur, Bihar, dates back to the 7th century. This painting is said to be the only one in India exhibited in a sequence, i.e., the art form contains a sequential portrayal of the tale. Manjusha art is both a scroll painting and a line drawing. Pink, green, and yellow are the most often utilized colors. Manjusha art is supposed to represent Bihar’s cultural and religious legacy. The Bihar government is taking steps to guarantee that art is not lost.

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Manjusha art _©

7. Parsi Embroidery

Parsi embroidery was nearly extinct, but the craft was saved due to a surge in interest in this kind of needlework. The most visible type of Parsi embroidery may be found on Gara sarees.

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Parsi Embroidery _©

The embroidery on these sarees is a significant aspect of India’s textile tradition. Nature is shown in the needlework via the employment of numerous themes. An embroiderer takes roughly nine months to construct a Gara saree due to the intricacy and delicacy of this technique. As mass manufacturing and machine embroidery became more popular, the art of Parsi embroidery began to fade.

8. Patta Chitra

Patta Chitra is the general word for traditional, cloth-based scroll painting. It is an old Orissan artwork that is also a part of Bengal history. Pattachitra has mythical stories that are discussed in great depth.

This art style is distinguished by its extensive use of color, innovative designs and motifs, and a blend of classical and folk elements. While this art form was formerly well-supported, artists today find it challenging to make a livelihood from it. Orissa’s government has attempted to preserve this endangered art form.

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Patta Chitra _©

Reference :

  1. Kamal, A. and Kamal, A., 2022. Extinct art forms in India – Asif Kamal Blog. [online] Asif Kamal Blog. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 August 2022].
  2. 2022. Indian art forms on the verge of extinction. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 August 2022].
  3. 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 August 2022].
  4. 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16August 2022].
  5. Medium. 2022. Top 10 Lost Art Forms Of India. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 August 2022].

Sakshi Jain is a fifth-year architecture student at the Mysore School of Architecture in Mysuru. She believes in creating experiences and exploring - big and small - which explains her love of language. With a rekindled love of reading and a desire to travel, she intends to go places and share her experiences.