Karnataka is a state in the south-western region of India, rich in terms of culture, language traditions, art, craft, and architecture. It has been home to some of the most powerful empires of ancient and medieval India. Being one of the major tourism hubs in India, The state has contributed to the country in the field of arts, crafts, and architecture. 

In this article, let us look at some of the traditional crafts seen in the state of Karnataka:

Sandalwood Carving

Sandalwood is a class of woods known for its unique fragrance and aroma. Known as Shrigandha in Kannada, It is regarded as one of the most expensive woods in the world. It is grown in abundance in and around the forest of Mysore. Sandalwood carving is a popular craft form practiced in Karnataka, particularly in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Mysore, Bangalore, and Shivamogga. 

The craft has a history of at least a thousand years. The expert craft persons in the field are called Gudigars in Kannada. Various products are carved out of sandalwood, the main ones being intricate showpieces, photo frames, incense stick holders, idols of god, combs, decorative beads to name a few.

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Sandalwood elephant carving_©www.indiamart.com

Mysore Paintings

Mysore paintings are the most important form of classic south Indian painting which originated in the historical capital city of Karnataka-Mysore. Having a history of more than 700 years, this craft is known for its elegance, colors, and the number of details in the paintings. The base of the painting—a paper board is to be prepared by drying it in the sun and then rubbing it smoothly with a polished quartz pebble. After preparation of the base, a rough sketch is drawn with a crayon made using the straight twigs of the tamarind tree. 

First, the furthest objects such as sky, hill, and river are painted. Then the animal and human figures were done with great detail. Finally, the ‘gesso paste’ (made by mixing zinc oxide and Arabic gum) is used as an embossing material to depict intricate designs of clothes, jewelry, and architectural details and covered with gold foil. This is unique to the Mysore painting style and is a hallmark of the traditional paintings of Karnataka.

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Goddess Rajarajeshwari Mysore painting_©www.artisera.com

Channapatna Toys

These toys are a special form of toys manufactured in a small town called Channapatna, in the state of Karnataka. Traditional ivory wood is used in the process. It is cut and shaped into shapes, pruned, carved, painted, and polished. 

Vegetable dyes are used to paint them to ensure that they are non-toxic for children. This unique craft is protected by the geographical indication tag, provided by the world trade organization. A wide variety of toys and dolls are produced in Channapatna.

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Channapatna toys cooking set_©www.toysofcpt.com

Metal casting

Metalware production is one of the main crafts of Karnataka. They are used for religious as well as aesthetic purposes. Bronze metal casting is extensively done in Nagamandala, near the Mysore district. Statues and figurines of gods and goddesses are produced, involving the principles of Shilpa shastra. 

Bell metal (an alloy of copper and tin) casting is one of the major occupations of people residing in the villages around Mangalore. Utensils, lamps, and bells are produced using this alloy.

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Lord Veerabhadra brass sculpture_©www.oldindianarts.in

Stone carving

Stone carving has a long history in the state of Karnataka, dating back to the Hoysala dynasty’s temple architecture. Soapstone is profusely available in southern regions of Karnataka and hence has led to the evolution of skilled artisans in those areas. 

Heggadadevankote near Mysore district, Harapanahalli Taluk in Davanagere District are all known for numerous families engaged in the occupation of stone cutting and carving. Karkala in Udupi District specializes in sculptures carved in black granite whereas Shivarapatna in Kolar District is known for sculptures of deities carved out of soft stone and naga stones.

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Goddess Lakshmi stone sculpture_©www.dsource.in

Chittara folk painting

Chittara folk art is a traditional form of painting practiced by the Deewaru community, residing in the marinade region (in and around the district of Shivamogga) of Karnataka. This art form uses intricate designs and geometric patterns to depict the auspicious ceremonies and rituals of life. It is considered more of a socio-cultural aspect of their lives, more than a mere profession. 

Natural, eco-friendly materials are used—ground rice paste for white color, roasted rice for black, yellow seeds (from gurige tree), red earth, and Pundi Naaru for the brushes. To date, the women of the Deewaru community proudly upholds the rich culture and traditions of their community.

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Chittara folk art_©www.caleidoscope.in

Mysore silk

Karnataka is world-famous for its special patented Mysore silk sarees, and it also has a geographical indication tag. The growth of the silk industry was first initiated by Tipu sultan during the 18th century. 

The silk cocoons are procured from Ramanagara district, boiled to precise threads, converted into thread rolls, and sent to the weaving factory located in the Mysore district. It is also one of the most expensive silk saree in India, owing to 65% pure silver and 0.65% of gold in its zari. Apart from sarees, shirts, kurta’s, silk dhoti, and neckties are also weaved in recent times.

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Myosre silk saree_©www.bridesofhonor.com

Ilkal sarees

Ilkal is a small town in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, known for its geographically indicated ilkal sarees. The weaving process has many unique features, mainly the method of joining the pallu threads and body threads in loop technique locally called tope teni. Ilkal sarees weaving has a history of more than 1200 years. 

Another significant feature is the seragu or end piece; it is made of red silk with patterns in white. It also employs a special form of embroidery called kasuti. About twenty thousand people in the town of Ilkal are engaged in the business of ilkal saree-weaving.

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Ilkal saree_©www.theilkalpride.com



Sahana M Swamy is a third year architecture student at BMS College of Architecture, Bangalore. Besides art and architecture, Sahana loves history, movies, acting and photography. She believes that writing helps to de-stress and re-discover oneself.