When it come to arts and crafts Andhra has got the rich tradition of handicrafts, which is continuing in the families of the various craftsmen from generations. Various forms of art and craft of Andhra are :
Banjara Needle work
Banjara Needle work is a local tribal craft practised by the 'Banjaras' (tribals) of Telangana Region. It has a style of its own, the originality and brightness are accentuated by its matchless quality. Needlework is an integral part of this craft and patterns are basic geometric combinations, squares, triangles and diamonds. The distinctive feature of their work is the extensive use of mirrors. A rich appearance is created by filling the background with simple chain stitch, herringbone, long and short stitch. Typical items include cushion covers, bags, skirts, 'kurtas', dress sets for girls and women, blouse pieces, bedspreads and other household furnishings.
Bidri is a metal craft of Andhra Pradesh. It derives its name from Bidar, the hometown of this exquisite craft and the basic material used is alloy of zinc, oxidized and intricately inlaid with silver. It is an art of inlaying silver on black metal. Typical Bidri items include plates, bowls, vases, ashtrays, trinket boxes, huqqa bases, jewellery etc. Glass and studded bangles of Bidri are a favourite with women. Behind the breathtaking beauty of Bidri, lies hours of meticulous effort by the artisans. There are four main stages in the manufacture of Bidri. They are casting, engraving, inlaying and oxidising.
One of the less talked about and yet a very special handicraft is Budithi. It is practiced in Budithi village in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, famous for creating beautiful shapes out of alloys. Strikingly novel shapes ranging from the charmingly traditional to the elegantly modern, with slender necks and exquisite body shapes and elegant charm are the highlights of Budithi art. The art form expresses itself as traditional cooking utensils and also in forms that suit contemporary needs - like flowerpots and planters. Usually made of brass, the objects have patterns that are geometric, with straight lines and curves forming simple and striking presentations. Floral patterns abound too.
Another art of Andhra Pradesh, the bronze castings are a paragon of excellence in sculpture. This art gives a touch of life to the icons by replicating the exact shapes of human organs. The artists seem to derive a genuine inspiration from nature in molding the metal into icons. The dazzling bronze adds to the grace of the castings. The common metal bronze is transformed into beautiful masterpieces of art by the artisans of Andhra Pradesh. Idols of Gods and Goddesses are molded to perfection, as they are modeled on the instructions from 'Shilpashastra', which specified certain guidelines on physical measurements, proportions, description of the deity, characteristics, symbolism and above all aesthetics.
Dokra metal craft
Tribal in origin, the Dokra metal craft is common to the tribal belts of Madhya Pradesh , Orissa , Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. In Andhra Pradesh this craft is found in Chittalbori and Ushegaon in Adilabad District. Its unique feature is that no two pieces are similar. Skillfully created by hand, the objects have an individualistic touch. Primarily made from brass scrap, the objects also have a core of clay preserved within the metal casting, unlike other metal work. Dokra castings comprise of lamp holders, lamps, chains, figures and various symbols of tribal folklore and religion.
Handlooms of Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh has an age old tradition of hand-woven fabrics. Sarees of the most exquisite, unique and generic designs are found in Andhra Pradesh.
The Pochampalli textiles are made using the tie and dye technique of yarn. Different coloured yarns are woven into geometrical designs. Dress materials, sarees and home-furnishings are also made in these designs. Pochampalli sarees and dress materials are available in both cotton and silk.
Gadwal is one of the centers where typical, traditional Andhra saris are made, that are unusually different. The Sari body is cotton while the border and pallu are in silk. The cotton and silk fabrics are woven separately and then attached together. Rich traditional designs adorn the pallu and the border. The mango motif is usually used in the designs. Yellow, parrot- green, pink and beige are the colours used most often.
Kothakota saris are similar to the Gadwal saris, with silk borders and rich pallu's with very innovative zari designs. The borders come in rich colours contrasting the body colour.
Narayanpet saris, available in both cotton and silk are woven in dark earthy colours and are particularly eye-catching. The pallu in these saris is characterised by a unique pattern of alternating red and white bands. The border is usually a flat expanse of deep maroon red or chocolate red thinly separated by white or coloured lines. These saris follow the Irkal style, which has its roots in a place called Irkal in the state of Karnataka .
The Venkatagiri saris have graceful strains of gold all over. These sarees are available in cotton and silk, with pure silver zari and brocade designs in the border. The bright Venkatagiri saris have pleasant colours with golden dots, leaves, parrots or simple geometrical designs.
These saris have simple, plain borders without much contrast. The borders are usually broad with brocaded gold patterns or 'butta'. The pallu has exclusive designs. Of late, these saris are being woven with "tussar" silk also.
Himroo is a distinctive, luxurious fabric, once used as dress material by the nobles, with a cotton base and silk or art silk weave, made into stoles, gowns and furnishings. Himroo in its original form is made of silver and gold. The threads of silver and gold were so fine that the final cloth appeared as "Gold Cloth". This art originated in Aurangabad , which was formerly a part of Hyderabad state, but it is now in Maharashtra . It remains, even today, traditional hereditary occupation in Andhra Pradesh. The techniques uses a special loom, with cotton yarn forming the warp and silk yarn forming the weft, to produce a brocade-like fabric used mainly for shawls, bedspreads and furnishing. One may observe Himroo weaving near Dar-Ush-Shifa in the old city.
Ikat is a tie-dye technique yielding woven fabric of the most intricate and colourful designs, both in cotton and silk. It is the most unique art form of Andhra Pradesh's handloom heritage. Ikat weaving is a heritage craft that even survives today. Unlike the styles of Tamil Nadu ('Chungadi') or Rajasthan (Bandhani) where the fabric is tie-dyed in Ikat, in Andhra Pradesh the yarn is tied and dyed before being woven into patterned fabrics. Pochampalli, Koyalagudem, Choutuppal, Puttapaka and Narayanpur are some of the centers of Ikat weaving. Typical items include sarees, blankets, mats, carpets, coasters, fancy bags etc.
Kalamkari is the craft of painted and printed fabrics. It is an art form that was developed both for decoration and religious ornamentation. Intricately done Persian motifs inspired the artisans of Machilipatnam to create printed cotton textiles depicting stories from mythology. This unique art form evolved into what is today called 'Kalamkari'. It derives its name from 'kalam' or pen with which the patterns are traced. The pen-painted fabrics of Machilipatnam and Kalahasti, known for their intricate and detailed designs, are used in clothing and wall decorations.
Lacquer craft is the application of lacquer on wood in pleasing shades and colours to create a distinctive appeal. The beauty of this craft lies in painting the smooth wooden shapes. Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh is the hometown of lacquer ware. It is said that this craft originated in the neighboring Nakkapalli village before it spread to Etikoppaka, its present home. The proximity to the forest area with plenty of yield of Ankudu Karra, a light species of wood, promoted the concentration of this art in Etikoppaka. Lacquering is done on a lathe, by hand or using machine. For turning slender and delicate items, the hand-lathe is preferred. Lac is applied in a dry state. The lac bangles are the most famous lacquer ware. In ancient times these bangles were studded with gold and precious stones attaching a status symbol. Today, they are available with beads, stones and mirrors in attractive colours and designs to add to the beauty of a woman in the most economical way. Lacquered bottles and containers are also available in unique shapes, sizes and shades. In recent years, the artisans have evolved modern decorative items like vases, stools etc.
Made with thin threads and woven with thin stainless steel crochet needles of varying sizes, the exquisite hand crocheted lace works of Andhra Pradesh are very popular. The craft was introduced by a couple from Scotland and is carried on by thousands of women working part time at their homes in Narsapur and Palakol areas of West Godavari District and Razole Taluk of East Godavari District. This work engages more than 125,000 artisans, mostly women. The lace work is available in different colours like pink, green and mustard, but beige and white are the most common. It is available in different shapes - round, oval, oblong, square and rectangle. Lace work is also sequined with cloth to make bedspreads, pillow covers, curtains, etc. Frocks, skirts, waistcoats, 'dupattas', etc. are the demand of the youngsters. Lace works are also made as telephone covers, tea cosy, mats for dressing table, wall hangings etc.
Nirmal is famous art that can be traced back to the Kakatiyas. Decorative, beautifully painted wooden articles like furniture, bowls, lamps, ash trays, and boxes are typical items of Nirmalware. Nirmal, a tribal town in Adilabad is a world famous centre for oil paintings. The themes are generally from the epics - Ramayan and Mahabharat. The indigenous colours used by craftsmen are made from minerals, gum and herbs. The now familiar gold in Nirmal work is got from herbal juices. Painting of Moghul miniatures on white 'Poniki' wood stands out as a fascinating fare. As the items age, they acquire a lovely muted glow.
Nirmal toys are made with a herbal extract, which gives them a golden sheen. They are usually models of animals, fruits and human occupations. There are similarities between the Nirmal and Kondapally toys in the type of wood used in the manufacturing process. However, Kondapally toys are usually coated with watercolours while Nirmal toys are embellished with oil colours. Both types of toys are treated with tamarind paste at the primary stage before paint is applied. The important difference is that after treating, the whole Nirmal toy is covered with fine cloth, instead of lime blues used in the Kondapally variety.
Pembarthi Sheet Metal
Pembarthi village in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh is the hometown of this art. A few of the masterpieces of the sheet metal craft are the icons of Ganesh, expressing a 'mudra' (expression) from the Bharat Natyam, a small beautifully decorated Nandi; the idol of Nataraja; a carving of Conch (shell), Padma (Lotus) and Chakra (Wheel) that represents the deity- Vishnu. Apart from this there are the big vessels like "Gangalam", which can add to the beauty of any showroom or home. Also the famous historical "Kakatiya Dwar" (gate) made in Pembarthi style can be among one's personal collection.
Puppets, Toys and Dolls
Toys and Dolls have their own significance in depicting the myriad forms of life, the people, their occupations, their recreations, their happiness, sorrow etc. Putting them together can give us a miniature world in its permanence, as art is everlasting. In Andhra Pradesh, the Kondapalli dolls and the leather puppets are the basic forms, the others being Tirupati dolls, Nirmal toys and Etikoppaka dolls.
The district of Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh has long been known for it's exquisite Silver Filigree work. It is an extremely intricate craft that requires great patience and skill. Each creation is generic, unique and different from others. A variety of thin and delicately worked silver articles of jewellery and household items are the hallmarks of silver filigree work. The twisted silver wire is the main material. The silversmith crimps thin strips of fine silver into zigzag patterns and loops around the thicker silver strips, which form the framework of the main object. The strips of fine silver are then deftly soldered. Because of their unique zigzag-knitting pattern, they seem like exquisite lace work with fine silver. Three types of styles are used in Silver Filigree work. These patterns are called 'Meenakari', 'Khulla Jaal' and 'Flowers and Leaves'. Entirely handmade, the silver used for this craft is of very high quality. The designs of leaves, flowers, trees, animals and birds seem to be predominant. Now other household articles like tea trays, ornament containers, key chains and cigarette boxes, and Jewellery like necklaces, earrings and bracelets are also made. They are costly and yet priceless.
Durgi, Allagadda and Tirupati are the important stone carving centres of Andhra Pradesh. Mythological figures and the stone carvings of the Gods and Goddesses in the temples in these regions are the typical illustrations of the stonework. Andhra sculptors use a range of materials from soft stone, slate stone, Durgi stone to the harder granite stones. The stone sculptures deserve to be greatly exalted. Divine creations are shaped out of formless rocks.
Woodcarving is an ancient craft of India that is older than stone sculpture and flourished in the south, finding free scope for expression on temple chariots and on temple doors and ceilings. Carvings, simple or intricate, are usually done on a single piece of wood. The themes are gods, goddesses, figurines, birds, animals etc. In addition to carving idols and mythological forms the art has adopted itself to creating wooden balustrades, arches, panels, columns and even combs and trinkets besides musical instruments. Red sanders and other country woods are used as raw material.
Hyderabad, the capital city of the state, today is the nerve centre for pearl trade in the country and is acclaimed as one of the principal pearl markets in the world. For centuries, India was known as a good market for pearls. In those days the pearls used to come from Basra in the Persian Gulf. But with the discovery of the oil, the pollution at the sea increased leading to the near extinction of the oysters in the Gulf and decrease in the production of the natural pearls. The vacuum for the pearls, thus created, was soon filled with the advent of cultured pearls. The technique of making cultured pearls, which involves implanting a foreign particle within the mother shell, was invented by Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan in 1893. Except for the negligible yield in the Gulf of Munnar, India does not produce pearls. Nevertheless the inflow of pearls, usually the cultured pearls from China and Japan, in the Indian market is plenty. The hub of India's flourishing pearl trade is close to Charminar in Hyderabad where dealers sell mostly imported pearls after refining them. The dexterity of the local craftsmen and jewellers, inherited through generations, and the availability of cheap labour have established Hyderabad in the world market.
The world famous Kuchipudi classical dance was born in the state. Kuchipudi, the indigenous style of dance of Andhra Pradesh, was born in the village of Kuchelapuri or Kuchelapuram, from which it takes its name. Being a fine combination of Natya, Nritta, and Nritya, Kuchipudi was never a solo affair and required a number of actors. It was presented in the open air on a stage by men and boys who received vigorous training in abhinaya, music dancing and singing. Kuchipudi has also recently evolved into a solo dance style. The solo dances are characterized by a rich expression, fast rhythms, swinging knee movements and circular movement of the arms.
Inhabited by many large tribes, Andhra Pradesh presents a rich wealth of traditional folk and tribal dances. Bathakamma, Gobbi, Mathuri, Dhamal, Dandaria, Dappu, Vadhyam are a few famous tribal dances. The dances of the banjaras and the Siddi tribes are also famous. Other dance forms of Andhra Pradesh include Veeranatyam, Butta Bommalu, Chindu Bhagawatam, Tappeta Gullu, Lambadi, Bonalu, and Dhimsa. 'Tholubommalata', a shadow puppetry theatre is a fascinating folk art.