Delhi Art and Craft

Miniature Painting

The Delhi school is a direct offshoot of the Mughal School. Mansoor, a famous painter of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir's court, is said to be the author of this school and his direct descendants can still be found following in his footsteps. Known for its dynamism and naturalism, this school used a strong contrast in colours and the paintings were done on ivory. Now with the ban on ivory, a special handmade paper is in use.

Musical Instruments

Throughout history, Delhi has been associated with the making of musical instruments, along with Calcutta, Lucknow, Banaras, Lahore, and Tanjore. There are still some old shops where musical instruments are assembled. Check out Bina Musical Stores at Nai Sarak, Delhi Musical Store at Jama Masjid and Lahore Music House at Daryaganj.

Gems, Kundan & Meenakari Jewellery

Delhi is home to two very special kinds of jewellery encouraged and patronized to the level of an art form by the Mughals. Kundan and meenakari are equally intricate and splendid, and it is impossible to say which outshines the other.

Kundan is the Mughal-inspired art of setting of stones in gold and silver. Gems are bedded in a surround of gold leaf rather than secured by a rim or claw. Famous Meenakari, or the skill of enamelling, was brought from Lahore to Delhi by Hindu Punjabis. Did you know that enamelling was originally meant to protect gold, which in its pure state is so soft and malleable that it can easily wear away?

The Mughal fashion was to enamel the reverse side of jewellery to protect it from contact with the wearer's skin.Enamelling is a champleve technique, which in simple English means that a recess is hollowed out in the surface of gold or silver to take in a mineral. For example, cobalt oxide, which gives a blue colour, is then fired into the depression so as to leave a thin line separating the segments of colour. An ornament with both kundan and meenakari is so astoundingly magnificent that it seems to have been conjured up by rubbing Aladdin's magical lampDo visit Dariba Kalan near Chandni Chowk, which is famous jewelers' street. The traditional meenakari and kundan designs they have are worth checking out. Another special thing to look out for is setting of the navratan (nine precious stones) in gold. This is a traditional skill practised by Muslim craftsmen called saadegars who settled in Delhi during Shahjahan's reign. Sarafs, traditional Hindu jewellers who have been around for centuries, are still present and doing good business too.

There's no escaping pottery in India; it's everywhere, in every part, every nook and cranny of India. In Delhi, if you are looking for terracotta pottery, then you're in luck. You'll see cutwork lamps, long necked surahis (water-pots), gamle (flowerpots), pitchers and cups of all shapes and sizes crawling all over the place.Around Saket, Uttam Nagar, Bindapur, Kotla Mubarakpur and Shahpurjat you'll find colonies with a concentration of potters. If you don't manage to get hold of quality earthenware in one of the roadside shops, look out for it at the Crafts Museum in Pragati Maidan, Dilli Haat and just outside the New Delhi Railway Station.The art of making blue glaze pottery came to Delhi via Kashmir, the Mughal emperors' favourite retreat, and rolled on to Jaipur.

The traditional Persian designs have now been adapted to please a more sophisticated clientele. Apart from the predictable urns, jars, pots and vases, you'll now find tea sets, cups and saucers, plates and glasses, jugs, ashtrays and even napkin rings. You can spot blue pottery being made by Hazarilal who lives in Hauz Suiwalan, one of the little alleys behind Asaf Ali Road.

The colour palette is restricted to blue derived from the oxide of cobalt, green from the oxide of copper and white, though other non-conventional colours such as yellow and brown have jumped into the fray too.

Delhi Arts & Crafts Delhi has an amazingly long tradition of arts and crafts. Strangely enough not many people know about this: dilliwallas (Delhiites) included. Hardly surprising, considering there's so much to confuse as arts and crafts from all over India camp out here. Actually, it would be an insult if they didn't, after all isn't Delhi the capital, the premiere city of India? Anyway, as a result, local traditions have gone unnoticed. As the popular Hindi adage goes: ghar ki murgi dal barabar, meaning that the things at home are rarely appreciated!

In the year 1648 when Shahjahan built Shahjahanabad, the present-day walled city (though there is hardly any wall left!). Chandni Chowk, the famous market place came up as an accompaniment to the Red Fort in 1650.

But it is not as if Delhi did not have any arts and crafts before this. Stories have filtered down about Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq employing as many as 500 expert weavers in Delhi as far back as in the 14th century. Their assignment: to weave silk and gold brocades for the ladies of the court and as royal gifts! However, such instances are few and far between. Formally, it all began in1648.

So there, Delhi is not just a hodgepodge of traditions from all over. It does have its own repertoire of arts and crafts. Check out the following before you go shopping in the streets of Delhi.
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