The geographic isolation of Himachal has allowed its people to evolve their own unique tradition of handicrafts. The mind-boggling range includes fine woodwork, traditional leather embroidery, beautifully patterned carpets, traditional woollen shawls and lots of other things.
The arts and crafts of any region are a reflection of its environment, people and traditions. So it is in Himachal. Weaving, as carving , painting, or chiselling – are such an intrinsic part of the Himachal life! The scenic beauty of the region transfers into the creations, as it were, and the result is colourful pashminas, exquisite wooden doors, rhythmic sculptures. From the upper reaches of Lahaul and Spiti down to the lowlands of Kangra – life and its shades are woven in, painted on, felt in soulful rhythms or celebrated with joyous abandon, carved in, engraved… whether it is the miniature paintings of Kangra, the thangka artefacts of Spiti, or the beautiful shawls of Kullu. As you move through the state, an enchanting and colourful tapestry unfolds – the architecture, objects, shops, museums, galleries and craftsmen charm with the variety and mastermanship perfected through the ages. If you happen to be in Kangra town, walk into the narrow winding lane called Kumhar Gali, linked to the bazaar leading to the Kangra Devi temple in the heart of the town. You will find a row of double storeyed houses surrounded by large courtyards and entire families bent over potters` wheels, beating the clay or applying a coat to the finished pots.
While women take an active part in pottery, when it comes to carpentry, it is an exclusive male domain. For centuries, wood has been used in Himachal in the construction and ornamentation of temples, homes, idols and so on. The skill is hereditary and is passed on from father to son. The master wood carver of Chamba, Malik Lateef, for example, belongs to a family of traditional carpenters. His father Ali Baksh worked in the courts of the Chamba king and his artefacts are still preserved in the Bhuri Singh Museum in Chamba. The districts where you are likely to find the most exquisite woodcraft are Chamba, Kulu, Mandi, Mahasua and Bilaspur.