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In a nation whose rich tapestry of art history traces back to prehistoric settlements in the 3rd millennium BCE, it can be claimed that art has always held a pivotal role in shaping India's collective heritage. India's mosaic of diverse communities has fostered a plethora of art forms and crafts, passed down through generations. While the modern world edges towards cultural homogeneity, often mimicking Western norms without thought, many regional grassroots communities attempt to preserve their cultural heritage through these art and craft forms.
Every year, the Government of India bestows the prestigious Padma Shri Awards—one of the highest civilian honours in the country—to recognize exceptional individuals across various domains. These categories encompass art, social work, science and engineering, trade and industry, and more. This year, 91 Padma Shri awards were conferred upon deserving recipients, each contributing significantly to their respective fields including performing and visual arts. Hailing from different corners of India, these 15 artists and craftspeople continue to be the torchbearers for regional arts and craft forms on the brink of fading into oblivion. Their dedication to preserving and advocating for these endangered art forms is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Here, we present to you a curated list of these luminaries and their profound contributions to the realms of art, culture, and the communities they touch:
Madhya Pradesh-based Jodhaiyabai Baiga has been honoured with the Padma Shri for her global promotion of tribal Baiga art. Primarily famous for its vibrant and colourful depictions of tribal life, nature, and folklore, Baiga art is a regional art from MP. Her artwork, which vividly depicts tribal culture, has earned international recognition and has been showcased in several countries abroad. Her artistic style is often compared to that of the pioneering Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam. Jodhaiyabai's art versatility extends to painting on clay, metal, and wood in addition to canvas and paper.
Gujarat-based artisan Bhanubhai Chitara is a seventh-generation Kalamkari artist from the Chunara community—carrying forward the legacy of the 400-year-old traditional craft of “Mata ni Pachedi.” His paintings are deeply inspired by mythological epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Kalamkari is an Indian art of hand-painted cotton textiles, produced primarily in Andhra Pradesh.
Bihar-based artist Subhadra Devi, at the age of 87, continues to promote Madhubani Papier Mache art, showcasing the enduring nature of artistic dedication. She acquired this skill during her upbringing in Manigachi, Darbhanga, where she observed and learned from her elder family members.
Assam-based artist Hem Chandra Goswami is a celebrated Indian artist known for his expertise in decorating the Sattriya masks. Hailing from Majuli, he has dedicated himself to preserving, promoting, and innovating Assam's traditional mask-making culture. Goswami draws upon his artistic mastery, which he inherited from his father, Rudra Kanta. His masks are meticulously crafted from bamboo, cloth, and a unique blend of cow dung and earth.
West Bengal-based artist Pritikana Goswami, known for her expertise in Kantha embroidery, has been mentoring rural women in this craft for five decades. She aspires that her Padma Shri recognition will serve as an inspiration for more women to embrace this cherished Indian traditional art form. Half a century ago, she embarked on a journey of embroidery and stitching to provide for her family, not only for her creative expression through sewing but also as a means of empowering women.
Uttar Pradesh-based Dilshad Hussain is a proficient craftsman in Brass Nakashi work from Moradabad, actively promoting this art globally. He learned the art by observing his grandfather's brass craftsmanship during his childhood and later acquired further skills from his uncle, Kallu Ansar.
Nalanda-based Kapil Dev Prasad is a skilled 'Bawan Buti' handloom weaver renowned for incorporating ancient Buddhist symbols into his intricate designs, particularly on sarees, bedsheets, and curtains. For over five decades, he has played a pivotal role in the revival and propagation of this weaving tradition. He anticipates that the Padma Shri will bring attention to this fading art form, shedding light on its significance and cultural value.
Andhra Pradesh-based C V Raju, an Etikopakka toy maker from Anakapalli, continues to revive the ancient wood lacquer craft of toy making. The name Etikoppaka has been borrowed from the small village near Visakhapatnam and is renowned for its traditional wooden craftsmanship—lacquer toys made from wood and coloured with natural dyes derived from seeds, lacquer, bark, roots, and leaves. Artist Raju is renowned for focusing on local knowledge of making vegetable dyes and developing new tools and techniques to practise art sustainably.
Nagaland-based Neihunuo Sorhie is a tribal loin loom weaver from Kohima, credited with training over 300 women in the Naga craft. She is known for her meticulous attention to detail in her traditional weaves as well as her creative original art motifs. As a true Indian artist, she is also skilled in knitting and crafting decorative pieces with local products and traditional jewellery.
Diu-based Premjit Baria, who hails from Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, infuses his creations with the essence of his surroundings. He is also celebrated for crafting miniature paintings and sketches using a gel pen, with a focus on Portuguese architecture and folk art. A renowned art teacher and the director of Bal Bhavan, Baria has dedicated himself to the field of art for the last twenty-five years.
Gujarat-based Pareshbhai Rathwa is a Pithora artist from Chhota Udepur who is actively involved in preserving the ancient 12,000-year-old tribal folk art. This unique form of art, known as Pithora, was originally created on walls by the Rathwa, Bhils, and Bhilala tribes, and it has been carried forward through generations as a traditional occupation.
Chattisgarh-based Ajay Kumar Mandavi is a tribal wood carving artist from Kanker, who is actively rehabilitating misguided youth in LWE-affected areas through livelihood.
Madhya Pradesh-based Indian craftsperson duo from Jhabua who make adivasi dolls from recycled clothes. Traditionally this Indian art was practised only by the tribes but they have also trained several other women in the same, creating employment opportunities for people of all communities in Jhabua.
Assam-based Hemoprova Chutia is one of the women from Assam who managed to weave silk. She has woven the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit and English, in two separate creations, on silk. Hemoprova also weaved the “Naam Ghosa” into one of her creations. Her most noteworthy creation is weaving the complete Gunamala authored by Assamese Saint Srimanta Shankardev on a custom piece using cotton and wool.
Bidar-based Shah Rasheed Ahmed Quadri is known for his pioneering work in introducing the Phooljhadi design to Bidri art. He has consistently expressed concerns about the potential risk to this traditional Indian craft due to insufficient marketing efforts and looks to the government for assistance in establishing a sustainable market for these artists.
If you’re an ardent art and craft lover, do dive into this art of puppetry workshop. As an advocate of cultural heritage, IIAD conducts initiatives such as the Khadi workshop, natural dye workshop and masterclasses to educate students about important issues such as natural dyes.
If you love textiles, checkout this in-depth piece about homegrown brands that stand for organic cotton and its future in fashion retail for homegrown brands in India.
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