This year’s World Environment Day – celebrated on June 5 – has a special tinge of localness underlining the festivities as the fervour of encouraging domestic initiatives sweeps the nation alongside. Taking a cue from the same, #TnlSupportsLocal Indian villages which have long embraced the sustainable way of life by fusing eco-consciousness with their traditional handicrafts. By Bayar Jain

If ancient Indian traditional handicrafts are anything to go by, then the desi way of life has largely trodden the sustainable path. With globalisation, though, a chunk of these local positives have been pushed to the peripheries of economy, clambering hard to remain afloat. This World Environment Day, make note of these local Indian villages who haven’t succumbed to the pressure and have allowed the green light to shine through with their crafts.

1. Stone idols at Shivarapatna, Karnataka

 

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It’s no secret that India is a religious land flooded with various beliefs and ideologies. This reliance on the power of the divine has always been an integral part of the country’s culture, and the age-old Shivarapatna village in Karnataka is proof of it. Located in the state’s Kolar district – roughly 50 kilometres away from Bengaluru – this village is lined with numerous stone idols on each side of the dusty barely-there roads. Estimates suggest that roughly 80 per cent of the village population is associated with sculpting stone idols. Owing to the sustainability factor of the raw material and its longevity, the villagers here refrain from shifting focus to using alternative materials. All kinds of stones – red, black, white, or even mixed – are crafted with precision. However, with the increasing demand for metallic idols – particularly in hotels – a handful of families have embraced the latter alternative as well.

2. Grass mats at Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu

 

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Nestled in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, Pattamadai has the geographical advantage of being close to the river Tamiraparani. Here, tall korai grass grows effortlessly, allowing locals of the region to pluck it and weave it into gorgeous hand-woven superfine silk mats. It is believed that an intricate grass mat woven here was also once gifted to Queen Elizabeth II for her coronation in June 1953. These eco-friendly mats are so smooth yet sturdy that they can allegedly be rolled and fit seamlessly into boxes without losing its original shape. In fact, the locals here go a step further in their green initiatives. The dyes used to colour these mats are believed to be extracted entirely from plants instead of relying on artificial colourings to bring the mats to life.

3. Natural dyes at Bagru, Rajasthan

 

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Merely 30 kilometres away from Rajasthan’s pink city Jaipur lies Bagru, a small village painted gloriously in indigo dyes. Straying away from the commercial mainstream ways of textiles, Bagru continues to follow the traditional chippa style of designs. A typical ‘Bagru print’, a style of textiles popularised by the unique works of this village, includes classic wooden block printing on naturally dyed cloths. Apart from the final product, the entire process of creating this sustainable garment is also big on being ecologically sustainable. It is said that the craftsmen first wipe the garment in fuller’s earth and follow it up with a dip in turmeric water to give an even earthy tinge. Next, various natural colours are used to create the wooden block motifs along with turmeric and vegetable dyes to print the cloth: Indigo for blue tones; madder root for red; turmeric for yellow; and a mix of pomegranate juice and indigo for green.

4. Glass bangles at Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh

 

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Considered India’s epicentre of glass industries, this city in Uttar Pradesh has the sheen of glassware etched closely with its popularity. Locally known as Kadechhal Ki Chudi, the glass bangles created here are moulded without any joints in the makes, giving the accessories a smooth finish. The tradition of creating these recyclable jewellery pieces are believed to date back to ancient times when invaders brought glass articles into the country. Since then, the bangles have adorned many hands – from royalties to newlyweds. So widespread is the production of glass bangles here that an area – Bohran Gali – solely sells multiple variations of the bangles, kadas, and kangans. 

5. Blackstone pots at Longpi, Manipur

 

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A traditional craft of Manipur, Longpi Pottery has passed on for generations in the Tangkhul Naga tribes of the state. In fact, the tradition is so deeply entrenched in systems of the people here that it is believed North East Manipur’s small Ukrul district has over 200 artisans practising the art. Traditionally known as Longpi Ham, the origins of these 100 per cent biodegradable and microwave-safe earthenware are believed to be referred to as Royal Pottery at one time. This elevated status to the craft is because, at one point, only the rich and noble of the state could afford the pots. Today, almost every household in the village has elegant earthenware. These beautiful pots are made using weather rock and serpentinite, both of which are found in abundance at the river banks here.

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