The fame of unique handicrafts, aromatic agricultural products and natural goods from Uttar Pradesh has crossed borders, for 27 items have been GI tagged to the state, in a bid to preserve and promote their uniqueness. When marked on a map, the items on this list cover the length and breadth of UP in a manner that truly reflects its artistic legacy and agricultural ingenuity. If you wish to get an overview of the history, practice and origin of these items, then check out this listicle!
Banarasi Brocades and Sarees (Logo & Product)
The presence of Banaras Brocades dates back to the period of Mughals when trained artisans hand-weaved intricate patterns on rich fabrics, such as silk. With the advent of machines and capitalism, which fostered a market of mass-produced goods, this art form was given a GI tag so as to safeguard the interests of contemporary weavers. Further, even the logo of Banaras Bunkar Samiti, which manufactures the brocade work, has been GI tagged.
Allahabad Surkha Guava
Allahabad Surkha is an apple-shaped guava that derives its name (surkha) from the red colour of its skin, when fully ripe. It attracts buyers with its sweet fragrance, a feature that owes its origin to the soil nutrients of the Kaushambi district- the most famous guava grower belt of UP.
The delicate art of Chikankari is native to the City of Nawabs and its origin can be traced back to the times of the Greek explorer Megasthenese. This art form utilises almost 32 different types of stitches to feature designs on light fabrics like cotton, Georgette and chiffon, among others.
The Dusseheri mango variety from UP's Malihabad belt is famous for its sweet and succulent produce, which has earned international fame. Lucknow's Mango Man, Kaleemullah Khan, is especially responsible for preserving and furthering the 200-year-old legacy of this mango belt through his inventive techniques.
Chunar Balua Patthar
A kind of sandstone widely used across India, especially during the era of Ashoka, Chunar Balua Patthar is native to Varanasi. Some places where you can see this stone are- Ashokan Pillar and Lion Capitol at the ASI Museum of Sarnath, Chunar Fort, ghats of Varanasi, the main building of Sampuranand University and a few Buddha statues across Sarnath.
The carpet industry of Bhadohi is said to trace its history to an anecdote that goes back a few centuries. It is believed that some Iranian master weavers were travelling across India and stopped at a quaint village in Bhadohi, where they established the first loom. Today, the fame of carpets manufactured in the Bhadohi-Mirzapur belt has crossed international borders!
Siddharth Nagar's Kalanamak Rice is believed to fill the room with its aroma, as it is slowly cooked over a light flame. Also known as 'Buddha's Gift' among the locals, this variety of rice is said to be superior in each aspect to Basmati- the variety with the highest trade volume in the international market, except the length of the grain.
The skilled glasswork produced by local artisans in Firozabad involves the production of everything from bangles to chandeliers. A lot of products are made by recycling and up-cycling, hence, this glass industry is quite eco-friendly. Around 400 automated and mechanical glass industries function in this area, thereby, earning it the title of the Glass City of India.
Experts state- "Kannauj is to India what Grasse is to France" for the perfume industry of Kannauj is thousands of years old. It is famous for manufacturing natural and alcohol-free fragrances. Also known as Kannauj Ittar, these perfumes are sometimes available in ancient packaging made out of camel skin, which adds an old-world charm to the purchase.
While Walsall, England, is famed to be the world's saddlery capital, rising production costs have forced the work to be outsourced to Kanpur. These developments in saddle manufacturing prompted it to be GI tagged as Kanpur Saddlery and this certification was approved very recently, in 2014.
Varanasi Glass Beads
Famously referred to as kaanch ke moti, more than 2,000 artisans from Chandpur, Kandwan, Ramnagar and nearby areas are involved in manufacturing Varanasi Glass Beads. This city is also India's largest exporter of beads, apart from producing handicrafts, clothing items, jewellery and other things out of them.
A flat-woven rug, Agra Durrie is famous for its stylistic patterns and bright colours put together in a weft-faced plain weave. This heritage craft was patronised by royalty in India, especially during the reign of Emperor Akbar, who established Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Lahore as centres for weaving prayer mats, carpets, rugs and other types of decorative floor mats.
The Farrukhabad style of printing is believed to trace its origin to the era when the city was founded by the first Bangash Nawab, Muhammad Khan. Practising the technique of both hand and block printing, the usual motifs include classical butis and the Persian Tree of life. This art form is currently under pressure to keep up with the demands of novelty, especially since the invention of printing machines.
Over 500 ceramic factories dot the landscape of Khurja located in UP's Bulandshahr district, which is why it is also known as the 'Ceramics City'. This clay pottery tradition is believed to have begun when few wounded soldiers, who were also potters, from Timur's army decided to stay back in India. Today, Khurja Pottery is bought internationally in large volumes.
Varanasi Soft Stone Jali Work
Requiring supreme mastery over masonry and design making, the Soft Stone Jali Work of Varanasi is considered to be the epitome of fretwork. This craftwork is visibly seen across the town on forts, old homes and statues of religious significance, however, today jali work is used to sculpt only small items of utility and decor.
The imperial embroidery art of Zardozi travelled from Iran to India and flourished under the aegis of the Nawabs of Lucknow. With the relative increase in demand and popularity of Zardozi work, now customers can also buy accessories, purses and many other products embellished with this embroidery and not just Indian ethnic wear.
Moradabad Metal Craft
The heritage, history and diversity of Moradabad is evident in the metal craft produced by the local artisans, which has earned it the title of 'Brass City'. A variety of decorative items made of brass are available here, however, lately, the metal crafters have also ventured into working with other metals such as aluminium and stainless steel, among others.
Saharanpur Wood Craft
It is believed that approximately 400 years ago, a few Kashmiris came and settled in this region and started sculpting items with intricate patterns from wood to make a living and gradually, this craft spread to the common man. Today, Saharanpur Wood Craft contributes 50 per cent of the furnishing goods exported from India to foreign shores and has brought wood crafters of the city much fame.
A common item in most Indian households, Meerut Scissors is believed to be the first item registered for a GI tag which is manufactured by micro, small and medium enterprises of India. Said to be first made by Asli Akhun in the 17th-century, these scissors are unique for they can be repaired and reused several times. Further, they are eco-friendly as they are made of scrap metal.
Banaras Gulabi Meenakari Craft
Gulabi Meenakari Craft from Varanasi is the art of decorating metal surfaces by fusing mineral substances. This craft is usually applied to kundan- articles of jewellery studded with gemstones set with a layer of gold foil between. Also called enamelling, Meenakari was introduced in India by Mughal rulers and it adds another dimension to the cultural diversity of the city.
Mirzapur Handmade Dari
One of the famous flat-woven floor fabrics of India is Mirzapur Handmade Dari, which displays a confluence of traditional and modern designs. Also known as Panja Dari, this carpet weaving tradition is considered to be the oldest in the world as its earliest mentions are found in Buddhist texts dated around 500 B.C.
Nizamabad Black Pottery
Nizamabad Black Pottery owes its origin to the potters of Kutch, Gujarat, who migrated to Nizamabad, Azamgarh, during the reign of Aurangzeb. The unique aspect of this pottery tradition is that artisans use locally sourced, fine-textured clay to prepare the handicrafts which are rubbed with oil before being heated in the kiln.
Varanasi Wooden Lacquerware & Toys
Varanasi is famous for its wooden lacquerware and toys which are designed with the natural veins of the wood. The striking feature of these toys is that they are carved out of a single piece of wood, i.e., they have no joints in their structure. Varanasi was once the largest producer of toys in India, courtesy of these attractive and safe playthings for children.
Ghazipur Wall Hanging
Include Ghazipur Wall Hangings in your list of interior decor items that will give your home the perfect vintage look. Handcrafted by weavers of Ghazipur, this traditional handloom product combines different yarns, like jute and cotton, to showcase detailed landscapes and intricate patterns.
Benaras Metal Repouse Craft
Claimed to be a craft that is older than Banarasi Sarees, the repousse technique is used in Varanasi to hammer shapes on malleable metal surfaces. This craft is practised mostly using metals like gold and silver, which can act as ornamentation on home furnishings, such as doors. Employing almost 500 artisans, this technique is also referred to as 'Khal-Unbhar ka kaam'.
A special kind of ceramic craft, Gorakhpur Terracotta received the GI tag in 2020. The utilitarian earthenware produced by this pottery cluster of around 200 households includes vessels, wastewater pipes, roofing tiles, bricks and embellished sculptures. It is different from other terracotta styles, for it involves experimentation with innovative shapes and locally available soil is used along with natural dyes, to prepare the final product.
If you wish to combine your love of exotic food, travel and retail therapy, then this list will give you a perfect start. However, we assure you that the best time to turn this listicle into a checklist, will be post-pandemic. Meanwhile, as you scroll through this catalogue, let us know if you spot your city, in the comments below!