Shilpgram : where art speaks to you

The name ‘Shilpgram’ means ‘village of art’. Shilpgram is exactly a village of art. It is a setup by government of India towards preserving and promoting traditional art and culture of Rajasthan and adjoining states. Shilpgram is located in Udaipur, almost 3km from Fateh Sagar Lake area. Our stay in Udaipur was quiet near Fateh Sagar Lake. Due to the proximity, we decided to visit Shilpgram on the fist day of our arrival in Udaipur. The plan was to go to Shilpgram and spend around an hour and then head to the next site – Sahelion ki Bari and finally have a boat ride on the lake before calling it a day. However, Little did we know that once we reach Shilpgram, time would just fly, without our realization.

We started our journey from our hotel post lunch and around 3pm arrived at Shilpgram. The ticket counters are located just near the entrance gate.

Shilpgram 1
Shilpgram entrace with the ticket counter besides it

You are supposed to buy the tickets and then head inside. The whole place is setup to give the visitors true feel of an Indian village. There is a government appointed guide who takes visitors around and helps them understand the significance of each and everything that they encounter in Shilpgram. The guide would decide based on the timings whether to first take the visitors to culture show or the shops, and thus would lead the way.

Shilpgram 2
Shops lined along the way to the amphitheater

Cultural shows in Shilpgram

Following the guide, we started off to the cultural show program. The program is performed on an elevated stage. The path to the stage is lined by several shops. These shops have artisans selling various products. Although the artisans were eager to welcome us to their shops and exhibit their work of art, we decided to first head straight to the stage and then come back to the shops later.

There is an amphitheater across the stage. Nothing fancy but another elevated platform with shade overhead and a few stairs leading to it. The guests are supposed to sit here and enjoy the show.

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Amphitheater 🙂

Each show runs for around an hour. Throughout the day, these performances happen every couple of hours. Artists and artist groups from Rajasthan and neighboring states come here to showcase their talent. Government provides each group accommodation and other basic amenities to stay in Shilpgram for fifteen consecutive days. They are also paid a minimum wage of INR 500 per person while they stay. Then other artist groups come. Probably, due to this provision, each gets equal opportunity (equal time interval) to perform here. Different groups and individuals keep coming on rotational basis. Finally, the idea is that an artist or group that performs good at Shilpgram might get sighted by better platforms and land some noteworthy business proposal.

During the one hour performance  we enjoyed different cultural dances by artists, each lasting 10-15 minutes.

Ghoomer

First of all, a group of ladies performed the famous Rajasthani Ghoomer dance. It is a folk dance. It was originated by Bhil tribe. Later it was adopted by other communities of Rajasthan. Although, It’s not just the steps of the dance that adds to the charm. Even the attires of the performer go totally in sync with the dance steps, producing magical effect as they go dancing around.

Shilpgram 9
Ghoomer dance being performed by artists

Bhavai Dance

Next, Bhavai Dance was performed by a skilled artist. She balanced a huge set of pots on her head. During the dance, she sat and stood up several times, without letting the pots get misbalanced. Then she climbed over a set of steel tumblers balancing herself while she performed her dance with super balance. Parts of the performance included balancing a knife in the artist’s mouth while dancing and stepping on broken glass to perform some steps.

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Bhavai dance where the artist balances herself on steel tumblers

Gujarati tribal dance

There was a group of men and women from Gujarat that performed next. This was a tribal dance, with awesome balancing and synchronization acts between the men and women.

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Gujarati tribal dance

These were followed by some more traditional dances. We were all stuck bound by the talent of these artists. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every performance. So much so that, we didn’t even realize when one hour passed. This was the first live performance that our little girl got to watch in her life. She was completely mesmerized. At the end of each performance she applauded profusely!!!

Shops in Shilpgram

The same holds for artisans when it comes to the facilities provided by government. Each one is given a shop to showcase their products, along with stay and food options inside Shilpgram premises.

Infamous Lah Bangles

After the performances were over, our guide took us around the shops. First of all, we went to a lady who was selling Lah bangles. She was actually making the bangles there only! I found the bangles to be rather lightweight compared to the Lah bangles that I have seen in other parts of India. Also, the work on the bangles was quiet noteworthy. Overall, they were thin, light and beautifully patterned. Although, I wanted to pick one, it turned out to be a really tough decision to take. Finally, I picked a set of beautiful black bangles with little golden strips on them.

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Lah Bangles prepared at the shop

Katha work

Next we headed to the shop of a Katha worker. Katha is a special stitch done with threads. It’s practiced in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Bedsheets, Bed covers, quilts, table covers, wall hangings are often made with colorful fabric combinations and then Katha stitch is done on them. It is considered very strong and long lasting. The artist who was exhibiting the Katha was also telling us how much time it took for him to complete the pieces. Since Katha stitch is done with hand, as a result, it takes quiet some time to finish the work. Nevertheless, the result is one of the most noteworthy pieces of handwork. The artist showed us some bed covers for which it had taken him 2 months to complete the work.

Paintings

Next, we headed to a shop exhibiting beautiful paintings. The artist was making paintings, and that also, using natural colors. These colors are extracted from flowers, vegetables, stones and spices. His paintings were on silk, canvas and paper. These were the Pitchwai paintings which are famous the world over. The intricacies of the paintings simply won my heart. There was something for everyone in this shop. There were bookmarks and greeting cards with paintings, starting at INR 30/-

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The intricacies of painting being explained by the artist

 

Eco friendly kitchenware and earthenware

The next shop was selling eco friendly kitchenware and earthenware that were being made there itself at a small potters wheel! There were some toys, kitchenware, candle stands , lamps etc.

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Earthenware

Mojri shoes

The mojri shoes shop was setup by an artist whose name is registered in the world records for making the smallest shoe of the world. He showed us a tiny shoe with intricate work on it, although this was not the one which held the world records (that one was much smaller than even this) . Have a look:

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A tiny shoe with intricate work

The shop had a range of mojris for all foot sizes for men, women and children. We bought a beautiful pair for our little one.

Apart from these there were several other shops , exhibiting Kurtas, ready to wear dress materials, mirror work, wood work, other handicrafts, nail art, tie-die fabrics, hand block printed bedsheets and fashion jewelry. We couldn’t stop at all the shops, as we were constrained by time. Although we would have loved to. Not necessarily for buying something, but rather for understanding the techniques that go behind these work of art. Even praise matters a lot to these artists. Some of them have established their business. They regularly supply to government emporiums and retain chains like fabindia. While others are still looking for more exposure.

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Shop with tie dye fabrics in display
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Fashion jewelry at display

Shilpgram dhaba

By the time we went through the shops and moved towards the entrance cum exit of Shilpgram, our daughter was hungry. That’s when we spotted this small dhaba setup inside the premises of Shilpgram. (In India, dhaba stands for a road side restaurant, with very down to earth setup but delicious food). The food here was almost home made in taste. Our daughter had an aaloo paratha (potato stuffed bread). While the rest of us enjoyed tea / coffee and took some rest after our long walk around Shilpgram.

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Shilpgram restaurant aka dhaba

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Shilpgram. Although, it was already 5:30 pm. We had spent quiet more time here than we had initially planned for. While this meant we had to hurry off to the next site and maybe miss today’s boat ride, but we felt completely happy and contented after the beautiful cultural performances and our interaction with the artists. Our conclusion : This is one place we would highly recommend to visit when in Udaipur.

Some tips on traveling to Shilpgram

  • Shilpgram official website is here.
  • Although shilpgram is open all through the year for tourists, December is when a huge number of artists arrive and the place is found to be at it’ charming best.
  • Restaurant and restroom facilities are available at the premises.
  • Since it’s quiet green inside, and we visited towards the evening, we didn’t feel much heat. Although, carry a bottle of water with you.
  • Although, the timings are 6am – 7pm. But, we would recommend you reach here no later than 4pm to be able to enjoy thoroughly.
  • Also, Shilpgram is quiet a landmark in itself, so, there would be no problem reaching here. You can book an uber cab, or take a taxi from your hotel.
  • Comfortable cotton dress are recommended since the weather is mostly hot in Udaipur.

Shilpgram in Udaipur, Rajasthan where art and culture comes live

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49 Responses

  1. Jain temple Ranakpur - a magnificence of spiritual serenity and artistic grace - A Revolving Compass...

    […] Shilpgram – Where art speaks […]

  2. The shilpagrams are a boon to tourists. We get to see all cultures and creations under one roof.
    I saw a similar one in Hyderabad. This reminds me I haven’t posted on it yet. 🙂

  3. Oh I love boutique, artisty villages like this! I have put this place on my bucket list. thanks for the post!

  4. interesting post here! There are far too many places in India that everyone should look into. The country is so rich in its own culture!

    • Very well said Jerny. There is so much of diversity.. and thus so much to see and experience

  5. This is a very comprehensive guide to visit Shilpgram. I like knowing more about the culture of a place when I travel and cultural shows like this helps. I like the Bhavai dance. Maybe I will visit next December!

    • Actually its the most thriving in december. Hundreds of artists from across the country travel here in the last week of december. It must be so much more wonderful then. I would love to hear your account when you visit

  6. Seems like a very unique experience. Though I’ve been to Udaipur a few times, this is the first I’ve heard about it. Great way to showcase the culture and tradition while supporting the community. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes Mansi, thats what I loved the most about the place. Giving this much exposure to artists who come from the rural corners, is really a very appreciative step

  7. travellingslacker

    Good to see such an initiative to preserve and promote local art and culture. Especiially good to see the paintings, that too in such afforadable rates. I have a deep desiire of exploring various schools of Rajasthani art.

    • Thats a very nice wish. Even I want to do that, let me know when you do your research. I am an artist too and a lover of art

  8. This was such an awesome read. I haven’t been to India just yet but have a plan to go next year. Your photography is really nice. I am loving all the colors. Indian culture is so fascinating! My family is from India/Pakistan but have only had the opportunity to see Karachi thus far! 😀

  9. I didn’t know about the existence of Shilpgram when I visited Udaipur, 2 years ago. I would have loved to visit. I did however took part in a traditional Rajasthani show where a woman did the Bhavai Dance. I was si impressed how she didn’t drop any of the pots from her head.

  10. This looks so beautiful. I have been to Udaipur but never been to this place. Is it one of those places made for showing village life to foreigners with a huge price tag??

    • Not really Sudipto. It is a place where artists from far and near are given chance to showcase their work – be it dance and performance or handmade products. Each artist is provided accommodation and daily wedge by government. entrance fee is nominal. It is up to you to buy anything or not. Guide also doesn’t charge anything. It’s basically to provide exposure to the artists and help their work reach far and wide through word of mouth

  11. Interesting. I have seen such dances in heritage resorts of India but didnt know what they were called. Their art is truly incredible and i am glad government is taking steps to encourage them.

    • You are right, traditional arts are incredible. They all have some scientific logic behind them. Thats why every culture has one of its own. its really appreciative that the government is trying to preserve them

  12. That is one very tiny, tiny shoe! I can’t imagine the skill it takes to work on something that small. And, balancing several pots on your head while moving. It sounds like you really enjoyed your time here and thought it was a worthwhile spot and not a tourist trap.

    • Totally Lara. It was worth the visit. We missed our boating that day later on because we ended up spending more time here. But we really loved the experience we got here

  13. Village of art seems like a great day out. It would have been nice to see some video of those dances. The photos have me believe it would have been lovely to watch.

  14. Shilpgram promises to be a great window to the local handicrafts of Rajasthan. A peep into their rich culture and heritage. An opportunity to immerse oneself in the colourful music and dance of Rajasthan.

    • You are right. And sometimes, some artists get recognition enough from this platform to boost their career in a big way

  15. I’ve never heard of this but it sounds like a lovely idea – preserving art! Allows people to experience it in a less touristy way!

    • You are right. And it also gives such a good platform to the artists that belong to remote areas which people hardly visit. When they get a chance to showcase their work here, they come with a dream that their work will reach the bigger audience and open new pathways for them

  16. Never heard about this village…the “village of art” is a good name to lure people like me that are attractated by different cultures and to know local people. From your post I can deduce that it’s really genuine, love their traditional costumes and their typical dances look amazing 🙂 I wish one day I can visit this place

    • Actually this is not a village but rather a village setup. Still, I loved the concept of providing fare chance and a platform to the artists and promoting them

  17. Nice post. It is always good to learn about culture and this tour seems to dwelve into it. I bet the dancing was impressive as your pictures, happy and cheerful as you want it to be. Thanks for adding the little tips at the end, alway helpful. Well done.

    • Thanks Anthony. It was indeed a trip that went deep down into the cultural roots and also the roots of traditional art 🙂

  18. “Village of art” is a wonderful idea! It seems like a culture overload, but in a good way. I’m usually never one for souvenirs because I like to minimilize as much as possible but if I were able to purchase a tiny Mojri shoe then I most definitely would.

    • I bet you wont be able to resist a bit of shopping here. Same happened with us. Nevertheless, to see the performances and hear from the artists how they actually make those paintings, printings, clay utensils, shoes, jewelry etc. is an experience in itself, even if you don’t buy anything

  19. Indian culture is so fascinating! If i’m ever in this region, I will be sure to check it out! The shop with all the colourful clothes and bangles are just stunning, I would end up buying the whole shop! Thanks for sharing this amazing information!

    • Thanks Emma. Actually, Rajasthan in particular is definitely a shopper’s paradise. I am soon going to elaborate a post on my shopping spree there

  20. Shilpgram looks like an awesome place to visit to get a good dose of culture! I like that they have a guide to take you around and explain everything to you. It definitely makes the visit more educational.

  21. That dancer with the pots balanced on her head is amazing! I think I could spend quite a while here looking at all the bangles and textiles. It’s great that the items for sale are made by the sellers themselves. I’ll definitely check Shilpgram out when I visit Udaipur.

  22. OurSweetAdventures

    This was such a lovely post! I can only imagine how wonderful it is to watch the dancers. And the artisan work…wow so many beautiful things to purchase. Those shoes are amazing!!!! I cannot believe he made ones smaller than that, unbelievable!

    • It was indeed a pleasure to interact with the artisans. We in India actually buy their products through retail chains like fabindia and I absolutely love the quality. So, to meet them was exciting. And yes, the dance performances were superb. Do visit when you get a chance

  23. Wow, sounds amazing! I’d have a big trouble deciding on which bangles to get! They’re all beautifull!

    • Exactly Thais! Thats why it took me so much time to decide on one.. they all looked so pretty (and secretly, I wanted them all)

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