Sole Stories: The History Of Footwear In India
As Marilyn Monroe rightly said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world”. Shoes have become a vital part of outfits across the world – if you don’t wear the right shoes, your ensemble can look completely out of place. And when it comes to shoes, India has a long and interesting heritage, with footwear being mentioned in numerous Jain, Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, including the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Since India is such a diverse nation, the types of traditional footwear found all over the country are diverse too. Love shoes? Take a look at the history of footwear in India that reflects the country’s cultural and regional diversity.
Origin – Ancient India
When translated into English, Paduka literally means ‘Footprints of the Gods’. These are the oldest Indian sandals and were traditionally made of wood, with a grip being provided by the stub between the big toe and the other toes. The more elaborate the padukas, the higher the wearer’s status, which is why some were also made of silver and ivory, with intricate decorations. Today, this type of footwear is generally worn by Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain saints.
#2. Punjabi Jutti
Origin – Punjab
Commonly worn in North India, the jutti originated in Punjab. Made from leather, these elaborately embroidered juttis were initially decorated in actual silver and gold thread, and come in a variety of colours today. Typically, the Punjabi juttis don’t have a right and left foot, because it takes the shape of your foot when you wear it. Designed with a flat sole, juttis can be worn by both women and men (the only difference being the extended tip in men’s juttis). In fact, the popular Punjabi juttis have inspired several other types of footwear, including the Khussa and Mojaris that are sold in other parts of North India.
#3. Santiniketan Footwear
Origin – Santiniketan, West Bengal
Santiniketan is a small town in West Bengal that is renowned for its leather products, especially footwear. Mainly made of E.I. Leather (East India Leather that comes from goatskin and sheepskin), the products from the famous Santiniketan Leather Goods are sold with the Geographical Indications tag. The most popular kind of the footwear here are the open sandals, available in a wide range of colours, with the typical embroideries and the embossed batik pattern on them.
#4. Kolhapuri Chappal
Origin – Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Previously called the Kapashi and Bakkalnahi, Kolhapuri chappals were first launched in the 13th century. Generally made of leather, these chappals are designed as open-toed sandals with a T-strap, and are tanned locally by using vegetable dyes. If records are to be believed, it takes up to 6 weeks to handcraft these Kolhapuri chappals. With trimmings like braided straps, gold cord, embroidery, and even pom-poms, this versatile footwear go well with both Indian and western outfits. However, the process of making these chappals is a dying art form, with a fall in the number of artisans who still make Kolhapuris. So when in this quaint city, visit a small workshop to learn more about the process of crafting these chappals and pick up one or more of these beauties.
#5. Pula Chappal
Origin – Himachal Pradesh
Made from the grass of shale (bhang), Pula chappal is the traditional footwear of the local Pahari people in Himachal Pradesh. The mountain folk came up with this as an innovative alternative to the more traditional leather shoes, which are usually made of cow-hide. These vibrant light-weight chappals are especially used during religious ceremonies. With the sole made up of braided shale stitched together with a cloth-lining, and colourful needlework on the top, the Pula chappals are very popular in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh today.
#6. Osho Chappals
Origin – Pune, Maharashtra
If you think eco-friendly fashion accessories are always expensive, think again. Pune gets the credit for creating eco-friendly Osho chappals, named after the spiritual guru, Osho Rajneesh. Both affordable and a style statement, this extremely comfortable footwear works well with western attires and Indian dresses. Made of bamboo, jute straw and natural grass, these chappals are also known as Chattai chappals.
So, now that you know about the history of footwear in India, tell us in the comments below, which one makes you want to travel to its origin city?
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