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Sole Stories: The History Of Footwear In India

access_time August 28, 2017 chat_bubble_outline 5 comments 7199
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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.

In ancient times, footwear was a necessity but it was also considered to be a luxury.

In ancient times, having footwear was considered a luxury more than a need.

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.

#1. Paduka

Paduka were the footwear of choice of ascetics in ancient India

The wooden Paduka was the footwear of choice for ascetics in ancient India

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

The history of Punjabi juttis can be traced back 400 years ago – they were a favourite of the Indian royalty.

Popular with Indian royalty, the history of Punjabi juttis can be traced to 400 years ago

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

These open sandals are made out of sheepskin and goatskin

These open sandals are made out of sheepskin and goatskin

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

When in Kolhapur, invest in a few beautiful pairs of Kolhapuri chappals

When in Kolhapur, invest in a beautiful pair of Kolhapuri chappals

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

These are colourfully embroidered Pula footwear worn by the locals of Himachal

The colourfully embroidered Pula chappals are worn mostly by the locals of Himachal Pradesh

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

All you need to make these type of footwear is bamboo, natural grass, or jute straw.

All you need to make these comfortable Osho chappals is bamboo, natural grass, or jute straw.

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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5 Comments

  1. Mayur
    September 17, 09:10 Mayur

    Details of this article is just a tip of an giant iceberg.

    My native place (Kachchh – Gujarat – India) has its traditional footwear which is not included here and I am sure that there will be at least 1 type of standard design of footwear related to each state reflecting its culture, embroidery work, lifestyle of people etc. which should be covered hereby.

    reply Reply this comment
  2. ammmu
    September 28, 06:58 ammmu

    best and good blog…..

    reply Reply this comment
  3. babloo
    April 16, 12:00 babloo

    It’s good to know the Indian shoe history.

    Thanks for sharing

    reply Reply this comment
  4. Vishal Bhavsar
    November 21, 12:21 Vishal Bhavsar

    I Read your Blog it is Very nice,Informative and Useful for a Content Creation. Thanks for sharing a list of fashion bloggers in India This is very creative blog for womens jutti.They are quite interesting to read and follow up.I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds.Thank You!!!

    reply Reply this comment

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