The Indian Footwear Tradition

Craft, Handloom, Art, Editorial

The Indian Footwear Tradition: Style Accessory cum Weapon

Tyabji, Laila

First Published, September 2009, Craft Revival Trust
Indians, traditionally adept at innovative, inventive jugaar, discovered the uses of footwear as weaponry long before that Iraqi journalist won international fame and acclaim hurling his shoes at President Bush. Media images of our State Vidhan Sabhas after a debate, littered with the abandoned chappals of irate MLAs, along with a few broken chairs, are all too familiar. As early as 1971, Mrs Gandhi had a sandal chucked at her by an angry Telangana-ite when she canvassed for my father in Hyderabad. India always leads the world! The recent spate of pre-election shoe-chucking only calls attention to the range and eclecticism of our footwear – from Jarnail Singh’s Reeboks to the wooden kharau aimed at Advani. Perhaps it’s because India was by tradition a primarily barefoot country that footwear has taken on such diverse and multi-facetted incarnations and associations. By some curious sociological quirk, feet have always been reverenced, while footwear is considered unclean. Nevertheless, footwear has also taken on more amazingly ornamental and imaginative forms in India than anywhere else in the world! Jewelled, embroidered, sequined, studded, twisted, tasselled and twirled; made in every conceivable and often ...
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