Cane baskets full of violet saffron flowers in a saffron field in bloom in Pampore, Jammu and Kashmir. Photo: Dinodia Photos / Alamy Stock Photo
Ever wondered how a gorgeous silk saree is actually made? Or where the beans for your morning cuppa are sourced? No better way to find out than to travel right to the heart of the craft and meet the people responsible for it.
COFFEE FROM CHIKMAGALUR, KARNATAKA
The hills of Chikmagalur are lush with coffee plantations yielding shade-grown Arabica and Robusta beans of international standards. Legend has it that these date back to the coffee beans that Sufi saint Baba Budan brought back from Yemen in the 16th century. Superior agro-technology plus government impetus has led to a great push in coffee cultivation in the last four decades. In recent years, a number of brands that champion eco-friendly practices have sprung up in Chikmagalur. Stay at the cottages of Halli Berri (doubles from Rs8,200; halliberri.com) and learn about sustainable coffee-growing.
NAKSHI KANTHA IN BOLPUR AND KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL
This ancient form of embroidery is part of the state’s craft heritage as well as wearable art that is stitched into sarees, quilts, bedspreads and more. The intricate designs, or the “naksha”, depict everything from folk myths to natural motifs. Bolpur is the centre of this handicraft. Visit Amar Kutir (amarkutir.org) to discover some gorgeous nakshi kantha work. Combine this with a Kolkata trip to visit the Gurusaday Museum (gurusadaymuseum.org) and learn about its history. While there, check into the storied The Elgin Fairlawn, Kolkata (doubles from Rs7,300; elginhotels.com).
SAFFRON FROM PAMPORE, JAMMU & KASHMIR
It takes more than 15,000 flowers to produce a kilogram of saffron, making this one of the most expensive spices in the world. Pampore, located 45 minutes away from Srinagar, is a town with acres of fragrant saffron fields bounded by the snow-capped Himalayas. Take this day to learn about the life of saffron collectors and all that it takes to harvest these flowers. Make Srinagar your base and enjoy the views and delectable food at the WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats (doubles from Rs7,143; welcomheritagehotels.in).
PAITHANI SAREES FROM PAITHAN, MAHARASHTRA
This saree is every Maharashtrian bride’s dream and has a royal lineage dating back several centuries. The craft is centred in the town of Paithan around 60km from Aurangabad. Each saree features intricate weaves of silk and zari and takes six months to a year to weave. No two pieces are alike. Stay at Welcomhotel Rama International, Aurangabad (doubles from Rs5,400; itchotels.in) or at Vivanta Aurangabad (doubles from Rs. 5,300; vivantahotels.com) and make a day trip to Paithan. Visit the Marhati Emporium to learn more about the weaving tradition.
SILK-WEAVING IN SUALKUCHI, ASSAM
This tiny village, around 35km from Guwahati, has historically been associated with silk weaving and is colloquially known as the Manchester of the East. The region’s famous muga, pat and eri silk comes from these looms and a visit to Sualkuchi offers great insight into the traditional weaves of Assam. Book yourself on Assam Bengal Navigation’s Brahmaputra Taster cruise (Rs1,00,342 per person; assambengalnavigation.com), which includes a visit to weavers’ homes in the town.