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Leather Works

The rich legacy and mingling of various kingdoms in Maharashtra has led to the development of a myriad of arts and crafts here. One of these is the Leather works of Kolhapur, a small city in southern Maharashtra. The art is known for its footwear called “chappals” in Marathi. They are made from the skin of buffalo and are available in variety of designs. They are strong and stout and durable. They go well on traditional wear and many people also use them for daily wear because of their comfort.

History of the Footwear

The ape-man of earlier times started using leather for protecting his feet. Exact history of the use of leather in making Kolhapur Chappals is unknown but records say that as early as 13th century people were wearing these Chappals. Later, in the twentieth century, merchants from Mumbai popularized them in the modern world when appreciation for them came from hook and corner of the world.

Varieties of Kolhapuri Chappals

The traditional designs of the chappals are known as Bakkalnali, Pukari and Kachkadi. These are named according to the villages around Kolhapur that they were made in. Basic design consists of the sole made from the skin of buffalo and a strap to hold the sole between your toes. Later on, the artisans introduced side flaps to hold the toes and the hold became stronger. These were known as “Kanawali “or Chappals with ears i.e. flaps. Other Varieties are known as Kapashi and Dongari.  All these have slight variations in their design but basically all of them are strong and give you a great style to go on traditional wear like Paithani sarees for women and Kurta Pyjama for men. Now-a-days, these Chappals are a statement of fashion. They are studded with gems, stones, silver, and gold and have variety of designer straps on them. The more you pay, the better design you get.

Process of Making Chappals

Kolhapuri Chappals are prepared from 'Bag toning' leather. Bag toning leather is made by using the (barks) skins of medicinal plants like 'Hirada' and 'Babul' (Acacia Arabica and Ink nuts) which naturally gives leather a medicinal effect and prevents any side effects that may affect your skin because of leather.

Advantages of Kolhapur Chappals

The leather has small pores in it which helps air go in and out of them and thus keeps your feet cool. These Chappals are very strong and you can also use them for tough work. They are great style statements and you can be modern at the same time promote the use of traditional items. These Chappals are very popular among the college going youth of India who love to wear them on simple daily wear clothes. They are also cheap if you buy imitations but originals can be costlier depending on the quality of the leather and the design.

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