Craft Calling: Traditional Lambani Arts and Crafts and the Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra

Published on: 12/04/2024


Photo title: Lambani Woman


Photo Credits: Sudeep Gurtu

It is a dusty road with quite a few uneven terrains that leads me to Sandur from Hampi on a very hot summer day. I had chosen to be driven using a local cab service and I was glad as the roads were largely dug up.

Incidentally, the area is replete with iron ore companies as the landscape is rich in iron ore and the mounds of bright red sand I saw on the way, probably was due to this. This was a trip I had planned for a while. I first heard of Sandur when I visited an exhibition in Bengaluru where I was drawn to the intricate embroidery on the fabrics that were being retailed. When I made a few enquiries, I was told that this was done by the Lambanis based in Sandur. Piqued I made a mental note to visit the place on my next visit to Hampi. The small village does not have to many touristy sights that was perfect for an off the beaten track experience.

Since I was keen to see the craft, I made my way to the handicraft center called Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra (SKSS) that was started in 1984. This art center is doing its bit to ensure that the traditional Lambani art gets its due by working with the women giving them a platform to showcase their talent. Also known as the Banjaras, several families of the community live around the villages around Sandur.

The cottage industry Smt. Mahalakshmi Mirror & Embroidery Unit located in the same compound is where you can meet the Lambani women who are busy stitching clothes, embroidering garments and working with threads to create a whole range of lifestyle products and clothing. The women are given raw material and they work on orders using techniques like applique work, patch work, thread embroidery, mirror work and other intricate needlework. From kurtas with detailed embroidery to jackets and dresses to handbags of different sizes there are a variety of products available for sale. Apart from the lambani-style handicrafts, the center also has khadi spinning and weaving, cane furniture making and stone artwork that are done here.


Photo title: Lambani Textile Pattern


Photo Credits: Vikram Nanjappa

 At the center I meet Sita Bai the oldest Lambani woman who still works wearing her traditional trademark heavily embellished phetiya kanchali dress and traditional jewellery says most other women prefer to stick to sarees for the convenience. However, she says that the center has seen several more women join the workforce from its inception. The Sandur embroidery is complex and involves about 39 different kinds of stitches and the older women train the younger ones in the art. Incidentally, Sandur Lambani Embroidery has been given a Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2008. It is little wonder then that the center has received the prestigious UNESCO Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts in South Asia in 2004 for its excellent work in the field of contemporary crafts.

If you are looking to carry back a souvenir, there is a large store on the premises that retails these products. The best part is that these are largely all hand made and hence command the price tag they display. However, it is the quality and the finishing that are top notch and when you buy them you know it is going back to the artisan community.

When you are in Sandur, do check out the lake formed by the backwaters of the Nari Halla Dam called Narasimha Kunda that also has a temple as well as the ancient Kumaraswamy temple called Krauncha Giri. This area is rich in avian life and if you are an avid birder, like me, I suggest you head out for a spot of birding. An offbeat destination from Hampi, Sandur scores a perfect ten as far as going off the beaten track is concerned. And this one has a craft edge which makes it even more appealing. Even as traditional crafts and their workmanship is disappearing in today’s times, it is heartening to see Sandur doing its bit to preserve its heritage.


Bindu Gopal Rao

Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bengaluru, who believes writing provides a unique opportunity to meet a variety of people while exploring new places. She has a keen eye to learn about offbeat, unusual and local angles when she travels. Her work is documented at

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