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Leather Kolhapuri Chappals/Sandals of Maharashtra
Kohlapuri chappals are handcrafted leather sandals that get their name from the place of their origin, the district of Kohlapur in the state of Maharashtra. The exact date of its origin, is unknown, but the cobblers of this district have succeeded in creating a globally recognised product. These chappals, which were probably worn only by the inhabitants of Kohlapur, are now worn all over India and abroad.
Each piece, complete with intricate patterns, is handcrafted and made of leather";" even";" the cords used to stitch the sandals are made of leather and no nails are used. The chappal is made of leather got from the hide of bulls, cows, and goats. The raw leather which is bought from external sources is made pukka or hardened by drying and grazing it. After the grazing is done, the large pieces of leather are cut to the size required by using templates. The leather used is either in its natural tan colour or dyed deep brown or a black-maroon, depending on the orders and requirements.
The sole, which is the first part of the chappal to be made, is cut and then two pieces of leather are pasted together and stitched with thongs for added strength. Once the base of the chappal is ready, the main design is created. There are a number of designs that have evolved over time to cater to contemporary demands. The more traditional designs have thong-like straps, with a toe-strap for further strength. The newer designs may be shoe-like with pieces of wood supporting the design. The use of nails in these chappals is also a recent addition. Kohlapuri chappals range from those with simple straps and plain colours and designs to more decorative ones with a gold cord or gota on them. Sometimes little pink pom-poms are put on top of the thong-like straps or intricate patterns are cut out of the straps. Kachkadi, bakkalnali, and pukari are some traditional designs.Kohlapuri chappal-making is a hereditary craft. In recent years, however, the children of the craftpersons have started to move to bigger towns and cities in search of different jobs and more money. The women of the families are also taught the craft";" even the daughters-in-laws help make the sandals. The families involved in the business sit together and make the chappals. Sometimes other people are hired to help. The more successful craftspersons have showrooms for their products. Kohlapuri chappals are sold at prices that range from Rs 100 to Rs 3,000. Chappal prices vary according to the price at which the leather is purchased and the design of the product.The craftspersons also travel to places around the country as well as out of the country to participate in craft exhibitions. Changing consumer tastes and an increased preference for labelled products have contributed to the decline in sales.