Kolhapuri chappals are artisanal footwear originally made in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. They were initially designed keeping utility and comfort in mind. Compared to the wooden slippers typically worn by saints at the time, Kolhapuri chappals were as durable but more comfortable because they had a leather sole that was hard enough to protect their feet in unforgiving terrains but soft and conformed to the shape of the foot.
The footwear gained popularity and was worn by farmers and kings alike. Its design continued to evolve according to the needs of the wearer. Royals had more delicate and embellished designs. Where once there was only a single design, now there are up to eighty-five.
Over time, the artisans of Kolhapur shared and trained people of the neighbouring regions in the art of making footwear. Now they are made in eight districts, four of which fall in Karnataka.
How are they made?
A Kolhapuri chappal is traditionally made from buffalo or cow hide; sometimes sheep or goat hide is used. They are coloured using vegetable dyes sourced from harida seeds and the bark of babul. Since these dyes are natural, they are hypoallergenic and eco-friendly.
The footwear is entirely handmade and can be created only by skilled workers who have trained in the art for at least three years. This is not only because of the craft's intricacy but also the sharpness of the tools used. A pair of footwear is made by not one but a line of artisans, each skilled in a particular task such as cutting, beating, stitching, etc. Women are also involved in the process and are responsible for decorating and embellishing the footwear with great attention to detail.
Types of Kolhapuri Chappals
There are two more types of Kolhapuri Chappals, the Kapashi and Dongari, and the main Kolhapuri variety. All the leather used to create the original Kolhapuri comes from cows or buffalo. The three significant hues offered are natural, oil, and polish. The leather is prepared to have no allergenic characteristics and to have a light, soft, and silky feeling.
Kolhapuri Chappal Benefits
Since Kolhapuri chappals absorb our body heat and sweat, doctors advise wearing them daily to help our bodies stay at their appropriate temperature. Furthermore, Kolhapuri chappal benefits in better blood circulation in the foot area. This helps to prevent blood clotting issues. Kolhapuri chappals are incredibly comfortable, soft, cost-effective, and durable. Transitioning to traditional Kolhapuri chappals is highly advised if you suffer from foot and sole pain.
Why you should own a pair of Kolhapuri Chappals
- Made with the finest craftsmanship
- They are soft, lightweight, comfortable, and durable
- They go well with western as well as ethnic outfits
- They are made from genuine leather
- They are dyed with natural colours
- They are eco-friendly
- They are prepared in an environmentally sustainable fashion
- Available in a wide variety of styles
- They look elegant
- Each pair is one of a kind
The current trend
Though the demand for Kolhapuri chappals has increased, only a select few artisans possess the knowledge and skill set required to create them. This is because the cost of production has increased due to the ban on beef, overarching taxes on raw materials, and minimum wage. Artisans would rather have their children choose professions that can earn them enough money than continue with a tradition that is not feasible anymore. Moreover, multiple regions sell fake Kolhapuri chappals of low quality and with rubber soles at cheaper rates, tarnishing the Kolhapuri brand.
Kolhapuri Chappal GI tagging
A Geographical Indicator (GI) tag is a location-specific label akin to an intellectual property right conferred upon a region or multiple regions. The Kolhapuri Chappal GI tag was given to Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli, and Solapur in Maharashtra and Belgaum, Bagalkot, Dharwad, and Bijapur in Karnataka. These districts now own the exclusive Kolhapuri Chappal GI tag right to use the term 'Kolhapuri' with regard to footwear.
The legal protection offered by geographic indications will lead to the economic prosperity of the artisans and the region. It also helps distinguish exquisite footwear from pale imitations.