Urang Dolma forming the basic loop.
Urang Dolma forming the basic loop.

Diversity and Continuity

Like potters, weavers and metal-smiths, shoemakers form an integral part of the community structure of many Indian villages. Whether women making footwear for their families or professional craftsmen, shoemakers are born and trained within the village to supply local populations.

Climate, ethnic diversity and historical events have moulded Indian footwear traditions. Toe shapes, finishing details and decorative treatments evolved locally, resulting in the wealth of footwear types used in India into the 20th century.

Hindus traditionally view leatherworking as unclean because it involves the hides of dead animals, which are considered ritually polluting. Consequently, those who work with hides, the chamars, are among the lowest social orders. Conversely, tanned leather is considered a "dry" and therefore clean material, which may be used by even the highest castes. Mochis, the shoemakers, have higher status, although they too remain among the lowest castes.