The Lambani community is considered to be one of the oldest communities in the world. There are numerous stories that explain their origin and migration patterns. Known as a nomadic tribe, they reared buffaloes that were used to transport materials, grains, and salt from one place to another. The Lambanis are a colourful tribe; today, their clothing, ornaments and other accessories have come to define their identities and cultural heritage. The embroidery on their clothes is spectacular and is popular in regions where the Lambanis have settled over time. Consisting of about 40 embroidery techniques, Lambani embroidery has earned a GI Tag in Ballari, Karnataka and is one of the most intricate, beautiful and delicate handicrafts. Lambani embroidery is a perfect culmination of artistry, technique, pattern work and intricacy.

Q Are Lambanis and Banjaras the same?

Yes, Lambanis and Banjaras are the same tribe. They are nomadic tribes from Ballari region of Karnataka.

Q How to identify Lambani embroidery?

Lambani embroidery displays a bold personality with its usage of huge mirrors, cowrie shells, beads, that completely spans across the fabrics in threads of very warm and vibrant color palettes.

Q How many techniques of Lambani embroidery are there?

Lambani embroidery consists of 40 different techniques.

Q Is it GI tagged?

Yes, the government of India has accorded a Geographical Indication Tag (GI Tag) to Lambani embroidery. This GI Tag is applicable to 6 out 7 taluks in Ballari district. This indicates the uniqueness of this craft and the product’s importance as an Indian handicraft.

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      Intrinsic to the Lambani community in Karnataka, Lambani embroidery has a variety of uses. Comprising detailed designs, intricate patchwork and mirror patterns, this form of embroidery is now used to embellish clothes, ornaments, bags, wall hangings, bed covers, cushion covers and household items. Traditionally, this form of embroidery was only used to design clothes and items for special occasions, but later, due to its increased prominence, it has been used to deck other objects too. Following is a list and description of traditional items that make use of Lambani embroidery techniques and patterns-

      1. Lehenga– A Lambani woman’s traditional dress is always adorned with typical embroidery. A lehenga is a type of skirt that has a rounded flare at the bottom. Made with patches of different coloured cotton cloth, the skirt is tied around the waist with a cotton cord. The lehenga also has a waistband on which silver beads, glass and small mirrors are stitched. Flowers made from cloth are stitched between beadwork and mirror work. The lower border of the lehenga is called laavan and is made by putting together colourful strips of cloth.

      2. Choli (Kaachli)– The lehenga is always worn with a choli or a blouse. The blouse reaches below the women’s breasts and is tied at the back. Patterns with glass, mirror work and silver beads similar to the ones seen in the lehenga are also used here. However, the mirrors used in the blouse are designed differently. The mirrors are cut in square shape and at the bottom, they are attacked with a ghungroo. The area between the chest and the shoulders is heavily embroidered and is referred to as kadapa.

      3. Odhni (Ghunto) – Odhni is a light piece of cloth which can be described as a veil. The part of the odhni which is taken over the forehead is separately embroidered with intricate patterns and embellished with heavy mirror work called the ghungath patta is then stitched into the odhni. The mirror work is stitched in such a way that its bottom end sticks out and forms a cover over the forehead.

      4. Pulia and gala– Historically, the tribe of Lambani have worked as carriers and were employed by people to transport grain, water and cloth from one area to another. While some of these materials were carried on the backs of bullocks, others were carried by Lambani women on their heads. For instance, vessels containing water were carefully balanced on a woman’s head. At one time, several pots could be stacked on top of each other. To balance the vessels on her head carefully, a Lambani woman used pulia and gala. Gala is a circular piece of cloth whose inside was empty and circumference consisted of knotted rope. The empty inside part was used to fit the base of the vessel, usually a pot and the outside supported the vessel and restricted its movement while travelling. The knotted rope was embroidered in different colours and patterns. A piece of square cloth referred to as pulia was also used. This was placed on the hair, covered the entire head and extended till one’s shoulders and back. It was used to protect the women’s head from spillage of the contents inside the vessels. Sometimes, hot water or hot liquids were carried on one’s head and the pulia provided an extra layer, preventing the woman’s head from feeling hot. The pulia was also heavily ornamented in the typical Lambani embroidery styles and complemented the outfit worn by the women.

      5. Sandiya and singdi- During Lambani weddings, bullocks, which comprise an important part of Lambani life and culture, were clothed in special garments. According to Lambani tradition, a bride must sit atop such a bullock with dandiya in her hands and sing songs to bid farewell to her parents and home. For this purpose, the bullocks are decorated in fine cloth too. The sandiya is a piece of cloth which covers the bullock’s forehead. Four rectangular shaped cloth pieces are stitched together. In their middle, a square piece of mirror is stitched which greatly adds to its aesthetic value. The rest of the cloth piece is adorned with beads, cowries, shells and glass pieces. The outer boundary of the piece was fitted with hanging shells and mirrors which dangled delicately.
      The singdi is a pyramidal shaped piece of cloth which covers the bullock’s horns. The piece contains elaborate embroidery and is also decorated with shells which hang over the animal’s horn.

      6. Kalchi- A kalchi is basically an envelope shaped bag. In daily use, kalchis are quite small and are used to keep and carry rotis in them. When travelling long distances or working in fields, Lambani labourers carried kalchis with rotis in them. Either ends of the kalchi were tied with a thread which could be hung over one’s shoulder.
      Kalchis of a larger size were made for bridal trousseaus to be kept in. Klachis of both types served a functional purpose and were, therefore, designed with a sense of practicality. Besides, kalchis were made with 2 layers of cloth which were quilted together. The outside of the kalchi was decorated with geometric designs. Threads of one colour were used to make dots which were alternated by threads of another colour. This interspersing gave way to geometric patterns.

      7. Tope– A tope is a bag which is used in wedding festivities. It is created with a square shaped cloth, whose four corners are tied together with a thread. The surface exposed outside was embroidered with vele stitching patterns and created geometric motifs. A cloth-made flower was stitched to the bottom of the tope. This bag was used by the groom to carry bangles which would be worn by the bride during their wedding ceremony.

      8. Toperghaler kotli– The bag’s form resembled that of the tope except that it was embroidered with kalchi embriodery. However, this bag was used by the bride to carry a coconut which would be used during the nuptials.

      9. Sarafer kotli– This is also a small bag used by the groom to carry tobacco. Tobacco was gifted to the headmen of the bride’s village by the groom and his family.

      10. Paisaghaler Kotli– This is a rectangular pouch carried by the bride. It was tucked into her lehenga and was filled with money and tobacco. The side of the pouch which was visible to the public was decorated with shells and mirrors. Beads hung from its bottom surface.

      11. Dantni– This rectangular bag also comprised an integral part of wedding festivities. The bag was used to carry neem sticks that are used for cleaning one’s teeth. The pouch had two openings; on either of its narrow sides. Neem sticks were gifted by the bride to the groom.

      12. Pothadiya– A small bag carried to keep betel nut and paan leaves. This bag is also for engagement ceremonies.

      Due to the popularity and attractiveness of Sandur embroidery techniques, they are now being used on wall hangings, pillows, curtains etc.


      The Lambani community is known by different names: as Banjaras, Lamanis, Lavanis, Lamsn, Lemadis, Lakhpatis, Lambadis, Lumadales, Brinjars, Briparis, Goormatis, Goolas, Tandas. The Lambanis are a nomadic community who are believed to have come to India from sindh. However, some other theories assert that the Lambanis are natives of India and first lived in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Many socio-cultural similarities have been found between Roma Gypsies and the Lambanis. However, since both groups are nomadic and tend to avoid human contact, a clear relationship cannot be explained.

      As nomadic people, the Lambanis moved around to different parts of India. In the past, they used to be salt carriers and during the British period, they carried weaponry, armament, grains and other materials on the backs of their buffaloes. However, due to advancements in technology and the British monopolisation over salt, some Banjara lost their jobs and turned to dacoity. This earned them the tag of Criminal Tribe which was only revoked after Independence.

      Presently, some Lambani communities have settled in various parts of India. They either occupy entire villages known as tanda or live in segregated parts of a village (also known as tanda). While some Banjara have tried to assimilate themselves into mainstream society, some continue to live on its fringes; away from substantial human contact. Tattooing and embroidery compose an integral part of every Banjara community’s identity and have become famous markers of the group’s communal pride and belongingness. Embroidery takes an integral part in their lifestyle, ritual practices, beliefs, marriage and cultural identity. They adorn themselves in different embroidered accessories and attires according to the occasion. Lambanis worship the Ganas and the Chaura Devi as their prime deities. So during poojas and rituals, they offer different embroideries and also offerings inside peculiar embroidered bags namely sarapi kothdi, as tributes.

      The government of India has accorded a Geographical Indication Tag (GI Tag) to Sandur Lambani embroidery. This GI Tag is applicable to 6 out 7 taluks in Ballari district. This indicates the uniqueness of this craft and the product’s importance as an Indian handicraft. The craft originated in Karnataka, and remains widely popular in several parts of the state such as Ballari (especially Sandur) and Bijapur. In fact, since some sub-communities within Lambanis are nomadic, the craft has also spread to the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh.

      Generally speaking, clothing comprises an essential component of one’s identity and culture. Today, the Banjari community has come to be recognised by their clothing, distinctive ornaments and unique embroidery designs. Their clothing definitely contributes to a sense of growing communal pride and cultural heritage amongst the Banjaris. It also helps distinguish themselves from other communities and tribes.

      Furthermore, the cloth on which embroidery is done is locally sourced and dyed. Yarns, fabrics and natural dyes too are obtained through small-scale local industries. Hence, Lambani clothing, itself a handicraft, provides a boost to small enterprises in the region. It exists in tandem with the local economic ecosystem.

      Some might say that Lambani clothing is quite extravagant due to heavy embellishment in the form of mirrors, beads and cowrie shells and it loses its practicality. But, this is not the case at all. According to one source, Lambani clothing was interspersed with embroidery and heavy mirror work for a particular reason. In the past, Lambanis travelled through rough terrain and thick forests to transport grains from one place to another. Since forests contain a lot of predators like tigers, leopards and lions, the Banjaris decided to create clothing which would protect them against such attacks. It is said that the large mirrors help scare such predators and deter them from coming near to Banjaris. So, not only do the embroidery work and designs possess aesthetic value, they also possess functionality.

      The Banjari dress has become such a popular aesthetic statement in India, that today, its designs are replicated over chaniya cholis worn by women during Navratri. The garba and dandiya raas are important customs of the festival of Navratri. During this dance, women don a garment called chaniya choli which is similar to the lehenga choli worn by Lambanis. The chaniya choli dress is also embellished in heavy mirror work, cowrie shells and beads embroidered over it in beautiful patterns. This is indicative of the manner in which different communities are adopting the aesthetics of the Banjari community.

      Myths & Legends:

      Vinayak Dev and Lambanis
      According to one story, the Lambanis rose to prominence in the Madras Presidency during the rule of Vinayak Dev, the first king of the Jeypore dynasty. Vinayak Dev ruled between 1443 and 1476. During his rule, a group of citizens became unhappy and started revolting against his kingdom. However, with the help of the leader of the Lambani community, Vinayak Dev was able to negotiate with his citizens and maintain peace in the area. At that time, the Lambanis were known as carriers and herdsmen. It is said that the king was extremely grateful to the Lambani leader and to demonstrate his gratitude, from that time onwards, the king signed off his name with a wavy line at the bottom. This wavy line was thought to represent the rope used by people from the Lambani community to drag their livestock around.

      The tribe’s connection with Vali and Sugriv
      The 1901 census report mentions that the Lambanis consider themselves to be the descendants of Vali and Sugriv. Vali and Sugriv are a pair of brothers who ruled over the vanar sena (monkey army) in Kishkhinda. Both are anthropomorphic characters who played an integral role in lord Ram’s battle against Ravan.
      According to one story, while Vali was killed by Ram, his brother Sugriv lived on and married his widows. The story revolves around two of Sugriv’s descendants who are known as Mota and Mola. Mota and Mola are brothers. Mola had no heirs and was married to Radha. Radha could sing beautifully and Mola was a skilled gymnast. Both went to Rathanatch and performed in front of three kings. The three kings were greatly impressed by their showmanship and told Mola that they would give him whatever he wanted. Mola was happy and asked each of the three rajas to give him and Radha one of their sons. Accordingly, the rajas gave Mola one of their sons and Mola took their leave. Mola named his three sons Chavia, Lohia Panchar and Ratade. It is widely believed that the Lambanis originated from Bheekya, the eldest son of Ratade.

      Ritualistic connections with Vali and Sugriv
      According to one story, a tradition called Vali Sukkeri exists amongst Lambanis. As per the tradition, if in a pair of brothers, the elder brother dies, then the younger brother is expected to marry the widow. If the elder brother dies without children, then the younger brother must marry the widow and procure children. He must consider these children to be his elder brother’s and raise them as such. If the elder brother dies with heirs, then the younger brother can choose to marry the widow. If he wants to marry the widow, he must give fifteen rupees and three oxen to each of his brother’s children. It is said that this practice of remarrying one’s sister-in-law is prevalent in the Lambanis due to their connection to Vali and Sugriv. In the Ramayan, once Ram killed Vali (the elder brother), Sugriv (the younger one) married Tara and Ruma, his widows.


      Embroidery is a historic craft- its origins can be traced back to the 30th century BC, close to the Palaeolithic Age. The earliest evidence of embroidery has been found in China and India and it is believed that the practice originated in the former country. Embroidery on silk cloth was the most prominent craft in India and China during those times. According to another source, in India,  originated in 5000 BC and finds mention in Vedic literature too. In Harappa and Monhenjodaro too, excavations found bronze needles which point to the fact that the craft was practiced even then. Later on, in ancient Indian kingdoms, members of the royal family donned muslin cloth with gold embroidered on it. During the Buddhist renaissance, beautiful embroidery designs were stitched on veils, scarves, tunics and coats. It is believed that these designs were inspired from the designs on Sanchi stupa and other Buddhist frescoes.

      Presently too, embroidery occupies an integral part of handicrafts and cultural exchange in India. Today too, in some rural areas, as part of dowry, families exchange hand embroidered clothes. Besides clothes, today, embroidery can be found on decorative items and showpieces for one’s house.

      When it comes to the history of Banjara embroidery, it is very difficult to trace. To assume the history of the craft, we can trace the community and their origins. We can trace the origin of Banjaras or Lambadas only from medieval times, after the battle of Tarain in 1192. Legend says that the word Banjara is derived from the word Vanachara, meaning ‘wandering people.’ The word Vanachara was the result of the death of Prithviraj Chowhan in the War of Tarain. The followers of Prithviraj Chowhan ran away into the forest, and while wandering, they gradually took to trade for their subsistence. From then onwards, they were known as Banjaras.


      Lambani embroidery refers to a group of embroidery techniques and patterns used by the Lambani community to adorn their clothes, bags and other items. Lambani embroidery portrays a strong personality to the tribal attire with its usage of huge mirrors, cowrie shells, that completely spans across the fabrics in threads of very warm and vibrant color palettes. Each embroidery pattern is unique and more than two can be used on a single item to create beautiful designs. While there are 14 main types of embroideries that are used regularly, Lambani embroideries consist of about 40 techniques! 

      Bakiya– It is a type of back stitch which is similar to a running stitch. Distance between two thread dots is quite less.

      Vele– Vele is used to fill in spaces and cover the underlying fabric completely. This stitching technique involves creating parallel lines and is a type of chain stitch.

      Theen sui maki– This stitching technique is usually done alongside another like relo or mirror. It looks like a straight line but is actually composed of a tiny vertical loop.

      Marimanakalli maki– This embroidery pattern is made up of successive triangles which face downwards.

      Suryakanti maki– This stitch resembles the theen sui maki stitch except that it is done in a horizontal manner.

      Ulta dhora– Like its name suggests, ulta dhora is a type of back stitch in which no space is left between two consecutive thread stitches. This stitch is usually used in a combination with two other stitches.

      Doraanaki– Doranaaki is both a running stitch and a single stitch. This stitch looks like a running dotted thread.

      Pote– Pote is a complex stitch which resembles a chain. Two intersecting lines of different colours are made and the part where the lines meet is filled with thread of another colour.

      Cheena– Cheena stitches look like two parallelly running zigzag lines.

      Buria– Buria is a circular embroidery shape that is filled with another colour in the middle.

      Chood Buria– This is a circular stitch pattern with no closing.

      Buria Bakiya– This consists of a series of circular stitches which are sewn together by a back stitch.

      Katta nakra– This stitch is done at the ends of any clothing. The cloth is folded into small triangles and then sewn together.

      Nakra– When threads of one colour are used to make a rhombus, thread of another colour is used to draw diagonals inside the rhombus.

      Nakra bakiya– In this stitch, a pattern of rhombuses are made which are connected by a back stitch.

      Nakra pote– The rhombus shape is alternated with a flower motif (pote) to create a beautiful geometric pattern.

      Aad kalyani– Its design is similar to cheena but the lines are much smaller.

      Soniya tang– Soniya tang is a herringbone stitch- the design of a cross is made albeit the first two lines of the cross intersect a little below their top ends and the second and third intersect a little above the bottom end. One line or multiple lines of this pattern can be made.

      Kalyani– Kalyani stitch is done in combination with Dooranaki stitch. Kalyani is a big cross-shaped stitch which overlaps with the running dot pattern of Dooranaki embroidery.

      Pote Maki Valo Dharo– This stitch is used to fill up colour in the link formed by a chain stitch. Each link is stitched with a different colour thread.

      Pote dhora– A sequence of pote designs are made between two converging lines.

      Angali– Angali stitch is used to stitch small flowers and leaves in the filler sections of other stitches.

      Angali vele– Angali patterns are drawn over chain stitches that border the clothes’ edges.

      Relo– A sequence of vertical coils are stitched close to each other so that each coil is closely intertwined with the next.

      Alli– When rhombus shaped motifs are made using the dots left by Doranaaki stitch, it gives way to Alli stitch.

      Vegro Alli– Where the dots left by doranaaki stitch are not joined, there a rhombus motif is made.

      Pote Alli– When a series of rhombus shaped motifs are made using a chain stitch.

      Alli and chain stitch– The rhombus motif is outlined in a different colour by a chain stitch.

      Jawlia– Jawalia stitch resembles the pattern of a net.

      Choop Jawlia– When the jawalia stitch is stretched and at its bottom, a triangle is formed.

      Gadri– Tiny rectangles made out of satin are stitched in either one colour or three different colours to form a sequenced pattern. These blocks are bordered by a chain stitch.

      Teen Dhora Vegro– This stitch is done over the doranaaki stitch. They are a series of running stitches consisting of three lines of different colours.

      Saath Dhora Vegro– Made at the base edge of any clothes, this stitch consists of a series of 7 running stitches done in 7 different colours.

      Paanch Dhora Vegro– A design is made over a base of five running stitches.

      Ado Dhora– When cross stitches are made in two distinct colours.

      Suod– A vegro pattern is stitched over a base of 9 running stitches done in different colours. It resembles the shape of an arrow head.

      Thero Dhora– Thero Dhora resembles typical rangoli designs. When a vegro pattern is stitched over a 13 line running stitch.

      Kanchetunero– This refers to the stitching of mirrors on a cloth. Mirrors may come in rectangular, square and circle shapes.

      Khilan– This is referred to as a buttonhole stitch and is primarily used at the borders of any clothes.

      Dora Khilan– When there is considerable space left between two stitches of a Khilan stitch.

      Sangam Khilan– When two stitches in a khilan sequence are done closely together.


      While successive governments in India have implemented policies, plans and acts to ensure the integration of Banjaras and other such communities in society, these have largely failed to fulfil their aims. Some communities of Banjaras still lead a secluded life and lack the necessary opportunities and capital to acquire education, earn a stable income and even access medical facilities. Their previous status as criminalised groups has also led to mainstream Indian society viewing them with a certain prejudiced lens.

      Academics and researchers have pointed out the current tendency of the Indian state to move towards a very intolerant and uniform society. This also means that those who lie at its fringes tend to remain unacknowledged as part of society. This scenario has also led to the alienation of Banjara tribes from most aspects of Indian society. It has severely affected the job opportunities available to such people and has had a detrimental impact on their cultural activities.

      Introduction Process:

      Lambani embroidery with its long cultural history has also began to adapt to the present times. Initially they used to color the fabrics used for embroidery using natural dyes by themselves, but now they directly source it from markets. Also, compared to the fully embroidered fabrics, now they also add plastic beads and laces according to the suitability of the design, which is a quiet shift from tradition.

      Raw Materials:

      Yarn– Unbleached yarn is sourced from local businesses, it is used to embroider different patterns on clothes and other objects.

      Fabric– Like yarn, fabric is also sourced locally. The fabric is cotton and is already dyed, each one in a different colour. Some of the most common fabric colours are red, black, mustard yellow, green and blue.

      Dyes– Dyes are used to give colour to the unbleached yarn and the unbleached fabric. Natural dyes are obtained from indigo, anar (peels of pomegranate), katha brown (Akasia katechu), golden yellow Anato seeds (Bixaorellana), Ratan joth grey (Onasmasechiodies), green (indigo+anar), black (Terminalia chimula) and brown (bark of sappan wood) (now days colored fabric are directly sourcing from market).

      Mirrors– Small mirrors of different shapes and sizes, mostly, round, square and rectangle are stitched to the clothes.

      Cowrie shells– Cowrie shells are another decorative element. Cowries are actually sea snails and belong to a family of mollusks.

      Bead-different type of glass and plastic beads.

      Old Coin, Lace, Buttons are the other popularly used raw materials.

      Tools & Tech:

      Needle– Needles are the most important tool in this process. They are used to make embroidery of different kinds on garments and other materials.
      Pencil– Although not necessary, a pencil might sometimes be used to trace patterns over fabric which are then embroidered using the yarn.



      The process of creating a garment in Lambani embroidery involves the following steps-
      Dye extraction, cloth preparation, dyeing, cutting the cloth, pattern making, embroidery and tailoring.
      Nowadays, dye extraction, cloth making and dyeing might be omitted from the process as Lambadi communities might choose to use pre-dyed yarn and fabric that is readily available in the market for purchase and use.

      Dye extraction

      For the first step, the raw materials used to make dyes are sourced and then boiled in hot water. If the material is a flower, then it should be boiled for about twenty minutes and then strained. If the materials are barks and roots, then they must be soaked in water overnight and then boiled for half an hour the next day. After being boiled once, the water with dye extract is strained and then boiled again. This process is repeated once again to deepen the colour of the dye.

      Cloth Preparation

      To make sure that the cloth is clean, it is boiled in hot water with soap and soda. Then the cloth is washed in cold water. Now, it is ready to be dyed.


      Water, dye solution and mordant are mixed together. A mordant is chosen and used depending on the colour that the cloth has to be dyed in. Then, these three are boiled together until the right shade of cloth has been achieved. If one finds after boiling that the shade is too light, then more dye extract can be added and the boiling process is to be repeated. After the desired colour is achieved, the cloth is cooled, washed and dried in the shade.

      Cutting the cloth

      The dyed cloth is then cut according to measurements and shape of the garment required. However, they are not stitched and embroidery is done on the unfinished piece of cloth.

      Pattern making

      For the next step of the process, a pencil might be used to trace slight lines of patterns and designs on the cloth. The cloth is spread out after which a pencil is used to draw which embroidery pattern must be stitched on what part of the cloth.


      Slowly and steadily, the Lambani  people use the yarn and needle to create intricate, beautiful and geometric patterns on the cloth. A Lambani  has to choose from a wide variety of embroidery techniques and designs (listen above) in order to carefully embellish the dyed cloth. Yarns of different colours are used to embroider the cloth. Mirrors and cowrie shells too are used in this process. The small mirrors are placed against a small piece of cloth which is then stitched onto the surface of the cloth. Needle and thread are passed through the hollow of the cowrie shell which is then stitched to the cloth.


      The cloth of which the embroidery pattern has been made is unstitched and hence, is stitched together in the required shape and size after the embroidery process has been finished.


      No waste.

      Cluster Name: Bellari ~ Karnataka


      As mentioned before, 6 out of 7 talukas in Ballari have been accorded the GI Tag for Lambani embroidery. The craft originated in present-day Ballari district and has since spread to the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh. Ballari is one of the 31 districts of Karnataka and falls under the Kalburgi sub division. Located on the eastern border of Karnataka, the district used to be part of the Hyderabadi Nizam's kingdom. Until 2021, the district was one of the largest ones in the state. However, it was split to give way to a new district called Vijayanagara. The district is popularly referred to as Steel City and Gani Nadu (City of Mining). It boasts of a huge mining industry and has the highest deposit of iron ore in India. Not only is the district rich in natural minerals, its past and heritage forms an inextricable part of India’s history.

      District / State
      Bellari ~ Karnataka / Karnataka
      Kannada, English, Hindi
      Best time to visit
      Any time
      Stay at
      Many good hotels
      How to reach
      Ballari is well connected by Road and Rail to Bangalore, Raichur, Tirupati, Hubli, Guntakal, Vijayawada
      Local travel
      auto taxi
      Must eat
      Jwaar, Baajra Roti, Aambari ke bhaji, Laapsi, Choorma, Matan


      Neolithic Age
      The history of Ballari can be traced as far back as the Neolithic Age. Archeological excavations at Hiregudda and Kugpal in Ballari district have yielded ash mounds, rock art, mud houses, and stone tools. It is believed that ash mounds and rock art were created during ceremonies. While the former was burnt in rituals, the latter were drawings on stone which depicted the performance of certain social ceremonies.

      300 BC to 1336 CE
      During this time, the region was governed by a slew of dynasties, each succeeding the previous one either after winning a war or due to the former’s decline. First came the Mauryas, then the Satvahans, Pallavs, Kadambs, Badami Chalukyas, Kalyani Chalukyas, Southern Kalachuris, Sevuna Yadavs and the Hoysalas. The region was also administered for a short time by the Cholas.
      Under the Hoysalas, a clan known as Ballariya Naredu became chiefs and looked after the administration of the region, on their behalf.

      Vijayanagar empire (1336 to 1565)
      In the early part of this era, the Delhi sultanate led by Allauddin Khilji, Malik Kafur and Mohammed Bin Tughlaq defeated the Hoysalas. However, the Delhi Sultanate could not effectively control the area because the Vijayanagar empire came into power in 1336. It is believed that the founder of the Vijayanagar empire, Harihara I, was actually a commander in the forces of the Hoysalas, who were defeated by Allauddin Khilji.
      Ballary remained under the Vijayanagar empire until 1565 CE. The family of Hande Hanumappa Nayak, a feudatory under the Vijayanagar empire, was responsible for the administration of Ballary.
      The Vijayanagar empire was defeated by the Deccan Sultanate in the Battle of Talikote. Ram Raya, the last ruler of the kingdom was beheaded and this left his army in a state of flux. Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagar empire was plundered, looted, vandalised and left in ruins.

      Adil Shahi sultanate (1565 to 1678)
      One kingdom from the Deccan sultanate, namely the Adil Shahis, came to control the region of Ballari after the war with the Vijayanagar was won. Under the Adil Shahis, the Hande Nayak family continued to act as chiefs of the area. They were considered to be subsidiaries of the Bijapur sultanate.
      In 1659,the Bijapur sultanate was defeated by the Marathas in the Battle of Kolhapur. One by one, the Marathas started capturing territories held by the Bijapur sultanate.

      Marathas (1678-1685)
      Compared to earlier rulers, the reign of Marathas in Ballari was quite short-lived. When the battle between Shivaji and the Bijapur sultanate was being fought, some people from Shivaji’s army were killed in Ballari. Upon hearing this, Shivaji headed to Ballari and sought to revoke the rights of the ruling Hande Nayaks and decided to station Maratha chiefs there instead. However, the Hande Nayaks negotiated with Shivaji and agreed to pay him a tribute in exchange for keeping their status as chiefs.

      Mughals (1685-1724)
      Mughal emperor Aurangzeb captured vast amounts of territories under his Deccan campaign, of which Ballari was also a part. The area remained under Mughal governance until 1724. Mubariz Khan, a Mughal governor, was in charge of administering Ballari.

      Asaf Jahi dynasty (1724-1761)
      Asaf Jah I was the founder of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. Previously, he held the position of a subedar under the Mughals. In 1724, when he was on a campaign to the Deccan, Mubariz Khan attacked him. In the resulting fight, Mubariz Khan was killed and found out that the attempt on his life was plotted by the Mughals. Feeling betrayed, he declared himself independent and sought to establish Hyderabad as an independent territory. He set up his capital at Aurangabad.
      At this point, Ballari fell into the Deccan empire and having triumphed over Mubariz Khan, Asaf Jah controlled parts of Deccan too, including Ballari.
      In 1761, while the territory was still under the Asaf Jahi dynasty, it became a tributary of Salabat Jung’s brother, Basalat Jung and the governor of Adoni and Raichur.
      In 1769, the Hande Nayaks of Ballari refused to remain tributaries of Basalat Jung. This caused Basalat Jung to march with his army to Ballari and forcefully occupy it. The Hande Nayaks became desperate and sought help from Hyder Ali of Mysore. Hyder Ali of Mysore sent his army which forced Balasat Jung to retreat. From that time onwards, the Hande Nayaks became tributaries of Hyder Ali of Mysore.

      Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-1792)
      The Mysore rulers, namely, Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali suffered a crushing defeat during the Third Anglo-Maratha war. Consequently, a considerable part of the Mysore empire was given away to the British and their allies. Ballari came under the control of Asaf Jah II, a king of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. In exchange for territory, the British demanded that the king pay him a certain amount of tribute regularly. Thus, the kingdom of Hyderabad that included Ballari became a princely state under the British Raj.

      Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1788-1789)
      The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War resulted in the death of Tipu Sultan and the consequent breakdown of the Mysore empire. Once again, territory of the Mysore empire was distributed between the British empire and its allies- Asaf Jah II and the Wadiyars.
      In Ballari, the Hande Nayaks continued to rule on behalf of the Asaf Jahi dynasty.

      Ballari as a Ceded District (1796-1800)
      In 1796, as part of a pact called Subsidiary Alliance signed by Asaf Jah II with the British, the former relinquished parts of his territory to the British in exchange for protection. The Nizam sought permission from the Hande Nayaks to allow him to give up his territory. The Nayaks yielded to his requests and the British declared Ballari as part of the newly formed Madras Presidency. Ballari was also known as a Ceded District and its territory was much larger in size. It included the present-day districts of Kurnool, Kadapa and Anantapuram.

      Introduction of Ryotwari system (1800-1807)
      The Hande Nayaks had long remained the chiefs of Ballari region and administered the area on behalf of the major rulers. They possessed absolute power over the governance of the region. Major Thomas Munro was declared as the first collector of the Ceded Districts. He implemented the Ryotwari system and dismissed Hande Nayaks who were in charge of revenue collection and taxation. Instead, he mandated that land revenue and tax was to be directly obtained from the tiller of the land.

      Ballari district split (1808)
      In 1808, the Ballari district was split to form two distinct districts- Ballari and Kadapa. Ballari remained the larger district out of the two and was in fact, the second largest district in Madras Presidency. At this point, its population was about 12,50,000
      In 1840, Ballari town became the administrative headquarters of the district.

      Municipal Council (1867)
      Two municipal councils were made in the Ballari district. These included the Ballari Municipal Council and the Adoni Municipal Council. For a long time, these were the only two municipal councils in the entire district.

      Linguistic division of Ballari district (1st October 1953)
      After Independence, on the basis of linguistic similarities and differences, areas within Madras state were split into two. Regions with a predominantly Kannad speaking population such as Kudligi, Hosapete, Sandur and Siruguppa, to name a few, were made part of Mysore state. On the other hand, territories with Telugu speakers were made part of Anantapuram and Kurnool districts, which later became a part of Andhra Pradesh. Ballari, however, presented a unique case. It had a large number of Telugu speakers but a significant population of Kannad ones too. Hence, after much debate and dissension, it was decided that the district must remain a part of Mysore state.


      Lying on the border of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the district is located between 15° 30’ and 15°50’ north latitude and 75° 40’ and 77° 11’ east longitude. The total geographical area of the district is 8447 sq. kms. Ballari is located in the middle of a black cotton soil plain. The black soil is rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium and lime. In general too, Ballari district is characterised by a richness of iron ore deposits. Rocks and hills composed of granite punctuate the topography of the region. Its area is mainly spread across two granite hills, namely, Ballari hill and Kumbta Gada. Ballari is part of the Deccan Plateau area in India. It is located approximately 450 meters above sea level.
      Ballari district is bordered by Chitradurga, Vijayanagar, Koppal and Raichur districts of Karnataka and Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh.


      Ballari experiences a warm climate throughout the year and is one of the hottest districts in Karnataka. The lowest annual temperature in the district is 19.73 degree celsius while the highest annual temperature is 39.56 degree celsius. May is the hottest month of the year and December is the coolest month. The district receives significant rainfall between May and October but small spells of rain can be experienced throughout the year. September is the wettest month and the region receives an average annual rainfall of 22.89mm during this time of the year. In contrast, March is the driest month of the year and receives only 0.15mm rainfall. Throughout the year, there is about 54% humidity in the atmosphere.


      Since Ballari formed one of the earliest municipal councils in the district, it has been able to develop good infrastructure and basic amenities. Ballari district is connected via rail, road and air. The nearest airport is Vidyanagar Airport which serves Ballari and Hospete. The airport is located an hour away by road from Ballari. The district also has its own railway station that falls under the Hubli division and serves as the main railway junction for the district. National Highway 67 and 150A pass through the district. It is also connected to the Chamrajanagar Highway. KKRTC bus services are available in Ballari.

      The district is also home to several hospitals, colleges and schools- both private and public. Grocery shops, restaurants, hotels and small shopping centres can be found in the district too.
      Agriculture is the major occupation of most of the people in the district. Farmers grow cotton, jowar, sunflower, rice and cereals. The primary source of irrigation for these farms is the Tughabhadra dam and its various subsidiary canals. The talukas lying in the west of the district conventionally received low rainfall. In recent years, due to climate change, however, this pattern has changed and now such talukas have received more rainfall causing widespread devastation.
      The abundance of natural minerals is one of the district’s strongest suits. Minerals such as iron ore, manganese, gold, copper, lead, clay, dolomite, limestone, amongst others are plentifully found. Due to this feature, many mineral industries and mining industries have been established in the district. However, since the mining industry has been inextricably tied to politics and nepotism, the industrial sector has remained underdeveloped. Even though the district contains the highest deposits of iron ore and minerals, it occupies the ninth place in the state for industrial development. In recent years, the judicial setup in Karnataka has requested for the slowing down of mining due to rapid ecological damage and socio-economic issues.
      Besides the mineral industry, cotton processing and garment manufacture are other prominent industries in the district. The cotton industry is considered to be a booming trade with the first cotton spinning mill being established in 1894. The garment industry has an interesting history too. During the First World War, tailors from the neighbouring state of Maharashtra migrated here to make uniforms for British soldiers. Eventually, these uniforms became popular clothing pieces and today, there are nearly 300 garment industries in the district which engage about 3000 families.


      Due to constantly being under the rule of different empires, Ballari was home to a significant number of architectural marvels that represent its history and trajectory through the ages. Most of these were located in the city of Hampi that was the capital of the Vijayanagar empire. However, after the split of Ballari district into Ballari and Vijayanagar, most historical sites are now part of the latter. A meagre few sites remain part of the district. These are the Ballari fort, Bomghatta village, Timmalapura village and Kumaraswamy temple. All of the above sites of interest have old architectural styles and were made during different periods of rule.
      The Ballari fort, for example, was made by Hyder Ali (1720-1782) sometime between 1769 and 1782. The fort is made out of granite and mud. The fort has two layers known as the Upper Fort and Lower Fort. The former was constructed by the Hande Nayaks and the latter by a French architect commissioned by Hyder Ali. The Mysore ruler found the architecture of the fort to be lacking expertise as its elevation was lower than the elevation of Kumbara Gudda, the hill it faced. In contrast, the Kumaraswamy temple was constructed between the 10th and 12th centuries and is made up of rock cutting.
      While little is known about the architecture of Ballari district, some information can be found on the planning of Ballari town. The town is centred around two big rocky hills known as Ballari Gudda and Kumbara Gudda. These two hills provide natural boundaries for the town of Ballari. Several other granite-based rocky hills exist in Ballari. However, they are much smaller in comparison to these two. These are the Kaate Gudda and Eeshwara Gudda.


      Ballari culture has been described as an amalgamation of two historic Dravidian cultures- that of the Kanaddigas and the Andhras. The people of Ballari describe themselves as hospitable, warm and welcoming. At the same time, due to the region being under constant occupation by different empires, the people have developed a shared culture of resistance and pride in their identities. Many families in the area have rich histories and their folklore, art, music and dance continue to enrich the cultural fabric of the society. Folk dance, especially, is quite popular in the area and has led to the celebration of Vijaya Utsav- a dance festival to commemorate and preserve folk culture. Dollu Kunitha, Veerageese, Nandikolu Kunitha and Jodu Halige are some of the many folk dances performed by people in this region. A lot of these dances are performed in temples- to appease gods. Faith and belief in gods is another important aspect of one’s culture in Ballari. In this region, a majority of Hindus are devout followers of lord Shiva and the Mallara festival which is held in his honour attracts a significant number of people. At the same time, today, due to urbanisation and modernisation, some of these cultural aspects have begun to fade. Therefore, many people have described the town as a pathway between modernity and tradition.


      According to the Census of 2011, 24,52,595 people resided in Ballari. The population density of the district is 300 people per square km. The sex ratio of the district is 978 and the literacy rate is 67.85%. However, the above information might be considered outdated in lieu of the separation of Vijayanagar from Ballari.
      According to one source, the population of the new Ballari district is 14,00,970. While 56.3% of the population resides in rural areas, the rest reside in urban areas. The same source concludes that the sex ratio of the new district is 984. A high percentage of the population in the state belong to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category. An estimated 19.21% are Scheduled Castes and close to 19% are Scheduled Tribes. Hinduism is the dominant religion in the district with Hindus making up 83.80% of the total population. Hindus are followed by Muslims (14.85%) and Christians (0.73%).
      When divided by linguistic groups, a majority of the population is Kannad speaking (68.09%). Telugu speakers comprise an integral part of Ballari too and are 13.47% of the total population. Urdu is spoken by 12.68% followed by Hindi (1.86%) and Lambani (1.29%).

      Famous For:

      Ballari is known as the Iron City of Karnataka due to the abundance of natural minerals found here, especially iron ore. It is also known for the Ballary fort which is a popular tourist attraction.


      List of craftsmen.

      Documentation by:

      Team Gaatha

      Process Reference: – – GI Tag

      Cluster Reference: