Craft revivalist, activist, politician and writer, Jaya Jaitly is known for founding the Dastkari Haat Samiti as well as her work to promote the traditional arts and crafts of India.
Born in Shimla, Jaitly spent her childhood in Belgium, Burma and Japan. At the age of thirteen, after her father’s death, her family moved to Delhi, where she studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School and later, at Miranda House, followed by a degree in literature from Smith College, Massachusetts.
In 1981, along with Laila Tyabji, Bunny Page, Poonam Muttreja, Gauri Chaudhury and Prabeen Grewal, she founded the Dastkar Society for Crafts & Craftspeople. Soon after, in 1986, Jaitly founded the Dastkari Haat Samiti to promote and support rural artisans and traditional art practices. Subsequently, she worked towards bringing together and exhibiting the work of artisans from India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Africa. She played a central role in setting up the Dilli Haat in 1994. Jaitly also advocated for the inclusion of the study of craft heritage in school syllabi and aided in designing the NCERT curriculum to this end.
She has received awards from the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) for her contributions to art and cultural heritage. Jaitly has also authored several books on art and craft, including Crafts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (1990), Craft Traditions of India (1990), Viswakarma’s Children (2001) and Crafting Nature (2007) and Podium on the Pavement (2004). Her book, Crafts Atlas of India (2012), documents the artistic traditions of each state of India through detailed maps. She also writes and edits The Other Side, a monthly journal on democratic thought.
Jaitly has been active in politics, first as a member of the Socialist Trade Union in the 1980s and later, as a founder of the Samata Party in 1994. In 2020, she was convicted of corruption and criminal conspiracy and sentenced to four years of imprisonment, although her sentence was later suspended.
At the time of writing, Jaitly lives and works in New Delhi.
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