Shoe (foot wear) is associated with mankind since per historical era. Shoe were used to protect the feet from harsh and rough surfaces, but in the modern era, it is a style of status and pride. Traditionally in India, foot wear is known as paduka, which were made out of wood. One of the most essential footwear used in India, which consist of wooden post and knob between the big and second toe. Paduka has served gurus and religious men for about 5000 years.
Kharawan and koram are two well-known types of Paduka throughout the Indian subcontinent. In Rigveda, the ancient Indian scripture. Which is written between 13th and 10th centuries B.C.E. it is mentioned that, the foot of deities covers four quarters of the universe which consist of earth, air, sky and space, using their foot, deities have created different parts of universe. Usage of foot ware is not limited for the sake of protection. according to the Indian epic Ramayana, Lord sri rama was out casted by his father king dasaharatha, Lord sri rama’s wife sita devi and his brother Lakshmana accompanied him to the forest. While lord rama was at the jungle, his younger brother bharata, took care of the kingdom by placing lord rama’s golden Paduka on the throne and also carried it on his head, whenever he was out for the procession.
In India, the community which involves in the making of leather shoe is known as chamars, these craftsmen, very skilfully turn leather into shoes, sandals, ropes, bags and membrane for musical instruments. There are many legend about the expansion of leather industry in Agra, one such legends says that Humayun, the son of emperor Babur ( the pioneer of mogul empire in India) was drowning in a river, while trying to save his life from the emperor sher shah suri. Humayun was rescued by a bhisti (locally known a water carrier in leather bag). As expression of gratitude, humayun made bhisti the king for one day. Due to the happiness, bhisti invited all his community people for a feast. After this day, a low population community bhisti was established in Agra, serving the kings need. Since that day the production of leather items was also given a priority by the rulers of Agra. King Akbar was also fascinated by the craftsmen’s ship of bhisti community, he ordered all his soldiers to wear shoe during the battle, before this all the soldiers used to fight bare foot. Due to the order of king Akbar, 1000’s of pairs of shoe was made every month, the shoes were not only limited to the kings and soldiers but were also for ladies and children. Very soon, leather foot wear become as a landmark of Agra.
During the British era, leather shoe of Agra reached international market, they were highly appreciated by the consumers of international market, and many of chamar community people become millionaires by supplying belt and shoes to the British army during the 2nd world war. By 1970 Agra in India become the largest manufacture of leather shoes and items.
Leather shoe can be made out of different types of leather extracted from dead animals like cow, buffalo, pig, goat, sheep and camel. Which leather has to be chosen is generally directed by the consumer. The raw leather which is procured from the dead animals undergo tanning process, which involves in removal of unwanted material from the skin of animal. The raw leather is soaked in salt solution, which helps the wet skin from rotting, then the skin is dipped in mixture made of tarwar tree bark, which helps to convert the skin into leather. The processed skin in dipped into a tank of lime for a week, after which it turns into leather. The fiber of fruit called karukkaya is dried and boiled with castor oil. On cooling it is applied on leather to give smooth look.