Potli bags have been in use in India from ancient times. They had applications in Ayurveda (the ancient Indian form of medicine) where they were filled with herbs to give massages and find mention in the ancient Indian texts as well. Laxman used them to carry the medicines, articles of day to day use and weapons of lord Rama when he went on an exile for 14 years. In Mahabharata they were used by Pandavas to hide their weapons when they were hiding in the forest.
Today's potli bags have evolved from the ancient times. They now have a gorgeous look along with embellishment of embroidery from Kutch or Banaras, Sequins, Mirrors, Beadwork of Bhopal, Stones, Pearls, Diamonds on various cloths like silk, velvet, satin etc. They are made in various parts of India. Potli bags and batwas of Bhopal are especially famous for their intricate designs. The nawabs of Bhopal patronized the beadword and zardozi artisans and have played a key role in keeping this beautiful craft alive. The streets of the old city of Bhopal hum with the 500-year-old craft of gota, zari and beadwork with which the Muslim ladies of the city make these unique bags, batwas, jewelry pieces and men's headgear. The glittering handcrafted items have a special flamboyant charm, the attention to detail being an intrinsic part of the craftswomen's creativity. The motifs too are typically Islamic art-inspired, a fascinating depiction in beadwork and zardosi of arabesques, intertwining floral and vine motifs and geometric configurations.
Potli bags and batwas are a gorgeous women's accessory for all occasions. There are more colorful ones for marriages and traditional occasions and sober ones for day to day use. Brocade work bags are especially very bright and colorful. They are made of brocade cloth and have golden/silver bead work on it. They typically close with a zip and also have a magnetic button to make them fold in. Bangle shaped handles enhance their beauty even more. Beautiful evening accessories, they can be worn like a bangle on the wrist and are a great gift for any occasion, from birthdays to weddings.
Many bollywood actresses are fond of these bags. Rekha is so fond of her golden potli bag that she has been photographed with it multiple times. Kirron kher, the current MP from Chandigarh has been seen with them matching with her glamorous sarees. Nandita das was seen with a perfectly matching potli purse, made from the same golden cloth as her kurta! If you have not tried a potli ever, you are missing the magic of India.