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Rajasthan
 

Arts & Crafts of Rajasthan

Introduction

Perhaps it is a revolt against the drab landscape, or could be a spill over of the efforts made to combat the harsh weather gods or maybe it is the innate richness in civilization; no matter what the reason, the native Rajasthanis are highly accomplished craftsmen.

The handicrafts and arts of the land are marked with an exuberance of color and culture and are held in high regard all over the world. Besides foreign revenue, these crafts pieces have earned state and the country immense esteem and admiration.

Be it the unique blue pottery or the designed gesso purses, the Thewa and Meenakari jewelry or the marble and terracotta idols, Rajasthan has imprinted on the craft items of the state its own singular, vibrant character.

An entire range of decorative items are produced in the region – the marble carvings and miniature paintings, Phad and Pichwais, the multi hued carpets and rugs, the vibrant Bandhej and block printed textiles, the metal jewelry boxes and wooden artifacts, the bone work and ivory carved items, the lac bangles and the rich velvet quilts all are favorite mementoes collected by tourists on their holiday in this historic state.

Be it Kishangarh, Alwar, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Barmer or Bikaner, every nook of the state boasts of master artisans who have stunned the world with their workmanship. Take a quick look at the rich arts and crafts of Rajasthan-


Stone Art

The arts and crafts of Rajasthan are commanded by the availability of indigenous raw materials in the region. Marbles and sandstones are abundantly available in the arid lands of the state. Stone art and masonry are leading art forms cultivate din the state. Especially under the patronage of the Rajput royals and the Mughal kings who loved to highlight the opulence of their private quarters and their courts, masons and artisans flourished. Decorative lampshades exquisitely carved marble chairs, tables, benches, sculpted frescoes, patterned fountains and screens of lattice work (jali) are the hallmark of Rajasthan stone art. Skillfully carved deities and figurines are the most sought after souvenirs by the tourists and visitors of the state. The granites, quartzite and slates of the land have been the fodder for many an artist’s genius. The temples of Ajmer, Baroli, Bharatpur, Bikaner, Chittorgarh, Jaisalmer, Mandore, Nagda, Ramgarh and Udaipur stand testimony to the superb masonry skills o the native Rajasthani artisans.

Marble is available in many shades and qualities in the state of Rajasthan. The stonemasons gave vent to their imagination and expressed their creative genius in creating exquisite interiors for the palaces and forts. The unique feature of the palaces particularly the women’s chambers was the jail (lattice) screens and panels and even doors. The women remained secluded in veils and purdahs to reserve their modesty and never entered the company of unknown men. These jail screens facilitated their inclusion in the going on without themselves being seen by others. Ajmer, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur represent the hub of marble work in the state. An assortment of other items such as marble mortars and pestles, birdbaths and decorative planters graced the regal households of the Rajputs. The finest quality marble in the country is mined at Makrana near Jaipur. Makrana is believed to have supplied marbles for the building of the stunning Dilwara Jain temples at Mt. Abu and the world famous memorial Taj Mahal. Jaipur is renowned to foster some of the best marble and stone masons in the entire world. There is an entire lane named Silawaton ka Mohalla where the stone masons’ chiseling and hammering rents the air throughout the day. Excellent marble mosaics and Besides marble carving, red stone sculpting is cultivated in the state. Rupbas and Karauli are famed for the excellent red stone available there and are believed to have provided the Mughal kings red stone for the mansions and forts in Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. The Hawa Mahal, Jaipur City Palace and Amber Fort are the finest examples of the excellent stone art in Rajasthan. The gray stone tiles of Kota, yellow marbles of Barmer and granites of Ajmer are favorites for tile making and flooring.



Woodcraft

Rajasthan is famed for its exquisite woodcraft. Hand carved wooden screens, friezes and jharokas (windows) of latticework or Jali, furniture (cabinets, stools, chairs, tables and cupboards) and house hold items (boxes, picture frames, spoons and ladles) are made of wood. Barmer, Jodhpur, Kishangarh and Shekhawati regions have all their unique styles of furniture making. The miniature paintings embossed sleek tables and chairs of Barmer have made a name for themselves while the quaint Jodhpur pieces lend an olde worlde charm to the homes. Ornate designing and intricate patterns provide these furniture a rich and opulent look.

Tilonia Furniture is famous for the designs woven out in jute. Wooden frames are coupled with jute or leather to create beautiful woodwork furniture. The Kishangarh region in Rajasthan is famous for the excellent hand painted pieces its artisans turn out. Sheeham (rosewood), Aam (mango wood), and acacia arabica are beautifully designed and embellished with traditional Mughal motifs and patterns.

The highlight of Rajasthani woodcraft is the tradition of puppetry in the state. It is believed that Rajasthan is the oldest puppet making region in the entire world. Puppets, locally called Katputlis, are an indispensable part of the culture and life of Rajasthanis. The tradition of puppetry in the state was handed down generation after generation. String puppets were the common kinds made in Rajasthan. Made of the local mango wood (aam) the body parts are fashioned out of stuffed rags and pieces of cloth. Wooden carved and painted faces and long traditional outfits make these very catchy. The royal characters are decked up in stone and bead jewellery and shiny clothing. Jaipur’s Katputli Nagar is one of the state’s biggest puppet markets. Udaipur is one of the oldest puppet making centers in the state.



Leather Ware

Leather ware industry in the state of Rajasthan employs both men and women. The shoes and sandals are cut and stitched by the men who also undertake tanning of the leather, while the women take on the embroidery and decoration aspect of these. The decoration of the footwear is done with sequin, beads, golden and colored thread. Tilonia village near Ajmer is known for the graphic patterns made on the indigenous leather products.

Beautiful and sturdy saddles for the camels and horses are produced in Bikaner and Jaisalmer while Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer and Jaisalmer are known to produce premium quality leather footwear known as Jootis and Mojdis.

The Jootis are the slip on sandals of the state which are tastefully decorated. They are durable and hardy footwear. Though the Jootis take a few days to comfortably fit, they are often snug footgear and preferred by most of the people who have tried them. Mojdis are footwear made of thicker, tanned leather and embellished with designs or embroidered with silken. They are soft and flexible sandals.

The Gesso Work of Rajasthan is world famous. Bikaner is the hub of Gesso work in the state and a fine sample of such treated camel leather decorations is displayed in the palace of the city. The camel-hide water casks of Bikaner, called Kopi, are probably the most commonly used gesso products.

Other products made of leather in Rajasthan are shoes and sandals, pouches, purses and handbags, hats and caps, belts, instruments used in folk music such as the dhol, dhapli, tabla and kamaycha, lamp and lampshades and even furniture such as stools and chairs.


Glass Work

Like the rest of the state's handicrafts, the glass works of Rajasthan are unique in both design and usage. Besides beautiful and traditional items such as handicraft items, glass photo frames, trays, glass art ware, glass jewelry boxes, lamp shades, flower vases, crystal wine glasses, flasks, glass pots, antique crystal chandeliers, glass coasters, glass lamp shades and glass paintings, Rajasthan is famed for its Thewa work.

Colored glass base, embossed with golden miniature artwork is the special attraction of the Thewa work. Floral patterns are etched on gold foil and superimposed on glass moulds and the glassware is cast in such moulds. Thewa pendants are famous pieces of jewelry and their blazing hues and exquisite patterns attract women across the world.

The stain glass work of the havelis, palaces and temples of Rajasthan or Rajputana are visual delights for the tourists of the state. An excellent display of stain glass windows, glass mosaics and intricately inlaid glass work mark the beauty of Udaipur City Palace and the old havelis of the Shekhawati region of the state.

The princely state of Sirohi boasts of its spectacular fort which has been lavishly adorned with gold and the colored glass works. The artisans of Pratapgarh have been credited with the marvelous glass and gold foil adornments of this fort. These interior ornaments have precious jewels embellished on fiberboards on a paint base.

Besides these, Rajasthan is famous for its glass bangles and mirrored lac bangles. In glorious and vibrant colors, these bangles make up the display on most street markets of Jaipur and Jodhpur.


Rajasthan Jewelry

The women take pride in their traditional jewellery and Rajasthani womenfolk cherish their heritage. The pieces of jewellery are often heirlooms and passed down in families. The Rakhri, Bindi and Borla are the main head ornaments of the women of the state. Besides these, they use an assortment of jeweled pins, clips and hair brooches. The Nath is a nose ring that holds a very important place in the woman’s adornments. It is considered auspicious and worn on every joyous occasion. The Karanphool Jhumka (a bell shaped earring), Toti (parrot shaped earring), Lathan (grape) and Pipal Patti (heart shaped ornament) are the most common earrings worn by Rajasthani women. Necklaces are of varied types but the favorites are the Chandan Haar, the Mohanmala, the Champakali, the Adah, the Mohrun, the Tussi, the Jugnu and the Hansli. Rajasthani women adorn their arms with a bewildering range of amulets, bracelets, bangles and rings. Baju Bandh, Gokhru, Bala, Kada, Chuda and Hathpol are common bangles and bracelets while the Arsi, a ring is considered a must have for the newly wed bride. Toe rings such as Anvat and anklets such as Jhanjhar or Pajeb are owned by almost every woman. Other favored ornaments include the Timaniyan, Gajra and Jod.

Kundan Work:
Kundan is a special style of jewelry making specially practiced in Rajasthan. The precious and semiprecious gems are set in gold and silver. The surface of the jewelry is crafted skillfully and meticulously leaving holes for the gems. The gems are then set with a lac base at the back of the ornament. kundan is the local word for gold which forms the interface between the lac and the gemstones. The pieces are often enameled giving them a bright look.

Meenakari Jewelry:
Meenakari Jewelry is another specialty of the states’ artisans. Precious and semiprecious gems are embellished into gold or silver jewelry and the meal itself is enameled with bright colors. Introduced to the state’s jewelers by Raja Mansingh of Amer, this style of jewelry crafting was originally discovered by the skilled workmen of Lahore. Honed to perfection by the jewelry makers of the state, Meenakari jewelry now bears the unmistakable stamp of Rajasthani expertise. Jaipur is the hub of this skill and the city is famous for the intricate and bright masterpieces produced here. Other places famous for enameled jewelry in Rajasthan are Alwar, Pratapgarh and Nathdwara. The cloisonné style of metalwork is practiced by the skilled workmen of Jaipur.

Thewa:
Thewa work is the famous art of creating golden patterns on glass. Chittorgarh is famed for such Thewa jewelry. The universal appeal of the intricate designs and the raging colors reflects in the popularity of Thewa pendants not only in India but all over the world. Brilliant greens, blues and reds and floral patterns of gold cast a spell over every woman’s heart.

In Rajasthan, unique ornaments are created by combining Kundan and Meenakari styles of jewelry crafting. The embedded stones stand out in the enameled pieces and their brilliance is set off by the intricate designs and superior craftsmanship. The various communities involved in crafting were the chiterias (designers), the ghaarias (the engravers), the meenakar and the sunar (the goldsmiths).

Jewelry For The Rajasthani Men:
Jewelry is not the forte of Rajasthani women alone. Men adorn themselves with a variety of jewels and jewelry. The ornaments men of this state prefer include a host of necklaces and chains, rings, armlets, anklets and earrings. The maharajas and royal and tribal men alike displayed a fondness for opulent adornments and their rich aesthetic sense reveals itself in the many ornaments fashioned out for the men of the state. The turbans of the royals were heavily beset with precious and semi precious stones and precious metal ornamentations such as pins such as Kalangis and Aigrettes. Thick gold chains and gems encrusted necklaces display the wealth and the stature of the kings and their male kinsfolk. Many strings of pearls ranging from the clear milky white to the sheer pink and blue ones were worn to signify the treasures their exchequers held. The Rajput men often wear earrings in which a single stone is set. Rubies, diamonds, emeralds and pearls were lavished on the sashes and Kamarbandhs and on the tiaras called Sarpech. The rings of the royal men folk were made of gold and set with gems of varying hues. These were worn for their beauty and for religious and astrological significance. The plush use of precious metals and gems can be seen in their entire ensemble. Belt buckles, clips, brooches, clasps and even the prongs of their shoes were elaborately fashioned by the goldsmiths with lavish additions of jewelry. Heavy amulets adorned their upper arms while thick bracelets were preferred for the wrists. In India, gold is considered a divine metal and hence not used in footwear and anklets. The kings, however, were considered representatives of God on earth and hence wore anklets made of pure gold. The anklets were hollow and hid precious stones in them. It is believed that the stronger the political clout of the king, the costlier the gems in his anklet’s cavity were. Their epaulettes and stoles were woven of golden thread. The heavily jeweled sword hilts and sheaths were specially cast by the royal artisans and jewelers. Besides the royals the ordinary men folk too wore jewelry as part of their common attire. Earrings and rings were ordinary accessories and chains, brooches and amulets were often worn. The commoners’ ornaments however were not laced with an extravagance of jewels such as the royals’ were. They were cast in silver and beset with semiprecious gems. Trinkets and talismans such as the tiger’s nail were often worn by men for religious reasons.

Tribal Jewelry:
The vast desert state of Rajasthan is home to the culturally rich tribes such as the Banjaras, the Bhils and theGayaris . These tribes deck up in a vast array of jewelry. The Banjaras are gypsies and nomads by nature. They fashion out their jewelry from beads, sequins, cowries and colorful threads. Glass beads and brass ornaments are part of their daily attire. The ornaments are made up of gold, silver and mainly brass. Animal bones and ivory are used too. The gypsy tradition demands that a prospective groom gift the bride huge quantities (about 25 kg) of ornaments before the wedding. Tribal jewelry of Rajasthan forms part of the rich handicraft heritage of the state. So much so, that these tribal ornaments have formed the mainstay of foreign exports from the state. Enameled brass jewelry and glass beaded ornaments of these tribal natives sell like hot cakes all over the world. The tribes use white metal and coconut shells to craft out their bangles and necklaces. Besides these, sandstone, limestone and marbles are also used in tribal jewelry. Like the rest of the state, lac jewelry embellished with stones and colored stones are very famous among these clans. The Rabaris of Sirohi region and Raikas of Jodhpur region are two communities known for their bulky and showy ornaments. The patterns created on most of these ornaments are floral or natural designs such as the sun, the moon, the stars, flowers and leaves and traditional motifs such as the swastika which is considered holy and auspicious. Bulky, hanging earrings, chunky necklaces and sleek bracelets are favorites among the tribals. Many bangles are worn by the women and shell bangles interlaced with silver are the best- loved adornments among these communities. A special community known as the Bharawa is famed for its jewelry making skills and the Bhawara clan specializes in the traditional tribal jewelry designs of Rajasthan. The members of this clan have earned a name for themselves both nationally and internationally due to their skill in this trade. The tribal jewelry is rarely solid metal. Very often it is hollow and has a core of lac or some other resin. Pieces of a necklace or bracelet are often found to be soldered together. The eternal appeal of glass bangles resounds through the state. In fact religious dictates among the Hindus and the tribes specify that married women need necessarily wear either glass or lac bangles at all times.

Precious And Semiprecious Gems:
Diamond, Ruby, Emerald, Jade, Garnets, Agate, Amethyst, Pearl, Blue Sapphire, Tourmaline Topaz, Lapis lazuli, Carnelian...the kaleidoscopic hues of the precious and semiprecious stones used in Rajasthani ornaments flash and the brilliance of these are only rivaled by the beauty of the women who wear the ornaments. Rajasthan is one of the largest centers of hand-cutting of precious and semiprecious gems around the entire world. Not surprisingly, there is a high usage of these gems and stones in the local jewelry making industry. This forms the basis of the kundan ornaments of the state. Jaipur and Jodhpur are especially famed for their accomplished artisans and the glittering markets of sparkling and splendid jewelry. Johari Bazar of Jaipur showcases the exclusive creations in semiprecious, precious and studded ornamentations and these masterpieces are must-buys for the tourists of the state.

For the tourist of the state, the jewelry of the state is a collector’s pride and there are souvenirs to suit every pocket. The wide array of ornaments from tribal white metal trinkets to the premium kundan pieces will only spoil you for choices.


Metal Work

A variety of metal items are crafted in the state of Rajasthan. Brass, bronze, silver and gold are used extensively in Rajasthan metal work. The silversmiths of the state have gained considerable renown both within India and internationally due to their superior skills. Beautifully patterned jewellery boxes and caskets, candle stands, incense stick stand (agarbatti dan), chunky jewellery, daggers, idols and figurines of deities, birds, animals etc are cast out of shiny silver. Traditionally the Rajput royals displayed their opulence by ornately crafted silver canopies, door and window panels and sword hilts.

The Marori work, especially Chrakwan of Rajasthan is particularly famed. It involves the etching of intricate designs on the metal surface and filling in the grooves with black lac, a resin. The ridges of the design stand out and glitter against the black background. When the Marori work is done on a brass sheets and the lac used is black the art is known as Chrakwan. Other colored lac is also used and other meals too. Artisans of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur specialize in Marori work.

Brass is another metal used in abundance in Rajasthani handicrafts. Vases, bowls, utensils, lamps, jewel boxes, figurines of peacocks, lions, parrots, flowering shrubs and photo frames are made of brass and are pretty inexpensive mementoes to pick up. Bronze figurines and sculptures are excellent collector's items and reflect the amazing sense of proportion of the artists who create them. Chikan, Marori and Bidri are the three common styles of engraving adopted in the state. Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Dungarpur, Alwar, Banswara and Pratapgarh are famous for the fine quality metal ware produced in the state. Koftagari or the art of inlaid metal work is famous in Alwar and Jaipur. Lacquering and enameling of metal ware are common practices in Rajasthan and they lend the trinkets an excellent aesthetic appeal.


Pottery


Blue Pottery is a specialty of Rajasthan. The glazed ceramic ware which originated in Persia was introduced to the state and patronized by Maharaja Ram Singhji. The use of ground quartz stone, raw glaze, Fuller's earth and Sodium Sulphite instead of clay marks the uniqueness of this style of pottery.

Bright colors such as blue green and white and intricate delicate designs make the pots jars and such urns remarkably eye-catching and desirable collectors’ items. Oxides of inorganic matter such as cobalt and copper are used to impart the vivid colors to these pots. A brilliant aquamarine shade is created by the use of Copper Sulphate and Cobalt Oxide brings out the sapphire color in these pots. The patterns and motifs are essentially floral and dainty blossoms, leaves, buds and fruits are etched on the surface of the blue pots. The items made in Blue Pottery are flower vases, jugs, pots and jars, surahis (pitchers), lamp shades, tiles, ashtrays, flower pots, jars, traditional lamps (diyas) doorknobs and other articles of interior decoration.

The impervious and translucent surface makes these more hygienic than other earthenware and also more aesthetically appealing. Squirrel’s hair brushes are used to paint the outer surface of these articles Jaipur is the hub for the potters adopting the Blue Pottery style. Other traditional forms of pottery are also cultivated and promoted in the state. Kagzi Pottery, cultivated well in Alwar is famed for the thin walled pots and the lightweight urns. The double-walled pots, jars and urns are in vogue as they facilitate air circulation and hence keep the water chill. The traditional pots of Rajasthan have small necks to prevent spilling of water, a dear item of everyday use. The potters of Pokhran draw geometric designs on the surface and those of Bikaner paint their urns with lac colors and gold. Jaipur, Ajmer, Bharatpur, Sikar, and Sawaimadhopur in Rajasthan are famous for their pottery.

Terracotta works of Rajasthan are also extremely famous. Nohar in Bikaner is famous for the intricate ware in terracotta produced here. Jallore and Ahora districts specialize in the terracotta horses which hold religious significances for the natives and are tourists’ favorite keepsakes. Nagaur and Merta are also famed for the many trinkets and terracotta jewellery produced there. Molela has earned a name for the amazing carved plaques and figurines of terracotta made there.


Painting

Rajasthan is a land rich in art and culture. The fine arts of the land have been fiercely developed by the inhabitants and seem to rebel against the drab terrain accorded to the region by Mother Nature. Natural resources of the region are used innovatively to bring to life vivid images and historic scenes. Other favorite themes of the artisans of the region are Gods and Goddesses, religious motifs and natural phenomena such as sun, moon, stars, men and women and animals found in the region. The various forms of paintings in Rajasthan also make use of various bases starting from textiles as used in Phad and Batik to Glass, Acrylic Sheets, Marbles and even household walls. Herbal and natural dyes are the most commonly used but recent trends have made much space for innovations. The Phads depict the historic legends and battle scenes while powdered gemstones capture a royal scene for eternity; the wall paintings immortalize a domestic occasion while the miniatures are a collectors’ favorite. The variety and richness of Rajasthani paintings have captured the hearts of tourists and art connoisseurs all over the world. The Pichawis of Nathdwara and Udaipur reflect the passion of the artists and are the offerings to the deities worshipped with fervor in the state. The inimitable skills and the appealing lines make these paintings the matter of much research and much sought after treasures. Marwar, Mewar, Jodhpur, Hadoti, Udaipur, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Dhundhur and Alwar are the hubs of the development of painting in Rajasthan. The famous Rajasthani paintings include:

  • Phad

  • Picchavi

  • Miniature

  • Batik

  • Gem Stone Painting

  • Wall Painting

Carpets And Rugs

Rajasthan is very famous for the excellent handicraft culture cultivated in the state. Rich hues and exquisite designing are the hallmarks of the hand-woven carpets and rugs. The tradition of weaving hearthrugs, carpets and tapestries dates back almost 2000 years. The thick rugs and carpeting have about 324 knots per square inch and hence make excellent furnishings. Wool is traditionally used in carpet weaving but Rajasthan carpets and rugs are often made out of silk and cotton fiber. The art of carpe and rug weaving was actively promoted in the state under the patronage of the Mughal monarchs and the Rajput royals. Unique themes and floral patterns provide the themes for these masterpieces and flowers and leaves, buds and fruits are the essence of the designs. The carpets and rugs woven at Bokhara are among the finest in the world and the hand knotted ones posses from 125 to 500 knots per square inch. The art of carpet weaving was acquired from the craftsmen of Afghanistan and their products sell like hot cakes not only all over the country but also in international markets. Recent day trends have impelled the weavers to create custom made and contemporary designs instead of traditional ones.

The Durries were used as carped padding or underlay in olden days. However, the thick rugs themselves have been in high demand for long now. Their stark colors and felt finish have created an unprecedented market for the Durries, all over the world. The Durries of Jaisalmer and Bikaner have been lauded worldwide due to the master craftsmanship exhibited on cotton yarn. Currently the wool obtained from camel has been favorite yarn used in Durry making. The embroidered Namdahs or felted up rugs of Tonk are treasured souvenirs and have been in constant demand by the tourists of the state.


Textiles

The tradition of textile weaving, dying and printing in Rajasthan dates back many centuries. The textiles of the state have a huge and ever growing international demand. Traditionally the Koli, Chamar and Meghwal tribes were the reputed weavers of the state. Block prints and tie and dye fabrics of the state have made their mark in the international textile market.

The block printed textiles of Sanganer in Jaipur are very famous. Organic mineral dyes were used traditionally but recent trends see the preference tend towards chemical and synthetic dyes. The myriad colors that catch the eye in the textile markets of Rajasthan include the bright and cheerful greens, blues, reds, pinks and the gold used for overprinting (Khan Work). The prints of Bagru and Jajams are distinguishable by their dark hues and attractive circular designs. The tie and dyes of the state are used to create salwar suits, skirts, shirts and various kinds of dresses.

The array of kaleidoscopic colors and spectrum of hues used in creating these textiles is mind-boggling. Be it the patterned Bandani or Bandhej or the wavy Lehariya, the crackled Batik or the Shikari, the Cheent or the Mothra, Rajasthan is the hub of tie and dye work. The choicest of Bandhani textiles can be bought from Jodhpur, Jaipur, Pali, Udaipur and Nathdwara. Embroidery and patchwork is practiced well in Bikaner, Barmer and surrounding regions.

The Zari or zardosi work of the state is also very famous. The communities considered experts at these tie and dye crafts are the Leelgarhs and the Rangrez. The visitors and tourists to the state cannot resist picking up these attractive textiles and fabrics that are lined along the local markets of most cities in the state.




Jaiselmer
Bikaner
Jodhpur
Mount Abu
Udaipur
Jaipur
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