ARTS AND CRAFTS OF RAJASTHAN
Rajasthan is among the richest states in the country as far as the field of arts and crafts is concerned. In Concept, Colour and Workmanship, the Handicrafts of Rajasthan are incomparable. Be it jewellery, painting, furniture, leather ware, pottery, metal craft or hand-printed textiles of Rajasthan … each object has a subtle and overpowering appeal. And an ethnic aura envelops even the simplest of forms, making each one truly a Collector's Delight. It is therefore hardly surprising when people all over the world, call Rajasthan a Treasure-Trove of Handicrafts and a Shopper's Paradise.
There is a profusion of exuberant colours and fascinating forms in the handicrafts of Rajasthan. They are Infact, a tribute to human refinement and sensibility and also a challenge, as it were, to the stark desert environment.
History of Arts and Crafts in Rajasthan
Each period of history had some stroke of ingenuity to contribute to the aesthetic heritage of this land. The kings and nobles were lovers of arts and crafts and encouraged craftsmen in their activities. Art flourished in this region as far back as 2nd-1st centuries BC and continued over the centuries. In Baroli, in the Hadoti region, presence of several sculptures proves that a regular art school existed in the 10th century. The cave paintings, terracotta and other stone sculptures excavated at different sites corroborate this.
Each period of history saw its own contribution to the thriving art scene. History of Rajasthan reveals that the kings and their nobles were patrons of arts and crafts and they encouraged their craftsmen in activities ranging from wood and marble carving to weaving, pottery and painting. And art seems to have been an obsession with the inhabitants of this parched landscape. The desire to decorate their surroundings was very strong. Nothing was overlooked animals from the regal elephant to the lowly donkey, the great palaces and the inner chambers of forbidding forts were decorated with as much attention as were the walls of humble mud huts. The inhabitants were not too far behind when it came to adorning themselves and it was not only the women who beautified themselves the heroic warriors extended equal attention to their clothing and armour they went into battles with meticulously ornamented swords and shields. The horses and elephants that took the warriors to battles received the same care jeweled saddles and intricate silver howdas were just some of the ornaments that were used to adorn them.
For women in Rajasthan, there was infinite variety tie and dye fabrics, embroidered garments, enamel jewellery inlayed with precious and semi-precious stones, leather jootis. They put their lives indoors to very good use by decorating their surroundings on the walls of their mud-huts were painted geometric designs as well as simple designs like flowers and birds. Also tile women folk made intricate patterns outdoors, shaped straw and twine to turn into the most beautiful items.
When the Rajputs came to dominate this region, it was a period of constant strife. They were almost always in battle with their neighbouring kingdoms. When a kingdom fell and a new ruler took over, it was time for change of paintings to the one’s depicting the new ruler’s victory, scenes from the battle and processions of the victorious march were faithfully reproduced on the walls and handmade paper. Other than the paintings, the new rulers also influenced the existing crafts of that area. Despite their love for the battlefield, the Rajputs have been patrons of art and also their 350 years of contact with the Mughals led to a very strong influence on their lives and arts. Quite a few folk arts received the refinement and delicacy of the Mughal courts. They borrowed freely from the Agra and Delhi courts and in some cases, also sent their skilled craftsmen to adorn the Mughal courts.
Rajasthan is well known all over the world for its hand-printed textiles, furniture, leatherwork, jewellery, painting, pottery and metal craft. The use of lively colors and flamboyant, fantasy designs is distinctive in all forms of arts and crafts of Rajasthan. It will be unfair to say that Rajasthani artists only make decorative items. Every household item in Rajasthan proves the statement false as we go through their embellished utensils, colorful attires, unique jewellery designs and embroidered shoes that infuse a new life and a cheerful look to the otherwise monotone of the desert sands. Some of the popular crafts are mentioned below.
Carpets and Dhurries of Rajasthan
Floor coverings like carpets, hand-woven durries and namdas or soft woollen druggets of Rajasthan are exported all over the world. Available in all sizes, the dhurrie is woven in Jaipur and also in the rural areas of the state of Rajasthan. Bikaner and Jaisalmer are known for woolen dhurries made of camel hair. Bikaner is also famous for its so-called jail carpets, which are so called for they were once made by the prisoners in the medieval times. Much like Persian carpets, Rajasthani hand-knotted carpets have geometric motifs and formal designs with a border and central motif. The motifs have indeed been localized and include peacocks and other local icons. Jaipur and Bikaner of Rajasthan are believed to be the pioneer centres in carpet weaving.
Antiques of Rajasthan
Not all of the items in the handicrafts shop that you find in Rajasthan can exactly pass off as antiques of course but still their distinctive color and designs make them popular among the tourists who buy them as souvenirs and as decorative items for their homes. The large iron oil jars painted in the pichwai style, depicting the love scenes, are just an example. Similarly, variety of kitchen utensils, votive objects and even camel saddles attract attention of the visitors.
Ivory Carving of Rajasthan
Rajasthan has its main ivory carving centres at Udaipur, Bharatpur and Jaipur from where master ivory carvers were once favoured by the royal courts. While Jaipur was famous for its carved ivory, Jodhpur specialized in ivory bangles. The bangles were worn to cover the whole arm and they decreased in size from just below the shoulder to the wrist. The Bikaner Palace is well known and prominent for its artistic ivory inlaid doors than the palace itself. Carved ivory artifacts can be purchased in and around Jaipur but the export of ivory in any form from India is strictly banned.
Shellac Bric-a-Brac of Rajasthan
Brightly coloured lac bangles, handmirrors, pens, pillboxes and agarbatti (incense) stands are a cheerful and inexpensive buy in Rajasthan. In the pink city of Jaipur, lac trinkets are a common sight in every bazaar. Check out the dazzling bangles, often studded with glass gems, spirals of base-metal wire amid a wavy striping of other colours of Rajasthan.
Fabrics of Rajasthan
Printed, dyed or embroidered fabrics of Rajasthan are known for their unique hues and tones of color. Block printing, batik, tie and dye have become a full-fledged artwork here. Each region has its own distinct motifs, choice of colors, and the way in which these colors are used. Bagru is known for earth colors and geometric patterns while Sanganeri clothes have bright colors and floral patterns. Barmer and Jaisalmer are famous for their batik or reverse printing work. Sikar and Jodhpur are famous for intricate tie-and-dye or bandhani designs including chunari (dotted), lahariya (diagonal striped waves) and mothra (large dots) prints. Bikaner, Sikar and Jhunjhunu are well known for the mirror work, embroidery and appliqué work that are used to embellish these fabrics to produce elaborate designs of Rajasthani dresses.
Bandhani or Tie and Dye of Rajasthan
As the name suggests, this technique involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour. The rainbow-tinged turbans of the Rajputs and the odhnis of their women are shaded by this method of resist dyeing. Your visit to Jaipur won’t be complete without a trip to the nearby towns of Bagru and Sanganer, where you can observe the Chhipa community of dyers at work.
The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red and black. It is essentially a household craft supervised by the head of the family. The fabric is skillfully knotted by the women, while the portfolio of dyeing rests with the men. The women often grow a long nail on the little finger of the left hand, or wear a ring with a little blunt spike on it, with which they push the cloth upwards to form a tiny peak.
The Jaipur dyer of Rajasthan rarely works with more than two dye baths while the additional colours are spot dyed, which makes the process much easier. Thereafter, the fabric opens out into amazing designs in kaleidoscopic colours: dots, circles, squares, waves and stripes. The laheriya or the ripple effect is achieved by a variation of this technique. Lengths of permeable muslin are rolled diagonally from one corner to the opposite, bound tightly at intervals and then dyed. The ties are then undone and the process repeated by diagonally rolling the adjacent corner toward the opposite and repeating the process. Both Jaipur and Jodhpur are major centres of laheriya. Jaipur in particular, thanks to its status as the state capital, has girt its loins to meet the extensive demands of both the domestic and export markets.
Tie and dye cloth is never too expensive but be warned that the colours always run. So if you’ve bought silk, it’s safer to get it dry-cleaned.
Block-printing of Rajasthan
Rajasthan has a long and distinguished traditon of printing with finely carved wooden blocks. What you might have already seen in Delhi’s Rajasthali or Fabindia is merely the tip of the iceberg. Head for Bagru and Sanganer, not far from Jaipur, to see for yourself how cloth is printed by hand.
This method, though labourious, is actually quite simple and merely calls for precision. The cloth is laid out flat on a table or bench and a freshly dipped block is handpressed on to the fabric to form a continuous, interlocking pattern. The block carries dye if the original colour of the cloth has to be preserved. If the cloth has to be dyed, the block is used to apply an impermeable resist – a material such as clay, resin or wax – to demarcate the pattern that is not to be coloured. Later, when the cloth is dyed, the pattern emerges in reverse. Traditonally, block-printing relied on the use of natural dyes and pigments, but now synthetic dyes have gained currency as they are cheaper. If you belong to the green brigade, stick to eco-friendly naturally dyed cloth.
The floral motifs favoured by the printers of Bagru and Sanganer are Persian in origin, though Sanganeri designs are more sophisticated. They usually have a white or pale background decorated with colorful twigs or sprays. The not-so-fine Bagru prints were initially meant for peasants and had a light brown background. Today, however, Bagru isn’t the poor second cousin any more.
Block-printed cloth is sure to fade too after a few washes. Once again, stick to drycleaning.
Zari, Gota, Kinari & Zardozi of Rajasthan
Zari is gold, and zardozi embroidery of Rajasthan is the glitteringly ornate, heavily encrusted gold thread work practiced in Jaipur and a few other cities of India. To most foreigners - used to sleek, understated wear - the north Indian bride’s lehanga, choli and dupatta, heavily emroidered with gold and silver threads comes as a visual shock. Either real silver thread, gold-plated thread or an imitation which has a copper base gilded with gold or silver colour is used for zari.
Traditionally made for Mughal and Rajput nobility, it has now been officially adopted as bridal wear by anyone who can afford it. Of course, the days of using real gold and silver thread are now history. What you can get, however, is synthetic or ‘tested’ zari embroidery. Metal ingots are melted and pressed through perforated steel sheets, to be converted into wires. They are then hammered to the required thinness. Plain wire is called badla, and when wound round a thread, it is called kasav. Smaller spangles are called sitara, and tiny dots made of badla are called mukaish.
Akin to applique, gota work involves placing woven gold cloth onto other fabric to create different surface textures. Kinari, or edging, as the word suggests, is the fringed or tasselled border decoration. This art is predominantly practised by Muslim craftsmen.
Zardozi, a more elaborate version of zari, involves the use of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, gota and kinari. Zardozi work makes a garment quite heavy so do try it on before buying. Besides, the metal thread work can make your skin feel itchy, see if you can handle that.
Jewellery of Rajasthan
Rajasthan is rich in jewellery, each area having its own unique style. Some of the traditional designs are rakhri, bala, bajuband, gajra, gokhru, jod, etc. tribal women wear heavy, simply crafted silver jewellery. Men also wear ornaments in the form of chockers and earrings. During Mughal Empire, Rajasthan became a major centre for production of fine kind of jewellery. It was a true blend of the Mughal with the Rajasthani craftsman ship. The Mughals brought sophisticated design and new technical know-how of the Persians origin with them.
Silver Jewellery of Rajasthan
Traditionally, jewellery of Rajasthan has served as a repository of wealth, and a bejeweled wife is the family’s walking-talking treasury. While the prince had his gold, the peasant found security in silver. The village women of Rajasthan are togged up from head to toe in cumbersome silver ornaments, which they never remove.
The various kinds of adornments they use are: tikka or the spherical pendant on the forehead; dangling earrings called jhumkas; hansli or the choker; nath or the nosering which may be attached with a chain to the adjacent jhumka; a girdle or taqri for the waist; a series of bracelets called kadas; anklets with tiny bells on them; and finally the chakti or toe rings of the married women of Rajasthan.
Not to be outdone, the masculine jewellery is as much a part of Rajasthani culture as the feminine jewellery. The turbans worn by men are heavily encrusted with jewels and fastened with a gem set kalangi or aigrette.The ornament worn in front of the turban is called a sarpech. It was often extended into a golden bank set with emeralds, rubies or diamonds. Pearls were greatly loved by the Maharajas and they often wore double or triple strings of pearls with pendant of precious stones round their necks. Men also wore earrings, jeweled sashes around their waists and several rings on every finger. It was a status symbol and a portable display of wealth, and consequently, power. Earrings, armlets and anklets of silver are still commonly seen adorning the rural Rajasthani male. Males also wear necklaces, earrings and lucky charms which are considered to ward off evil.
In Jaipur, you’ll find silver jewellery makers and exporters near the Badi Chaupad in Johari Bazaar. Ornate tribal designs, geometric patterns and filigree work are much in demand. A relatively new addition to the repertoire is silver studded with semi-precious stones. Apart from jewellery, you’ll also find little silver boxes, statuettes, containers, glasses, plates, bowls, pens, hand mirrors and gilt combs.
Silver is often alloyed with other metals before being made into ornaments. So beware of silversmiths who mix more than the required amount.
Gems, Kundan and Meenakari Jewellery of Rajasthan
If you are searching for a quality diamond or emerald Jaipur is just the place for you. What’s more, if you believe in the occult, you can even find jyotshis (palmists and astrologers) to dig out your lucky stone. They’ll tell you precisely the clarity and carats required to ward off the evil eye or reverse a spell of ill luck. The Pink City is known for its vast array of precious and semi-precious stones, running the gamut from diamond, emerald, sapphire and ruby to topaz, jade, garnet, amethyst and turquoise. The craft of cutting and polishing stones to achieve the most gleaming facets has been honed to perfection. Watch the craftsmen at work in Johari Bazaar.
Moving from gems, the next stage is obviously transforming them into exquisite jewellery. Bengali craftsmen, who settled in Jaipur centuries ago, are the acknowledged masters. The two special techniques practised in Jaipur – kundan and meenakari – are equally intricate and splendid, and it is impossible to say which outshines the other.
Kundan is the Mughal-inspired art of setting of stones in gold and silver. Gems are bedded in a surround of gold leaf rather than secured by a rim or claw.
Hindu Punjabis brought Meenakari, or the skill of enamelling, from Lahore to Jaipur. Did you know that enamelling was originally meant to protect gold, which in its pure state is so soft and malleable that it can easily wear away? The Mughal fashion was to enamel the reverse side of jewellery to protect it from contact with the wearer’s skin.
Enamelling is a champleve technique, which in simple English means that a recess is hollowed out in the surface of gold or silver to take in a mineral. For example, cobalt oxide, which gives a blue colour, is then fired into the depression so as to leave a thin line separating the segments of colour. You can observe jewellers doing the enamel work at the Jadiyon ka Rasta in Jaipur. An ornament with both kundan and meenakari is so astoundingly magnificent that it seems to have been conjured up by rubbing Aladdin’s magical lamp.
Ivory of Rajasthan
Ivory is often used to make jewellery, especially bangles, which are considered an essential part of bridal jewellery. The bangles are often over laid with gold. They are often dyed in various colors, though the most popular one is red. Ivory is also inlaid and shaped into intricate items of great beauty. Miniature paintings were also executed on the ivory.
Lac and Glass of Rajasthan
Lac is mainly used bangles and decorative items. Lac bangles are made in bright colours. These bangles and decorative items are inlaid with glass and coloured stone.
Rajasthan is rich in jewellery, each area having its own unique style. Some of the traditional designs are rakhri, tirnaniyan, bala, bajuband, gajra, gokhru, jod, etc. Tribal women wear heavy, simply crafted jewellery and seem to carry the weight (almost up to five kgs) without much discomfort almost all the time. Men too wear their share of ornaments in the form of chockers and earrings.
Furniture and wood carving of Rajasthan
Rajasthan is an ideal place to look for old-worldly doors and windows, wooden jharokhas, tables with cast iron jaalis, side-boards, chairs, benches, jhoolas or swings and dressers, sometimes fretted with brass and copper sheets for decoration. They can be lightly carved or embellished with tiles. Jaipur and Ramgarh in Shekhawati are popular centers for furniture but Jodhpur gets the first place. The notable places are Shekhawati and Bikaner for traditional woodwork, Jodhpur and Kishangarh for painted wooden furniture, Shekhawati, Bikaner and Ramgarh for delicately carved wooden doors, Barmer for woodcarvings such as images of gods and goddesses, elephants, parrots, human and animal figures, Tilonia for leather-embroidered chairs of Tilonia and Shekhawati for carved-back, string-bottom chairs. The most remarkable and finest type of artwork belongs to Bikaner. Known as Gesso work, it is made using the inner hide of the camel, which is scraped till it is paper-thin and translucent and is then molded into various forms of lampshades, hip flasks, perfume phials or vases.
Pottery of Rajasthan
The different regions of Rajasthan have distinctive style of pottery. Jaipur is famous for its blue glazed pottery that doesn't use simple clay but ground quartz stone, fuller's earth and sodium sulphate.Terra-cotta pottery is also quite popular in Rajasthan. Molela, a village near Udaipur is specialized in making clay images of deities for ceremonial occasions. Alwar is known for its paper-thin pottery while Bikaner's painted pottery is tinted with lac colors. The white and red clay articles of Pokaran are marked with distinct geometric designs.
Jaipur Blue Pottery of Rajasthan
The art of making blue glaze pottery came to Rajasthan via Kashmir, the Mughal emperors’ favourite retreat and, more importantly, their entry point into India. The use of blue glaze on pottery made from Multani mitti, or Fuller’s earth, is essentially an imported technique, first developed by enterprising Mongol artisans who combined Chinese glazing technology with Persian decorative arts. This technique travelled south to India with early Muslim potentates in the 14th century. During its infancy, it was strictly used to make tiles to decorate mosques, tombs and palaces in Central Asia.
Later, the Mughals began using them in India, in a bid to mimic their beloved structures from beyond the mountains in Samarkand. Gradually the blue glaze technique broke free of its status as an architectural accessory, and Kashmiri potters took to it with a vengeance. From there, the technique rolled down to the plains of Delhi and in the 17th century wound its way to Jaipur. The rulers of Jaipur were exceptionally partial to blue-glazed ware, and many a cool marble hall in Rambagh Palace has as its centrepiece a bubbling fountain lined with ravishing blue tiles. These tiles were also used extensively in the building of the splendid city of Jaipur but surprisingly, they disappeared soon after.
The revival of tile-making began in the late 19th century, and Jaipur became the centre of a thriving new industry producing blueware. The traditional Persian designs have now been adapted to please a more sophisticated clientele. Apart from the predictable urns, jars, pots and vases, you’ll now find tea sets, cups and saucers, plates and glasses, jugs, ashtrays and even napkin rings. You can spot blue pottery being made at Sanganer, not far from Jaipur, and also within the city at Kripal Kumbh, Shiva Marg. The colour palette is restricted to blue derived from the oxide of cobalt, green from the oxide of copper and white, though other non-conventional colours such as yellow and brown have jumped into the fray too.
Leather ware of Rajasthan
In Rajasthan, jootis (the embroidered footwear the people wear), saddles, bags and pouches are not the only objects made out of animal skins. The other uses to which they are commonly put are making backs of chairs embroidered with woolen motifs. Leather is also used for bookbinding and Alwar is well reputed for this craft that flourished in the 19th century under Maharaja Banni Singh. Bikaner is again famous for its kopis or camel-hide water bottles.
The leather is beaten, tanned and dyed and patterns are made on it by punching and gouging it. Later it is studded and sequined for effect, and embroidered and stitched to create the special jootis (slip-on shoes) that have become a style-statement. Jaipur and Jodhpur are famous for these 'jootis'. Embroidery known as kashida is done on the jootis: in Jaipur it is first done on velvet which is then made to cover the shoes while in Jodhpur it is applied directly to the leather. This embroidery is mainly done by the women, who also do a bit of fancy stitching or appliqué work to give a designer look to the shoes that have neither a left nor a right foot.
Metal Crafts of Rajasthan
Started off with embellishing the royal armor, the metal crafts of Rajasthan now adorn tabletops, wall plates, flasks, silver animal figures and caparisoned elephants with human figures over a howdah (a musical instrument). Jaipur, Alwar and Jodhpur are famous for their metal wares such as brassware and enameled, engraved and filigree cutwork on silver.
Tarkashi of Rajasthan
A common sight in the curio and gift shops of Jaipur is boxes, tables and trays with brass or copper inlay work. This type of work is called tarkashi and it utilises burnished metal wire or tar set in the wood to create delicate geometric patterns. Deeper, in the narrow alleyways of the city, you can locate master craftsmen at work. Onto a plain, dark shisham surface, a naqsha (map) of the design is glued. The outline is then incised into the wood with a small chisel. The worker cuts 2 mm ribbons from a sheet of brass or copper, tempers them and then, placing one on edge in an incised line, he hammers it until it is level with the surface. The metal comes in various gauges, the thickest being used for strong outlines, and the finest for details such as hair. A lick of polish and varnish, and the object is ready for sale.
Paintings of Rajasthan
Miniature paintings, portraits, courtly paintings, murals, paintings on cloth and furniture, henna body art, domestic paintings and mandana (the art of decorating houses) are just of the various form of vibrantly colored and intricate Rajasthani paintings.Mostly the paintings depict scenes from Ramayana, Krishna Lila and the Gita Govindam and use rich colors that were made using minerals, vegetables, precious stones, conch shells and metals like gold and silver. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nathdwara and Kishangarh are important centers of such paintings. Other remarkable styles are phads or scrolls with the tales of the folk-hero Pabuji and the pichwais of Nathdwara near Udaipur that depict scenes from the life of Lord Krishna and are often decorated with precious stones.
Wall Painting of Rajasthan
Palaces, Havelies, even huts are commonly having Walls and ceilings covered with colourful paintings in Rajasthan. Some of the finest paintings can be seen in havelis of the Shekhawati region and the ancient towns of Bundi and Kota. And some of the most humorous on the walls of houses tucked away in the lanes of Jaisalmer.
Cloth Paintings of Rajasthan
They include the phad and the pichwai (cloth hanging used behind the deity in Vaishnava temples such as the temple of Shrinathji at Nathdwara). Done in bright colours with bold outlines, these paintings have strong religious traditions.
Miniature Paintings of Rajasthan
A host of schools of miniature painting thrive in Rajasthan and, to a certain extent; they are a quaint mixture of Mughal and indigenous Indian styles. The Indian style dates back to the Jain manuscripts of western India, now preserved in the temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat. These manuscripts are inscribed on palm leaves and are illustrated with stylized miniatures, elements of which are obvious in the miniatures of today. If you examine these miniatures from the 11th century, you’ll find that the human forms are far from proportionate as the figures were squeezed in to fit the long, narrow format of the leaves. Fortunately with the coming of paper in the 12th century (thanks to the Arab traders), the miniatures were freed from this constraint.
Anyway, the long and short of it was that this style merged happily with the opulent Mughal court style and several distinct schools of Rajasthan miniatures were born: the Mewar or Udaipur school, the Bundi school, the Kishangarh school, the Bikaner school, the Jaipur school and the Alwar school. It seems that every little Rajput fiefdom worth its name encouraged its own unique style. The verdant greenery of the Kota-Bundi region is reflected in the paintings of that region.
The rulers of Amer-Jaipur were the closest to the Mughals and a strong Mughal influence crept into their paintings. Fierce camel fights; bejewelled women stretching seductively or in various stages of undress; midnight trysts of the divine lovers Radha and Krishna; Krishna painting a delicate tattoo on the breast of his sweetheart, Radha; the blood and gore of a tiger or boar hunt; the amorous dalliances of Rajput princes and the pomp and ceremony of the Mughal court - Rajasthani miniatures unabashedly celebrate every aspect of life. The paintings are a rich reminder of how both the regal Mughals and the proud Rajputs lived life in bold Technicolor.
In the back streets of the Pink City, you’ll find Brahmin artists working on a variety of materials from handmade paper and boards of wood to ivory and marble. Most of them still use natural colours derived from insects, shells, minerals, vegetable matter as well as silver and gold. Using the finest squirrel hairbrushes, it takes miniaturist weeks to complete a commission. Their lack of originality – most of them merely replicate the work of their forefathers – is more than compensated for by their breathtakingly precise and detailed workmanship. Sadly, some of the more sales oriented artists have now switched to cheaper chemical colours to satisfy the demand of tourists.
Miniature paintings were once made on a base of ivory but that’s all in the past. The use of ivory has been banned now in the interests of our wildlife. So don’t get conned into buying an ivory painting or artifact.
Puppetry in Rajasthan
Painted wooden heads, hands made simply by stuffing rags or cotton into the sleeve of the dress, with painted expressions, arched eyebrows, mustache for men and nose ring for women and large expressive eyes on their face, puppets are draped with dresses made from sequined old fabrics. They are extremely popular as inexpensive mementos among the tourists.
Stone Carving of Rajasthan
The forts and palaces and beautiful havelis of Rajasthan are all superb examples of the exquisite mason work of the state. Dholpur near Bharatpur and Barmer are popular for panels of frescoes for buildings, large statuaries, planters, and intricately carved elephants and horses as garden sculptures. White marble statues of deities are considered to be a specialty of Jaipur.
There are back lanes in Jaipur that ring with the sound of diamond-tipped chisels and hammers, carefully chipping away at blocks of marble and red or yellow sandstone. Till the royalty held sway in India, stone carving received ample patronage in the form of architectural commissions. In fact, when founding the city of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh earmarked a whole lane for stone carvers, naming it Silawaton ka Mohalla. Some of Jaipur’s best showpieces are the latticework in the City Palace; the sandstone carvings and ornamental stonework at the Hawa Mahal and the Amber Fort gateways.
Today, the stone carvers have to make do with idol making and sculptures. The heart of this industry lies in the southwest quarter of Jaipur. White Makrana marble is carted here in roughly-shaped blocks. A row of holes is drilled and iron wedges hammered into it till the block breaks down along its line of weakness. To craft the figure, a vertical line is drawn along the axis and the sculptor keeps shaping the outline as he goes along. It’s all done very carefully as even a slight crack renders the idol useless for worship. These men who transform stone into poetry, also fashion animals, human figures and plain geometric forms apart from gods and goddesses.