Arts and Crafts in Rajasthan

phad painting rajasthanRajasthan is among the richest states in the country as far as the field of arts and crafts is concerned. May be it was a result of the war-like lifestyle of the people of Rajasthan which sharpened the creative senses, artistic skills and inspired them to create the most opulent and richest of treasures. Stone, clay, leather, wood, ivory, lac, glass, brass, silver, gold and textiles were given the most brilliant forms.

Art flourished in this region as far back as 2nd-1st 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.

art craft rajasthanEach 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 overlooked – animal 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 look 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 there was infinite variety – tie and dye fabrics, embroidered garments, enamel jewellery inalyed 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 motifs like flowers and birds. Also the women –folk made intricate patterns on floors, shaped straw and twine to turn into the most beautiful as well as functional items plus displayed great talent with the needle and thread and papier mache.

When the Rajputs came to dominate this region, it was a period of constant strife. They were almost always in battle with their neighboring kingdoms. When a kingdom fell and a new ruler took over, it was time of change paintings 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 of the battlefield, the Rajputs habe 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.

The Rajput Rulers encouraged the artisans to set up schools for the propagation of their crafts. Each Rajput principality had its own unique craft and to this day, every little town and village has its share of lanes where the craftsmen can be found practising a craft handed down by his ancestors. Some of the popular crafts are:

Meenakari:  Raja Man Singh of Amer brought this intricate craft to Jaipur by inviting five skilled enamel workers from Lahore. The art prospered over the years and is today renowed the world over. Jaipur meenakari is famed for its delicacy and its use of colours. Pratapgarh and Nathdwara are two other centres which produce fine quality enamel work.

Jewellery: Rajasthan is rich in jewellery, each area having its own unique style. Some of the traditional designs are rakhri, timaniyan, 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.

Ivory: The ivory bangles that most Rajasthan women wear are considered auspicious. Ivory is also inlaid and shaped into intricate items of great beauty. Miniature paintings were also executed on ivory.

Blue-Pottery-HandicraftsStone: Statues on religious themes are craved all over Rajasthan and in several cities there are still entire lanes where the stone carvers can be seen giving final touches to statutes or even pillars. Other crafts like blue pottery, handblock printing tie and dye, terracotta sculptures, painting on camel hide, embroidery, cloth painting, carpets, durries, inlay work on brass and wood are to be found all over Rajasthan. 

Lac and Glass: Lac bangles are made in bright colours and sometimes inlaid with glass. Other decorative and functional items are also available.

Sandalwood and wood:  Carved wood is presented in a wide range of objects and is simple and inexpensive.