Handicrafts of Rajasthan

Rajasthan – the land of the Rajahs – can boast not only of its rich, regal past, but also of its outstanding crafts tradition. Every nook and corner of this state in India tells a different story of handicrafts. Kishangarh, Bikaner, Alwar, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, Bhilwara, Udaipur – you name a place and it will have its own heritage of diverse handicrafts. From Indian paintings to jewelry, marble work to leather, textile to woodcraft – Rajasthan excels in every possible aspect of handicrafts.

Wooden handcrafted furniture: Rajasthan, specially Barmer and Jodhpur, specializes in the craft of wooden furniture. Hand carved from locally available wood, these beautifully patterned furniture can enliven even the shabbiest of rooms. Kishangarh and Shekhawati have their own styles of ornate furniture. Furniture from Jodhpur sport an old times look that charms the onlooker.

The technique of painting furniture in various colors is quite common in Rajasthan. The items, which are generally available in this range, are small chairs and tables, chowkis, stools with string seats, boxes, cabinets, mirror and picture frames, doors and windows. Wooden furniture from Rajasthan is noted for its intricate designs, beautiful paintings, an overall aesthetic and functional appeal.

Paintings: Rajasthan is renowned all over the world for its mesmerizing painting styles. Rajasthani miniature paintings have their own distinct style and regional characteristics. Udaipur and Jaipur miniatures can be recognized by their fine brush strokes, Bundi and Kotah are known for their scenes of battle and of shikar (hunts).

The Kishangarh School portrays Radha-Krishna as the principal characters. Paintings from Rajasthan are some of the most sought after artifacts today. Phad paintings are the famous folk paintings, executed on cloth, from Rajasthan.

Rajasthan Jewelry: Rajasthan is the jewel in the crafts map of India, and Rajasthan jewelry is its brightest gem. Wood and ivory carving, lacquer and filigree work, delicately cut precious stones, and exquisite enameled & silver jewelry – are some of the varieties perfected by Rajasthani craftsmen. Gifted by ancestors, and honed by time, the art of Indian jewelry has flourished in Rajasthan, perhaps like no other state in India. Kundan, a style of inlay setting of unpolished diamonds and other stones and Meenakari or the art of enameled gold jewelry, are exclusive to Jaipur.

Textile: Rajasthan has a wide variety of textile traditions, most famous being the tie and dye and block printing method. Each region has its own patterns and designs, a riot of colors being common to all.

Tie and Dye Textiles: Tie and Dye is an art of textile designing common to whole of Rajasthan. The traditional art of tie-and-dye textiles involves knotting the material and dipping it in color to form delicate bandhej patterns. Laheriyas or the delicately created patterns in waves are dyed mostly in Udaipur. Jodhpur, on the other hand, is famous for its pachranga or five-colored bandhej on saris, odhnis (mantles) and turbans. Bandhej, Bandani, Lehriya, Batik, Mothra, Ekdali, Shikari, Cheent comes under this category.

Hand Block Printing: Hand block printing is a traditional form of imparting motifs and colour on fabric, mostly cotton. Carved wooden blocks soaked in different colors are pasted on the fabric. It is an eco-friendly form of printing on textiles. Meticulous printing by hand is done using vegetable dyes. Though hand block printing is widely practised all over the state, two villages close to Jaipur, Sanganer and Bagru, are devoted solely to the pursuit. Sanganeri is famous for its delicate floral sprigs, Bagru for its linear and zigzag stripes in earth colors. Barmer, a town located in the heart of the desert, is known for its red indigo geometric ajraks and historic Chittor for its jajam prints.

Zari work: Gota, zardosi, banarsi are made for formal and bridal ensembles, with metallic and threaded embroidery.

Quilting: Another Rajasthani specialty is the quilt. These feather-soft and feather-light quilts are called razais. Though these quilts are available all over the state, it is in Jaipur that they have reached a degree of perfection. Available in beautiful colors with Sanganeri prints, bright tie-dyed materials, marble prints on cotton or in brightly hued velvet, they weigh very little yet are comfortingly warm.

Gems and stones: Jaipur is world's largest gem cutting center. This is the best place to pick up strings of garnets, amethysts or quartz at unbelievable prices.

Blue Pottery: Sawai Ram Singh II, though originally from Persia, brought the art of making glazed blue pottery, to Jaipur. This unique art of pottery does not use clay but resorts to crushed quartz. The color schemes are also peculiar. Blue (oxide of cobalt), Green (oxide of copper) and the external white are characteristic. Some of the pottery is semi- translucent. Lately experiments are being done with other colors such as yellow, dark blue and brown.

The floral or arabesque, hand made patterns and the animal figure patterns are the conventional designs. The various articles shaped out are mostly the traditional ones like surahis or pots of different shapes and size for multiple use, ashtray, tiles, flower pots, lamp shades, jars and various accessories or interior items are the forte of this art of pottery. This declined with the withdrawal of royal patronage. It was given a fresh lease of life by renowned artist Kripal Singh Shekhawat

Leather Craft: The handcrafted slip-on shoes called jootis are one of the several specialties of Rajasthan. Leather is tanned and dyed and made into incredibly soft yet remarkably sturdy footwear. The upper part of the jooti is embellished with embroidery, studded with brass nails or cowrie shells, punched, sequined, stitched-the decorations and designs varying with the region. Bikaner is famous for using the inner hide of the camel in an extraordinary fashion. The hide is scraped till it becomes translucent and then molded into lampshades, vases, perfume vials and photo frames.

Apart from all these, Rajasthan also has a remarkable range of terracotta products, metal crafts, lac products, stone carving, marble work and durries, carpets and rugs. Owing to its rich variety and heritage of handicrafts, Rajasthan is a shopper's paradise till date.

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