Rajasthan is among the richest states in the country in this field. It has created and preserved rich craft heritage which includes fabulous fabrics in lovely prints, precious and semi-precious stones, Kundan & Meenakari Jewellery, embroidered leather work, hand crafted items of wood, ivory, lac, glass, brass, silver and gold.
The Rajputs rulers have been patrons of art and encouraged the artisans by setting up schools for the propagation of their crafts. Each Rajput principally had his own unique craft and to this day, every little town and village has its share of lanes where the craftsmen can be found practicing a craft handed down by their ancestors. Some of the popular crafts:
Carpets and Durries
The hand knotted woolen carpets of Tonk, Bikaner and Jaipur, are generally based on Persian styles. The traditional cotton durries of Jaipur, Jodhpur are, mostly in pastel shades with geometrical motifs design. Woolen Namda of Tonk (non woven) is equally popular.
Each area has it’s own unique style. Some of the traditional designs are rakhri, bala, bajuband, gajra, gokhru, jod, etc. During Mughal period the Mughals brought sophisticated design and new technical know-how of the Persians origin and Rajasthan became a major centre for production of jewellery.
The Meenakari is the craftsmanship of setting of precious stones into gold and the enameling of gold. Raja Mansingh of Amer brought this intricate art in Jaipur by inviting some skilled workers from Lahore and it has grown over the years. Jaipur Meenakari is famous for it’s delicacy and colourfullness. Alwar, Pratapgarh and Nathdwara are other centers, which produce fine quality enamel work.
Kundan work, a speciality of Rajasthan, was the only form of setting for stones in gold until claw settings were introduced under the influence of western jewellery in the nineteenth century. The pieces, which make up the finished object, are first shaped (and soldered together if the shape is complicated), holes for stones are cut, and then enameled. Lac, a natural resin, is inserted in the back and the stones are pushed through.
Ivory was often used to make jewellery, especially bangles, which are considered an essential part of bridal jewellery. The bangles are often overlaid with gold. They are often dyed in various colors. Ivory is also inlaid and shaped into intricate items of great beauty.
Lac & Glass 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.
Jewellery for Women:
Feminine jewellery is more complex than masculine jewellery. Ladies generally wear a number of jewellery right from head to Foot.These are:
Borla, Hair pins, Nath (Nose ring), Karan phool & Jhumka (Earrings), Champakali (necklace), Bajuband (Armlet), Chuda (Bangles), Rings, Hathphool (around wrist and fingers), Kardhani (around west), Rings (on the toes), Payal & Jhanjhar (around ankle) and so on, bedecked from head to toe in jewellery. . Tribal women wear heavy, simply crafted silver jewellery.
Jewellery for the Male:
Turban jewellery – Turbans 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, and diamonds. Pearls were greatly loved by the Maharajas and they often wore double or triple strings of pearls with pendants of precious stones round their necks. Men also wore earrings, armlets, anklets, jewelled sashes around their waists and several rings on every finger and continue to wear them in rural areas. For the common man these are made from more modest metals like silver, and gems are substituted by coloured glass.
The world fame jootis are made from leather having artistically embroidered uppers. These are incredibly comfortable and sturdy. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer and Jaisalmer are traditionally known for this footwear. Leather is also an essential raw material for making musical instruments such as the tabla, dhol, kamaycha, used by Rajasthani folk musicians.
Bikaner is known for its painted lampshades, shields and vases made from camel hide. Designer hand-bags, purses, belts, hats, stools and collapsible chairs with graphic embroideries made from leather at Tiloniya village near Ajmer are of good craftmanship.
From palaces to huts, paintings can be found everywhere in many colours and forms. Rajasthani paintings can broadly be classified into Wall, Cloth and Miniature Paintings.
Wall Paintings – Walls and Ceilings of Palaces, Havelis, even huts are usually covered with colourful paintings. 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 ones on the walls are tucked away in houses in the lanes of Jaisalmer.
Cloth Paintings – include the phad and the pichwai (cloth hangings 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 – Different schools of this fascinating art have flourished here since the 16th century, each with its own distinctive style, including painting on ivory. The Kishangarh School is best known for its Bani Thani paintings – a unique style with highly exaggerated features – long necks, large almond-shaped eyes, long fingers and the use of subdued colours. 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.
Rajasthan’s terracotta tradition date back to the Indus Valley Civilization and has continued in all parts of the state. A village Molela near Udaipur is fame for its terracotta articles.
Clay is extensively used for making pots, dolls and other objects. These are painted with various types of images like folk divinities and are sold in village fairs during festive times such as Gangaur, Teej and Diwali. Jaipur is the home of glazed blue-pottery. Vases, flowerpots, bowls, water pots and other objects are produced in traditional geometrical and floral motifs, as well as hand-painted details of Rajasthani legends.
Puppetry is an ancient and popular form of folk entertainment. No village fair, no religious festival and no social gathering in Rajasthan can be complete without the kathputlis (puppets). With their sparkling eyes and brightly coloured dresses, the kathputlis, gives unforgettable experience.
Sandalwood and Woodwork
Carved wooden chests and boxes with brass inlay and laquer work, together with sandalwood statues and objects, are some of the most popular hand crafted items. There is also a wide range of grand furniture, reminiscent of the royal era. Tiloniya (near Ajmer) furniture also stands out for its fine embroidery work done on leather, as also carved furniture from Barmer region.
Rajasthani textiles come in a fascinating range of dyed and block-printed fabric, which are further embroidered. Each region has its own special colour scheme, design & technique.
Hand-block printed textiles of Sanganer and Bagru near Jaipur have won the hearts of millions at home and abroad. Jaipur’s quilts are a hot favourite with most tourists.
Tie-and-dye textiles, called bandhej or bandhani, are an important Rajasthani craft. Different methods are used to tie the fabric into small points and produce various patterns like lehariya, mothda, ekdali and shikari. The best bandhej comes from Sikar and Jodhpur, while Jaipur, Barmer, Pali, Udaipur and Nathdwara are the other centres. Zari and gota are lavishly used in bridal and formal costumes. One can pick up saris or even cushion covers with this elaborate metallic thread embroidery.