Art & Culture
 
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 A state of paradoxes

Rajasthan is renowned the world over for its hand-printed textiles, jewellery, painting, furniture, leatherwork, pottery and metal craft. The use of exuberant colours and ornate, designs a​re some unique features of the artwork of the state. Extensive areas of Rajasthan are monotone, beige –brown desert but the dramatic spectacle and visual variety that pervade it make it one of the most vibrantly colourful of Indian states. These paradoxes are seen again and again- a recurring motif reflected in its decorative arts and crafts.

Though time and again, it has been ravaged by invaders from all across the world, Rajasthan still houses the most opulent and rich treasures. Its history is a long saga of blood feuds and violent battles, but the forbidding stone battlements of its forts shield mirrored rooms and marble carvings of delicacy and grace.

The high-balconies that sometimes were a deterrent to the freedom of women were also marvels of exquisite ornamentation. The jewelled belts and anklets that adorned them were not just ornaments but also rich symbols of love and pride. Needless to say, as an intimate part of everyday life, Rajasthani art and culture has withstood the vicissitudes of industrialism and tourism.  Rajasthan and its crafts are a source of endless fascination-whether one approaches them for purely visual, aesthetic pleasure or pauses to savour the underlying history, culture and symbolism.

Arts and crafts through the centuries

 Not all Rajasthani crafts however, have originated locally. Rajasthan was on the ancient trade route, which exposed its people to different cultures and traditions. Traces of these can be still seen in the various art forms. Sculptures that date back to 10th century have been found along with cave paintings, terracotta works in Baroli and Hadoti regions are live testimonials of Rajasthan’s allegory of love.

History reveals that kings and their kinsmen were patrons of arts and crafts and they encouraged their craftsmen in activities ranging from wood and marble carving to weaving, pottery and painting.

Mughal influence

The constant battles amongst the Rajputs and other invaders were not only a time for change for the people but also art and culture. When a kingdom fell and a new ruler took over, it was time for 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. Rajputs, who sacrificed wealth, power, territory and life itself, to withstand the Mughals were also impressed by their art and aesthetics, taking styles, symbols and techniques, often stealing artisans and incorporating them into their own eclectic, rich tradition.

Jewellery

Clothes-their colour, design and cut-may tell people which village and caste someone comes from, but it is the jewellery in which people’s wealth is invested. In most Rajasthani villages, it is silver. Huge and heavy chunks of it are worn around ankles, waist, neck and wrists, dangling in rings from ears, nose and hair, in chains of buttons down the kurta or choli fronts. The beautiful, ornate designs of Adivasi jewellery have now become fashionable among the urban elite and can be bought everywhere. The aristocracy and the well-to-do did not wear silver. Kundan and enamel jewellery inlaid with precious stones was a speciality of Rajasthan, particularly of Jaipur. Rajasthan  has abundant deposits of semi precious and precious stones that are much in demand these days.

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

 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.

Crafts

Stone statues on religious themes can be seen all over the state. In fact in some cities, there are still entire lanes where the stone carvers can be seen giving final touches to statues or even pillars. Other crafts like blue pottery, hand block 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.