They can be found in small shops in places all over Rajasthan, as well as in large handicraft stores, and are part of the landscape of the state.
Blue Glazed Pottery famous in Jaipur was introduced to India by the Muslims and popularised by Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur. The pottery is made of ground quartz stone, fuller`s earth and sodium sulphate instead of the simple clay. Blue and white are the traditional colours used though, more recently, yellow, pink and green are also being used. Most pieces are hand-painted with conventional floral patterns, figures of animals and scenes from the lives of the royal families.
Terra-cotta pottery Molela, a village to the north of Udaipur specialises in making these images. Alwar produces paper thin pottery, Bikaner is famous for painted pottery, tinted with lac colours, while white and red clay articles with geometric designs come from Pokharan.
Dhurries and Carpets
Available in a variety of sizes, the dhurrie is woven not only in Jaipur, but in villages all over the state. In places such as Bikaner and Jaisalmer, where the temperatures can dip alarmingly, woollen dhurries made of camel hair are very much in vogue. Carpets: Initially, huge carpets were specially woven for royal residences. Inspired by the Mughals, prisoners were employed at looms, a tradition that has continued to date. Bikaner is still famous for its so-called jail carpets. Namdah:Another floor covering that has widespread use in Rajasthan is the namdah or felted rug. The namdah comes in mainly two fashions – embroidered and in applique work.
The basic fabric produced by the weaver are printed, dyed or embroidered to get an exotic range. Each region has its own motifs and choice of colours, and each settlement uses colours in a particular way. Printing: Block printing and batik are two forms of printing widely applied. Sanganer, is famous world over for its block printing. Bagru is another place famous for this art. . Barmer and Jaisalmer are two popular centres for batik. Tie and Dye: Sikar and Jodhpur are the most popular centres. Mirror work, applique and embroidery: Bikaner, Sikar, Jhunjhunu are popular centres.
Furniture and Wood Carving
Rajasthan excels in the art of making `old furniture`. Doors and windows, wooden jharokhas, tables with cast iron jaalis, side-boards, chairs, benches, jhoolas or swings, and dressers are made to resemble the furniture that was in vogue in havelis a hundred years ago. While Jaipur is a popular centre, Jodhpur, in particular, is well known for its `old` furniture, and Ramgarh, in Shekhawati, has become a major centre for its manufacture. Shekhawati and Bikaner have been the traditional centres for woodwork. Jodhpur and Kishangarh are especially popular for painted wooden furniture. Shekhawati, Bikaner and Ramgarh specialise in making delicately carved wooden doors. Barmer craftsmen specialise in woodcarvings.
Other pieces of furniture include the leather-embroidered chairs of Tilonia, and the carved-back, string-bottom chairs of Shekhawati. Marble tops for tables are also popular, and screens are available with both painted panels and brass embellishments. Carving: On a more popular level, visitors will find everything from camels and horses to elephants and parrots that are carved and brightly painted.
One of the finest crafts to emerge from Bikaner, the inner hide of the camel is used for the purpose. The hide is scraped till it is paper thin and transluscent. It is then moulded into various forms of lamp shades, hip flasks, perfume phials or vases. It is then painted over with fine gesso work using gold to lend richness to the otherwise bright reds and greens used in the work.
Jewellery and Gemstones
Rajputs prefer gold – even for their feet while chunky silver articles are worn by the tribes and other castes. Besides the handmade silver jewelry, exquisite ornaments are made in Jaipur and Jodhpur using emerald, diamond, pearl, garnet, agate and lapis lazuli. Colourfully enamelled gold and silver jewellery is also very popular. Kundan, (precious stone set in gold) jewelry is a specialty of Jaipur. Rajasthan is one of the largest centres in the world for the hand-cutting of gems.
It is not unusual to find shops piled with onyx, cat`s eye, lapiz lazuli, carnelian, garnets, amethysts and topaz. Even precious stones like rubies, emeralds and diamonds are easily available. Semi-precious and precious stones at Jaipur are also carved into figurines and statues.
The hides of dead animals have never been put to better use than in Rajasthan whether as juttees, the embroidered footwear the people wear, or as saddles, bags and pouches.It is even used as backs for chairs after it has been embroidered with woollen motifs. Jaipur and Jodhpur are the traditional centres for jutis.
In later years the art of enamelling became merely decorative and, in Rajasthan, has been used for everything from tabletops to wall plates, flasks, and for crafting objets d`art. Brassware, enamelled, engraved and filigree cut work on silver are available in Rajasthan. Jaipur, Alwar and Jodhpur are prime centres for metalware.
Miniature paintings, portrait and courtly paintings, murals, cloth and furniture painting, mehndi or henna, domestic painting and mandana or the art of decorating houses are some of these. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nathdwara and Kishangarh are some of the centres still engaged in this art form. Of course, there are other forms of painting available too such as the phads or scrolls with their tales of Pabuji, and the pichwais with their Krishna legends. The centre for the best pichwais is Nathdwara, near Udaipur, where the paintings are often decorated with precious stones.
Inexpensive souvenirs, they recall more easily than most other things memories of a visit to this state of chivalrous kings and beautiful queens.
From Dholpur near Bharatpur to Barmer in the heart of the desert, the chisel of the stone mason is put to incredible use as he commands everything from pink and red sandstone to marble, tamara and chlorite to create panels of frescos for buildings,
large statuary, planters, figures of gods (usually in marble and crafted almost entirely in Jaipur), and elephants and horses as garden sculpture. Jaipur specialises in making white marble statues of gods and goddess.