Rajasthan is among the richest states in the country as far as the field of arts and crafts is concerned. Stone, clay, leather, wood, ivory, lac, glass, brass, silver, gold and textiles are given the most brilliant forms. Some of the popular crafts are :
Rajasthan is rich in jewellery, each area having it's own unique style. Some of the traditional design are rakhri, bala, bajuband, gajra, gokhru, jod, etc. tribal women wear heavy, simply crafted silver jewelry . Men also wear ornaments in the form of chockers and earrings. Jaipur is famous expert centre for precious and semi-precious gem stones. Rajasthan excels in a wide range of ornaments-using Emerald, Daimond, Pearls, Garnet, Agate, etc. made especially in Jaipur and Jodhpur.
Meenakari is the art of enamelling on gold or silver and is done in Jaipur using the raised-field style. Kundan is the art of setting precious stones in gold. There is a large variety of bangles in Rajasthan. Consequently, all manner of precious and semi-precious stones can be purchased in Rajasthan.
Rajasthani textiles come in an attractive range of hand - block prints, tie and dye and embrodered fabrics with mirror work. The art of Khari or over printing in gold is also practised here. The bandhni or tie & dye work comes from Sikar, Jodhpur, Udaipur etc.
As the name suggests, this technique involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red and black. It is essentially a household craft supervised by the head of the family. The fabric is skillfully knotted by the women, while the portfolio of dyeing rests with the men. The Jaipur dyer rarely works with more than two dye baths while the additional colours are spot dyed, which makes the process much easier. Thereafter, the fabric opens out into amazing designs in kaleidoscopic colours: dots, circles, squares, waves and stripes. The laheriya or the ripple effect is achieved by a variation of this technique. Lengths of permeable muslin are rolled diagonally from one corner to the opposite, bound tightly at intervals and then dyed. The ties are then undone and the process repeated by diagonally rolling the adjacent corner toward the opposite and repeating the process. Both Jaipur and Jodhpur are major centres of laheriya.
Rajasthan has a long and distinguished traditon of printing with finely carved wooden blocks. This method, though labourious, is actually quite simple and merely calls for precision. The cloth is laid out flat on a table or bench and a freshly dipped block is handpressed on to the fabric to form a continuous, interlocking pattern. The block carries dye if the original colour of the cloth has to be preserved. If the cloth has to be dyed, the block is used to apply an impermeable resist - a material such as clay, resin or wax - to demarcate the pattern that is not to be coloured. Later, when the cloth is dyed, the pattern emerges in reverse. Traditonally, block-printing relied on the use of natural dyes and pigments, but now synthetic dyes have gained currency as they are cheaper. Block Printing is widely practiced at Sanganer and Bagru.
In the hamlets of southwestern Rajasthan you won't spot a single house without an embroidered toran or frieze hung above the doorway. The women of this region and adjoining Kutch and Saurashtra districts of Gujarat are adept at needlework. Embroidered torans, odhnis, shawls, ghagras (long, flowing skirt) and blouses that come to life with colourful motifs and the sparkle of tiny mirrors or shishas, are a mandatory part of their bridal dowry. There are also embroidered leather bags, saddles and ethnic footwear (popularly dubbed mojdis or jooties), but these are particularly the domain of men.
Rajasthan carpets are suprb in workmanship and command sizeable export market. Exquisite carpets in traditional and contemporary designs, woollen druggets or 'Namdas' and hand-woven cotton duries also known as 'Panja' durries are the popular floor coverings.
Rajasthan has a long history in leather craft and industry and leather shoes known as jootis or mojdis are made in Jaipur and Jodhpur. Embroidery known as kashida is done on the jootis: in Jaipur it is first done on velvet which is then made to cover the shoes while in Jodhpur it is applied directly to the leather. This embroidery is mainly done by the women, who also does a bit of fancy stitching or applique work to give a designer look to the shoes that have neither a left or a right foot.
The miniature paintings of Rajasthan are renowned the world over. Over a period of time several schools of painting developed in Rajasthan : the Mewar School, Bundi-Kota Kalam, Bikaner, Jaipur, paintings were being made in Rajasthan as early as the 18th century and later the Mughal court employed the artists.
Todays families engaged in miniature paintings exist in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nathwara and Kishangarh and continue to paint fine works of art on handmade paper. The ancient tradition of scroll paintings survives in Rajasthan as Phads and Pcihwais in bold vigorous lines and bright primary colours displaying much of the ancient Indian tradition of narrative painting.
Marble from Rajasthan has been used for construction of famous monuments like Taj Mahal. Marble objects range from decorative plates to boxes and animal figures. White marble is painted, sometime with real gold. Even miniature paintings are done on marble. Jaipur is the main centre for exquiste marble objects.
Rajasthan has its main ivory carving centres at Udaipur, Bharatpur and Jaipur from where master ivory carvers were once favoured by the royal courts. While Jaipur was famous for its carved ivory, Jodhpur specialized in ivory bangles. The bangles were worn to cover the whole arm and they decreased in size from just below the shoulder to the wrist. The Bikaner Palace is more well known and prominent for its artistic ivory inlaid doors than the palace itself. Carved ivory artefacts can be purchased in and around Jaipur but the export of ivory in any form from India is strictly prohibited.
Potters pottering about on their wheel and fashioning all kinds of pitchers and earthenware are a common sight in India. While pottery for daily use (like gharas and surahis) is made all over Rajasthan, certain areas specializing in a particular type. Jaipur is known for its regal blue-glazed pottery introduced in India by early Muslim rulers. The blue glaze was initially used to liven up the visual appeal of mosques, tombs and palaces - you'll spot the extensive use of these tiles in the old city of Jaipur. Another hotspot is the village of Molela, 40km north of Udaipur, which excels in terracotta pottery, sculpted plaques and icons of Rajput heroes and Hindu deities. An array of terracotta articles are produced in Rajasthan : paper-thin pottery, painted pottery, white and red clay articles and terracotta wall plaques, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Alwar and Bikaer are the main centres. Black pottery, better sourced in South India, makes its mark up north in the district of Dausa, west of Jaipur. Nowhere as ornamental as its southern counterpart, this one is known for its minimalist and sleek forms.
Kathputlis or wooden puppets are a common and popular form of entertainment in the villages of Rajasthan. The puppeteer is the storyteller who unwinds a folk tale or an episode from the Hindu epics - the Ramayana or the Mahabharata - along with the deft interplay of various puppets, each signifying a character in the tale. Unfortunately, puppet theatre in India is under serious threat from television and cinema, and it may soon be curtains for this animated style of amusement. You may not find too many puppeteers these days, but what you will find is that these well-crafted marionettes are up for sale and look quite sensational in urban homes.
The metalware of Rajasthan comprises of artistic, enamelled and engaved silverware and metalware. Popular creations in silver include wine cups, silver embossed decorative boxes, human figures, cigarette lighter cases and photo farmes.
Jaipur is famous for engraved brassware which is usually enamelled.
Fragrant and aesthetic, sandalwood carvings come in a wide range of themes. The articles range from key chains and paper knives to decorative figures.
The furniture of Rajasthan is in harmony with its palaces and havelis, displaying similar intricate design and carving. The painted furniture of Jodhpur and Kishangarh consists of screens, doors, traditional caskets, doors, traditional caskets, low tables and chairs. Delicately carved wooden doors are made in Ramgarh, Shekhawati and Bikaner. The craft men of Barmer specialize in the art of wood carving, and tables. Tilonia furniture stands out with its fine embroidery work on leather while white metal plated Patra furniture has a charm of its own.
Rajasthani music is very famous not only in India but also in the world. Music and dance are deeply ingrained in Rajasthani life. Instruments such as sarangi, kamaycha, satara, nad, and morchang create a wide range of liting and melodious sound in accompaniment to the music of the Bhopas, Kalbeliyas, Langas and the Manganiyars. Professional performers like the Bhatts, Dholis, Mirasis, Nats and Bhands are omnipresent across the state. Some of the classical dance forms are :
This is basically a community dance for women and performed on auspicious occasions. Derived from the word ghoomna, piroutte, this is a very simple dance where the ladies move gently, gracefully in circles. The Ghoomar is the characteristic dance of the Bhils. Men and women sing alternately and move clockwise & anticlockwise giving free and intended play to the ample folds of ghagra.
This is popular in the Kishangarh region and involves dancing with a chari, or pot, on one's head. A lighted lamp is then placed on the pot.
The Jasnathis of Bikaner and Churu are renowned for their tantric power and the dance is in keeping with their lifestyles. A large ground is prepared with live wood and charcoal where the Jasnathi men and boys jump on to the fire to the accompaniment of drum beats. The music gradually rises in tempo and reaches a crescendo, the dancers seem to be in a trance, like state. This is a desert dance.
Terahtaal is derived from the hindi word '13', it is performed with the aid of 13 cymbals, which are fastened to the bodies of the female dancers who are accompanied by male singers and drummers. It is performed in honour of the local diety, Ramdev, and can be seen at the Ramdevra festival which is held in August or September at the small village of Ramdevra, near Pokhran in western Rajasthan.
This is one of the many dance forms of the Bhil tribals. Performed during Holi festival, this is among a few performances where both men and women dance together, dressed in traditional costume. At the commencement of the dance, participants form two circles, the women, who form a small inner circle, are encompassed by men, who form a large circle around them, and who determine the rhythm of the dance by the beating together of sticks and striking of drums. As the dance proceeds, the participants change places, with men forming the inner circle.
This is a professional dance form from Jalore. Five men with huge drums around their necks, some with huge cymbals accompany a dancer who holds a naked sword in his mouth and performs vigorously by twirling three painted sticks.
Another holi dance but performed only by men. This becomes dhandia gair in Jodhpur and Greendad in Shekhwati. It is a dance of southern Rajasthan originally.
The Kamad community of Pokhran and Deedwana perform this dance in honour of their diety, Baba Ramdeo. In this the men play a four-stringed instrument called a chau-tara and the women sit with dozens of manjeeras, or cymbals, tied on all over their bodies and strike them with the ones they hold in their hands. Sometimes, the women also hold a sword between their teeth or place pots with lighted lamps on their heads. This dance is seen in fairs.
Free dancing full of zest, with rows of dancers waving colourful pennants makes the Bam Rasiya of the Braj region spectacular. It is performed at Holi. The 'Kucchhi Ghodi' or dummy horse dance is performed on festive occasions, by men who are as colourfully attired, as are their horses.
The dance of the kalbelia women is vigorous and graceful.
Music and dance are such an essential part of tribal life that professional musicians and dancers are profuse. The 'garasia' tribals inhabit the Abu Road and Pindwara tehsils of Sirohi district and the neighbouring territories of Kotra, Gogunda and Kherwara tehsils of Udaipur district; Bali and Desuri of Pali district. They have folklore enriched with folktales, proverbs, riddles and folk music.
Walar is an important dance of the 'garasias' which is a prototype of the 'ghoomar' dance. The beats of the 'mandal', 'chang' and a variety of other instruments, which provide a lively rhythm to their dance sequences, generally accompany their dances.
The most famous 'bhil' dance is the 'gowari', a dance drama. Troupes of these dancers go from village to village for a month, during which the nine functionaries follow a strict regimen. The main characters are Rai Buriya Shiva, his two 'Rais', and 'Katkuria', the comic handyman. Between the enactment of various episodes, the entire troupe dances around a central spot consecrated to a deity. A 'madal' and a 'thali' accompany the dance.