Ivory carving in India has been an extremely popular
craft since ages. Among the legendary merchandise that
made India fabulous through the then known world was
ivory, like frankincense and muslin. The Vedic text
includes it amongst the noblest of crafts. According
to history, King Solomon acquired Indian Ivory in 10th
Century B.C, and King Darius used ivory decorations
in his palace in 6th century B.C.
Ivory is a dental substance, placed by chemists between
bone and horn. India is known for crafts on tusks of
elephants. Here, ivory has been used for a number of
purposes from sacred images to dies.
The Ivory carvers of Bengal, Jaipur and Delhi produce
objects such as the ambari hathi or processioanl elephant,
models of bullock carts, caskets, book covers, sandals,
palanquins and frames for the European market. In Orissa,
there has been a tradition of offering ivory inlaid
furniture to the temple of Puri.
Miniature shrines with delicate pillars and intricate
low relief floral work, caskets depicting scenes from
myths and legends, and images of gods and goddesses
including Christian icons and symbols has been a tradition
in Kerala and Karnataka.
Delhi is one of the main centres for ivory carving.
Popular items are chess sets, billiard balls and small
articles like scent bottles, paper knives, trinket or
pan boxes, and a number of jewellery items like beads,
bead necklaces, bangles and rings. Rajasthan has been
famed for its ivory items, fans with charming figures
for handles, centre pieces for the dining table with
ornately carved receptacles shaped as flowers and half-opened
blossoms, the lids adorned with birds.
Ivory craftsmen of Gujarat make human figures as also
statues of deities in excellent quality. Punjab's highly
decorated elephants and figurines depicting characters
from folk or heroic tales are superb.
Uttar Pradesh is famous for its Hindu and Buddhist figures
of deities, dancing poses and decorative plaques.
Kerala has an amazing tradition of painting on ivory.
The state with its profusion of temples with carvings
could not but specialise in figures of gods and goddesses
of superb workmanship. Scenes from Ramayana and other
epic stories and statue of St.George on a giant charger,
killing the dragon with his spear are some of the fabulous
works in Ivory.
The work on the doors of the Amber palace in Jaipur
and the exquisite in-lay in the Mysore palace doors
and the Golden Temple at Amritsar proclaim the architectural
decoration with Ivory.