Indian Art

Craft traditions

IVORY

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.


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