Woodwork in India

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India boasts a luxuriant range in wood and the wood works. The Kashmiri wooden architecture, made from walnut and deodar wood, has flourished from the 11th century A.D. The lattice-work called acche-dar and azli pinjra and the khatamband are famous. The Gujarat architecture is lyrical and elaborate with its projected balconies, decorative windows and doors.

The elegant tharavad homes of Kerala, corresponding to the havelis of Gujarat, are brilliant pieces of architecture in deep brown teakwood. Brahmour and Chatrahi in Himachal Pradesh are known for their fine tradition of the temple wood-carving. It is done in various styles called naghbel, dori, kutheri phool and jali. The Bhimakali Temple of Sarahan is an excellent example of wood-carving. The sandalwood of Karnataka is used for carving items like statues of gods and goddesses, utilitarian objects and sandalwood boxes. Red sandalwood of Andhra Pradesh, known as raktachandan, is traditionally being used to carve figures of deities and dolls.  Nirmal in the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh is known for its fine woodwork using the burgu and punki types of wood.  In Uttar Pradesh wood- carving is done using different types of wood like sisam, sal and dudhi. Kerala also produces good beautifully carved religious figures. It also produces elephants in variety of postures and sizes using the kumbli wood.

There are hundreds of special occasions throughout the country when certain wooden figures are produced for rituals. The magnificent wood sculptures of the Bhuta cult of ancestor-worship from coastal Karnataka are carved from solid blocks of wood obtained from the jackfruit tree. Wood carving of religious figures is common in India. Scenes from the Epics, particularly those from the battlefield, forest and palace, in addition to figures of deities, are recurrent themes in wood carvings. The artisans in Uttar Pradesh are famous for their Mughal designs such as fret work, jali and anguri. The wood carving of the Northeastern tribes are executed in wood, which is locally known as kumisyng. Among the carved objects, the huge log drum is particularly noteworthy. A partitioned stand with three legs, rice pounding tables, wooden cups and platters, smoking pipes and musical instruments are typical Naga woodworks. Assam is noted for its special styles and objects like the namghar or kirtanghar (a wooden house), hukkas, sandals and book-rests. The wood carving of the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan include doors, window frames, “marriage-litters”, wedding pillars, tobacco cases and pipes. Elaborate and extensive woodcarving can be seen on the doors and windows of Rajasthan’s palaces and havelis. Barmer and Jodhpur produce the finest wooden carved chairs with woven-rope seats and exquisite jali or latticework on the backrest. An equally charming technique is called tarkashi, which is an amalgam of Rajput and Mughal styles and involves the laying of fine brass or copper wire into carefully chiseled grooves. The Pali district in Rajasthan produces thin bowls and other articles from rohida wood.

Wood inlay, which developed and flourished through Mughal influence involves the placing of small parts of ivory, plastic, horn, metal pieces or other types of wood into carved surfaces of wooden items. This is found in various parts of the country such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.  Karnataka is famous for the inlay work of rosewood. Surat in Gujarat is famous for its framed marquetry work known as Sadeli. Bhavnagar in Gujarat is famous for its large sized chests known as pataras. Kerala is famous for its decorating wooden chests and boxes bound by brass bands. Its jewel box called netturpetty is an excellent example of this work. The classical style of woodwork like painted cradles, boxes and ganjifa, the traditional set of playing cards are painted with religious and mythological figures.

Wood lacquer work is popular in Rajasthan, Kashmir, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Rajasthan and Kashmir are famous for their nakashi style of lacquer work. Rajkot in Gujarat is famous for its atashi style articles. Udaipur in Rajasthan has a long tradition in lacquering in the zigzag and dana techniques. Ratnagiri in Maharashtra produces lacquered imitation fruits using hale and pangora woods. Punjab has evolved a technique called the abri or cloud work.  In Bihar the laheri community makes beautiful containers known as sindurdaans.  Naurangpur in Odisha is famous for its highly decorated and brightly lacquered bamboo boxes.


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