The patronage for artisans of the
state was extended by the kings and rulers who turned to them to embellish
their zenanas, the women?s wings of the palaces, and the durbar or courts.
Ateliers were created where artists were treated with due respect and
paintings, jewellery and pottery, stone and wood carving, textile and rug
weaving, was accorded due place. That this was a serious activity was
evident when the founder of the city of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh invited
artisans from all over the country to come and settle in his new capital.
Incentives were given and special areas were designated for their places of
work and residence. As a result, Jaipur today is referred to as the crafts
capital of the country and the city?s life seems to derive from the industry
of gems and jewellery and large number of industries that deal in the arts
Jaipur?s bazaar, like those of Jodhpur and Bikaner, Udaipur, Kota and
countless other towns, are a source of endless fascination. What has changed
is patronage. The average Indian and foreign tourist are equal partners in
the new boom in the business. And no longer are ateliers classical. Today?s
bazaars accept folk art and jewellery, and have been successful in helping
bridge the gap between traditional art and contemporary usage.
and Dye Textiles
The traditional art of tie-and-dye textiles by dexterously knotting the
material and dipping it in colour to form delicate bandhej patterns is found
all over the state. Laheriyas or the delicately created patterns in waves
are dyed mostly in Udaipur. Jodhpur, on the other hand, is famous for its
pachranga or five-coloured bandhej on saris, odhnis, or mantles and safas or
turbans. Jaipur?s Johari Bazaar has rows of shops dealing in tie-and-dye
fabrics and saris. Also available all over Rajasthan are the fine
self-check-weave cotton saris from Kota. These gossamer-fine saris,
excellent for summer wear, are available in plain colours or printed in
subtle floral patterns in soft pastel shades.
Hand block printing is not only a traditional form of imparting motifs and
colour on fabric, mostly cotton, but is also an eco-friendly form of
printing on textiles. Metre upon metre of fabric is printed meticulously by
hand using wooden blocks and vegetable dyes. Though hand block printing is
widely practised all over the state, two villages close to Jaipur, Sanganer
and Bagru, are devoted solely to the pursuit. Sanganeri is famous for its
delicate floral sprigs, Bagru for its linear and zigzag stripes in earth
colours. Barmer, a town located in the heart of the desert, is known for its
red indigo geometric ajraks and historic Chittor for its jajam prints.
Another Rajasthani speciality is the quilt. Almost no shopping expedition to
Rajasthan is complete without buying at least one feather-soft and
feather-light Jaipuri razai as these quilts are called. Though these quilts
are available all over the state, it is in Jaipur that they have reached a
degree of perfection. Available in beautiful colours with Sanganeri prints,
bright tie-dyed materials, marble prints on cotton or in brightly hued
velvet, they weigh very little yet are comfortingly warm.
Jaipur?s Johari Bazaar or Jeweller?s mart has row upon row of shops selling
handcrafted jewellery. Loose precious and semi-precious stones are crafted
all together into an excellent range of the country?s most dramatic settings
in gold. Kundan, a style of inlay setting of unpolished diamonds and other
stones and Meenakari or the art of enamelled gold jewellery, are exclusive
Jaipur is the world?s largest gem cutting centre and therefore the best
place to pick up strings of garnets, amethysts or quartz at prices so low
that they are difficult to believe. Of course, if your pocket stretches a
little more, then the stones to pick up here should also include rubies,
emeralds and diamonds.
The traditional silver jewellery-chains, bangles, belts, anklets,
earrings-is manufactured by bangle makers all over Rajasthan. To make it the
collector?s items, the jewellery is studded with glass, stones and painted
with a rich patina of colors too.
Apart from hand block printed fabrics, Sanganer is also famous for producing
handmade paper and blue pottery. The art of making glazed blue pottery,
though originally from Persia, was brought to Jaipur by Sawai Ram Singh II.
This unique art of pottery that does not use clay but resorts to crushed
quartz instead, went into decline with the withdrawal of royal patronage. It
was given a fresh lease of life by renowned artist Kripal Singh Shekhawat.
You can?t go far in Rajasthan without wanting to possess a pair of the
handcrafted slip-on shoes called jootis. The leather is tanned and dyed and
made into incredibly soft yet remarkably sturdy footwear. As you wear your
pair of jootis, it will take on the shape of your foot, making them
comfortable in a way no shoe can. The upper part of the jooti is embellished
with embroidery, studded with brass nails or cowrie shells, punched,
sequinned, stitched-the decorations and designs varying with the region.
Should you desire them, they are available in plain too.
Bikaner is famous for using the inner hide of the camel in an
extraordinary fashion. The hide is scraped till it becomes translucent and
then moulded into lampshades, vases, perfume vials and photo frames. Bikaner
is also famous for its hand-knotted woollen carpets and Jaipur for its
extensive range of cotton rugs called durries.
Jodhpur and Ramgarh in the Shekhawati region are important centres of
woodcarving. Intricately carved doors, windows, dowry chests, picture, and
mirror frames are produced on the same lines as craftsmen produced centuries
ago. To make them look aged, these reproductions are acid washed, left out
in the open under the sun, chipped and marked.
Paintings are a special buy and many Indian homes patronise Rajasthani
painters. Pichwais are the least expensive, unless they are painted by a
master artist and finished in gold. Miniature paintings re-enact historical
episodes or mythical tales in Schools that have come to be identified with
the different kingdoms that merged in Rajasthan. Udaipur and Jaipur
miniatures can be recognised by their fine brush strokes, the Bundi and
Kotah kalams are known for their scenes of battle and of shikar (hunts)
while the Kishangarh School does portraits with Radha-Krishna as the
principal characters. Nathdwara, a place of pilgrimage close to Udaipur,
furnishes paintings of Krishna in a characteristic style.
Udaipur with its Shilpgram has a wealth of terracotta panels and figures.
Barmer is known for the quality of its mirror-embossed embroidery. From
Jaisalmer come the warm though coarse shawls and blankets woven with
geometrical motifs and patterns