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About Wood Crafts in India
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 AD. Kashmir is the only state in India, where walnut trees grow. The craftsmen here create intricate carvings on wood obtained from the walnut tree. Furniture items like tables, chairs, stools, partitions etc have rich floral and trellis patterns carved on them. Carving done on walnut is either deep or shallow. Items like tables, fruit trays and bowls etc are also decorated with inlay work. Wax polishing is done on finished products, so that the beauty of the wood grain is not lost.
The desert state of Rajasthan is known for articles and decorative objects made from locally obtained wood. The art of woodwork has been prevalent here for quite a long time and has survived mainly due to the royal patronage. The art found its way into the religious life as well since it was used in making ornaments, ceremonial arches, pillars and other things related to religion and ceremonies. Each region of Rajasthan has its own unique wood tradition. Barmer is well known for carved furniture. Some furniture pieces like tables, low stools etc have miniature paintings on them. Carved wood items such as cabinets, screens, chairs, tables, almirahs, racks etc are highly ornate. Rajasthan is also known for wood figurines in the shape of animals, which are beautified with inlay work. Exquisite jali or latticework is also produced here. Craftsmen of Rajasthan also make delicately carved figures of deities on rosewood and sandalwood.
Uttar Pradesh has many craft centres engaged in making different items out of wood. Saharanpur is known for vine-leaf patterns on Sheesham wood. Floral, geometric and figurative carving is also done here with wood inlay work. Inlay work is done with bone and plastic as ivory is banned in India. Mainpuri is famous for woodwork on ebony or black sheesham inlaid with brass wire. Banaras is known for lacquered toys and miniature utensils for children to play with.
Woodwork from Andhra Pradesh is varied. Kondapalli is known for brightly painted wooden toys, while Etikopakka is known for wood lacquer ware. Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu too, have their distinct wood carving traditions. Karnataka is famous for carvings and decorative pieces made from sandalwood. Sandalwood items like, boxes, trays, key chains, small figurines are not only carved tastefully but they also give out subtle smell of sandal. West Bengal and Kerala are known for items made from the wood obtained from coconut tree.
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. Naurangpur in Orissa is famous for its highly decorated and brightly lacquered bamboo boxes.
Being a wood with a heavenly smell, it is extensively used in cosmetic and soap manufacturing. The beauty-conscious Indian women used to rub their bodies with a sandal and turmeric paste for a blemish-free skin much before the western cosmetic industry made inroads into India. In many parts of the country, brides still have their ritual bath with sandalwood paste.
Sandalwood grows mainly in India in the state of Karnataka. The tree grows naturally in fertile tropical forestlands with abundant rainfall. It is also cultivated. The tree is a root parasite. Soon after germination, the seedling finds a host and derives nourishment from it. It grows about 10 meters high, has a girth of one-and-a half- meters and lives for over a 100 years. Only trees older than 30 years are exploited for wood. India has over 70 varieties of this exotic species. About ten of them have been found to be hardy and are cultivated. A 30-year-old tree usually yields 100 to 250 kilograms of scented hardwood and the quantity increases if the tree is older.
The inner wood or heartwood is used for carving and the bark when powdered is an important raw material in the manufacture of agarbatis. For the extraction of oil, used by the cosmetic and soap industry, the tree has to be uprooted, for it is the roots that have the highest percentage of oil.Even spent wood after oil extraction is an important raw material in agarbati manufacture. Sandalwood scrapings are powdered and sold in pouches. The powder makes an excellent face and skin pack Karnataka has the Gudigars, families that for generations have been engaged in sandalwood and ivory carving. The Gudigars make some of the most exquisite pieces using simple tools like knives, screwdrivers, hand drills and saws. As the elephant and sandalwood country is one, the Gudigars love carving elephants of all sizes.
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