Rajasthan is among the richest states in the country as far as the field of arts and crafts is concerned. Maybe it was a result of the war-like lifestyle of the people of Rajasthan which sharpened the creative senses, artistic skills and inspired them to create the most opulent and richest of treasures. Stone, clay, leather, wood, ivory, lac, glass, brass, silver, gold and textiles were given the most brilliant forms.
Art flourished in this region as far back as 2nd-1st centuries BC and continued over the centuries. In Baroli, in the Hadoti region, the presence of several sculptures proves that a regular art school existed in the 10th century. The cave paintings, terracotta and other stone sculptures excavated at different sites corroborate this.
Each period of history saw its own contribution to the thriving art scene. History of Rajasthan reveals that the kings and their nobles were patrons of arts and crafts and they encouraged their craftsmen in activities ranging from wood and marble carving to weaving, pottery and painting. And art seems to have been obsessed with the
inhabitants of this parched landscape. The desire to decorate their surroundings was very strong. Nothing was overlooked animals from the regal elephant to the lowly donkey, the great palaces and the inner chambers of forbidding forts were decorated with as much attention as were the walls of humble mud huts. The inhabitants were not too far behind when it came to adorning themselves and it was not only the women who beautified themselves the heroic warriors extended equal attention to their clothing and armour they went into battles with meticulously ornamented swords and shields. The horses and elephants that took the warriors to battles received the same care jewelled saddles and intricate silver howdas were just some of the ornaments that were used to adorn them.
For women, there was infinite variety tie and dye fabrics, embroidered garments, enamel jewellery inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones, leather jootis. They put their lives indoors to very good use by decorating their surroundings on the walls of their mud-huts were painted geometric designs as well as simple pictures like flowers and birds. Also tile women folk made intricate patterns Outdoors shaped straw and twine to turn into the most beautiful items.
When the Rajputs came to dominate this region, it was a period of constant strife. They were almost always in battle with their neighbouring kingdoms When a kingdom fell and a new ruler took over, it was time for change paintings depicting the new rulers victory, scenes from the battle and processions of the victorious march were faithfully reproduced on the walls and handmade paper. Other than the paintings, the new rulers also influenced the existing crafts of that area. Despite their love for the battlefield, the Rajputs have been patrons of art and also their 350 years of contact with the Mughals led to a very strong influence on their lives and arts. Quite a few folk arts received the refinement and delicacy of the Mughal courts. They borrowed freely from the Agra and Delhi courts and in some cases, also sent their skilled craftsmen to adorn the Mughal courts.
Jaipur meenakari is famed for its delicacy and its use of colours. Pratapgarh and Nathdwara are two other centres which produce fine quality enamel work.
Rajasthan is rich in jewellery, each area having its own unique style. Some of the traditional designs are rakhri, tirnaniyan, bala, bajuband, gajra, gokhru, jod, etc. Tribal women wear heavy, simply crafted jewellery and seem to carry the weight (almost up to five kgs) without much discomfort almost all the time. Men too wear their share of ornaments in the form of chockers and earrings.
The ivory bangles that most Rajasthani women wear are considered auspicious. Ivory is also inlaid and shaped into intricate items of great beauty. Miniature paintings were also executed on ivory.
Lac and Glass
Lac bangles are made in bright colours and sometimes inlaid with glass. Other decorative and functional items are also available.
Sandalwood and Wood
Carved wood is presented in a wide range of objects and is simple and inexpensive.
Statues on religious themes are carved all over Rajasthan and in several cities, there are still entire lanes where the stone carvers can be seen giving final touches to statues or even pillars. Other crafts like blue pottery, hand block printing, tie and dye, terracotta sculptures, painting on camel hide, embroidery, cloth painting, carpets, durries, inlay work on brass and wood are to be found all over Rajasthan.