Woodcraft in India
has been used for making articles of utility
as well as artistic nature since time immemorial.
India exhibits the tradition of exquisite natural
beauty and breathtakingly beautiful wooden handicraft.
The country’s vast cultural and ethnic
diversity has enabled a variety of motifs, techniques
and crafts to flourish in various parts of the
land. India possesses a tradition of elaborate
woodwork for both utilitarian and architectural
India’s fertile soil causes all types
of trees to grow in abundance - which become
an unlimited source for the basic raw material
needed in this craft -woodcraft. The woods
used for ornamental work in India are walnut,
and sandalwood, with its delicate natural
fragrance is used in Mysore and a few other
places in South India. Sal, teak, sheesham,
deodar, redwood, rosewood, red cedar, ebony
to name a few are extensively used by Indian
craftsmen, as they focus on the fine decorative
carving and inlay work.
Tipu Sultan's palace -
Indian wood workers faithfully uphold and carry
out the traditions of their forefathers in terms
of style and use of tools. The Indian wood craftsmen
have a rather broad canvas – from tiny
objects of domestic use, to panels, columns,
balconies, friezes doors, partitions, windows,
ceilings or even entire houses. In certain old
mansions in various parts of the country, beams
more than two centuries old, surprisingly show
no signs of cracking or deflection under constant
load. The craftsmen of bygone ages preserved
wood simply but effectively, by rubbing oil
(wood apple) on them.
The artists and master craftsmen found wood
to be a highly useful and convenient medium.
Wood was something on which the carvers could
pour forth their ideas about mythology, legend
and folklore and even emotions because wood
could be easily preserved for posterity. Religious
faith thus was handed down to the future generations
through tales told in wood.
A wooden doorway of a
the state of Tamilnadu, rathas
made of wood with exquisite carvings are to
found in most of the temples. The archaeological
remains of the erstwhile kingdoms of the south
like the Cholas of Tanjore and Pandyas of Madurai
shed ample light on the diverse styles of woodcraft.
In the 19th
scentury southern India
was famous for carved ebony wood furniture.
Royal furniture carved out of ebony is still
intact in a number of palaces of the south.
Over the centuries, each
region in India developed its unique style
of wooden structures, carvings and inlay work.
The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh,
Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala figure on this
Some of the most common motifs
engraved wooden items are flower pots, a variety
of flowers, parrots, peacocks and pigeons,
besides deer, horses and elephants. Inlaying
with fine brass wires (tarkashi),
has received renewed attention in recent years.
An antique varnished
Uttar Pradesh, 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. Designs such as the fretwork,
jali or the anguri work are
very popular. Trays, lamps, tea-coasters, cigarette
boxes, and tables made of sheesham wood from
has been a virtual hotspot of wood (mainly walnut
and deodar) carving almost since ancient times.
Here the commonest dwelling are lined with wood,
their ceilings worked in geometrical patterns
and windows possessing lattice work. The crowning
glory of Kashmir –- the houseboats, and
the shikaras are made entirely of a
specially treated wood that does not warp in
spite of constant contact with the water.
Madhya Pradesh the artisans
work on different varieties of wood –
teak, dhudi, sal and kikar
with great sensitivity and skill, turning them
into fabulous works of art. The famous wooden
articles of Madhya Pradesh are painted and lacquered
toys boxes, bedposts, cradle frames and flower
vases, to name a few. Gwalior, Sheopur-Kalan,
Rewa and Budhni are the main centres of wood
lacquering in the state.
Punjab, wood workers in the
city of Hoshiarpur specialize in inlaying wood
with ivory. Their intricate designs received
patronage from the local royalty, for several
hundred years. The outstanding items are basic
furniture, trays, and mirror frames.
modern-day India, the state of Gujarat
has become synonymous with the wooden swings
which have become a part and parcel of affluent
household in the urban areas of India. The frames
of these swings, range from unvarnished hewn
wood to richly lacquered. The history of woodwork
of Gujarati is linked with the Mughals who were
great patrons of all art forms.
Interestingly, wood was never a locally available
material. Hence it was always imported into
the state from different timber producing regions.
As early as the 12th century and the Gujarati
craftsmen made wood integral part of building
materials and was extensively used in making
columns, ceilings, beam ends, struts (braces),
doors, windows and balconies.
The palace of the erstwhile Nawab of Palanpur,
jharokhas (lattices) flawlessly carved
out of wood, majestic havelis (mansions) of
Gujarat, made entirely of wood, with carved
exteriors and interiors and painted ceilings
are some of the examples of traditional wood
carving tradition in Gujarat.
Even today, in older towns
of Gujarat there stand houses with carved facades.
Long beams carry intricate patterns, and balconies
just out with carved and perforated patterns
on the jangla, the ledge. Stylized
animals or human forms worked as carved brackets
to support the balconies.
A lacquered box
districts of Saurashtra and Vadodara are renowned
for their lacquer work. Some important items
of lacquer work include toys, parts of bedstead,
low stools and chairs (their seats done in either
a mesh of ropes or leather).These are characterized
by a colourful, smooth and glossy exterior and
often fitted with tiny bells which emit a soft
Surat has a tradition pf marquetry-work,
which is locally called sadeli. This
was acquired by the local craftsmen by means
of their interactions with West Asia. In this
technique different material such as ivory,
ebony, sandalwood, metal, having varying textures
and colors are used. These materials are made
into strips with their width shaped into triangles,
square and circles. These are attached together
with gum so as to make a geometrical pattern.
Next they are sawn into thin pieces, which are
pasted on a wooden background, creating intricate
geometrical designs. Originally, this technique
was used for decorating the doors of palaces;
today it is also applied to boxes.
Toys made of wood
is well known for the quality of its wood carving
and wooden art pieces as well as for use in
furniture. Jaipur, in Rajasthan is known worldwide
for its original woodcrafts. There this art
has survived mainly due to the royal patronage.
The arid Barmer and Jaisalmer
districts of Rajasthan also boast of wood carving
traditions. For instance, teakwood is often
carved in the form of, or decorated with animal
figures, geometric and floral forms. These appear
abundantly on rafter ends, pillars and brackets,
openwork jali (lattice) screens, windows, doors
and door frames.
carving is a major indigenous craft of Orissa.
This includes painted wood carvings, plain wood
carvings and teak furniture. Wooden boxes, antique
trunks, doors made of teakwood are found mainly
in Puri. These furniture items are made in different
varieties of decorations and painting, using
vegetables and mineral colors. Articles in white
teak also occur in profusion in Bhubaneshwar
However, the crowning glory
of artistic woodwork in Orissa is its famous
sacred trio - the images of Lord Jagannath (Krishna),
Balabhadra (his brother) and their sister Subhadra.
These images are housed in a majestic shrine
named after the lord. According to legends,
the divine architect and engineer had supposedly
fashioned these images out of driftwood which
had been washed ashore by the waves.
Divine images made of
wood – Orissa
from Andhra Pradesh is fairly
well-known. Kondapalli is known for brightly
painted wooden toys, while Etikopakka is known
for lacquer ware made of wood.
An elephant carved out
is famous for carvings and exquisitely beautiful
decorative pieces made from sandalwood. Sandalwood
items like, boxes, trays, key chains, small
figurines are not only carved tastefully but
they also give exude a subtle fragrance of sandal
when rubbed gently. The palace of Tipu Sultan,
near Bangalore is a brilliant specimen of wooden
West Bengal and Kerala
the people make extensive use of the wood obtained
from coconut trees which grow abundantly in
these two states. The traditional houses of
Kerala, colloquially known
as Nalukettus are made of carved and
slotted wood and they strongly resemble the
gabled and thatched structures of the Far East.
India is the second largest supplier of bamboo
in the world. In fact the eastern/ north eastern
region of the country extending from West
Bengal to Arunachal Pradesh
has bamboo groves growing in wild abundance.
Bamboo and cane furniture, baskets woven from
cane and bamboo strips are some of the famous
and popular products from the states of Assam,
West Bengal and Tripura.
The hallmark of Indian wooden furniture has
always been durability, ethnic flavor, elegance
and design, attractive colours, unmatched workmanship
and subtle elegance which lend a refined look
wherever it is placed. Even today, the traditional
Indian artisans working with wood, employ the
simplest of tools and faithfully adhere to the
style of their forefathers - which has helped
to keep the traditions alive.
A bed made of bamboo