Woodcarving of Rajasthan

Permaculture magazine
Monday, 20th July 2015

Rohit Jangrid shares the famous woodcarving craft of Rajasthan.

The famous woodcarving of Rajasthan is also widely practiced across India.

This ancient craft uses different woods depending on the shape and size of the final product. Each item is crafted by hand, into a range of figures, from gods and goddesses to theological figures, animals and more.

First the wood is cut roughly to size and the design is free hand drawn on with pencil. A chisel is used to carve the outlines of the designs and the fine carving for the minute detail is made with a small tool called 'ulis'.

Woods with fragrance are often used for carvings of landscapes and nature, from the imagination of the craftsman.

Here are a selection of these beautifully detailed items.

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The lead photo shows this wooden clock when it is fully opened, and the below video shows all its aspects.

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The Jangid family live in the city of Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, India, an area that for centuries has been known worldwide for quality, elegance, design, ethnic flavour and unmatched workmanship in both utilitarian and artistic wooden masterpieces. Using the simplest tools, these artisans – father Mahesh and his sons Mohit and Rohit – faithfully adhere to the style of their forefathers, which has helped to keep the tradition of miniature carving alive. Learning to carve with precision and exactness on a miniature scale is challenging for even the most seasoned carvers, but for 45-year-old Mahesh and his sons, Mohit, 22, and Rohit, 20, it is a labour of love and an honoured family tradition passed down through many generations.

Methods

Their highly intricate designs are created by using a combination of carving methods, such as deep carving, shallow carving, latticework and fretwork on a nearly impossible miniature scale. In fact, each carver has a place in the Limca Book of Records for their miniatures. Mahesh for his tiny 91-link woodcarved chain; Mohit for the smallest playable violin and Rohit for the smallest carved house-fly. In addition to their individual carvings, they collaborate together on many of their projects: “All three of us worktogether as a team,” Rohit tells us.

One of the unique aspects of the work that Mahesh and his sons produce are the pockets that pull out to reveal tiny figurines and vignettes inside: “We are the only ones here who make carvings with miniature scenes in flip out compartments,” says Rohit. “I like how surprised people are when I open the lids and show them these tiny scenes. They don’t expect something like that.” Mohit enjoys making the miniature scenes the best: “I think the addition of these miniature carvings is most important to our work because it makes all of our items more interesting and attractive.”

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Mohit carving religious figures.

Tarkashi

The Jangid family are not only woodcarvers, however, but also skilled in the art of ’tarkashi’ – inlay work on wood. In each cubic centimetre of inlaid work, up to approximately 250 pieces of metal and wood are laid side by side.
Inlaid articles in the Safavid era took on a special significance as artists created their precious artworks. These works include: doors and windows, mirror frames, Quran boxes, inlaid boxes, pen and penholders, lanterns and inlaid ornamented shrines.

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Mahesh 

Works

One of the family’s most detailed works is a village scene, called ‘Ashram’. The Ashram is a story about Shakuntala, the story of Dushyanta’s marriage, separation and reunion with his queen Shakuntala. The sandalwood miniature is a completely hand-carved, decorative item, standing at 460 × 305mm.

Another extremely impressive piece, is the ‘Rajasthani hand fan’. Again, made of sandalwood, it is an Indian implement used to induce an airflow for the cooling purpose. This, however, like the rest of the family’s work, is a
miniature carved decorative item. The fan also hides some scenes within the piece. With small fold-out sections, the scenes are based on Lord Krishna’s life story – the peacock on the top gives a pure Indian look. The tiny scenes consist of Shri Vashudeva crossing the river to save baby Krishna’s life, Shri Krishna eating butter with his brother Balarama and Shri Krishna dancing on Kalia Nag. This miniature stands at 510 × 305mm.

The Jharokha, a type of overhanging enclosed balcony used in Indian architecture, is only 660 × 710mm. This type of balcony is typically used in Rajputana Architecture, Mughal Architecture and Rajasthani Architecture. Jharokhas jutting forward from the wall plane could be used both for adding to the architectural beauty of the building itself or for a specific purpose. One of the most important functions it served was to allow women in purdah to see the events outside without being seen themselves.

When asked what he likes mostabout this work, Mahesh replies: “I enjoy all the carving that we do, but I would have to say that carving the ‘Rajasthani Doll’ was my most favourite project. This piece shows the beauty of the Rajasthani lady with our traditional jewellery and it tells the story of Rajasthani freedom fighters.”

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Rohit at work.

The Future

Both sons intend to follow in their father's footsteps. Mohit, who recently completed all of his formal education, says he plans to stick with carving: “I will continue to do this work for the rest of my life because carving has no limits. How much we do and how far we go is all up to us,” he says. “I like that we always get to do new things, new designs, more miniature work, etc. I would not have this kind of freedom with any other job. I am absolutely addicted
to my work and so happy that I have the talent to do this."

For more information on the family and their work visit www.mrhandicrafts.com or contact Rohit:

Rohit Jangid
E-216 ram nager near water tank,
Sodala,
Jaipur,
Rajasthan,
india,
302019

Mobile N: +918769599896

Email: rohitjangid10@yahoo.com

Further resources

The art of spoon carving

Erik Frost wood carving knife set

Razor edge spoon carving set

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