India reflects diverse history and religion, representing the craft of each state, its culture and tradition. A place rich in variety and diversity stuck to its grassroots, India and its handicrafts add to the value of handcrafted creations leading to a beautiful legacy. Today, handicrafts are not seen just as a way of ornamentation but can be seen as competing in the commercial market showing versatility and making its place in design streams like architecture, interior design, furniture pieces and products as well. Wood carving is an ancient Indian art. It first began as a temple and palace craft and started flourishing alongside sculpture art. Depending on the locally available wood, each region developed its style and technique of wood carving creating a plethora of artefacts. Here is a list of 10 lost wooden crafts of India: 

1. SANKHEDA FURNITURE, GUJARAT

This form of wooden craft is incorporated in furniture making. Sankheda furniture is colorful, painted wood, made in the Sankheda village of Gujarat. It is treated with lacquer and is painted with traditional bright shades of maroon and gold. The color innovation has been adopted with black, blue, green, ivory, copper, gold, silver and burgundy shades. Apart from being used as traditional furniture, a wide range of products like wall-hangings, pedestal lamps and vases brought about innovation in this form.

SANKHEDA FURNITURE, GUJARAT
Sankheda Furniture ©miro.medium.com

2. PINJARA KARI, KASHMIR

The designs of the pinjara-Kari are famous and originated in Kashmir. Pinjara-Kari is the craft of making screens of interwoven wooden laths forming intricate geometric patterns. They do not differ from the mathematical designs of the Arabs or limited form with the most popular being those of the rising sun and cobwebs. 

Kashmiri craftsmen added mastery to the craft and helped revive its form and its survival showcasing figures from the folklore of Kashmir. These are used in elements like windows, partitions and balconies. A pinjara-maker needs to have a good knowledge of geometry and understanding of tools and construction methods. Over time this craft because of its high value and time consumption started declining. Later modern materials like metal grills, glass and mesh replaced traditional Pinjra. Some artisans and walnut woodcarvers have picked up the art of making it while restoring old Pinjra forms and techniques.

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Pinjara Kari ©www.gaatha.com
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Pinjara Kari ©www.gaatha.com
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Pinjara Kari ©www.gaatha.com
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Pinjara Kari ©www.gaatha.com
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Pinjara Kari ©www.gaatha.com

3. BLOCK CARVING

The timber used for making blocks is Sheesham and Teak that is carved on the vertical face and is perpendicular to the grain of the wood to create resilience during the impact in the stamping/printing process. It is a craft in which the carver possesses up to 30 chisels, a hand bow drill and wooden mallets. 

The motifs that are carved are inspired by the existing motifs of the tree of life, flora and fauna, animals, birds, etc. the artisans are highly skilled and block carving is considered to be a life skill and is still taught in a few places in India.

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Block Carving ©www.gaatha.com
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Block Carving ©www.gaatha.com
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Block Carving ©www.gaatha.com
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Block Carving ©www.gaatha.com

4. CHOKTSES- HANDCRAFTED WOODEN TABLES

A craft originated in Ladakh, choktses- handcrafted wooden tables are deeply ingrained with the old nomadic lifestyle. The tables are foldable and low height and are an indispensable part of the local households. From simple designs to elaborate ones, the emboss on the tables involves mineral pigmenting to create motifs of snow lions, dragons, clouds and lotus. Depending on the complexity of the design, these carving and embossing take up to two months to be completed.

CHOKTSES- HANDCRAFTED WOODEN TABLES
Choktses ©www.thebetterindia.com

5. WOOD INLAY

The wood inlay is the process of decorating the surface of wood by setting in pieces of materials like bone, ivory, shell or wood of different colors. The products made out of such a process are many like doors, jewelry boxes, plates, boxes, bowls, coasters, etc. This craft was brought to India from Persia in the 18th century. Mysore is the home to structures that adorned wood carvings with inlay work. The depictions on this work vary from scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana, figures of animals, etc.

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Wood Inlay ©www.thebeehiveindia.com
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Wood Inlay ©www.thebeehiveindia.com

6. WOOD CARVING: PUPPETS AND FIGURES, RAJASTHAN

In a small city of Rajasthan, Pipad and Bhai Sajanpur in Pali district, a variety of figures for regional festivals of Gangaur are made. Bassi, near Chittorgarh, is entirely devoted to wood carving and is majorly famous for centuries for making Rajasthani puppets. The puppets are usually 2 feet high having a wooden head with a long nose and large eyes. The Bhatt community makes these puppets in Jaipur and Udaipur as well as performs for them.

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Wood Carving: Puppets and figures ©oneindiaonepeople.com
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Wood Carving: Puppets and figures ©www.craftandartisans.com

7. NIRMAL WORK: HYDERABAD

The evolution of Nirmal art and craft can be traced back to many centuries ago during the Kakatiya dynasty. This craft is a form of lacquered woodwork that was discovered in Nirmal town and since then has been an attraction in both the town of Nirmal and Hyderabad. The motifs present are those of flora and fauna and also frescos from Ajanta and Ellora. The artwork can be seen in exquisite lacquered furniture, screens, trays, pictures, etc. the technique involves lacquering the wood surface and then painting over it the desired design and pattern. The designs are first drawn with chalk and then the wood is smoothened after which it is painted in bright colors and touched up with gold and varnish.

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Nirmal Work ©www.swadesi.com
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Nirmal Work ©www.thebetterindia.com
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Nirmal Work ©www.thebetterindia.com

8. WOODEN PAINTED TOYS: KONDAPALLI

Wooden painted toys are known as Kondapalli toys and are famous for the special wood which they are made of that adds aesthetics to the space where they are placed. Artisans carve characters and these are evolved from light softwood. The pieces are heated to make them moisture free and then glued together with an adhesive. Water and oil colors are used to paint the figurines. The toys depict actual life, animals, and characters from epics.

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Kondapalli ©www.lepakshihandicrafts.gov.in
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Kondapalli ©www.vajiramias.com

9. WOODCRAFT IN NAGINA

Centers of wood carving in Uttar Pradesh include Aligarh, Azamgarh, Nagina, Lucknow and Saharanpur. The wood used here is shisham and sal for carvings. Nagina exhibits a graceful style of carving in ebony on many articles like tables, chairs, boxes, beds, etc. The motifs are mostly floral and sometimes geometrical. The place, Nagina always had a problem of transportation due to which the craftsmen made small decorative pieces as they became easier to carry. Nagina’s craft dates back to the Mughal times and this craft but with the shift in consumer base, the range of these finely carved pieces started changing towards items of contemporary use, ex. Windows, doors, boxes, pen stands, etc.

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Woodcraft in Nagina ©www.artsandculture.google.com
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Woodcraft in Nagina ©www.artsandculture.google.com

10. CARVING IN KERALA

Religious figures of temples and churches are seen the most in Kerala. The motifs mostly are of elephants in a variety of sizes. Other motifs include the depiction of women at work on various occasions. The wood used for human figures, kunbli, and rosewood or teak is used for the animal motifs.

CARVING IN KERALA
Carving in Kerala ©www.shilpkaari.com
Author

Chitvan Mathur is an Architect and Designer who is passionate about how spaces tell a story through powerful conceptualisations. A strong believer in the ability of architecture, she combines research with critical thinking and aims for quality by bringing her aesthetic and clean eye to all parts of her work.

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