RAJASTHAN - A SHOPPER'S PARADISE
With its rich and diverse culture, Rajasthan has long been known for its colourful arts and crafts. Centuries of tradition and history have been captured in the exquisite wares you'll come across in the streets and bazaars of this magnificent land. From jewellery to hand-woven sarees to paintings to pottery, there's so much more than just memories to take back with you when you visit Rajasthan.
Renowned for its jewellery industry, Rajasthan is one of the world's largest centres for hand-cutting gems. It is also known for its spectacular variety of gold and silver jewellery. Every region in Rajasthan has its unique style and there's something to cater to everyone's tastes. Jaipur in particular, is famous for the Kundan and Meenakari styles of jewellery making, while Pratapgarh's unique style, which involves gold work on glass, is referred to as 'thewa'. So whether you're looking for rustic jewellery or something more regal, gold and silver or even precious stones, Rajasthan is truly a gem of a place for jewellery shopping.
RAJASTHANI MINIATURE PAINTINGS
Originally brought to Rajasthan by the Mughals, Rajasthani artists mastered the art of miniature painting and made it their own. The paintings themselves are inspired by the royal and romantic life of the Mughals. There are several styles of Rajasthani miniature paintings to choose from such as the Mewar, Bundi, Kota, Marwar, Bikaner, Jaipur and Kishangarh styles. The painters paint on a variety of materials such as silk, ivory, cotton and paper and a lot of intricate detailing is done to make these works of art pop with life and colour. Beautiful, unique and a great part of the history and culture of Rajasthan, Rajasthani miniature paintings are a must-buy for any visitor to Rajasthan.
PHADS AND PICHWAIS
The ancient art of scroll painting known as Phad survives to this day in Rajasthan. A typical Phad is a long, rectangular piece of cloth (between 15 to 30 feet in length) with paintings illustrating the life and heroic exploits of the two popular folk heroes, Pabuji and Devnarayan. Phads are painted by the Joshis of Shahpura, near Bhilwara, based on subjects like Bhagwat Purana and other popular folk stories.
Pichwais are refined works of art which depict the image of Shrinathji, a childhood manifestation of Lord Krishna. Legend has it that this form of art was born in 1670 when Goswami priests from Mathura installed a pichwai at the Nathdwara temple. Most works produced in this style depict Shrinathji holding the Govardhan hill on his last finger. Each pichwai painting is considered an offering to the deity, and portrays Shrinathji as a prince with jewels and luxuries, surrounded by milkmaids and gopis. These paintings have great artistic appeal and can only be found in the holy city of Nathdwara in Rajasthan.
The skilled cobblers of Rajasthan craft a number of exquisite leather articles including juttis and mojaris (types of traditional shoes), chairs, musical instruments, etc. The juttis in particular are a nice collectible as the styles differ from region to region. There is a lot of skill involved in crafting these shoes and they go through a number of processes. Visit Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer and Jaisalmer for juttis and musical instruments made out of leather. Bikaner is the place to be if you'd like to purchase lamp shades, shields, vases and mojaris made out of camel hide.
From time immemorial, Rajasthan has been known for its sheer variety of hard rock found in the region. Blessed with an abundant bounty of building material, Rajasthani architects have gone on to construct some amazing structures including forts, temples and palaces which still stand strong today. When it came to construction, no stone was spared. From white marble to pink Dholpur stonr to green Kota stone, white and gray soapstone - everything was utilised to construct elegant statues, idols, figurines, carved panels and elaborate 'jharokas' for gardens and pavilions. The art of carving idols, figurines and utensils out of different types of stone is still in practice in Jaipur, Kota, Barmer, Ajmer and Dungarpur, and these places are worth a visit if you'd like to buy yourself a souvenir.
Once a land of kings and warriors, metal in Rajasthan was used to craft weapons. These days however, metal figurines, pillboxes, photo frames and vases are the staple of Rajasthani metal crafts. Vibrant colours and complicated patterns are a unique characteristic of the metal crafts of Rajasthan and they make great decorative pieces for the home. Tourists interested in purchasing these articles can find them with ease as they are available all throughout the state.
An age-old craft in Rajasthan, terracotta earthenware is made by mixing together sawdust, fine mud and clay before moulding it. Every village and community has its own potters who make pots for everyday use along with other vessels such as hookahs, chillums, piggy banks, pickle jars, etc. so you can purchase these with ease anywhere in the state.
But if you're looking for something a little more unique, visit Alwar for its paper-thin (kagzi) pottery, Bikaner for its painted pottery, Jaisalmer for its stone wares, Molela for wall plaques depicting the images of historic and religious figures, and Pokaran for tiny clay bells that sound just like their metal counterparts.
Another art form that was introduced to Rajasthan by the Mughals, blue pottery came to Jaipur from Persia and Afghanistan. This style of pottery is made from quartz and not clay. Materials that are used include quartz, raw glaze, sodium sulphate, and multani mitti (fuller's earth). The beautiful hues of blue and turquoise are obtained through the use of copper oxide and cobalt oxide which give it a distinctive look. Suitable for everyday use, the biggest advantage of blue pottery is that it does not develop cracks unlike regular earthen pots. Blue pottery is usually designed with Mughal era arabesque patterns, as well as animal and bird motifs. There are a number of products you can purchase including plates, flower vases, soap dishes, surahis (small pitchers), trays, coasters, fruit bowls, door knobs and glazed tiles with hand painted floral designs. The craft is mainly practiced in Jaipur and to a lesser extent in Sanganer, Mahalan, and Neota as well.
CARPETS AND DHURRIES
Carpets and dhurries were first manufactured in Rajasthan when weavers from Afghanistan were invited to the royal Mughal ateliers in the 17th century AD. Since then, the craft has flourished and these simple rugs have now become one of the state's most famous weaving traditions. The dhurries are usually made by weavers in villages who use looms to create an interesting blend of patterns - mostly geometric, sometimes floral, in a dazzling combination of colours. Make a trip to Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Salawas in Jodhpur to purchase dhurries made of cotton yarn or camel hair. The areas around Tonk, a town that is about 95 km south of Jaipur are worth a visit to purchase namdahs, a type of felted woollen carpet.
There is a fascinating range of dyed and block printed fabrics to be purchased in Rajasthan. In fact, there was a time when each princely state had its own special colour scheme, design and technique, some of which are still observed in different parts of Rajasthan today. Among the textiles that stand out from the huge variety on offer are the block prints of Sanganer and Bagru, the tie and dye bandhej fabrics of Jodhpur, Jaipur and Bikaner, the lightweight Jaipuri quilts and the leheria printed turbans and sarees of Udaipur.
Most of the landscape of Rajasthan is dry and arid desert, but there are a few pockets of lush jungle around Jaipur, Banswara, Kota and Udaipur which provide quality wood for craftsmen to create wooden articles. The furniture in particular is of special interest to those looking for antiques. Besides furniture, you'll also find a number of articles including toys, snuff boxes, chests, animal figurines and other interesting memorabilia.