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Rajasthan is counted among the aesthetically richest states of India, which boasts of dazzling arts and crafts. Whether it is lac, stone, leather work or ivory-carving, Rajasthan always has the best of best to offer as a souvenir.
Ivory-carving, using the tusks of elephants, is the most delicate craft-form that has flourished under the regal patronage in few historical cities of Rajasthan including Udaipur, Jaipur, Bharatpur and Jodhpur. One can find numerous samples of this kind of art-form in the form of cute delicate ivory figures of Hindu gods and goddesses with very minute carving. On top of all this, Jali-work of lace like intricacy is the testimony to the brilliance of ivory carvers.
Ivory carving is not a new craft for India; it has been around for more than 4000 years in this country. Ivory Carving was popular even in the era of ancient and medieval princely states. The texture of ivory is very smooth, and whatever designs the craftsmen desire to create can be easily carved on ivory.
Apart from mesmerizing decorative items for display in living rooms, ivory bangles are yet another prominent and popular item in use.
The historic craft of Ivory carving, now banned and for a good reason too, was perhaps one of the most beautiful part of Rajasthan’s craft culture. As already mentioned, it is also perhaps one of the oldest form of art, as old as 4000 years old at the very least, to have survived till modern era. In fact, mention of ivory carving is even found in the oldest Vedic scriptures of India.
Ivory carving being a soft material is ideal for carving. However, the softness of ivory also makes the carving task difficult for the craftsmen, as the material is prone to easy damage. Nevertheless, the beautiful color of ivory has surpassed all these disadvantages, making the art very popular amongst affluent people of all ages.
Though usually considered a traditional art-form of Rajasthan, ivory-carving has been popular art across the globe since ages. Nevertheless, the art-form remains synonymous with Rajasthan, the state having several princely capitals once upon a time like Bharatpur, Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Pali. These historical cities were in fact the hub of this amazingly beautiful art-form.
The recent ban however, winded up the whole of this industry. Many artifacts like showpieces, chess pieces, weapon handles, jewelleries, and even idols of Hindu deities made of ivory, though unusually expensive, were available in abundance in the places mentioned above.
After the ban on ivory by the government, the artisans moved on today to carving artifacts using horn and bone.