Painting on the occasion of Diwali

A housewife from Jodhpur begins the festive season of Diwali by painting traditional motifs on the walls of her dwelling.

One of the oldest civilizations of the world, Rajasthan is a storehouse of crafts that are closely interwoven within its social tapes try and living traditions. The illusion of the past flowing into the present is sustained in the beautiful stone work of feudal architecture, and through a way of life rooted in beliefs and rituals, supported by a deep sense of aesthetics and colour. Such traditions are a common thread running through various segments of society. A woman sweeping the streets with a broom, for example, can be seen sporting the same vibrant colours of bandhani or tie-dyed fabric as another who is part of the Rajput aristocracy and wears its more sophisticated version in chiffon.

The social and ceremonial sanctity of tie-and-dye fabric, lac bangles, and woodcrafted items essential for marriages and festivals, terracotta lamps and pots, metal toys made specially for a new mother: these and other crafts, though threatened by newer consumer items, still exercise a strong power of cohesiveness in a society that has produced a valiant, reckless race of men and women, as also its most pragmatic and successful business people.

The many courts of the feudal states of Rajasthan played a very definite and crucial role in shaping a craft-oriented economy. This conscious patronage resulted in a range of masterpieces of high quality in everything from architecture to painting, fabric, jewellery, woodwork, ivory-carving and metal work. Friendlier relations with the Mughals of Delhi proved inspirational for the flowering of the crafts. The decline of the Mughals saw many royal craftsmen shirting base to Rajasthan where patronage was more easily forthcoming.

The evolution of craft covers a vast span of time in Rajasthan. Incorporating its primary beginnings in folk culture, the cultural influences from the north, and finally Mughul influences led to the creation of a dazzling court culture. Whether it was the humble terracotta essential at birth, marriage and death ceremonies, or the beautiful gorbund camel-ornaments handcrafted by women while they sang, or the vibrant tie-and-dye fabric worn alike by royalty and commoner, the emphasis on faith and rituals and the associated symbolism has remained the single most important factor in keeping its-craft traditions alive.