Lacquer craft is the application of lacquer on wood in
pleasing shades and colours to create a distinctive appeal. The beauty of
this craft lies in painting the smooth wooden shapes. The craft of lacquer
ware was introduced into Sawantwadi around the end of the 17th and the
beginning of the 18th century. This craft and the community of artisans
flourished under the royal patronage of the rulers of Sawantwadi.
During the 18th and the 19th centuries, various schools of this craft were started in Sawantwadi. The artisans who trained in these schools, many of whom were imported from nearby Goa , came to be known as "Chitrakars" or "Chitaris".
Lacquer ware can be broadly divided into three categories.
Firstly, turned lacquer ware, which is the craft of applying coloured
lacquer on an object, which is turning on a lathe, and then polishing and
buffing it by means of a Kewda leaf.
Secondly, painting of floral borders and motifs on surface of objects. This is done with water based moderate colours and is then covered with suitable finishes in order to preserve and enhance their colour values.
Thirdly, the painting of mythological figures on various surfaces in three distinct styles, which can be roughly divided into the "Chitrakatha", Temple and "Ganjifa" styles.
The Chitrakatha style shows a boldness and tremendous mobility of figures that are very similar to the Paithan paintings. Temple paintings are static and usually depict a seated deity. The Ganjifa paintings on the other hand, are very stylised and depict the ten incarnations of Vishnu. On a very close study of all these three styles one can easily see that there is a marked influence of Andhra Schools of Painting in them.
These days, Sawantwadi lacquer ware has a large range of
products and concentrates on traditional hand painted and lacquered
furniture and light fittings. It has also developed the Ganjifa Cards
Games in all the varieties that were being produced in the 18th and 19th
century and has established a wide Export market for their products in the
United Stated of America, Norway, Belgium, West Germany, Japan and
Its Ganjifa Cards find a pride of place not only in many of the world's museum but also in many private collections of repute. Its products have been marketed abroad by well known departmental stores and importers of high-class Indian Handicrafts. These products of Sawantwadi Lacquerware also find a place of pride in many households in India and form an attractive addition to many interior decorators dream.