India is blessed with a large variety of stones and the
talented craftsmen of India have, since time immemorial put life into them
and created masterpieces out of the lifeless stones.
Varanasi is the main centre for stone carving and is done by a community known as 'raidas' .Vrindavan, near Mathura has both marble and soft stone products. Many a momentoes of Krishna are made here. Hamirpur, Tehri Garhwal and Bageshwar are famous for statue work whereas Banda is known for agate stone work.
Agra in Uttar Pradesh is world famous for its marble work, flowering under the aura of the Taj Mahal. A wide variety of structural pieces are produced like lattice windows, mirror frames with lace like fringes, richly carved brackets, canopies with elegant pendents, fretted balusters, large basin with filigree rims to float flowers and many other lovely and useful items.
Drawing Inspiration From The Superb Taj
Among the distinguishing characteristics of the Taj are its incomparable mosaics. Against the milky white surface, are in-set numerous coloured stones to form a multitude of mosaics, said to contain 42 varieties.
The craftsmen of Agra carry on the tradition of inlay work, striving to match the perfection of the Taj. The designs are mostly in foliage or floral, intertwined with geometrical patterns. Today semi-precious or fine colorued stones are used in place of precious stones.
A wide selection of items in mosaic marble is available, like artistic jewelry, trinkets, powder boxes, trays, and tableware like plates, bowls, glasses etc. Vrindavan, in Uttar Pradesh produces items in alabaster. These delicate articles are now rare, and are being replaced by soft stone.
Koftagiri or Damascening
Inlaying of light metal on dark metal is technically known as damascening. Traditionally it is called 'koftgari'. In earlier times the technique was used to ornament articles like armours, swords, etc. In this process iron or steel of the required size is heated, and slightly hammered into flat surfaces on which grooves are made.
A Lac base is then fixed, on which designs are drawn with a chisel. Minute bits of gold or silver threads are then hammered into them. Finally, the piece is heated and rubbed with lime-juice, sand and soap-nut to smoothen the surface. It is rubbed again with black paint to give it a glossy effect. Wide ranges of ornamental objects are produced through this process.
Ivory Inlay Work
Ivory is used in architectural decoration. The wooden doors of the Bikaner Palace are ornamented with ivory work. Miniature carving works of idols for worship too are done.