Rajasthan's handicraft and art work is by far the richest and most prolific in India; it is indeed a reflection of its true cultural identity. It's extraordinarily rich treasure-trove of arts and crafts is a vivacious expression of its people in the cities, rural areas, and desert lands. The generous use of color and contrast play a leading role in the creative forces behind the people who produce these glamorous art and craftwork pieces.
Gorgeous embroidery, multihued motifs, and a dramatic array of multicolored textiles are just a few of a myriad of assorted handicrafts and art work to be found in Rajasthan. It is not only during the festive seasons that Rajasthan looks so incredibly vibrant and alluring - it is every day. Whether it's at the local village; at the weekly market place; at fairs and festivals; in temples; on the streets; at weddings; or at rituals and ceremonies, Rajasthan's immense wealth of handicrafts and arts present a dramatic contrast to the somber, dull sandy hues of the surrounding deserts.
Rajasthan's textiles are as diverse as its culture. Each region has its own special color scheme, design and technique. Hand-block printed textiles created in the townships of Sanganer and Bagru, near Jaipur have won the hearts of millions abroad. Likewise, tie-and-dye textiles, otherwise known as: bandhej are equally fashionable. Different methods are used to produce the intricate patterns of the bandhej, namely: leheriya, mothda, ekdali and shikari . The best bandhej produced in Rajasthan come from Sikar and Jodhpur.
Rajasthan is rich in jewelry - each area having its own unique signature style. Some of the traditional designs are: rakhri, bala, bajuband, gajra, gokhru, and jod. Tribal women wear heavy, simply crafted silver jewelry; while the men wear ornaments in the form of chokers and earrings. During the Mughal Empire, Rajasthan became a major hub for the production of fine jewelry and has thus, over time brought together a true blend of Mughal and Rajasthani craftsmanship.
From palaces to huts, paintings can be found everywhere in many colours and forms. Palaces and havelis are commonly seen having walls and ceilings covered with colourful Rajasthani murals and frescoes; some of the finest of which can be seen in havelis of the Shekhawati region and the ancient towns of Bundi and Kota. . Rajasthan's cloth paintings include phad and pichwai paintings; having strong religious connotations, these are hung behind or near religious statues of deities and are usually done in bright colours with bold outlines.
Rajasthan is well-known for its miniature paintings. In fact, different schools of this fascinating art form have flourished here since the 16th century - each with its own distinctive style. Of the most well-known, the Kishangarh School is perhaps the most prominent; it is best known for its Bani Thani paintings: a totally different style with highly exaggerated features - long necks, large almond-shaped eyes, long fingers and the use of subdued colours.
The world famous jootis - with their distinctive embroidered uppers - are made from leather. Jootis are special crafted leather footwear; they are highly sought after due to their incredible comfort and sturdiness. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer and Jaisalmer are traditionally renowned for their leather footwear. Leather is also an essential raw material for making musical instruments such as the tabla , dhol and kamaycha ; these instruments are used by Rajasthani folk musicians. The town of Bikaner is also famed for its assorted leather craftwork; here one can find: painted lamp shades, shields and vases - mostly made from camel hide.
Rajasthan's pottery tradition dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Since then it continues in all parts of the state. The village Molela, near Udaipur is particularly famous for its terracotta articles. Clay is extensively used for making pots, dolls and other objects; these are painted with a various types of imagery, like folk divinities. Vases, flower pots, bowls, water pots and other objects are produced in traditional style and quite often incorporate beautiful floral motifs and hand-painted minutiae of Rajasthani legends.
Rajasthan produces the country's finest marble, sandstone, quartz and slate. The extraordinary craftsmanship of Rajasthani stone workers is visible in the numerous temples, palaces and havelis. For the connoisseur, there are life-like and life-size statues - which include the intricately carved pillars and jalis. The finest examples of jali work can be seen in the various havelis of Jaisalmer.
Thewa is a meticulous jewelry craft practiced by a handful of artisans and highly adept craftsmen who specialize in the art of fusing filigreed gold sheets onto glass. This unique craft uses plaques of glass as its base material. The craft of thewa is practiced by these hereditary artisans in the small fortified town of Pratapgarh in Rajasthan.