Rajasthan is not merely famous for the valorous deeds and heroic sacrifices of its warriors but for its splendid architectural monuments made of stone too. Temples, forts and palaces are glorious achievements of the craftsmen, which have few rivals. The rulers’ patronage and keen interest in the development of architecture led to many innovations in style.
The rise of Rajputs heralded a new era in architectural history. Strategic considerations of the time compelled the states to fortify their areas strongly. The forts of Kumbhalgarh, Jalore, Jaisalmer, Amer, Ranthambore etc. sprang up. They not only had big four walls of stone and lime but were equipped with
beautiful temples and palaces of artistic taste provided by the masons. Temple builders excelled in the stone art by constructing religious shrines at Ranakpur, Pushkar, Ajmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, Delwara and Kota. South Indian artists were specially invited and given all facilities and encouragement to translate the dream of the rulers and their people into stone edifices. The dream temple of Ranakpur designed by an artist Shoba Dev represents the glorious age of stone carving craft in
Rajasthan. Another centre of artistic achievements was at Dilwara. Masons of the temples were influenced by South Indian and Gujarat structure.
Stone carving skill was not confined to temples and forts but also helped in designing the domes and artistic nauchakis situated at 51km from Udaipur. The artificial lake of Jaisamand speaks of the imagination and skill of the masons. Nauchakis at Rajsmand and Anna Sagar at Ajmer represent Rajput architecture and style. The construction of various mosques and tombs did not affect the secular character of Rajasthan architecture. Rajput rulers also patronized and encouraged the Muslim masons. The Dargah of Khwaja Sahib at Ajmer built in the 15th century is one of the first tombs of architectural skill. The minarets and mosques of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikaner, Kota and Merta are examples where stone carvings reached its glory.
The marble and sandstone used in Jantar Mantar (Observation), city palace, Tripolia gate and temples of Govind Deva, Raj Rajeshwar, Madhobehari and Radha Vinod and its architecture designs has placed the city on the world tourist map. Jodhpur is another city which has red stone buildings and palaces like Ummed Bhawan and Chittar palace. Jaisalmer city is famous for its red stone Havelis with skilled carvings and craftsmanship. For its red buildings it is also called as ‘Rose in the Desert’ city. Bikaner is famous for its Jali work on the stone slabs.
The circular pieces are used for making thals, plates, astrays, bowls etc. The bottom surface of these discs are scraped and heated over a wood fire and grains of seed-lac are placed at the heated spot. A rope is wound round a lathe with knots at the end and is pulled to rotate it, usually done by women. When the
article has reached the desired size and shape, it is polished with a chisel to prepare for designing. Quite a few designs are etched on the objects. The Tana Buta design consists of irregular curves of zig zag lines placed at systematical distances from each other; while Jata Bhista consists of straight lines converging to a centre and slanting lines placed at symmetrical distance from each other, so that in the total effect the slanting lines appear like a while the convergent
straight lines form a kind of a star. Ank (Aankh) is another charming pattern made of concentric circles to resemble the eye, and though simple is used as decorative motif.”
White marble stone famous all over the country from Makrana quarries was used in building Taj Mahalat Agra. Also many other buildings were made of this stone which had brilliant and everlasting polish. Sawai Madhopur is rich in possessing green spotted and copper colored Tamra stone. It is mostly used for making images. Soft Chlronatic stone of Dungarpur is used in icon making. The characteristic of this stone is that it turns black on oiling. The soft stone of Bhilwara is used as a substitute of alabaster. Jaipur is the main centre of production of marble items. Traditional images of deities, dinner sets, chaklas and belans, punch bowls with glasses and table ware are some of the articles which are exquisitely carved. The craftsman chiseled these items with perfection and skill. The carving of sun god in the black stone is the specialty of Dungarpur area.
Another decorative art, tracing its descent from the golden age of the Mughal Empire, is the Jali or stone- tracery, executed both in red sand stone and in the crystalline white marble of Rajputana. The Jali is a fine filigree of marble or sand stone fretted into an almost endless net-work of geometrical combinations. The requirements of the climate of Northern India for some material which should, like glass afford protection from the weather and at the same time admit free ventilation; have been satisfied by the elaboration of this unrivalled window tracery. Udaipur, Bikaner, Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are the main centers of marble and sand-stone carvings. In Bharatpur and Dholpur only sand stone is used by the masons.
The garnet work produced at Jaipur is world famous. Rock-crystal is carved into beads, necklaces and dagger handles etc. by the craftsmen at Jaipur also. Cups, saucers, trays, paper-weights and animal figures are made at Jaisalmer with yellow lime-stone, blended with a substance which looks like red ochre and other
Thus it can be seen that Rajasthan inherits a rich heritage in the stone carving art and the present day craftsmen have given it a new touch and shape to make these articles more attractive, beautiful and useful handicrafts. The small items made of stone in Rajasthan are very popularly being used also as souvenirs by the purchasers.