tree was probably man's earliest friend, and he held
it with awe and admiration from the very beginning.
Man discovered the wondrous qualities of the wood and
shaped it with his own fingers to wooden houses, structures
India boasts a luxuriant range in wood and the wood
worker has evolved styles and items that particular
types of wood lend themselves to, providing considerable
range in wood-work.
The Indian epic Ramayana refers to Hanuman bringing
down the Chaitya-Prasada shrine at Lanka. Literary sources
testifies that Chaitya-Prasada and its post were made
of wood and
it is very probable that the original form of the Chaitya
with its gateway and column was of the same type as
the stupa at Sanchi. In the Rig Veda the carpenter is
referred to as taksan and tvsti, who made ladles, vessels,
furniture, all in wood. The Jataka tales of the early
Buddhist period speak of carpenters specialising in
making boats. Images of Buddha, wood carvings in the
Ramayana all tell of the rise in importance of the carpenter
as a craftsman of artisitc excellence.
Kashmir has the soft toned elegant walnut and the facile
deodar wood. The Kashmiri wooden architecture flourished
from the 11th century AD. The lattice work called acche-dar
and azli pinjra and the Khatamband are famous. The Gujarat
architecture is lyrical and elaborate with its projected
balconies, decorative windows and doors.
The elegant tharavad homes of Kerala, corresponding
to the havelis of Gujarat, are brilliant pieces of architecture
in deep brown teakwood. The sandalwood of Karnataka
is used for carving items like statues of gods and goddesses,
utilitarian objects, and sandalwood boxes in jali (
with patterns in high and low relief depicting epic
scenes or birds and elephants) work. Red sandalwood
of Andhra Pradesh is used traditionally to carve figures
of deities and dolls.
There are hundreds of special occasions throughout the
country when certain wooden figures are produced for
rituals; famous among them is Puri Jagannath in Orissa.
The magnificent wood sculptures of the Bhuta cult of
ancestor-worship from coastal Karnataka are carved from
solid blocks of wood obtained from the jackfruit tree.
Wood carving in religious figures, whether it be in
a temple or a Church, is common in India. Scenes from
the epics, particularly those from the battlefield,
forest and palace, in addition to figures of deities,
are recurrent themes in the wood carvings.
The artisans in Uttar Pradesh are famous for their Moghul
designs such as fret work, jali and anguri. The wood
carving of the north-eastern tribes are executed in
a wood locally known as kumisyng. Among the carved objects,
the huge log drum is particulary noteworthy. A partitioned
stand with three legs, rice pounding tables, wooden
cups and platters, smoking pipes and musical instruments
are typical Naga woodwork.
The wood carvings of the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh,
Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan include doors, window frames,
"marriage-litters", wedding pillars, anthropomorphic
sculptures, tobacco cases and pipes.
Wood lacquerwork is popular in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The classical style of woodwork like painted cradles,
boxes and ganjifa, the traditional set of playing cards
are painted with religious and mythological figures.
Wood inlay, which developed and flourished through Mughal
influence involves the placing of small parts of ivory,
plastic, horn, metal pieces or other types of wood into
carved surfaces of wooden items. This is found in various
parts of the country such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar
Pradesh and Delhi.