Sandalwood carving dates back by many centuries, and a succession of ruling dynasties have conferred on it a royal status. Under such patronage, the craft flourished and entire families took to this trade.
Rajasthan features different types of woods that give craftsmen to explore their skills and talent. The most conspicuous wood carvings can be seen in furniture items, decorative pieces, toys and house-hold items. Craftsmen from the Jangid community craft sandalwood into profusely patterned , exquisitely intricate and highly decorative artifacts. The objects fashioned range from one inch long supari, betel nut case, to a three feet tall doll.
Woodwork has been there in Rajasthan since the 17th century. The masterpieces of woodwork from the 17th and 18th centuries can still be seen in the museums of Rajasthan. The grand entrance of the palaces and havelis feature intricately carved wooden doors. The doors of Rajasthan indicated the beautiful wood carvings that were predominant in the area. The wooden doors also had an influence of the Mughal style; such designs were known as the Akbari Mughal Rajput style doors. This style included designs like lotuses, peacocks, betels, medallions, etc. Wood work in the form of latticed windows or jaalis, door arches, parapet walls, etc. are quite popular in Rajasthani architecture. For long Sandalwood has been used as one of the most preferred wood for carving. Sandalwood is easy to handle and carve. Moreover the pleasant smell of sandalwood is an added advantage.
Craftsmen from the Jangid community craft sandalwood into profusely patterned and highly decorative artifacts that are usually targeted at the export market. The objects fashioned range from one inch long supari, betel nut case, to a three feet tall doll; all however are characterized by the manner in which the entire width of the wood is carved so as to create a series of progressively detailed layers. For instance, once a wooden flower is opened, the petals reveal small boxes, which in turn reveal minutely carved scenes.
The craft process begins with the cutting of the sandalwood block into the desired size and the maandana or sketching of the form onto it in pen or pencil. Fine motifs may be first sketched on paper and then traced onto the wood. The craftsmen then chisel away the extraneous matter to reveal the finished form. What’s particularly unique about their carvings is the way they carve designs within designs – almost like the layers of a babushka doll.Most times themes for the miniaturised wooden carvings center around history, mythology and day-to-day life in India. The work is accomplished with the most basic and often handmade tools applied with the meticulous care of a filigree artist such as small iron sticks, knives, and chisels to carve with extreme precision on very small objects. Sandle wood is used mainly due to its malleable characteristics and delicate natural fragrance. It has an even texture because of its close grains and fewer knots. The heart of the wood is most used and it has a fragrance that lasts years. The yellow/brown sandalwood grows darker with age after it is cut. The highly intricate designs are created by using a combination of carving methods, such as deep carving, shallow carving, latticework and fretwork on a nearly impossible miniature scale.