Since time immemorial craft has been a part and parcel of the life and culture of the people of India.
In the architecture and interiors of old buildings, one can see the crucial role of crafts in giving an exclusive regional character. In Rajasthan, the red stone carvings of Bikaner, yellow limestone carving of Jaisalmer are some very good examples of regional resources giving character to the architecture and interior spaces. Not just in the palaces and forts, even in residences of common people, crafts were present. Craftsmanship would start at the very beginning of any construction. It started from the cutting of the stone, and its fixing and fitting, to carving or inlaying which became decorative as in the Taj Mahal. However, the craft was not just decorative, but technically it also enabled the builders to implement certain details that gave their work uniqueness, strengthened construction and increased functionality. A good example is the ‘Aaraish’ technique of finishing; it was functional, aesthetically pleasing and technically strong at the same time. It provided a cool, waterproof and a decorative surface. The craft of lime mortar trellis in Palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur are good examples of the decorative and functional use of crafts in interiors.
Before the Mughals, the architecture and interior in the country were basic and functional – not so decorative. The Mughal era heralded a trend of highly ornate, aesthetically pleasing interiors where the craftsmanship was tested to the finest. They brought with them the application of inlay craft, impact of which can be seen across the walls of the old buildings in northern India. To match the inlay walls the floors evolved into mosaics of varying patterns in stone. The miniature paintings too had an impact on the interiors of that era. They inspired and initiated frescos, known as ‘Alaagila’ in Rajasthan. The frescos became an important part of the interiors not just in palaces across North India, but it took strong roots in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, where they adorned nearly all houses. The fresco art continued even during the British era, but it slowly diminished as it reduced in quality and quantity.
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