(Last Updated on : 13/07/2011)
Horn craft is the rich cultural heritage of the artisans of Paralakhemundi, Gajapati district
of Orissa. Originally carpenters by birth and trade, they took to horn craft during the reign of Sri Krushna Chandra Gajapati Narayan Deb, the Maharaja of Paralakhemundi.
It is impossible to tell precisely when or how this handicraft was born. It is believed that K.V.Appa Rao is the father of horn craft in its present form. The maharaja patronized him for his fireworks, for one particular variety of which the hollow part of a horn was used as a container. When the king came across an exquisitely carved wooden crane, he was inspired to get a similar one made of horn. The work of the art carved by him from the solid part a horn highly pleased the Maharaja. Appa Rao with his innate business acumen assessed the potentiality of the craft and set up a workshop. Efforts were also made to introduce new designs and more sophisticated tools. The very word Paralakhemundi became synonymous with horn-craft.
Horn articles of Paralakhemundi are mystical and are blended with a superb fashion design. They make stylized birds and animals which seem so alive, cranes for instance, look as though if they opened their beaks, they could talk; or the birds appear to be twittering; or the tiger seems just about to jump on you. Little touches of silver filigree are added to the horn article to give it an unusual look, also to items like bangles, perfume jars.
horn and filigree work are combined to produce decorative jewels, bangles, etc. The other important centers include Sarai Tarin in Uttar Pradesh, Honawar in Karnataka and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. The craftsmen of Thiruvananthapuram
are famous for making different kinds of crane birds in horn.
Procedure of making Horn items
Cow horns, Buffalo horns, stag antlers and tusks are used in horn craft. The desired object is carved from the solid part of a horn after soaking it in water. If shaping is necessary, then the carved piece is heated to a specific temperature and shaped. After that, its surface is smoothed down with the help of a rough file, flat file or half round file and a sharp stainless steel blade respectively. Necessary bores are made to fix appendages. In the past, eyes were made of the stag antler stick at the center of which a bore was drilled and stuffed with lacquer burnt in a luminous flame. After drilling bores, light incisions and grooves are made in the required places on the body of the horn work. At this stage it is handed over to the women for polishing. They rub he articles first with an eighty-count sand paper and then with wet Khrshana leaves one surface of which is rough. The polishing is contained till the horn work is smooth and shiny. Then it is thoroughly cleaned with water and dried in open air. After drying it is further polishing with cow dung ash or charcoal ash and the various parts are assembled. Applying either limestone paste or white varnish highlights the desired areas. Finally coconut oil is smeared all over to give the horn work a beautiful sheen.
Pen stands, table lamps, paper weights, lamp shades, snuff boxes, walking sticks, vermilion contain are some of the most common products. Fish and Fowl, Flora and Fauna, Men and Women in fact, the entire gamut of creation is rendered in a naturalistic manner. The least remains incomplete without a mention of the horn deities, especially Lord Jagannath
. In keeping with changing times, inspiration for decorative pieces is being drawn from modern art as well.
, bone carvings of animals and mithuna figures are common. Carved combs of bones and horns are a specialty. The most important centers include Sarai Tarin in Uttar Pradesh
, Honawar in Karnataka
Fine Art of Bone
The design on the bone carving is floral and figurative based on the inspirations from the Mughal architecture and foliage. Initially ornaments were made out of the natural bones, but for the past many years bone is treated with many attractive colours of natural stones like feroza, topaz, quartz etc.
Procedure of making Bone product
Raw bone of dead animals is cut into pieces of desired size and immersed in water for 12 hours. This process softens the bone. Later these pieces are scrapped and cleaned. Then they are shaped to a desired object on a lathe. Carving is done with the aid of a file drill. Carving entails systematic scrapping/scooping and chiseling of the materials from the core block. The crafts made from ivory and Shell are also very famous.
Horn and Bone Artifacts
Jewellery, ornate table lamps, chess-sets, cigarette holders, napkin rings, salt and pepper sets and laughing Buddha, table-lamps, chess sets, animal figures, decorative plaques, bridges of animals, paper cutters, the Emblem of India
, napkin rings, salt and pepper sets, tooth picks, hair pins, bangles, lockets, necklaces, figures depicting Indian dances are produced.