Lending form to fragrant wood

Intricate designs

Many ancient arts in India are breathing their last today. One among them happens to be sandalwood craft.

Carving figures out of this soft but heavenly scented wood has been in practice for millennia, but is now fading thanks to lack of artistes and adequate monetary returns for the efforts put in.

Appreciably, a city-based art gallery - Arts of the Earth in Lado Sarai – has brought together over two dozen exquisitely crafted sandalwood figures made by National Awardee artist Mal Chand Ji Jangid. Mal Chand Ji, who died in 1986, had put in a lifetime into practicing and propagating this craft and his grandchildren have now compiled his work made about 40 years ago.

Meena Varma, owner, Arts of the Earth, says, “Ch-andan or sandalwood occupies a very special place in the Indian society. Sandalwood is so valuable that it is accurately weighed in grams when being sold. Several ruling dynasties, impressed with its qualities, conferred on it a royal status, leading to the development of two centres of this attractive workmanship – Mysore (whe-re sandalwood trees grow) and Churu in Rajasthan.”

“The Jangid family from Churu has been deeply involved in this art since the Mughal time. Generations after generations have successfully passed on the finesse and dedication required to pursue this difficult craft. At this time, when the government has banned felling of sandalwood trees and providing no official patronage, we are happy to help them any which way possible.”

The artworks are a wonder to behold. There is a two-inches-tall guldasta, the vase of which has been thoroughly carved to resemble a scene from Mughal emperor Jahangir’s court. The petals open up to display myriad scenes such as Pt Jawaharlal Nehru hoisting the national flag at Red Fort, Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram, Rani Laxmi Bai in battle etc.

The most heart-warming piece has to be a Rajasthani bride resplendent in a ghagra-choli and intricate odhni. Beautiful carvings have been made on her ghagra-choli to depict stories from Rajasthan’s glorious history such as the sacrifice of Hadi Rani, Rani Padmini’s johar, Rana Pratap’s battle with Bhamasa and Mohd Ghori’s slaying.

A four-inches-long sitar is the cynosure of the exhibition with pockets on its stem portraying scenes from singer Tansen’s life including his early training, entry into Akbar’s court and even his duel with Baiju Bawra. Also watch out for miniatures in the shapes of small conch shells, pocket watches and coconuts retelling stories from Krishna, Gautam Buddha and Mahavir’s life, as you open them.

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