Ivory Work

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Ivory art in Kerala dates back to the era of Swati Tirunal Maharaja. A throne of ivory chiseled by the Raja is a remarkable work of art. The Maharaja of Cochin is famous for his tortoise shaped palanquin made of ivory,that blooms into an elegant floral shape. The figures of birds and animals adorn the palanquin.

Ivory carving, like the making of coir, is a painstaking and elaborate task. It calls for meticulous precision and an aesthetic sensibility. The tusk has to be hacked with great care. This requires the labor of a couple of men, approximately. Then comes the most difficult part of the process. The artisan has to dexterously draw the pattern that he wants to carve on the surface of the ivory and cut it out with great care. The uneven ivory surface is then polished to its gleaming best with sandpaper. The white and yellow category of ivories are treated differently. While the white ivory gets a methylated spirit treatment , the yellow ivory is decolorized with water and hydrogen.

Scenes from the Ramayana finds depiction in the ivory art of Kerala. The very nuances of the performances are effectively chiseled on the milk white ivory surface. The very famous snake boat races, that is a stunning spectacle of hundred boats competing with each other, is a popular ivory memento. The chundan vallam or the boat races are popular tourist haunts, made famous by the Nehru Boat Race of Alappuzha , initiated in 1952. Ivory artisans also carve out elegant showpieces like ashtrays, figures of birds, animals, deities and a host of other premium quality products, that exudes class and stands as luxury items. This is, however, a dying art form, like many others, that is fast fading into oblivion.

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