India is an incredibly popular country with a mix of many different cultures.
Due to this diversity, you will see that cultural difference has influenced everything from furniture to food.
That is why the furniture style in India is unique and culturally rich.
Just as you will find numerous types of curries, biryanis and sweets, in different parts of India, you will find a vast range of furniture designs too.
So, to understand the differences, we have a quick look into the history of Indian furniture and how it influences modern-day pieces.
The History Of Indian Furniture
India had been a developing country for a long time which was mainly due to invasions and colonialism.
And this led to certain areas remaining poor and not prospering as much as others.
As always, in times of austerity, people make do with what they have.
Hence, in certain parts of India, the general public slept on floors, and there was barely any furniture in their homes.
Homes used to have low stools and cushions which people sat on.
Sleeping on the floor and squatting to sit was the norm for them.
On the other hand, some parts of India were very famous for their craftsmen that made beautiful furniture.
These experts would use furniture to preserve the history of the country with fantastic and intricately carved pieces.
These pieces were seen as a form of art.
Originally it was the Mughals and their lavish lifestyle that made furniture famous in India.
Nevertheless, general people still preferred having none, and furniture items were for the ruling class.
However, fast forward to the present day, and everything is different.
Now, you will see fantastic furniture styles and beautiful pieces all over India.
Many countries around the world import this furniture as it is intricate and beautiful.
So how did the Indian furniture style come to exist?
Apart from the Mughal influence, Indian furniture also met with European ones.
The Europeans had a massive impact on India during the 16th century.
Different people from all over Europe invaded many parts of the country.
However, everything changed when the British arrived in the 18th century.
The British established their businesses, and they needed furniture for their offices and homes.
This turned them to local carpenters and artisans to produce furniture for them that they were used to having in Europe.
The only problem was that the materials were not available anywhere in India.
So, the craftsmen used wood carving techniques to create furniture that had bits of European influences. They utilized a variety of materials such as ivory and ebony.
The surface of the furniture had excellent finishing so that it could look smooth and shiny.
The style evolved even further as the furniture started having influences from other places as well.
And like the many things in India, the British were highly impressed!
Portuguese And Dutch Influence
The Portuguese heavily influenced the style of furniture that you find in Northern India.
The main style of Portuguese furniture had ivory inlays and was made from dark hardwood. You can still see hints of this in Indian furniture.
Other than that, you will also see hints of Dutch influence in the furniture styles.
During the old times, the furniture was imported from Java Island, which was a Dutch colony.
Their furniture had floral carvings and also used darker wood.
Traditional Indian Furniture Styles
Now that you know the history and background of Indian furniture, you should also understand the different styles seen now. These include:
1. Jaali (Net) Designs
A lot of Indian furniture has a netted design. The doors and furniture pieces made in this design have intricate geometric flower patterns paired with beautiful ornate leaves. However, not everyone makes a detailed design.
It is up to the discretion of the people the kind of design they want. They can choose from intricate netted designs or ones that are less decorative. Many people go for the elaborate netted design option because it provides more privacy.
That is why you will see many dividers and room screens have an intricate netted design. On the other hand, the less decorative netted design is used for open areas and rooms where more natural light is needed.
2. Wood Carving
Wood carving is a significant part of traditional Indian furniture. Kashmir is the region that is best known for its wood carving techniques, and the wood used for this is walnut.
Kashmir is the only place where this wood variety grows, and that is why they are known for their carving.
The carving includes various patterns such as flower motifs, latticework, Chinar motifs, dragons, and much more. Once the carving is done, the polish is applied so that the patterns look shiny lustrous.
You will find wood carving style in almost every piece of traditional Indian furniture, such as chairs, headboards, cupboards, and many other pieces of furniture.
3. Shekhawati Jodhpur Style
Rajasthan is incredibly famous for making the best furniture designs and styles. However, the most famous style in the region is the Shekhawati Jodhpur style.
The style is renowned for the beautiful carvings done by the most skilled furniture craftsmen in India.
The wood used in this style includes many varieties, such as:
Once all the beautiful carvings are made into the wood, a varnish is used.
That is done to coat the furniture so it can last for a long time and look smooth. You will also notice that this furniture style has many motifs and borders on the sides.
That is why people who opt for this furniture style keep it in their living rooms or open areas where traditional furniture looks more apt.
Another thing you will notice in this furniture style is Indian art.
The craftsmen take inspiration from the traditional Indian art to carve it into their furniture. You will see many depictions of kings, queens, and Gods.
So, the furniture is more than just that. It is a work of art by these skilled craftsmen that don’t let anything stop them from making beautiful pieces.
Yes, Indian furniture was heavily influenced at first, but with time, the craftsmen have found their own style by using the available materials locally.
The techniques of furniture making may be borrowed, but the Indian style of furniture is now distinct, and you will not find it anywhere else in the world.
These are the three main styles, but you will find an endless list of varieties when you explore the different styles that exist in India.
The furniture style is traditional, beautiful, and filled with history.