Wood Carving of Assam

Assam, a thickly forested area, has a variety of wood and timber, including teak. The craftsmen, traditionally known as khanikars, have been engaged in wood carving since centuries and the skill has been passed on from generation to generations. The namghar or kirtanghar, which contains a throne-like seat, often shaped like a peacock is a rather unususal shape for a throne, has been very skillfully carved and speaks volumes about the craftsmanship and skill of these wood carvers. Flowers and deities elaborately carved in wood can be seen on doors, walls, beams, ceilings and on simhasanas used in prayer houses. Royal Assamese palaces of the past and old monasteries still have the elaborately carved decorative wooden panels intact. Modern day khanikars have taken to producing articles of commercial value, including figures of the famous one-horned rhino of Assam and replicas of the famous Kamakhya temple. The skill of the artisan is such that the khanikar can not only identify the timber by mere touch in the darkness of the night, but also make a string of items from it. Besides finely carved chests for storage of ornaments and vessels, the khanikars of Assam also make painted boxes, idols of gods and goddesses, stools and pedestals, hukkas and sandals.