Orissa News

Horn Works

Horn articles of Orissa are mystical and are blended with a superb  design. Their lively appearance and dynamism   vie with the real objects of nature . There are artisans in  Parlakhemundi and Cuttack  who are dexterous in providing articles of daily use like combs, flower vases and pen-stands out of the horn of cattle.

Creating objects of decoration from horns of animals is a craft of Orissa that has been practiced  from ages, primarily by the tribes of Santhals, Oraons and Marijas. Contemporary artisans use the cow and buffalo horn to make more utility items like ashtrays, jewelry and combs. Sometimes, horn and silver filigree work are combined to make ornaments. The combined style is more prevalent in Cuttack. Beautifully carved combs of bones and horns are popular all over the world.

The desired object is carved from the solid part of a horn after soaking it in water. Then the carved piece is heated to a specific temperature and shaped. After that, its surface is smoothed by rubbing it against a sharp stainless steel blade . 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. But nowadays, plastic eyes are being used due to non-availability of stag antlers. After drilling bores, light incisions and grooves are made in the required places on the body of the horn. At this stage it is handed over to the women for polishing. They rub the articles first with a sand paper and then with wet Khrshana leaves. The polishing is done till the horn is smooth and shiny. Then it is thoroughly cleaned with water and dried in open air. It is then polished again with cow dung ash or charcoal ash. The various parts are then assembled and stuck together using limestone paste. Finally coconut oil is smeared all over to give the horn work a beautiful sheen.

One of the popular crafts of Orissa, horn work craftsmen are adept in creating things of daily use like pen stands, table lamps, paper weights, lamp shades, snuff boxes, walking sticks, vermilion . But the loupe-cleaners, razors, spectacle-frames, cigarette cases that were in vogue during the Second World War are now conspicuous by their absence. Though they were imitational items, it did not prevent them from being works of art. However, the name of craftsmanship is attained in those made in imitation of living beings. Fish and Fowl, Flora and Fauna, Men and Women in fact, the entire gamut of creation is rendered in a naturalistic manner. The list of horn  crafts from Orissa  remain incomplete without a mention of the horn deities, especially Lord Jagannath. In keeping with the changing times, inspiration for decorative pieces is being drawn from modern art as well. </p>