Varanasi and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh are famous for their wooden lacquerware and wooden toys. The craftsmen claim to belong to the Kunder Kharadi Samaj. It is an ancient craft and Varanasi has been a major center for the same.
Sal or Sheesham is the raw material used. Designs are created with the natural veins of the wood.
These toys are made without any joints and are attractive and safe playthings for children. The colors used are bright and primary. Kashmiri Ganj and Khojwa are the major centers of production. The toys have a ritual significance also and are not made just for play. This craft plays a pivotal role in the lives of the artisans since when a child is born a new lathe is added to the family possessions. When a marriage is being fixed the boy's family makes sure that the bride-to-be is familiar with the lathe.
Pieces of wood are cut out from the logs according to the size of the toy that is to be made. Each piece is heated slowly to remove all the moisture from the wood. This process is time-consuming. The piece is sanded in order to smoothen its surface. The wood is either hand-carved or shaped using lathe. Lathe is preferred for toys that are axially symmetric. In hand-carving, first the design of the toy is drawn on the wood. Then, the wood is sculpted with chisel and hammer according to the design. Once shaped, the surface of the toy is smoothened using a file and the toy is sent for painting. Toys are given several coats of paint, and finished with a clear or coloured lacquer. Paint brushes made out of the hair from squirrel’s tail are used for painting fine lines.
Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world. A visit to Varanasi cannot be complete without a visit to the ghats running along River Ganges. There are about 88 ghats in the city. The evening aarti (a religious ritual with lamps) at the ghats, primarily at Dashashwamedh, is a sight to behold. One of the more visually spectacular ghats is the Lalita Ghat.
The Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary is a serene forested area located around 100 km from Varanasi. Spread over an area of 1,342 sq km, the sanctuary is dotted with several waterfalls, of which the finest are, Karkat and Telhar falls. The sanctuary is most famous for its blackbuck population and is home to several other animals like tiger, leopard, wild boar, sloth bear, sambar deer, chital, four-horned antelope, and nilgai.
Ramnagar Fort is located on the eastern bank of River Ganges, opposite Tulsi Ghat, in Varanasi. The 18th-century red sandstone fort was built in Mughal style by the ruler of Kashi, Maharaja Balwant Singh. It is said to be the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. A 30-minute boat rides away from Varanasi, the fort is an imposing sight, rising from the bank of the river. It houses a temple dedicated to Ved Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, along with a popular temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. A museum inside the compound showcases collectibles belonging to the royal family. It is known for its exhibits of antique scripts and scriptures, vintage furniture, cars, royal costumes, gold, and silver brocaded palanquins and elephant saddles carved out of silver.
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