Hornworks Of Gajapati

Horn's works of Parlakhemundi are unique in many aspects. A variety of artefacts are made up of animal horns reflecting the dexterity of craftsmen. According to historical evidence, the origin of this exquisite art dates back to the era of the Parlakhemundi kings. Maharaja of Parlakhemundi Krushna Chandra Gajapati Narayan Deo got a prominent place in the rich history of this region, who was the direct descendent of the Eastern Ganga dynasty that ruled over Odisha for more than seven centuries. 

Kolahomee, one of the sons of Kapilendra Deo, the Gajapati king of Odisha, founded the royal family of Paralakhemundi in the latter half of the 15th Century. During their regime, artisans from Pithala in the Ganjam district migrated to Paralakhemundi due to great patronage for horn works. Craftsmen engaged in horn works are called Maharanas. The art form is a major cottage industry in the region providing livelihood to hundreds of craftsmen. And in recent times, this art form has also gathered a lot of attention from the global audience, increasing its popularity worldwide. Horn has replaced ivory as a medium for the artworks with the decline in elephant population in Odisha forests over time.

The horn work includes a variety of animals such as cranes, birds, lobsters, scorpions, idols, and scenes from the great epics. These handmade decorative pieces have good demand in the domestic market and are also exported to many countries. The Palace Street in Paralakhemundi is famous for horn works as it houses several shops. But lately, This ancient craft is slowly losing its glow. This is largely attributed to inadequate support from the government, curbs on the procurement of animal horns, new guidelines for exports, and non-remunerative prices.

Horns need to be heated first to carve them into their desired shape. Depending on the type of final product required suitable type of horn is selected and work is started. Generally, buffalo horn is used for the process of carving. After this, the top of the horn is flattened, slimming the bottom and fitting it into the motor. The horn is then shaped using the sharp tips of the files. Once the artefact is done, it is buffed using sandpaper, then cleaned and smoothened with wet leaves. Thereafter, it's polished with charcoal to make it jet black. Using a clean piece of cloth the artefact is then dried and removed from the motor. If required painting is alongside other fine detailing. Thenceforth, the product is ready for sale. 


Over the years although the products that are being created might have changed, the procedure in which these artefacts are being created has not. But, As we heard from the artisan that due to the reduction in the demand for the product the total number of artisans has also drastically reduced. Utkalika - Orissa State Emporium is an organization which is promoting arts and crafts, helps artisans by buying the products from the local artisans in bulk, and sell them in shops and malls. Most of these artisans today are selling and advertising their products in arts and crafts exhibitions.