A Rich History of Furniture in India


Furniture manufactured in India has garnered appreciation all over the world, but not many people are aware of the tradition and history of Indian furniture. India has a long and rich history as far as wooden furniture is concerned. Furniture making in India is heavily influenced by the country’s art and literature. Furniture making has been practiced in India since 1336 AD during the Vijayanagar Empire. The empires and the kings from southern India are the primary patrons. Furniture making was considered more of an art and trade. Craftsmen were held in high esteem by the royalty because they were able to preserve legends and folklore in wood. The conventional and standard furniture items can be found in ancient temples and modern buildings.

Most people sat, eat and slept on the floor because of the extreme climate of Rajasthan. In the early days only utilitarian furniture like low chairs and charpoys are used in palaces, temples or public houses. The conventional furniture we know today was developed from foreign influence. The Portuguese were the first European that came to India, they influence the domestic furniture making in the country. Indian carpenters were commissioned to produce copies of the furniture Portuguese used to at home. Indian furniture makers are precocious in adapting their foreign designs but they created a combination of eastern and western styles. Indians used the vast number of local tree species in manufacturing Portuguese designed furniture

Foreign culture continues to influence Indian furniture making as the British, French and Dutch commissioned the Indians to manufacture their own furniture designs. The amalgamation of European sensibilities and Indian craftsmanship was known as Anglo-Indian furniture. The foreign influences paved the way to Mughal style, Goanese, Indo-Dutch style and the use of ebony and ivory like the Chippendale and Sheraton. The English predominance in the 18th century resulted in English furniture styling and give teak the popularity in quality furniture. The ornamentation assumed primacy in the 19th century.

In the 20th century utility and simplicity gained primacy over art and ornamentation. Price consideration drove the ornamentation to the minimum as cheaper wood varieties were used to cater to the low cost demand. Antique and ornamental furniture were manufactured and exported to Western customers. Indian furniture makers still continue to be renowned to convert wood into great pieces of furniture. Locally found wood such as teak, sandal, mango and coconut are widely used in the manufacture of tables, chairs, entertainment units, bed, armoire and other decorative pieces.

The majority of modern Indian furniture today is made from Himalayan teak, acacia, rosewood and mango. Some furniture is recycled from old discarded furniture and crumbling traditional Indian mansions and palaces in the villages. The recovered pieces like old doors and panels are crafted to make new furniture. The luxury lifestyle furniture such as charpais (string beds) almaris (cupboards) jhulas (swings) ornamented master beds and old fashioned round tables with bloated legs are making a comeback in furniture stores lately.

Indian maintains its traditional way of using simple tools in the manufacturing process. Despite the rapid developments in information and technology, Indian furniture is still carved from traditional tools. Because of this the wooden furniture pieces retains its ethnicity. The traditional furniture making process made Indian furniture the symbol of durability and elegance.