History of Ivory
The story of Ivory
Elephants have been always one of the most valuable animals on earth. This peace loving animal once was of great value due to its tusk- ivory. Ivory was and is an extremely valuable element. Previously Ivory was in huge use. Ivory used to signify high level and affluent class. Ivory is basically a bone tissue and except elephant, it is also available in few other animals like hippopotamus, walrus, and whale. Even in Peru, Colombia you will get a nut which resembles ivory and is known as vegetable ivory. Ivory is very rare and expensive. It became so famous because it is easy to do carvings on ivory and moreover Ivory is durable and has wonderful bright color. Thus Ivory became very demanding among people.
Due to the high demand of ivory people started killing elephants mercilessly which made various countries to declare elephant as an endangered species and killing elephant became a punishable offense and ivory was banned.
How old is Ivory
Ivory has been mentioned in various historical books and stories. Mention of ivory carvings is present long back in 5000 BC. Hints of Ivory in mentioned long back in 5500 years in ancient Egypt. Ivory was into fashion in various parts of the world at different times. In Rome Ivory was hugely used during 300 BC to 100 BC. Even in Britain Ivory was in use during 7th century to 9th century. During Renaissance, ivory carving was at its peak and was widely used. As designs on ivory used to come out beautifully so all renowned and famous designers preferred elephant task to engrave. Initially, any good design was engraved on elephant tooth and later on it was copied on wood and was sold at a cheap rate to common people.
History of Ivory in India
In North and Central India the craftsmen who used to do Ivory carving were known as “Haathidaantwala”. During medieval India, Ivory carving became an art form. Any beautiful and fine carving on marble or wood was known as ivory carving. In Vedas too, ivory carving was considered as high leveled handicraft. In Mahabharata and Ramayana there was mention of ivory used to engrave sword handle and also stories were there for ivory trade during that period. During the seventh century famous writer, Banabhatta has mentioned that during those days Ivory jewelry was made and used by women of high class. As a commodity, Ivory has been a demanded product among rich and affluent people. It has been considered as one of the expensive items. In old history mention of ivory has been also done in Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilization. During the excavation of Mohenjodaro and Harappa Ivory carving items such as jewelry box, combs, and earrings ruins has been extracted. Even during Maurya dynasty thrones and jewelry were made up of ivory. In medieval age, there were remains of Ivory extracted but the story behind it is not known. During Taxila, excavation ivory items were obtained. Even in Mathura people used to use comb and earrings made of ivory. Between seventh and thirteenth century the ivory works which were found had signs of Chandel and Parmara kingdom’s sign and symbols. Between fifteenth and sixteenth century in Vijayanagar kingdom of South India, kings had a room in the palace, which was well decorated with mesmerizing Ivory carving objects. Even Mughals were fond of ivory. They used to import elephant tooth from Africa. People from Surat were specially hired to do the cravings. Though Africa and Asia were the main sources of elephants still Mughals preferred African elephants and even later on African elephants were in more demand as those elephants’ tooth was long and strong which helped artisans to create big designer pieces from it. Artisans and Jewelers who did ivory carvings used to get a lot of respect and even local art form designs were made with ivory.
Trade of Ivory
Trading of ivory is mentioned long back in Indian history. Ivory was traded between kingdoms. A large variety of ivory ornamental work was produced in South India especially Mysore and Assam was also the hub of ivory. India traded Ivory with Europe. Even King Solomon received ivory from India in tenth century BC. Even during the time of Buddha, ivory was used. You can find in Buddhist literature ivory trading and availability of ivory craftsmen and ivory items. Initially, ivory was used to prepare daily household products such as combs, watch holder, piano keys, brush handles, pool balls.
Currently, ivory from elephants and other endangered animals has been declared as illegal. Due to the merciless slaughtering of elephants for ivory had randomly decreased during the 19th century. The elephant population dropped up to ten million, which forced countries to declare Ivory trading as illegal. This helped in the growth of elephant population in South Africa up to one million during the years from 1979 to 1989. But due to the decision was taken between the years 1999 till 2008 to allow legal trading of ivory and old stock of ivory decreased the elephant population once again. Even China has declared to ban ivory trading in order to save the endangered species. Currently, ivory craftsmen have transformed themselves into wood carving and sandal wood carving work. But still, now poached ivory is smuggled at very high rates.
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