Usta Art of Bikaner, Rajasthan, How Usta Art is Done

The first time I saw Usta art I was overwhelmed by its fine intricate designs in combination of gold and bright primary colors. I have seen them mostly in exhibitions for sale. Even the smallest piece of Usta work can cause a dent in your pocket. I was under the impression it is because of the gold that was used. However I realized how wrong I was when the entire making process of Usta art Bikaner was explained to me. The laborious effort that goes into making a small piece completely justifies the cost of Usta art works.

Hard to believe this workshop houses some of the most expensive Usta art Bikaner

Usta Art Bikaner

Thanks to Narendra Bhawan familiarization trip I could meet a Usta work artist.  Artist Hussain Ustaad has been working on this art since childhood. Interestingly the art got its name from the Urdu word Ustaad meaning master.  Yet another saying is the name came from Usta faction of Muslim community which were associated with this art form.

Artist Ajmal Hussain Ustaad explained the various motifs that went into making of Usta art Bikaner are related to Mughal art. The skill has passed down through several generations but at one time it was almost at the verge of disappearance due to lack of interest by younger generations to pick up the skill. However with some effort and support by government the interest has revived. Students now join to learn the art.

He showed us a compiled picture of his tools in use for Usta art work. He is proud of the book which a collection of pictures of his works.

Embossing done using a paste… I think the formula is a secret!

Usta the most famous art form of Bikaner involve miniature paintings with gold and filling spaces with bright meena (brilliantly bright) colors, vice versa too. The base material on which this art work is done varies: they can be camel leather, glass, ceramic, wood, on building parts like ceilings, walls, and doors. Usta art work on white base like marble or ivory is real treat to eyes.

Usta Art How it is Done

While the artisan was explaining the process I briefly noted down these points

  • First they smoothen the base surface
  • The dimensions of the base material within which the design is to made is fixed
  • Next they make the required measurements,
  • On this they put in the first stage of design,
  • Followed by filling in the colour with brush,
  • After drying it, embossing is done using a paste,
  • A yellow paint is applied over this,
  • After drying it the gold foils are applied and
  • Finally the outlines are detailed.

The net result is mind-blowing designs with distinct colours.

Usta Art Bikaner Macro


Usta Kala is On Walls and Ceilings

Usta art work is can be seen in temples and several monuments of Bikaner. Narendra Bhawan’s interiors have some wonderful collection of this art work. One of them is here.

Usta art Bikaner at Narendra Bhawan

500 years old Usta Art Bikaner, Rajasthan, India


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28 Responses

  1. Nisha says:

    Ah! Usta art stole my heart. Like you, I too have seen them in exhibitions but this was the first time I got to know the details. Now I know a bit of the art. 🙂 The rich colors symbolizes famous meenakari work also.

  2. anindita says:

    Nice post,now that I know little about it,I think I will be able to recognize this art form when I see it somewhere

  3. We are going to Bikaner in the coming week and Usta Art is one of our top agenda items. Isn’t is so great that some of these traditional arts and crafts are being revived and getting some visibility again?

  4. Tom says:

    I bet most people reading this have never heard of this type of art, so neat that a blog post can be so introducing. I bet the colors are even better in real life.

  5. I was not previously familiar with Usta Art until I read your article. It looks to be amazing. I hope to visit Bikaner one day so that I can see it in person.

  6. Jennifer says:

    That clock and mirror are absolutely gorgeous! These are the kinds of things I buy as souvenirs when I travel. Thanks for sharing this find with us.

  7. Usta art is beautiful and the details are very intricate. I can understand why it is expensive. Creating the art sounds like a very long process.

  8. That is fabulous. There are so many indigenous artwork that are threatened or extinct due to globalization. Spreading awareness and appreciating now can preserve global cultural heritage. In a world of 3-d printing and pure digital media we can never forget the importance of hand craftsmanship.

  9. Mimi says:

    Have never heard of this kind of art before and quite happy to learn more abut it n your article! So many things in the world yet to learn woa!

  10. Usta art details are impressive, you could look at this artwork for hours, i’m impressed. I wish we would only do things by hand, it gives to everything a personal hearty note.

  11. Bhushavali says:

    OMG! This is a visual treat. I hadn’t known about this art. So thanks for introducing this to me! I think someone gifted me a piece of this work. Let me go back and check that if its the same!

  12. blair villanueva says:

    Usta artworks are so beautiful, adding to the fact that it is mixed with gold! Would you know how old it the existing oldie Usta art?

  13. Garth says:

    I must admit I’ve never heard of Usta Art, it’s incredibly intricate, I love hand crafted artworks, and this is very beautiful. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  14. Kerri says:

    I’d never heard of this at all. So very delicate. I wouldn’t have the patience for it. It’s definitely important to protect the history and heritage of such authentic handicrafts.

  15. Suruchi says:

    Being in India, I never knew about this artwork. It’s beautiful and amazing. Your post has shared such great insights that I will be able to recognize the true piece. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Alberto C. says:

    Great post, whenever I visit a new country or region, I always love discovering their local art and how it’s made. The detail and colours in the Usta art look amazing! That mirror is just spectacular, I can’t believe it was handmade!

  17. I didn’t realise this kind of art is called usta, so detailed, thanks!

  18. Holly says:

    Never heard of this. Very pretty and intricate. Thanks for bringing light to this.

  19. Marta says:

    how interesting! beautiful colors! I did know anything about this type of art, but now I will point it out to my friends when I see it in real life.

  20. Every time I read one of your posts I learn something new! I had no idea about this sort of art, but I can fully understand why is it so expensive! It looks like such a meticulous process!

  21. Ashok says:

    very interesting post. Thanks Ind

  22. This is the first time i hear and read about Usta art and it is interesting to learn too. That mirror is sooo beautiful too!

  23. N Muralikrishna says:

    Very nice to note Usta art of Bikanir and Dantewada tribal market

  24. Wow! Usta art is so pretty. Had seen some of these I think. Beautiful post.

  25. WOW!!! Amazing!!I have never heard of such kind of art form. Thank U for bringing out such an outstanding yet less aware art form. The Image of the Clock is too good!! Loveeeed it !!

  26. Very informative; had not heard about this art before. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Yogi Saraswat says:

    It is pretty . I never read about it before . New and amazing things

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