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Buffalo Horn

The art of using Buffalo horn as a raw material for carving is prevalent not only in Kerala, but also in India. Delicate and amazing sculptures are created from the bone of the Indian Buffalo and it is a well-known traditional art in Kerala.

This art requires skill and patience in general and there is no restriction as such regarding the artisans being from a specific community, but the artists of Viswakarma community of Thiruvananthapuram are famous, especially for their buffalo horn carving. Besides the state capital, towns of Ernakulam, Trichur, Cochin and Kasaragod are recognized centers of horn carving.

Of all the steps, the process of priming the horn is most important. Horn sculptures of Kerala are fine and intricate, with several qualities of luster over the finished product. As it is, the bone of the buffalo horn is hard and brittle, to be workable, it is processed using oils for several days, thus giving it the characteristic dark color. Incorporation of dark, hard wood only uplifts the beauty of these bone sculptures.

Products of Horn Carving

The themes of buffalo horn sculptures are usually that of natural beauty. The images of birds and animals, as seen in their natural habitats are popular images, like a crane in flight or a grazing deer; these are some traditional themes of the artists. Small toys are also made out of buffalo horns, toys resembling miniature furniture or household items that are used as parts of a dollhouse. The tradition of boat racing is extremely popular in Kerala and the figure of men rowing a snake boat is equally beautiful, and prevalent as a horn sculpture.

Newer market trends have replaced the olden subjects of the horn carvers, which used to be those of various sacred animals and deities, but today demand for such figures has diminished. Nowadays the horn carvers use traditional design methods and abstract patterns to beautify mundane items of use, made out of buffalo horn. Things like paperweights, combs, lampshades, bookstands, ashtrays, jewelry boxes and so on are carved out of rude buffalo horns. These dark colored artifacts are adorned with intricate designs that look delicate and are quite elaborate.

Apart from the artistry and skill of its makers, the natural and intrinsic factors like color and texture of the horn undergoes considerable change during the heating and oil treatment. Horn carving is an important part of Kerala’s culture and heritage and as a result many enthusiasts are helping to preserve the traditional methods and customs of the horn carvers. Even in the market the buffalo horn sculptures are being encouraged to be souvenirs and decorations of choice among tourists and locals equally.

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