Thursday, March 26, 2009

Artistic Skills Revealed in Ancient Indian Stone Crafts


The tradition of stone carving in India is a very ancient one and a very rich one too. The skills were handed down from one generation to another another, a practise prevalent in some parts of the country even today. Stone carving is very closely linked with architecture. There are magnificent structures showing the artistic skiils of the craftsmen of the ancient times.

Stone monuments are very common all over the country. The rich tradition of India stone carvings are visible in sculptures of the Mauryan period, Buddhist carvings at Sanchi, the rock-cut caves of Khajuraho, Ajanta and Ellora, the temples in Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Mahabalipuram, Ramanthapuram, Kanyakumari, Konark, Puri, and other places. The innumerable stone figures and monuments with their exquisite expressions, detailing of ornaments and dress, the poses of the epic heroes from Hindu mythology, marble inlay work of Taj Mahal, floral, trellis, creeper and geometric patterns on stones are all gifts of creativity. The colourful stones inlay on marble and sandstone surfaces were typical characteristics of the Mughal period.

Different states of the country have their unique originality of certain stones. For example, some of the common stone products of Tamil Nadu are vessels for storage, bowls and simply ornamented single-wick lamps. The black stone bowls and plates, multi-coloured stone statuettes and delicate soapstone articles are famous in Orissa and Bihar, red sandstone articles are widely available in Rajasthan. Several artisans in Gujarat are engaged in the art of cutting and polishing semi-precious stones. Jhansi in Bihar is known for its lampshades, incense stick stands made out of a dark brown stone called sange-rathek. The karga craftsmen in Midnapur in West Bengal produce the famous phyllite stoneware. Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh is famous for a number of small greenstone items like animals, boxes, trays, etc. There are the stone carvers in Himachal Pradesh producing traditional stoves (angithi), circular pots (kundi), pestle and mortar (dauri danda), and other things.

Different stones are used ranging from soft-brittle sandstone and white marble to hard granite. Stones are not only used to make monuments and builidings and structures, they are also used in making various decorative and ornamental products like candle holders, jewelry boxes, planters, garden fountains, lamps and many more. Sandstone, marble, granite, slatestone in the form of pebbles, cobbles, tiles, bricks, blocks, slabs are widely used for flooring, wall cladding, landscaping, roofing etc. The glory of stonework is truly revealed in sculpture and architectural facades and decorative products.

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