Want to know about the ancient art of stone work?
A brief history
Stone working has a rich history in the Hindu/Indian context. The use of stone in India dates back to the prehistoric period, where primitive tribes used stones for various purposes such as making tools, weapons, and constructing dwellings.
One of the earliest known examples of stone carving in India is the Ashoka Pillar, which was erected in the 3rd century BCE by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka. The pillar, which stands at over 42 feet tall, is made of polished sandstone and features intricate carvings of animals, plants, and inscriptions in Brahmi script.
The oldest Indian style stone statues were discovered in the ruins of the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro, located in present-day Pakistan. Mohenjo-Daro was one of the largest and most advanced cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished from around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE.
The statues, which date back to the third millennium BCE, are made of steatite, a type of soft stone that is easy to carve. They depict human figures in various poses, including standing, seated, and dancing.
One of the most famous statues discovered at Mohenjo-Daro is the "Priest-King", a statue of a male figure wearing a robe and a headdress. The statue is about 7 inches tall and is believed to represent a priest or ruler of the ancient city.
Other notable statues found at Mohenjo-Daro include a female figure known as the "Dancing Girl", which is believed to represent a performer, and a seated male figure with a horned headdress, which is thought to be a depiction of a deity.
The statues discovered at Mohenjo-Daro are considered to be some of the earliest examples of Indian sculpture and provide valuable insights into the art and culture of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. While the statues are simple in design compared to later Indian sculptures, they demonstrate a high level of skill and craftsmanship, and serve as a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the people of that time.
Where we are today
THE PRESENT PRACTICES
The ancient tradition of stone statue making in India has continued to thrive and evolve over the centuries, with modern-day artisans continuing to use the same techniques and methods that were used by their ancestors. One of the most famous centers for stone statue making in India is Jaipur, located in the state of Rajasthan.
In Jaipur, the process of making a stone statue begins with the selection of the right type of stone. The most commonly used stones for statue making include marble, sandstone, and granite. Once the stone is selected, it is cut into a rough shape using a hammer and chisel.
The next step involves removing the excess stone to reveal the basic shape of the statue. This is done using finer chisels and grinders, which are used to smooth the stone and bring out the desired form.
Once the basic shape of the statue is achieved, the artisan begins to work on the finer details, such as facial features, clothing, and accessories. This is where the artist's skill and creativity come into play, as they carefully carve and shape the stone to create a unique and beautiful work of art.
In Jaipur and other parts of Rajasthan, stone statue making is not just a job, but a passion and a way of life. Artisans often come from families that have been in the trade for generations, and the skills and techniques are passed down from father to son.
Many stone statue makers in Jaipur also specialize in creating replicas of famous sculptures and monuments from around the world. These include iconic works of art such as the David statue by Michelangelo, the Venus de Milo, and the Taj Mahal.
In addition to traditional stone statue making, modern technology has also been incorporated into the process. CNC machines are used to cut and shape the stone, while 3D printers are used to create prototypes and molds.
Despite these technological advancements, the art of stone statue making in Jaipur and Rajasthan remains rooted in tradition and a deep respect for the craft. The end result is a beautiful work of art that captures the essence of India's rich cultural heritage and artistic legacy.