Different kinds of rock originated on earth after numerous geological activities. These rocks with their different compositions came to be called stones like Redstone, Soapstone, Sandstone, Limestone, Marble, Granite and many others. Indian landmass is also made up of several kinds of rocks and the stone obtained here has been used in making forts, palaces, temples, sculptures, household items and for other miscellaneous purposes. In India, stone crafting traditions have their roots in pre-historic times, as at that time the weapons and other tools were made of stone. More professional approach in stone craft came in 7th century BC. During this time, several guilds of stone carvers and masons existed in India. During Maurya rule stone craft reached to its perfection. A number of rock stupas, rock cut caves and Buddhist chaityas were raised during this period. In India, all kind of stone sculptures and structures used to be made according to Shilpshastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on sculpture and architecture.
Region Wise Study of Stone Craft in India
In India, there are some regions that are specifically rich in stone culture. A classical culture prevails there of stone crafts. Depending upon the type of stone found and the tools used, the style and the finishing has been different and unique.
Stone Carving Practices of Orissa:
Stone carving is one of the major handicrafts of Orissa. Several archaeological monuments, rock-cut sculpture, carves and magnificent temples testify the claim.
All these have undergone intricate and very fine stone carving by the deft hands of the artisans. The temples of Puri, Konark, Lingaraj, Parasurameshwar and Mukteshwar are just the wonders crafted in stone. Whereas the stupas erected at Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri are just par-excellence. The art of stone crafting reached pinnacle in the ancient and the early medieval period in Orissa with detailed exploration of each and every nuance of the stone craft. This art has automatically passed on to the present generation from their earlier generations. The present breed is not far behind its predecessors in creating the exact replica of the old masterpieces. Similarly, small sculptures are also made in big quantity catering to the huge demands of the visitors and the locals.
Stone Carving Practices of Rajasthan
Rajasthan has, though scarcity in wood and forest but it has abundant stone mineral.The landmass of Rajasthan is rich in different rocks like Granite, marble, Quartzite, Slate and other metamorphic rocks. The forts and palaces of Bharatpur, Baroli, Ramgarh, Nagda, Ajmer, Chittor, Mandsore, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Udaipur have been made using these stones. The jaaliwork or the latticework of Ajmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Bikaner is of fine quality and intricate finish. Rajasthan has most significant quarries of marble at Makrana. The marble mined here is used profoundly in the world famous stone sculpture of Taj Mahal as well as the stone wonder, Dilwara Jain Temple at Mt. Abu. The artistry in Dilwara Jain temple is exquisite, fine, intricate and just fascinating. Different places of Rajasthan are famous for different kind of stones found. Kota is the center of production of grey stone which is used in floor making. Similarly Barmer and Ajmer are famous for Yellowstone and granite respectively. Beautiful statues of deities are made using the soft stone mined from the quarries of Dungarpur. Jaipur is the place where sculptures of all kinds are made by white marble. The statues of deities carved in Rajasthan are sent to all areas of the country.
Stone Art Practices of Uttar Pradesh
Mathura, Varanasi and Agra are the famous centers for stone craft in Uttar Pradesh. Some pieces of stone sculptures have been found from the excavations at Mathura and other adjacent areas belonging to Maurya period. The interesting fact is that lavishly used stone in these sculptures is the red sandstone mined from the Chunar. It indicates that this land once used to be the center of stone carving art some thousands of years back. During medieval period under the Mughal rule, several beautiful palaces and forts were constructed chiefly with the help of stone. Some fascinating examples of the stone sculptures if Uttar Pradesh are: Red fort of Agra, The Taj Mahal, the palace of Fatehpur Sikri, The tomb of Akbar at Sikandara and many more.
In the present times the focus of the stone craftsmen is changing towards exploring new kinds of stones as well as new article to be made. Nowadays they make the stone sculptures that beautify the home or the gift articles like candle stands, ashtrays, jewelry boxes, and Taj replicas. Carved pillars, railings and fireplaces are the architectural objects that the craft persons are making.
Rupbas near Agra and Karauli are the quarries which have produced the red stone used in the forts and palaces Agra, Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri.
At Varanasi the stone used is not hard marble but soft stone called Gorara. This is the stone that is brought from the Hamirpur and Mahoba areas. This stone has a unique quality to change its colors on polishing. Bowls and the servicing dishes are the popular products made of gorara stones. Sonia and Kalimohal areas of Varanasi and Gokulpura area of Agra are the centers of the main activities of stone craft in U.P.
Stone Art Practices of Southern India
In southern India, the temple architecture of Hoyasalas at Halebid and Belur are most exquisite and splendid example of stone craft. 57 Feet tall stone statue of Jain saint Gomateshwara at Shrabanbelgola is another example of marvelous stone art. Similarly, the ruins of Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi in Bellary are also the samples of glorious Indian tradition of Stone craft.
Other classic stone examples of stone craft in the southern part of India are: Meenakshi Temple Madurai and its 1000 pillared mandaps, Chidambaram Temple with beautiful panels depicting 108 karanas of the Natya Shastra, Kanchipuram accommodating a number of temples from he era of Pallawas to Nayaks and Granite carvings at Mamallapuram and Chingalpet. The Kailash temple at the Ellora caves is the monolithic structure whose craft is just unique and astonishingly beautiful.