Thursday, November 10, 2011


Yesterday, visited the town of Mahabalipuram about 60 km from Chennai. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the monolithic monuments built in the 7-9th centuries. Stone carving has been a traditional craft in this area for two thousand years. This time, I spent some time observing the work of the stone carvers. Everything except the finishing touches with a pointed chisel (picture “A” above) is done by power tools. First they shape a block of granite for a particular sculpture, by making parallel cuts (picture “B” above) with a diamond blade on an angled grinder. After that all major carving is done by the angled grinders (marked 3 in the picture below) and each artist goes through one or two blades per day. All finer carving is done with diamond bids marked 1 and 2 in the picture below. The bid marked 2 lasts only for 2-3 days, while the bid marked 3 may last for up to two weeks.

Despite of the use of power tools each sculpture takes an amazingly long time to make. For example, picture “A” below shows a sculpture which has been worked on for one and a half months. And those people work long hours. Picture “B” below shows a stature that’s been worked on for at least three months and there is still a lot of finishing work to be done.


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