Odisha Heritage

Stone Carving in Odisha – A Sensitive Diversity

Traveling always acted as fuel to my soul, I celebrate it with every occurrence of my life. But, never guessed this will soon become a ground for creating my vision and will become my biggest exploration for the stone carving in Odisha.
A few years back, I made a ruling to go for small tours to cover tremendous beauty within my stretch. Before starting this quest, I was unknown to a lot of facts regarding my homeland. I packed up my stuff, went out with my camera, and with every single tour, I realized what I missed for so long. I missed my own culture, the actual world.

The Stone Studio Artisans

Fists full of silt, sweat gliding down the skin
Eyes diving through the gravel
Plumbing the imagination of building a body
Sensing the warmth to embed a soul
Molding a stone to create a scene
which mesmerize the soul and leaves you keen

Sangeeta Beri

I belong to an eastern Indian state-Odisha, full of diverse cultures, tribal communities, enormously beautiful temples, filled stunning landscapes, a wide array of wildlife with lots of protected parks and sanctuaries. Above all Odisha has a rich artistic heritage and has produced some of the finest examples of Indian art and architecture.

Heritage Site Konark
Heritage Site Konark

Among the most notable traditions in the visual arts are a mural painting, stone carving, wood carving, icon painting (known as Patta), and painting on palm leaves. The state also is widely recognized for its exquisite silver filigree ornamentation, pottery, and decorative work.

Odisha, filled with timeless diverse charms and attractions which every year attracts innumerable souls towards it. Of course, I’m one among them. As per my yearly rituals, I dedicated some of my busy schedules to a trip, and this time it plunged me deep into our culture and I arose back with facts that helped me in carving a better future.

Konark Sun Temple
Konark Sun Temple

Konark Stone Carving: Geographical Indication in Odisha

Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century CE Sun Temple at Konark dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya. It is one of India’s Cultural and Architectural Miracles. Stone carvings at the Sun Temple are the most excellent models of antiquated Odishan temples. Soapstone, Sandstone, serpentinite, and granite have been used for stone carvings at the world-famous heritage site.

In March 2008, Odisha has earned GI (Geographical Indication) Tag – “Konark Stone Carving”. The reason behind it is that Konark Sun Temple is one of the centers of the origin of Stone art. The stone artisans in Odisha practice it and make intricately carved designs on different types of stones.  The artisans are well trained to make replicas of any art form. In Odisha currently, the stone carving products range from Stone Sculptures, vases, interior decorations, large monuments, and anything which can be made out of stone. 

Stone Carving History

A scorching hot day with no filled water certainly attracted me towards a nearby hut that seemed dusty and covered with white chafed stone crumbs. No point in getting anybody outside, I dived in to find out some miraculously kind-hearted beings who could lend me some life in that realm. To my utter surprise, I witnessed a beautiful half-carved figure, which mesmerizingly attracted my consciousness towards it. Being a curious soul I filled myself with a pack of questions. I began questioning myself that how could a person carve such a magnificent figure with his hands just by imagining the structure in mind. Though I was new in this carving custom, I can only stand and presume this sight.
I finally met a person with depleted skin and couldn’t stop myself asking – ” Who made this”?

He replied that he and his brother crafted this, but he is not getting a person who can pay for the statue. He was having difficulty delivering a fantastic masterpiece to a potential buyer. You might be thinking about why there is a sale and buying a business for this art. So, to know deeper better about the stone carving in Odisha, we need to dig into a brief history of rocks and the art behind them. The stone is esteemed for its natural grace, strong nature, and versatility.

This history takes us back to the Paleolithic age where the stone carving art was born and this art is considered the oldest portable art of human civilization. Taking an unshaped rough piece of stone and giving it a desirable shape is an art mastered and practiced by many art lovers and societies. Gradually they adopted it as a means of earning a livelihood. People years after years adapted this custom and created enormous beautiful structures to preserve our art and culture. The durability of the material made it possible to take a look into their unique cultures and artistic practices. They gradually created a legacy for their future generation and also gifted it as a treasure to us.

The Stone Studio Artisans
Stone Artisans We Rely On

Stone Art of Odisha

So back to the present days, he detailed me with his amazing knowledge of stones and crafting customs. I began to get into it, he told me that not only he but his ancestors too were involved in this work. I have witnessed abundant sculptures in my life but getting deeper into the struggle stories behind it, made me feel like a learner seeking eternal wisdom. He enlightened me with a brief description of Odisha’s craft and revealed many untold stories of our ancestors who struggled to keep the creativity alive. This art has reached an amazing elevation of standards and spread its huge arms to capture not only the spiritual figures but also daily household decors and utensils.

After listening to his opinions, I realized a crucial issue that these crafters are facing, is to meet the potential customers who can value the effort and struggle to create those masterpieces. While cutting the big pieces of stone they respire thousands of particles that harm the lungs and respiratory system of the crafters. Elevated silica exposure levels indicate an ongoing risk of silicosis in this manufacturing process.

Exposures were increased by the use of grinding tools with no ventilation and by contiguity to other workers. It made me feel horrible when I imagined the condition of their health while carving those rough pieces into beautiful sculptures.
The stone carving in Odisha is an amazing talent that I witnessed and felt proud of, but I equally felt that this beautiful diversity is truly sensitive and delicate. Art always represents the mind and soul who cultivates it, but when the creator encounters hardship in creating art, it starts depleting.

The Stone Studio Artisans
The Stone Studio Artisans

After long research of one year, I started seizing into this profession, not just because I loved the efforts and outcomes of the beautiful hands but because I dreamt of creating an environment for those talents to flourish in a better way. The Odisha government has always summed efforts to make the state strong and flashed to the outer realm. To make our cultural heritage more worldly and extensive we need to take care of this sensitive issue. Some technical solutions are required that can prevent the inhalation of stone dust by the artisans. This may include dust suppression at the source, low-cost masks, controlled environments, etc, based on the technical and economic feasibility.

Stone carving in Odisha

It’s not just I but millions of people who want our stone carving heritage to flourish and spread everywhere in this world. A little more effort can formulate a beautiful world of art and architecture to set a rich legacy for our future generations.

“The greatest artist does not have any concept which a single piece of marble does not itself contain within its excess, though only a hand that obeys the intellect can discover it.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti

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