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  • An insight into South Indian Stone Carving and Sculptures

    Stone carving is an ancient activity of shaping rough natural stones through controlled removal of stone. It is a process employed by an artist while making a sculpture. Stone carving is mostly preferred over wood or metal work as many types of stones are easier to find than metal ores. Stone carvings last much longer than woodwork as stone is more durable than wood. Also the availability of varieties, quality and color among stones make it a choice of material to start off with the process of sculpting.

    Image Credit - wikimedia Image Credit - wikimedia

    The stones commonly used in sculpting are easily carved soft stones such as soapstone and pumice. Limestone and marble is also popularly used. Certain hard stones like granite and basalt form a beautiful finishing and are carved with special iron or steel tools. The crucial point in the process of sculpturing is the quality of the material used. The sculptor has to go into thorough details regarding the quality, texture and color of the stone before proceeding to work. The art of stone carving and sculpting is almost similar to the measurements, techniques and details set out for Shilpa Shastra. The enthusiastic and dedicated sculptors of South India have always worked creatively with the indigenous and extremely durable variety of the stone available to construct beautiful temples and sculptures.

    The astonishing temples that glorify south India are from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. These states were ruled by various dynasties of Pallavas, Chalukyas, Viajayanagar Empire, Kakatiyas, Cholas, Rashtrakutas and Gangas and all the architecture reflects the culture and tradition of each dynasty in which it was built. The glory of south Indian temple architecture can best be seen at Meenakshi Temple at Madurai. The magnificent temple features a thousand pillared mandapas, huge reliefs and tall gateways.

    The sculptor’s unique sense skill can also be seen in the other temples of the region. At Chidambaram, there is a beautiful temple featuring the 108 mudras of the Natya Shastra while at Kanchipuram one can see a number of the temples reflecting the culture of Pallava and Nayak dynasty.

    Rock cut temple sculpture is mainly the contribution of Rashtrakutas period which exhibits Jainism and Buddhism culture. The temples beautifully depict mythological gods and goddesses from Hindu puranas on their outer walls.

    Sangam period witnessed more artistic and nature inspired elements that can well be seen on the deities inside Chidambaram Thillai Nataraja Temple and the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple of Tamil Nadu. The Pallavas period introduced a new phase in art at that time. They introduced incredible and novel ways of artistic expression in sculpting. Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) is the biggest example of such art form. Made from granite and dressed stone Mahabalipuram exhibits dream world of amazing tamil stone art and architechture.

    Sculptures of Chalukya dynasty are mainly found in the state of Karnataka. Standing tall on a lotus Gomateshwara monolith is considered as the major sculpture of Ganga dynasty in Karnataka and has been carved from fine grained white granite. Temples built by Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal are those at Palampeta, Hanamkonda and the Warangal fort, displaying both the love for architecture and the zest of sculpting.

    The distinct feature of south Indian sculpture is that they redefined and provided a unique identity to the art of sculpturing in India.

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