Stone Carving

 

 

The beautiful temples that dot the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu have lent the state the sobriquet of "land of temples". The glory of Tamil temple architecture reaches its pinnacle in the Meenakshi temple at Madurai. The temple with its profusion of sculpture and magnificent proportions, the thousand-pillared mandapas and the pillars of stone, towering gopurams (gateway) and larger-than-life-sized reliefs speak highly of the architectural skills of the Tamil sculptors.

The sculptors fine sense of balance and skill is also displayed in the other temples of the state. At Chidambaram, one finds beautiful panels depicting the 108 karanas of the Natya Shastra while Kanchipuram houses a number of the temples starting from the earliest Pallava times to the Nayak period and even later. The artistic achievements of the Tamil sculptors are also displayed at the grand Ekambareshwara Temple and the Varadaraaja Temple.

The granite carving in Tamil Nadu is confined to the area around Mamallapuram (also Mahabalipuram) and Chingleput. This may be attributed to the fact that the government has set up the Mamallapuram School of Sculpture here. Just as in bronze, the 20th-century sculpture has not yet evolved an idiom of its own and many of the carvings are copies of the earlier periods.


The quality of the material is an extremely important part of the sculptural process. Just as the Shilpa Shastra set out the measurements and techniques of sculpting, the sculptors here have also gone into a detail regarding the quality of stone, its maturity, texture, colour and other things.

The artists out here work with the indigenous varieties of the stone available in the state, as it is extremely durable for construction purposes. Also the homogeneity of the stone is important for the stability and durability of the final form.

The stones are selected carefully for their texture and the lie of the stone (or the direction of the growth). This lie also defines the quarrying technique employed.



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