India has many busy hubs of temple tradition where every second thing is a stone and every first a carver. One of these hubs is Puri in Orissa. Around 52 kilometers away from Puri is Konark where Lingaraj Arts and Crafts is placed. In Lingaraj Arts and Crafts around 11-13 carvers work with different kinds of stones like soapstone, sandstone, etc
Stone carving is a major craft of Orissa. As is evident from the innumerable archeological monuments, rock -cut sculptures, caves and temples built for centuries with the most beautiful carved statues and other adornments, the art of carving in stone has reached dizzy heights of excellence perfected over the centuries in Orissa. The artisans who built the magnificent temples of Puri and other wonders in stone, like the temple chariot of the Sun God at Konark and the beautiful stupas, have kept alive the sculptural traditions of their forefathers and their deft hands can chisel and carve exact replicas of the original temple sculptures besides producing a variety of other items.
India produces an exquisite range of artistic and decorative stone crafts. The craft started way back in the 12th century under the direct patronage of the Mughal emperors. The skilled workers came from the Middle East. But after the Mughal dynasty the workers fell into deep trouble as their products had got no takers. Their occupation was on the verge of extinction. They switched over to other trade and started moving to other places from their native land. One section in northern India started doing ivorywork. But this became a banned item for export. Once again they tried to revive their age-old art. But the story is no different. Poor Indian people do not have the buying power to purchase these works of art. Then came some exporters to their rescue. The carved stone items immediately got overseas buyers' favor. The industry started developing from stone carvings for temples and mosques to utility items like candle stands, incense stick holders, jewelry boxes, etc. The next generation of craftsmen started creating ornaments, beads, etc.
Soapstone or khadipathara’ is the major raw material used in the making of the products. Soapstone is available in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Bihar. The original white sandstone was found in Banki, a town in the Khurda district, Orissa. But due to its limited availability, craftsmen started using other varieties of soapstone from different parts of Orissa. This quality of stone is not as soft and lustrous. These are available in different colors like green and pink and are little harder than the original soapstone. The craftsmen handle with equal facility the ultra-soft white soapstone or khadipathara, the slightly harder greenish chlorite or Kochilpathara, the still harder pinkish Khandolite or Sahanapathara or Baulapathara and the hardest of all--black granite or Mugunipathara. The cost of one quintal of soapstone is around Rs. 500 to 600. At present they are getting soapstone from the Morwansh district which is 350 kilometers from Puri.
A saw is used for cutting the stone slabs into the required sizes. Planner for smoothening the rough edges (if required). Chisel(Taagi or Gunati) ,an iron tool sharp and flat-edged, used for removing unwanted material to get a rough outline on the stone. Hammer used is made out of wood for soft strokes, as the stone is soft. It is used to hit over the chisel for carving. Sand paper is used for smoothening the rough surface so as to give the final touches. A Brush for cleaning the stone powder which collects on the outer surface of the statue while carving out details. Hollow Pipe which can be wooden or made up of metal. This pipe is used to blow away the stone dust from the statue. It is used for those parts where the brush cannot reach or when dust collects on the inner parts of the statue & lastly HB pencils are used here to sketch rough outlines on the stone before the chiseling starts.
Process of making start with cutting a piece of soapstone in the required shape and size with the help of a saw. The sides are checked for being planed properly by putting a previously planed stone over the current one. Whether the stone is hard or soft, a sort of outline is first drawn on it after it has been cut to the appropriate size. Once the outline is incised, the final figure is brought out by removing the unwanted material.
The taagi is then used to scrape off the unwanted material to give the stone a rough shape of the desired figure. After that, the gunati is used for chiseling and detailing to give the final shape and touches to the object. Then sandpaper (80-120-00 number) is used to smoothen the rough parts of the statue. While scraping, the dust collected on the object has to be cleaned. The same is done with the help of a reasonably thick brush. A blow pipe is used for cleaning where the brush cannot reach, through which air is blown to clean the dust. If some piece of stone breaks while carving it is stuck with araldite. Carving is started by giving shape to the body and then others parts like face, fingers, nails and other minute details are carved out after completing the whole sculpture. In the end, the polishing is done depending on the nature of the product required. The process can be summed up as seeing a piece of stone transform into a carved statue.
The carvers make statues for temples. Some large sculptures are made as decorative pieces for homes and public places. In recent times, some utilitarian articles are also entering the market like ash trays, soap dishes, paper weights, bookracks, flower pots, toothpick holders, card holders, etc.