Poetry in stone is what Ranjani Govind observed at the international fair

Amidst the hundreds of stalls that spoke poetry in stone at STONA-2014 organised by the All India Granite & Stone Association (BIEC, Tumkur Road) concluding today, one body that promoted Indian stones through ‘Stonemart’ every alternate year in Jaipur is the Centre for Development of Stones (CDOS), set up by the Rajasthan Government and the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation – that had a huge stall with the choicest of stones displayed. It was a treat to see bold shades of rust and magenta in the range of Kota stones. Kota, considered the king amongst the Rajasthan stones, is generally seen only in dull greys and greens, but it was CDOS who brought a range to showcase the variety available.

“If Kota is the king, the softer marble is the queen amongst the approximately 65 per cent of India’s stone production in Rajasthan,” said Ashok Kumar Dhoot, Vice-Chairman, CDOS. “Over 500 companies covering quarry owners, stone processors, exporters, handicraft, machinery, tools and consumable manufacturers are members of CDOS. In our objective to promote the dimensional stone sector of India, we have specialised training programmes, global stone technology forums, architectural awards, various publications and websites that support the cause,” he said.

CDOS’ R& D Centre and Stone Testing Lab has state-of-the-art facilities that help people choose the right stone where the physical characteristics, chemical composition and mineral constituents are made known to the users for zeroing in on the ‘best’ according to the nature of a project. “Rajasthan accounts for 90 per cent of marble, sandstone and slate production in India,” he says.

Shilpagram

Ramakanta Mahapatra from Bhubaneswar, Orissa, says his 18-ft. idol of Lord Ganesha, weighing 450 tonnes and sculpted in Indian Jade and Onyx, was specially done for STONA-2014 exhibition. And it took three years to complete the work. “Sarvasiddhi Vinayaka has smaller legends surrounding His birth, while the main statue is carved out of a huge monolith jade,” he says.

The narratives elucidated in bright green jade and red onyx is mind-boggling in its detailing. While there are nine small depictions of Ganesha’s birth surrounding the colossal piece, the sculptured spectacle also includes dancers, Siddhi Vinayak poses, Shiva-Parvati, Riddhi-Siddhi and Durga Mata brought into the explanation. What takes the cake, however, is Ramakanta’s deft sculpting of Ganesha’s plait at the back and the sarpa (snake) fastened to his stomach that looks too real to be true! “After days of prayer, months of sketching and discussions with my students to take up the divine project, the pillars, pedestals and the arch were separately carved in about a year’s time. It costs Rs. 75 lakh, look at the details, there are a multitude of aspects in this miracle,” explains Ramakanta, who belongs to a family of sculptors who have worked on the temples of Puri-Jagannath and Konarak. “From the age of eight I started to learn the art of sculpting from my mother,” says the artist, who bagged the National Award for Best Artisan in 2005 for an 18-inch “Vishwaroopa Darshan” he did in yellow onyx. Ramakanta is training 60 students at his Bhubaneshwar School, and is happy that his latest 18-ft. Nandi and Shiva is inviting pilgrims at the entrance gate at Dharmasthala.

Women power

It was also gratifying to see women taking part and showcasing their sculpture wares at the Shilpagram. Swarnalatha Mahapatra, who possesses a Master in Fine Arts from Shantiniketan, is from a traditional stone carving family conversant with clay, bronze, fibreglass, terra cotta and ceramic. Her 10-ft. Buddha, standing tall at STONA, was enough to explain her familiarity of the craft. “I have nearly 1,000 pieces of stone sculpting to my credit,” she says, cherishing her work for the Mantri Group in Bangalore where her 100 ft. abstract mural in aluminium is displayed at Mantri Flora in Sarjapur. She now works with a team of 60 artisans at Allagadda in Andhra Pradesh where Mallai sandstone quarries are available. “We are working on narratives in stone based on Buddhism. We are reviving the second century art of Amaravathi,” says Swarnalatha.

Bindu Joshi, with MA in Drawing from Udaipur, is the first in the family to take up sculpture art. “Ï work with sand stone, singoli stone and pure stone. It was an interest that gradually developed in me, after I observed idols in stone at temples,” she says. But Bindu took to fashionable versions of modern artistic creations, the abstract thinking bringing out nature with leaf and flowers merged with women in different moods. “My Lady in Brown costs Rs. 15,000, and I took three months to complete it,” says Bindu, who has taken part in several shows at the Jehangir Art Gallery and Shantiniketan.