Meet Raghunath Mohapatra, a doyen of stone sculpture, who has been chosen for India’s second highest civilian award - the Padma Vibhushan-this year

At 69, he wields the hammer with incredible precision and his chisel carves life on hardy stones with utmost ease. During the past five decades, his countless strokes on chisels have created scores of monumental sculpts many in his profession can only aspire to achieve.

Meet Raghunath Mohapatra, a doyen of stone sculpture, who has been chosen for India’s second highest civilian award — the Padma Vibhushan — this year.

Many famous statues, temples and the interiors of some famed buildings in Odisha and the rest of the country bearthe stamp of Mr. Mohapatra’s devotion and versatility. This renowned sculptor had hardly studied beyond Class III. But he established himself as a pioneer figure in the world of sculpture at an early age. Mr. Mohapatra got the national award in sculpture when he just turned 22 in 1964. In 1976, he received the prestigious Padma Shri from the then President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. In 2001, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan by the then President, K.R. Narayanan.

Mr. Mohapatra belongs to a family of sculptors whose ancestors are said to have created the world famous Konark Temple and the 12th century-old Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri.

His hard work and talent came to light in 1974 when he created a six-foot-tall grey stone statue, which is now being displayed in the Central Hall of Parliament.

“The statue, which I created within 20 days, was then Odisha’s representation in the Parliament building,” he said,while working with co-workers in his workshop sprawled over two acres of land at Sisupalagarh, on the city’s outskirtson Saturday.

The 18-feet-long, 15-feet-high Konark Horse carved by him and installed at the Master Canteen Square is a famous landmark of the city.

Mr. Mohapatra sculpted a 14-feet-high Konark wheel in red sand at the inaugural India International Trade Fair in 1980. The sculpture now attracts visitors at the Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi.

Other works

His other famous works include two 15-feet-tall Buddha statutes in white sand stone at the historic Dhauligiri Santi Stupa near the city, a gigantic lotus of 30 feet x 30 feet in a single black granite stone at Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s samadhi at Vir Bhumi, Rajghat, the 15-feet-tall Mukteswar Gate in red sand stone at Surajkund in Haryana and three 20-feet-high statues of Buddha in white sand stone at the Buddhist Monastery, Ladakh.

“I was elated on receiving a phone call from the Union Home Secretary [informing me] that I was chosen for the Padma Vibhushan. I could not have asked for more. This is an award for my five-decade-long devotion to stone sculpture,” said Mr. Mohapatra, who has taught over 2,000 sculptors so far.