From deep Rajasthan, a lapidary gem

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IN MEMORY: The lotus-shaped Parnasala, a monument to Karunakara Guru at the Santhigiri Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram.
IN MEMORY: The lotus-shaped Parnasala, a monument to Karunakara Guru at the Santhigiri Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram.

T. Nandakumar

Mine owners dazzled by use of Makrana marble at Santhigiri ashram

Thiruvananthapuram: For brothers Abdul Hamid and Mohammed Rafiq, a visit to the Santhigiri Ashram at Pothencode, near here, was a pilgrimage of a different kind. The white Makrana marble used to construct the lotus-shaped Parnasala, a monument to Karunakara Guru, founder of the ashram, was sourced from their mines in a remote corner of Rajasthan.

The duo was thrilled to see the final shape of the stone slabs which had been painstakingly transported across thousands of kilometres to the ashram. The order for 100,000 sq.ft of translucent Makrana marble was one of the largest the mine had delivered.

“Most of our customers are in Delhi and Mumbai. It is for the first time ever that such a large quantity and best quality of Makrana marble has been sent to Kerala,” Mr. Hamid, owner of the VIP Marbles Group of Companies, said earlier this week. “Accepting the order was a challenge, especially because of the distance across which the consignment had to be delivered. Where is Thiruvananthapuram and where is Makrana?” The brothers are happy that the marble has been used to construct a grand monument which, they feel, has the potential to be a centre of attraction for people across the world. “Thousands of people will get to see the exquisite marble from Makrana on the Parnasala lotus,” Mr. Hamid said.

The brothers were impressed by the high quality of cutting and finishing given to the marble slabs by the artisans at Santhigiri. “The final shape is much better than our expectation. We were not expecting to see the marble put to such beautiful use,” Mr. Hamid said. They also noted that the marble was fixed at imposing heights of 90 feet and above on the structure.

From the time of the Mughal emperors, the Makrana marble has been the stone of choice for erecting grand buildings. Mr. Hamid said the stone had been used to build the Victoria Memorial at Kolkata, the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, the Dilwara Jain Temples at Mt. Abu and for the flooring of the Golden Temple at Amritsar and the Akshardham temples at Delhi and Gujarat.

There is a demand for the stone overseas also. In 2003-04, it was used to construct a mosque in Abu Dhabi made by the prince of Abu Dhabi.

According to Mr. Rafiq, the quality of the marble used in the ‘Parnasala' was superior to that used in the Taj Mahal as it has been mined at a greater depth, of almost 250-300 ft. “This makes the stone smoother and whiter,” he said.

Detailing the qualities of the Makrana marble, Mr. Rafiq said it was regarded as the best marble in the world not only because of its translucency but also because of the high calcium content of almost 99 per cent. “This marble is more durable as it resists the vagaries of nature, including those caused by water and temperature, much better. Thus, the stone remains cool in summer and warm in winter. It also requires little maintenance. Just one spell of rain will be enough to make it shiny clean,” he said. “The pure white marble, because of its high calcium content, also has a therapeutic effect. According to doctors, walking on the Makrana marble in the mornings can sharpen the eyesight and also relieve thyroid problems,” Mr. Rafiq said.

Describing their trip to Kerala, the first ever, as a journey of love, Mr. Hamid said that they were prompted to visit the Ashram by the deep attachment that they had formed with the ‘sanyasis' and others of the ashram that they had interacted with.

“Unlike other customers, we found the people from the ashram very genuine and straight in their dealings. Our relationship with them is no longer only a commercial one,” he said. Admiring the beauty of the monument, the brothers hoped that they would be able to come on September 12, 2010 when the ‘Parnasala' would be formally dedicated to the world, on the occasion of the 84 {+t} {+h} birth anniversary of the Guru.

T. Nandakumar




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