Stone lamps crafted in Coimbatore are gaining popularity this Karthigai Deepam

This Karthigai, we visit a workshop in Coimbatore where stone lamps are carved to be sent to various parts of the State

November 28, 2022 03:27 pm | Updated 04:29 pm IST

At Pugazhendhi Grinder Stoneworks in Sanganoor, Coimbatore, blocks of stone are cut using drilling tools and are shaped at the lathe to create the lamps that are popular during Karthigai season.

At Pugazhendhi Grinder Stoneworks in Sanganoor, Coimbatore, blocks of stone are cut using drilling tools and are shaped at the lathe to create the lamps that are popular during Karthigai season. | Photo Credit: Siva SaravananS

The rhythmic clang of G Gurusamy’s chisel stands out from the whirr of the lathe and the drilling machine’s discordant stomps at Pugazhendhi Grinder Stoneworks in Sanganoor, Coimbatore. Here, grinding stones, mortars and pestles are sculpted from massive rocks. Their specialty, however, are lamps made of stone, for which orders pour in during the Karthigai season. As work goes on at a steady pace, Gurusamy, a worker, is seated under a tree, chiseling away: he plays a crucial role in the scheme of things.

P Maheshwaran, who owns the workshop, makes stone lamps as tall as 12.5 feet. Stone lamps have been around for a long time, but their brass, bronze and clay counterparts are more popular in Tamil Nadu. “My father came across stone lamps during his travels to Kerala 15 years ago,” recalls the 41-year-old, who sources black stone from nearby Namakkal and Karur for his workshop.

Once broken down into smaller chunks, they are shaped into discs by hand

Once broken down into smaller chunks, they are shaped into discs by hand | Photo Credit: Siva SaravananS

“The lamps he saw and aspired to make were carved out of a single stone. He tried the same pattern at home, but the stone cracked every time. After some trial and error, he arrived at the current design,” he adds. The lamps come as a set of stems and plates that can be assembled to form the final structure. One that is five-and-a-half-feet tall, for instance, consists of five plates and five blocks that form the stem.

The drilling machine at work

The drilling machine at work | Photo Credit: Siva SaravananS

“They are used in temples, churches, and as décor pieces at hospitals and educational institutions,” Maheswaran points out, adding that he has customers across the State, including in Chennai, Kumbakonam, and Salem, apart from Kerala and Karnataka. Now is his busiest time, and Maheshwaran’s phone is constantly ringing. “Stone lamps last forever,” he says, pointing to the rocks that a drilling machine is cutting down. “It all begins there.”

Once broken down into smaller chunks, they are shaped into discs by hand. This is where Gurusamy’s role comes in. “This step cannot be handled by a machine,” Maheshwaran tells us. Once the circles are ready, the rest of the shaping is done by the lathe, and the lamps are assembled by hand. “It takes eight hours to make a five foot tall lamp,” says Maheswaran, adding that he sells it for ₹4,500.

P Maheshwaran of Pugazhendhi Grinder Stoneworks

P Maheshwaran of Pugazhendhi Grinder Stoneworks | Photo Credit: Siva SaravananS

Gurusamy works with chisels of three sizes. Some 30 years ago, mortars and pestles were carved entirely by hand. “As a result, each piece was unique,” he says, bringing down the hammer on a chisel that chips away a jagged piece of stone into a disc, little by little. Has he ever attempted to sculpt a figurine, apart from lifeless grinding stones? “No,” he smiles. “That requires plenty of patience. One has to carve minute details such as eyes and nose. I will stick to what I’m doing.”

Top News Today

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.