Some of the finest examples of Indian stone sculptures are to be found in Rajasthan patronized by rulers and philanthropists for building temples. The tradition was carried forward by guilds of artisans. For centuries artisans in Jaipur have carved marble sculptures of deities where religious iconography developed into a fine art. This was facilitated by the ready availability of fine marble from the famous Makarana mines, not very far from Jaipur.
Some examples of 19th century sculptures carved by Jaipur artisans are on display here showing an entire cosmology of Hindu and Jain deities. Even today, a lane within Jaipur's walled city, the Khazanewalon ka Rasta is renowned for work shops engaged in sculpting small and large images of Hindu deities for temples throughout India and for temples overseas as well.
Jaipur is the centre of marble carving in Rajasthan. Craftsmen, not only create figures of deities, but also make household items like bowls, trays, items for kneading dough etc. The 'murtikars' or the sculptors of Jaipur, create exquisite ranges statues of Gods and Goddesses, temples, inlays from the purest marble. They make an extensive range of marble statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses such as Ganesha, Lakshmi, Ram Durbar, Durga, and Hanuman etc.
Rajasthan has the best marble and sandstone quarries in India. The craftsmen here have an age-old tradition of carving and making sculptures.
The fascination for stone has transcended all times and ages. Whether it is ornate inlay with onyx black marble or finely latticed soapstone, the appeal of the stone has been immutable. Both Hindu and Muslim rulers of India patronized this art. Most of the temples in and around Jaipur have their deities sculpted from the Murti-Mohalla and this has been widely prevalent, since.
Myths & Legends
In Hinduism, Atri Rishi is a legendary bard and scholar and was one of 9 Prajapatis, and a son of Brahma, said to be ancestor of some Brahmin, Prajapatis, kshatriya and Vaishya communities who adopt Atri as their gotra.
Atri Gotra originates in the lineage of Brahmarshi Atri and Anasuya Devi. Brahmarshi Atri is the seer in the fifth Mandala (chapter) of the Rigveda. Atri, also called The Devour-er represents the power of detachment. He is also the Manasa Putra and was born from the mind of Lord Brahma (from his eyes) to assist Lord Brahma in the act of creation. When the sons of Brahma were destroyed by a curse of Shiva, Atri was born again from the flames of a sacrifice performed by Brahma. His wife in both manifestations was Anasuya. She bore him three sons, Datta, Durvasas, and Soma, in his first life, and a son Aryaman (Nobility), and a daughter, Amala (Purity), in the second. His three sons are the incarnations of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra (Shiva) respectively. The Trinity channelled their full creative potential through Brahmarshi Atri when they granted boons to his wife Devi Anasuya for helping the Sun to rise in the East every day.
The sculptors initially bore the onus of creating sculptures and statues of deities, coming from the lineage of Brahma, the creator of the universe. They have been considered, for the same reason to be the purest to make these sculptures that were used in temples and for other religious purposes.
Stone was amongst the first material used by prehistoric man to create tools. Though items made from stone gave way to, items made from metal, stone continued to be one of the preferred material for making sculptures.
India has a rich tradition of stone craft. Guilds of masons and stone carvers have existed here since the 3th century B.C. Different types of stones like, marble, soapstone, sand stone are used by craftsmen in India. The skills were handed down as family lore from father to son, a practice prevalent in some parts of the country even today.
India has a rich tradition of stonework, as is evident from temples in Khajuraho, Konark, Martand in Kashmir and Ellora etc., which have richly carved sculptures and relief work on them. Large temple complexes of Ramashwaram, Dilwara and Tirupati not only are marvels in stone, but they reflect a high degree of sophistication reached by craftsmen engaged in stone craft.
Rajasthan, rich in different types of hard rocks like granites, quartzite, slates, marbles and other metamorphic rocks, has been a paradise for stone-carvers' arts and crafts of Rajasthan are commanded by the availability of indigenous raw materials in the region. Marbles and sandstones are abundantly available in the arid lands of the state. Stone art and masonry are leading art forms cultivate din the state. The forts and palaces and beautiful havelis of Rajasthan are all great examples of the exquisite mason work of the state. The fine stone carving or fragile jaali work in stone is very typical of this area. Jaipur, Thanagazi, Kishori Makrana, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and Dungarpur are the main centers. Well-ornamented domestic wares in stone are beautifully designed with lot of attention to the art and its elegancy.
The 'Mauryans' were famous for their art and architecture Evidence of the earliest known structural temples has been recovered through excavations. A circular brick and timber shrine of the 'Mauryan' period of 3rd century B.C. was excavated at Bairat District of Jaipur, Rajasthan. The shrine measures 23 meters in diameter and was made of lime-plastered brickwork, alternating with 26 octagonal pillars, of wood. It was entered from the east through a small portico, supported by two wooden pillars and was surrounded by a seven feet wide ambulatory.
About 250 years ago, Sawai Jai Singh II summoned these sculptors to Jaipur for their skill, as he shifted the operating capital of his empire from Amer to Jaipur. At that time sculpture making was seen as a forte of the Brahmins. They were specifically commissioned because of the religious significance of the sculptures of deities. But today, an overwhelming 4 to 5 thousand people from across the boundaries of cast and creed are pursuing this ingenious art here. In the words of Kanhaiya lalji Atri, who has inherited the legacy of this skill for generations, the profession that was initially limited to just one lane, has now spilled over surrounding lanes which are locally recognized as 'bhindon ka raasta', 'kalaamji ka raasta' and 'hijaron ka raasta'. And to add variety to their work, in the present times, apart from marblecarving / sculpting for temples, even politicians and other native popular figures are modeled in stone. The craftsmen here follow the rules laid down in Shilpa-shastra, while creating images of gods and deities.
Craftsmen in India use different kind of stones like marble, soapstone, sand stone etc. Large blocks of stone are quarried and then taken to various craft centers. The basic design is traced on the stone and it is given a crude shape. The final carving is then carried out and the items are polished.
Apart from carving beautiful idols of gods and goddesses such as that of Shiva, Radha-Krishna, Hanuman, Ganesh, Ram-Sita etc., artisans make products to be used in office, home and kitchen. They make simple and elegant forms like pen holders, paper weights, bookracks, card holders, ash trays, napkin holder, spoon holders, toothpick holders, storage jars, coaters, dinner sets, chaklas and belans, cups, saucers, serving-trays, candle-stands, photo frames, mirror frames, usher bowls, soap dish, soap dispenser, incense stick holders, flower pots, jewellery boxes etc.
Marble painting: A very unique feature of marble sculptures of Jaipur is painting on marble. Embossed and golden foil worked marble painting is done on beautifully carved figures. Marble paintings are adorned with Meenakari, embossed and kundan work.
Even as the bazaar continues to dwell in the narrow lanes of the heart of the city, a considerable number of workshops have been moved to the outer parts. This is a result of a government initiative to check on the noise pollution (caused by the hammering, machinery used to drill and chisel the boulders) and dust levels that harm human health. Marble otherwise is quite an eco friendly material. With the transportation becoming an easier facility, the demand for these marble splendours has only increased.
The stone powder left from buffing gets mixed into the air around and slowly starts causing breathing and lung problems to the craftsmen and others around. This too is another reason why they have been shifted away from the centre of the city.