>> Shilpi (Stone-Carving)

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1.0 Craft Identity
1.1 Name of Craft: Stone Carving/ Stone Sculpting
1.2 Vernacular equivalent: Shilpi
1.3 Craft description: The Shilpis are responsible for the creation of most stone temples and sculptures.

2.0 Locations (within survey boundary): MPP Nagar

3.0 Historical overview

The stone temples and sculptures of Hampi exemplify the art and culture of its golden past, and it is a significant reason for the site to gain World Heritage status. The Shilpis of the Hampi region were stone-carvers historically responsible for the intricate stonework on the various monuments. This artform is receiving a lot of recognition today and is seeing a surge in demand.

“Vishwakarma and Vishwabhraman are synonyms for Kammalan, the members of which class claim descent from the five faces of Vishwakarma, the architect of the Gods. Some sources consider them five sons of Vishwakarma i.e.

Manu – Smithy
Maya – Carpentry
Silpa – Stoneworks
Tvashtra – Metalworks and
Daivagna/ Visvagnas – Jewellery

Shilpis are part of the Vishwakarma community and one of the five crafts-groups associated with this community. Shilpi or Stone-Carving represents the element of Bhrama that is symbolised by air and wind.

The word Kammalan denotes the one who rules the eye, referring to craftsmen, for they make articles that please the eye, or opens the inner eye of the people” (Thuston, 1901).

A.K. Coomaraswamy in Medieval Sinhalese Art suggests that “the most important ceremony connected with the creation or restoration of a vihara is the netra mangalya or eye ceremony where the Kammaran responsible for its creation comes forward and carves out the eyes of the image. Before the eyes, the statue is merely a lump of ordinary metal or stone, it is the eyes that transform it into a God” (Thurston, 1901). Women are traditionally not allowed to part-take in this craft, but today they might be allowed to help in carving. The most important aspect of the idol is believed to be its eyes, and only a man is permitted to carve these.

4.0 Works Process
4.1 Seasonality: Throughout the year but work reduces during the monsoon.
4.2: Materials and their origins: Stone is sourced from quarry sites around the Hampi region. They are first cut into boulders by the bovi community or stonecutters, and then chiseled into stone sculptures and various structural aspects of temples like columns, beams, roof slabs, brackets, capitals and so on
4.3 Tools: Suttige (hammer), chana, uli, polish paper (sand paper), and an instrument resembling a divider for measurements.
4.4 Work Pattern: On order.
4.5 Products: Stone sculptures, temples and temple artwork
4.6 Pricing range: Rs 4000 for 1/2 foot nandi. Prices also depend on the intricacy of the work required, and can cost upto 2 lakhs per sculpture.

5.0 Craftsperson’s perspective
The Shilpi interviewed believed that while there was more than enough work for everyone, the craft was a time-consuming one and could not be sped up. Trying to finish work off quickly at the cost of quality was not right, according to him, and it was inevitable that they would take 3 or 4 months to do a piece of work.

6.0 Lister’s comments
6.1 Uniqueness: Stone carving, an intrinsic part of the making of Hampi had disappeared from Vijayanagara capital region till a few years ago when the interviewee settled in a village near Virupaksha temple.
6.2 Socio-economic data based on field interviews: Most individuals interviewed fell under the BPL category, suggesting a low socio-economic background. They also tended to belong to the Scheduled Castes and backward sections of society.
6.3 Other Comments: The stone worker’s job, while it may be a tedious one, has always been a socially accepted occupation, as opposed to occupations that might be frowned upon as degrading, such as leather production, which is seen as unacceptable in society, in order to keep the religious sentiments of the predominantly Hindu society intact. Historically, several communities that traditionally engage in other occupations have sought to graduate to the art of stone-carving, which is perceived to be higher on the hierarchical grid of traditional occupations because of the skills required by the artisan, as well as the craft’s religious relevance.


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