India has extensive range of natural stones including marble, granite, limestone, quartz, pallava which are available in different parts of the country. The history of using stone for carving and construction in India dated back to 3200 BC. The stone work is completely handcrafted by skilled artisans or kaarigars (as termed in local language), using various hand tools.
The process of carving begins with selection of stone and a sculptor model (usually made of clay or wax). The model is used to copy the work in stone by using callipers or a pointing machine.
The artisan begins by knocking off, large chunks of unwanted stone, with pitching tool which is often used for breaking down the stone. Once the basic shape of the statue is carved out, the sculptor uses other tools to refine the figure. The next step is polishing on the carved structure, which is usually done by using sandpaper or sand cloth.
‘Emery’ stone is sometimes used for polishing at the final stage, as it a hard stone and unfit for carving. The final stage brings out the real colour of stone with patterns on sculpture.
Iron and tin oxides are often used to give the stone a highly reflective exterior.
The art first papered in Rome in the 16th century and it travelled to east and through Mughals to India, where the form was reinterpreted in a native style. Precious and semi precious stones are preciously cut and set into the marble carving giving it a very unique and elegant form of art.
The Iconic Taj Mahal, in India constructed in 1653 with Pietra Dura inlay work on marble and still attracts tourists from all over the world.
The beauty of this art remains till date, with skilled artisans handcraft each and every stone to keep the art live.