: Throughout Orissa
: Temples of Bhubaneswar, Konark & Puri
Romancing the Stone
Stone carving is a very major handicraft of Orissa. As is evident from the innumerable archaeological monuments, rock-cut sculptures, caves and temples built for centuries and embellished with most beautiful and intricately carved statue and other adornments, the art of carving in stone had reached in Orissa dizzy heights, of excellence perfected through centuries of disciplined efforts of generations of artisans.
The progeny of these artisans who built the magnificent temples of Parsurameswar,
Mukteswar, Lingaraj, Puri and that wonder in stone, the temple chariot of the Sun God at Konark, besides the beautiful
Stupas and monasteries of Lalitgiri Ratnagiri and
Udayagiri have kept alive the sculptural traditions of their forefathers and their deft hands can and do chisel and carve exact replicas of the original temple sculptures besides producing a variety of other items.
These stone images give a touch of distinction to modern décor that little present embellishment can hope to surpass. They are timeless reflection of glorious tradition, an unfinished story in stone.
The Exquisite Embellishments
Among the former the ubiquitous "Alasa Kanyas" or indolent damsels and "Salabhanjikas", lady with the bough of a sal tree, "Surasundaris" heavenly beauties playing on different musical instruments adorning the topmost tier of the
Konark temple, the "Nava Grahas" or nine deities representing the nine planets,
Konark wheel, Konark horse, elephant, lion composite mythical figures like 'Gajabidala', 'Gajasimha' are quite popular.
Other motifs include representation of deities of the Hindu pantheon like Krishna and Radha, Laxmi, Vishnu, Durga, Buddha, Ganesa, 'Haraparvati', Nrusingha etc. In recent times may decorative and utilitarian articles like ashtrays, paperweights, candle stands book rests are also being made. These carvers also make images for installation in temples as presiding deities and Parswa-Devatas as well as large pieces for decoration of public places.
One may find samples of these in the Handicrafts museum, Bhubaneswar , in the Parliament House annexe in Delhi , Konark horse in the
Barabati Stadium at Cuttack and Konark wheel almost the same size as the original adorning the face of a modern Hotel at
Bhubaneswar. Another giant Konark horse will adorn the traffic island at a busy intersection in
Bhubaneswar and will soon be a landmark.
The four colossal Buddha images and the friezes depicting the life of the Buddha and Ashoka in the modern "Shanti
Stupa" at Dhauli are also the handiwork of Orissa's craftsmen. Artisans mainly at
Puri, Bhubaneswar, and Lalitgiri in Cuttack district practice the handicraft though some are also found in
Khiching in Mayurbhanj District. The traditions are carried on from generation to generation and a few ancient texts on the art, which have survived, are followed closely.
Utensils & Kitchenware
Apart from the decorative, votive articles and modern utilitarian items, the craft also covers another group of products in shape of stoneware utensils and kitchenwares.
Following the simple process of turning and polishing by using a local wooden lathe called "Kunda", the craftsmen produce beautiful polished plates
('Thali'), containers ('Gina, Pathuri'), cups and glasses. These are used for pujas, ritual worships as well for regular eating 'Pathuris', stone ware deep containers are particularly good for storing curd as they do not react to acid and these are also filled with water and used for placing the legs of wooden 'Almirahs' to prevent ants from getting in. The craftsmen making these articles are concentrated at
Baulagadia and Nilgiri.