Among man's early friends in nature, stone comes next
to the earth and wood. The Stone Age is dated as man's
entry into a definite age of achievement and the new
medium penetrated every aspect of his life.
India is blessed with a large variety of stones. Stone
monuments are fairly common all over the country. They
are magnificent structures of sublime grandeur with
perfect symphony between their architecture and sculpture.
A major tradition of stone carving seems to be centred
around temples in India. Using a variety of stones,
ranging from soft-brittle sandstone and patchy red stone
to hard granite, the craftsmen mould replicas of the
shore temples at Puri, Bhuvaneshwar and Konark, images
of deities in various sizes and postures and utensils
of all sorts. The innumerable figures with their exquisite
expressions, fine detailing of ornaments and dress,
the traditional poses of the epic heroes from Hindu
mythology are all gifts of creativity.
Vessels for storage, bowls and simply ornamented single-wick
lamps are products of the humble stone cutter in Tamil
Nadu. Red sandstone is widely available in Rajasthan
and it encourages the making of a host of everyday articles
and ornamental stone work.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan the sculptures and stone workers
work in the Hindu and Jain tradition of temple architecture
and image making. Hundreds of artisans in Gujarat are
engaged in the art of cutting and polishing semi-precious
stones. In Bihar, the black stone is used for making
everyday utensils. The inlay of colourful stones on
marble and sandstone surfaces is characteristic of the
Mughal period, the most beautiful example of which is
Itmad-ud-Daulah's tomb near Agra.
Taj Mahal is world famous for Indian marble work. Floral,
trellis, creeper and geometric patterns are carved on
to the creamy-white marble surface, and semi precious
stones set into it in the manner of damascene work.
The glory of stone work is truly revealed in sculpture
and architectural facades. Sculptures of the Mauryan
period, Buddhist carvings at Bharhut and Sanchi and
the rock-cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora, and Khajuraho
have no parallels.