10 Famous Stone and Rock Indian Sculptures

Updated on April 14, 2016

Immortal Art in Stone and Rock

Karni Mata temple in Deshnoke, (Bikaner) Rajasthan
Karni Mata temple in Deshnoke, (Bikaner) Rajasthan | Source

Stone carving may be as old as civilization itself. Selecting rough natural stones and shaping them to a predetermined design is an art mastered by human beings in olden times. Temples and historic buildings all over the world have served to display art and designs in stone. In the rocks, stones, and caves of India, sculptors have shown their skills in carving out immortal art of worldwide significance. Some of these sculptures are very old. Quite a few have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in the hope that these excellent creations will be preserved for future generations.

Presented below are ten such marvellous pieces of stone art in India.

1. The Kangra Fort, Himachal Pradesh

Probably the oldest fort in India
Probably the oldest fort in India | Source

Kangra Fort is one of the oldest forts in India. The war records of Alexander the Great mention this 4th Century BC temple of Himachal Pradesh. The fort was devastated by a disastrous earthquake in 1905, but it stands as testimony to the architectural skills of the times. The fort includes richly carved temples with idols embossed in their walls.

2. Dilwara Temple, Mount Abu, Rajasthan

Ceiling of the Temple
Ceiling of the Temple | Source

Jain temples are known for extraordinary architectural design and stone carvings. Mount Abu is a famous Hill Station in Rajasthan, a state known for its deserts and hot weather. Just two and a half km from this town is a Jain Temple built in the 11th to 13th centuries. The marble carvings are elegant everywhere, be it on pillars or in doorways. The ceiling of this temple is unique and example of the superb skills in stone carvings at that time.

3. Qutub Minar, Delhi

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This UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Delhi is the highest stone tower in India. It was completed in 1052 CE. Made of red sandstone and white marble, the 72.5-meter-high minaret with 379 steps is covered with carvings and inscriptions. The calligraphy at the fourth level is noteworthy.

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A close up of the Minar shows details of the intricate Arabic letters and other carvings in the red stones used in its construction. Excellent work can be seen around balconies and just below that. One needs to study the carvings closely to appreciate the grandeur of this tall minaret.

4. Mahishasura Mardini Cave, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

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Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamllapuram), in Tamil Nadu state, has a number of cave temples where ancient art can be seen. Two panels of sculpture on opposite walls are quite famous. The one shown in the picture above is Goddess Durga with eight arms shown in the act of defeating Mahishasura, the demon-king. These amazing carvings bring the story to life.

5. Jami Masjid, Champaran, Gujarat

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Another magnificent piece of stone art is at Jami (or Jama) Masjid at Champaran, about 47 km from Vadodra in Gujarat state. The base of one of the two tall minarets, shown in the picture, speaks to the precision and colossal size of the stone work done at this Masjid. Especially noteworthy are the intricate stone carvings on the ceiling of this grand structure. This delicate piece of work is a part of the mosque constructed in 1513.

Ceiling at Jami Masjid, Champaran
Ceiling at Jami Masjid, Champaran | Source

6. Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebid, Karnataka

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Hoysaleswara temple is famous for awesome carvings all along the outer walls. Brilliant sculptures speak volumes about the architectural excellence of 1121 C. E. The numbers of these carved stones (nearly 240 images of Gods) and their details are staggering. Hoysaleswara is of the largest temples dedicated to God Shiva in South India.

Central pedestal carvings at Hoysaleswara
Central pedestal carvings at Hoysaleswara | Source

7. Monolith Carvings at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

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The story of Mahabalipuram does not end with Mardini Cave. Carvings on monoliths (large rocks), done between the 7th and 9th centuries, are other unique features which make this place a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is thought that tsunamis swept away many of the rocks with beautiful carvings, and only those which were deeply embedded could survive the fury of nature. All these carvings on stones and rocks at Mahabalipuram have attracted tourists for centuries.

8. Wall Carvings at Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

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Certainly not ordinary carvings. The ruins of the Sun Temple at Konark, located in the coastal area of Odisha (previously Orissa) state, speak high of the architectural mastery in the 13th century. The grandeur of carvings all around the temple made Rabindranath Tagore, the 1913 Nobel laureate in literature, say, "Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man." The carvings on the walls of the Sun Temple, shown in the picture, depict daily life and festivities prevalent in that era.

9. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

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This article would not be complete if it did not mention the famous Ajanta Caves. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the second-century rock caves were accidentally rediscovered by a British officer in 1819 during a hunting expedition. The sculpture is simple hammer-and-chisel work in a natural horseshoe-shaped rock wall having 30 caves. Each cave is like a room within the rock, with some having inner rooms as well. These caves overlooking a gorge mainly depict Buddhist religious history. In addition to the sculptures, the caves have magnificent wall paintings. The caves continue to attract tourists from all over the world even today.

Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves | Source
Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves | Source

10. Akshardham, Delhi

The biggest Hindu temple in the world, with great stone carvings
The biggest Hindu temple in the world, with great stone carvings | Source

In contrast with the Ajanta Caves, this temple in Delhi is, perhaps, the most recent of its kind, having opened in 2005. This monument is difficult to describe. The mandir or temple is carved from pink sandstone and Italian marble. With 234 carved pillars, nine domes, and 20,000 idols and statues, it exhibits the range of different architectural styles in India. Elephants have been given prominence in this monument, in the form of 148 life-sized statues weighing a total of 3000 tons. This grand architectural achievement at Delhi needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. The video below explains more about Akshardham (click "View on YouTube" if needed).

Your experience of stone carvings

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    • Mojarto Paintings profile image

      Mojarto An NDTV Venture 

      5 months ago from Archana Complex, Greater Kailash Part 1, New Delhi, Delhi

      Nice Article We really appreciate your thoughts. There are lots of website in India where you can purchase sculptures and paintings online, But i have a great experience with mojarto. You can easily buy sculptures here https://www.mojarto.com/artworks/sculpture-3d/c . worldwide shipping available and free delivery in India. 100% buyer protection guranteed.

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      4 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Eiddwen, Thanks for showing interest in my Hubs. Your motivation will help me to contribute more.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub interesting and well presented. I now look forward to many more by you.

      Eddy.

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      agusfanani, it requires a lot of dedication to come up to this level of intricacies in art. It seems there had been such artisans in different parts of the world who remained glued to their art even without facilities which we have today. Thanks for visiting.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 

      5 years ago from Indonesia

      People in the past really had very good taste of art. Looking at those stone crafts really like enjoying miracles. They are so intricated and only very skillful people could make them.

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      smw1962, Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you liked these sites. Have a good day.

    • smw1962 profile image

      smw1962 

      5 years ago

      How beautiful! I'd love to visit these places.

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Thanks radhikasree. I am sure you can appreciate Indian sculptures.

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      5 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Your hub is a perfect manifestation of the Indian artistry of sculpt. The photos are beautiful and awesome!

      Voted up, beautiful and awesome! Shared too.

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      I am glad you liked the photographs and videos. Thanks for visiting, ladydeonne.

    • ladydeonne profile image

      Deonne Anderson 

      5 years ago from Florence, SC

      Thanks for the history lesson and for sharing your culture with us. The photos and videos are astounding!

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Thanks for visiting, jainismus. I have taken a note of Ranakpur Jain Temple of Pali District and will certainly include it at a later date. Your suggestions are always welcome.

    • srsddn profile imageAUTHOR

      srsddn 

      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Ruchira, Thanks for visiting and sharing the Hub. Man certainly is so talented. But what surprises more is the output through that talent centuries back without modern technology.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great article with great photographs, thank you for sharing. Please consider of adding the great carving at Ranakpur Jain temple, Rajasthan.

      Voted up and shared.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 

      5 years ago from United States

      wow...they all are so beautiful.

      Man sure is so talented.

      am sharing it across

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