10 Famous Stone and Rock Indian Sculptures
Immortal Art in Stone and Rock
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
6. Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebid, Karnataka
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.
7. Monolith Carvings at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
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
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
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.
10. Akshardham, Delhi
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).