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Art of Stone Craft: Art and Culture NCERT Notes for UPSC

Jan 19, 2023


For making the artforms, Stones are extracted from a quarry by the process of cutting. The qualities of the stone such as grain or texture, or the softness or hardness of the stone defines its usability.

Dive deep into this blog to understand the Stone Craft, types of Stones, Stone work, Stoneware and more to get an edge in your IAS exam preparation

Type of Stones

  • There are varieties of stone found in India. 
  • Igneous rocks: Hard granite in the deccan
  • Sedimentary rocks: Coloured sandstones in the northern plains of India.
  • Metamorphic rocks: Soft soapstone, marble, and limestone hardened over centuries.
  • Rocks acquire their properties from minerals that give them colour, lustre, and strength.
  • Soft soapstone allows for delicate, intricate carving.
  • Sandstone is fragile and must be handled with extreme care.
  • Colour: It ranges from the golden yellow (Jaisalmer) to the soft pitted and speckled stone (Mathura and Fatehpur Sikri). 
  • Usage: Sculptors of India have been using these stones for the past five thousand years.
  • The difference in treatment of one stone from another in the hands of an artist can be seen in the granite sculptures of Mahabalipuram and the sandstone figures of Khajuraho.

Types of Stone Works

  • Relief Structured Panels: 
  • It has carvings only on one side. The carving can be shallow or deep.
  • The other side is flat and is usually embedded into the masonry work.
  • A low relief can be 1-3 cm deep and high.
  • It can almost look like a three-dimensional sculpture.
  • Three-dimensional Figures:
Types of Stone Works

  • Such figures can be viewed from all sides
  • They can also be used to create free-standing pillars like those erected by Ashoka.

Also Read: Craft Heritage of India

Evolution of Clay: Art and Culture NCERT Notes for UPSC

Stone sculptures through the Ages

  • Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh: There are several rock shelters of the Stone Age period
  • Early inhabitants lived in natural caves and created fine tools and flints of agate and other natural stones in the area. 
  • These tiny flints and well-carved stone implements are the first examples in the long story of Indian sculpture.
  • Ellora, in Maharashtra: There are Hindu, Buddhist and Jain rock-cut shrines. Kailash temple at Ellora of the ninth century is an entire temple that was carved out of the natural hillside. 
  • The temple is a massive sculpture cut out of a single piece of the hill.
  • The artists started work from the top and carved downwards, beginning with the towering roof, the windows and then the doors. 

Kailashnath Temple, Ellora
  • Medieval Period: Sandstone panels with geometric and floral design were made to decorate palaces and tombs.
  • The Mughals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries built some of the most beautiful buildings in the world like the Taj Mahal in Agra
  • The sculptural decorations are of many varieties - Marble jalis are made from a single slab of stone that is cut to create a lattice window that allows for light and ventilation.
marble carving

marble carving

  • To make inlay marble or sandstone panels, the artist carved out the design in the form of compartments on the flat stone slab. 
  • Precious and semi-precious stones are cut into exact pieces of the pattern and laid into the compartments.
  • Inlay work in the Taj Mahal has over twenty pieces of different coloured stones were used to create a single flower.


  • Rajasthan: It is famous for delicate jali work for domestic architecture in yellow and pink limestone and white marble. Jaipur also produces stone figurines.
  • Karnataka: The sculptors carve images, panels of gods and goddesses, ornaments, bowls, vases, and bookends from a variety of stones available in this State.
  • Madhya Pradesh: Soft marble rocks on the banks of the Narmada provide craftsmen with excellent raw material to make carved panels, figurines, and boxes.
  • Uttar Pradesh: It is one of the leading producers and exporters of stoneware in India. Soft marble and soft streaked Gorahari stone of many shades are inlaid with semiprecious stones. Inlaid tabletops, plates and decorative items are produced in Agra.
  • Tamil Nadu: Stone sculpture centres have been established in many places such as Mahabalipuram.
  • Orissa: Stone cutters of Puri work mainly in soapstone
  • Harder stone: It is used for temple building. 
  • Semi-hard grey stone: In Manglapur, it is used to make Polished Stone utensils.
  • Grey stone: In Khichling, it is used to make items for the urban market, like boxes and containers, bowls, and vases.

Patrons of Crafts

  • The Village: The potter, carpenter, stone sculptor, mason and goldsmith lived and worked in designated parts of the village. The jajmani system ensured that the artisans were bound to the dominant agricultural groups. 
  • In this system, the artists worked under the protection and hospitality of the landowning class.
  • During a festival, the landowner or the jajman would request the potter to make ceremonial pots and diyas and in return pay him in kind with food for the rest of the year.
  • Itinerant Craftsmen: Some artisans like the blacksmith move from village to village servicing the community. These crafts communities were often paid in kind with gifts of grain and food, clothing, and money so that they did not have to cultivate land for food.
  • The Town: Individual artists in the towns formed guilds to protect their interests and to ensure the quality of their work. 
  • The guild protected the group and its occupational interests, punishing the wrong doer, negotiating prices, and enforcing standards of work. 
  • The artist was paid in kind and with land grants or produce from land.
  • The Court: Rulers often invited artists and craftsmen like sculptors to work in their court. It is the creations of such artists that provide an idea of cultures and eras.
  • Rulers knew that the creation of magnificent buildings, shrines and sculptures would carry the message of their grandeur to distant places and countries.
  • Artist who attached himself to the court found employment in the royal workshops was given payment for an assignment not only in kind but also in land. 
  • In Akbar’s royal diary, payment to artists for their work and special awards for excellence is recorded.

Interesting Points

  • Much of Indian’s architectural heritage, like the Ajanta Caves was created by Artisans’ guilds.
  • Lakshmi Narayan Temple is in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh.
  • Even today, the stone carvers of Tamil Nadu begin with a prayer that first begs forgiveness from Mother Earth for cutting the stone.

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