Shivarapatna is the place where man creates God. Yup! He takes just a piece of stone, taps it to see the quality, chisels away the unwanted pieces, sculpts the figure, files it into a fine stone, etches beautiful design, polishes it into a splendid statue and finally after installation of the idol in the temple, he sculpts the eyes and gives life to it. Yes, the art of sculpting does not involve just making the idol, it involves following the shilpashasthra; reciting the right mantras and pouring his soul into the idol. Some of them do not even do markings on the stone, just like that they do free form sculpting. Over years techniques and tools have changed. Some of the hand chisel have been replaced by machine cutting. “But machine cutting does not give you the pleasant features”, says a sculptor as he pauses for a chit chat. “Once we are done with the idol, we wrap the eyes with a piece of cloth, remove the drishti using nimbu, take out on procession and after the installation of the idol, we do the eyes which means now it has life. We thank Him, take a bow and leave the sanctum sanctorum”, his face was beaming as he finished the story, the statue of Vishnu was smiling from behind him. Many had a makeshift in front of their house which they use as workplace. Sunday is when they are all busy chiseling since that is the day people walk in to give orders.
“Do you get enough orders?” Every other house there were statues lying around, some in front of big houses and some in front of thatched roof.
“Season is dull. We now do contemporary designs for hotels. Sometimes we get orders from outside India too. They give engineering models and we sculpt that.”
Another sculptor was making the metal statue made of panchaloha, meaning alloy of five metals. In olden days they used to do wax moulding to get the structure of the idol. Wax mould is supported by thick clay made from ant hill. The hot metal is then poured in, the wax melts and the metal fills in the cavity. “Those days are gone. But this house is made of sand and the roof is of rocks. Our land provides us with the strongest stand”. Old houses had roughly cut rock slabs as walls too.
Walking further down one comes to the place were the ruins of Varadaraja temple is supposed to be present. Now it is just barren land. The temple was dismantled for restoration. It has been almost five years since the temple was dismantled but no progress after that. Opposite to that is the under construction community center or rather the abandoned community center.
“What happened to the heritage walk?””There was a heritage walk planned to make it tourist destination. The community center has a plan for guest house, canteen, shop, sheds for sculptors to work.” The place has long grown grass, cow dung strewn all around clearly giving the sign of a long forgotten story.
“Our life is only a question mark who knows what happened to heritage walk? Art and artisans have no respect in this country..” If a state awardee could get so frustrated, I could imagine the level of frustration ordinary workers will have. What if everyone turns to city? What if everyone discards the art and tradition? The thought worried me but then I stumbled upon two young boys filing away a statue.
“Are you going to school?” Somehow this is the first question that pops out of me when I see kids with tools.
“Oh yes. Today is Sunday so we are helping our father.” The village school is a small tiled roof building. It is the school where the great Kannada poet Masti Venkatesha Iyengar studied. The part of the school where he studied is however in ruins.
“Shall I make you some coffee?” asked a pleasant old lady as she invited us to her house. Her house is one of the oldest house in Shivarapatna which needs to be preserved. The house is super cool in spite of not having a fan on a hot day. It is made out of granite rocks for roof! Uncut, rough rocks balancing and holding each other. And guess what? She had an earthern urn which was way taller than her. They use it store grains! Cool rocks and earthern urn, who needs a refrigerator? We stupid people behind plastic bottles and air conditioner spoiling the environment. As we moved out of the house she continued, “at least one cup of coffee you people could have had”, the kind of genuine hospitality found only in villages.
“I love farming! When there are no orders for statue, I used to do farming. The land gives us gold you know! I would have been rich if I had continued farming. But no water! All that we can cultivate is ragi with such less water. But who eats ragi? They should just redirect Varthur lake water to us.” The very name of varthur lake made my stomach churn!”I hear this place was famous for its vegetable and flower produce, what happened?” I asked one of the sculptors.
“Good they didn’t! Do you know how polluted that water is?” I asked him as though he is an innocent farmer who has no clue of the world.
“Do you know the power of our earth?” He asked me back which was more like a slap!
“If they redirect the water, land will absorb it, it will do the process of filtration and purification. And so the ground water level will increase which we can use. All the channels have been done and the approvals are submitted but don’t know what is the status.” The canals were now full of tall bushes. It was apparently cleared, the canal leads to a tank and they were all full once upon a time. So much in place, solution is ready and we are worried about the burning lake!
Yes, Shivarapatna has the makers of God. But it is a village that is not blessed by God. Kadambari, a NGO based out of Bangalore is working towards the upliftment of the village and the artisans. But the government needs to play their role too. It is just 50kms form Bangalore and has every potential of becoming a great tourist attraction. Plan is in place but when it does not turn in to action there is no point of plan being there! As I left the village an unknown fear crept on me.. What will happen if we left the art to die! What will happen if we continue to take our earth for granted! What are we doing to our villages? If God wants someone to sculpt His statue, He better help them out as well.
To put you in touch with fine sculptors of Shivarapatna, drop a mail to email@example.com
To book this tour and other heritage tours, contact Carnelian – http://carnelian.co.in/
Come back for more travel stories.. Until then bye from Shivarapatna 🙂