This article introduces the sculptors of a small city (Mysore) of India.
|Stones and marble carvings of gods, goddesses and other statues are by no means a rare sight for us. In fact, being a cultural city, Mysore has quite many of them all over. You see them in temples, parks, junctions and the question is ‘where not?’
But have you ever wondered as to where and how these finely carved stones reach you?
Take a trip to these unexplored avenues in Mysore where mere stones are carved into finest sculptures, and you are in for lots of pleasant surprises. With hundreds of unfinished statues of different sizes and shapes, all minutely crafted, the whole place reminds you of the Ajanta – Ellora caves. Even if you never had a taste for art and architecture, you would have turned at least an admirer of both by the time you leave these places.
The Brahmarshi Kashyapa Shilpa Kala Shala near the Gun House is a standing example of Mysore’s great architectural heredity. However Mr. Yogiraj Shilpi, the proprietor, sounds very unassuming as he takes us around. “People need statues and hence we make,” he says. The artistic perfection of the unfinished statues seen there are the touchstone for his skills and abilities.
Aptitude, skill, experience and above all dedication. That makes Yogiraj, a preferred sculptor of the customers. With a standing experience of 37 years and the heredity of five generations, this man is very much in the field, carving the culture of the State. Kannada Cheluvaliya Sangha and Prajanudi have honoured him on different occasions. “My father is my Guru. He taught me this art,” are his humble words. He is the proud son of Basavanna Shilpi, who has been honoured by the State as well as Central government for his contributions to the art of sculpture.
Unlike other sculptors of the city, Yogiraj distinguishes himself by carving statues of renowned personalities and people along with that of gods. He claims that the statue of Chamraja Wodeyar is his masterpiece. Placed at the Mysore Zoo in relation with its centenary ceremonies, this statue stands five feet high catching the tourist eyes at the zoo.
The statues carved by Yogiraj have even been taken beyond the seas, to Norvey and Switzerland. The Navagrahas at the Ganapathy Temple in Vijayanagar, Devi statue at Yellamma temple, Cheppudira Ponnappa statue in Ponnampet, Kuvempu in Srirangapatna, Abdul Nazir Saheb at the Mysore Zilla Panchayat office, Gandhi, Basavanna, Vishwesharaiah, Raagi breeder Lakshmanaiah… These are just samples from the vast ocean of works churned out at the Brahmarshi Kashyapa Shilpa Kala Shala.
Walk further, to the Ramanuja road near Agrahara circle and you will find the Shilpa Kala Kendra, another icon of Mysore’s architectural inheritance. “These Krishnashilas (soapstones) are brought from H. D. Kote. These are the best stones to work on,” says Shilpi Shivanand, the proprietor. However, he adds that of late soapstones are being exported to Germany and the costs have gone up considerably.
How did Shivanand develop his love for architecture? The proprietor of Shilpakala Kendra has a smile of pride on his face as he says that he belongs to the Vishwakarma family who are born artists. “Our family is from Kollegal. It was the then Maharaja of Mysore Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, a great promoter of art and architecture, who invited my grandfather to come and settle down in Mysore. From then on we have faithfully stuck to our profession. And today we have an annual sale of three to five lakhs Rupees.” However he adds that what is of paramount importance for him is not so much of business success as creative satisfaction and artistic expression.
The Kamakameshwari temple beside the Shilpakala Kendra is a standing testimony of the skill and craft of the architects here. The statues at the Krishna temple in Gokulam, Navagrahas at the temple in Hebbal, are samples of Shivanand’s artistic skills.
Half a dozen architects were seen at the Shilpakala Kendra immersed in their job of liberating the art work imprisoned in the stones. Chipping, chiseling, grinding, painting, polishing… they all looked immersed in the job. “We supply statues all over Karnataka, including places as far as Davangare and Raichur. Besides we give training to architects according to their capacity and caliber,” says Shivanand. “Right now we have nine to twelve inches statues of different gods as there is a lot of demand for such statues among families.” The Kendra provides service in letter carving as well.
The Shilpakala Shala beside the Shilpakala Kendra is another of this kind. Established in 1988, the Nilaya focuses on carving small idols which have an increasing demand among the families. Though Mr. Shivaprakash, the proprietor, reveals his enthusiasm for this art, is more eloquent on the question of its survival. “The growing commercial attitude is a major threat for this art and occupation,” he opines. “And apart from that, the hikes in the costs and transportation charges have made it impossible for us to compromise on price.” Mr. Shivprakash has five workers including two of his sons.
Mr. Yogiraj has nine workers with him at present. “The younger generation seems to have lost an aptitude for this art,” feels Yogiraj. “I have been accommodating and training people having sincere interest.” And he remembers an interesting instance of training an Italian lady named Christine. “The interest to know this art is being confined to researchers,” he says.
When asked about the sculptures in most demand, Yogiraj opines that there is always a demand for Ganesha idols. Shivprakash and Shivanand confirm this statement. Though the majority needs the idols of gods, there are even people requiring statues of their late parents and grandparents. The demand for the statues of the leaders of small regions is also on the rise.
And about the biggest statues that they have carved. The tallest in the record of Shivaprakash is the five feet statue at the Veerabhadreswara temple in Hassan. Whereas, Mr. Yogiraj has carved Vrishabhanath Theerthankara that measures as high as 8.5 feet. Now he is working on a 20 feet statue of Bahubali, which he hopes to complete in a year. An eight feet statue of Lord Venkateshwara made for a temple in Chamaraja Nagar is the biggest statue made by Shivanand so far.
Apart from stone carving, these sculptors work on marble as well. A casual visitor would be astounded by the beautiful marble works with which they have decorated their houses. “Marble is hard to work on, but a finished piece would worth that effort,” they say.
Is the status of this tradition being noticed and appreciated by the government? There is unison of opinion in this regard. “As long as there is a demand for sculptures, we will survive. We don’t get any aid from authorities,” they say. “It would be helpful if the Government could at least provide the mines to sculptors instead of giving it to businessmen,” feels Yogiraj.
If Mysore can still be called a cultural city, the sculptors here can certainly take a part of the credit. For generations now, they have been contributing to the cause of Mysore’s cultural identity. And sure enough they are only likely to consolidate on their contributions in the years to come.