There are back lanes in Jaipur that ring with the sound of diamond-tipped chisels and hammers, carefully chipping away at blocks of marble and red or yellow sandstone. Till the royalty held sway in India, stone carving received ample patronage in the form of architectural commissions.
In fact, when founding the city of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh earmarked a whole lane for stone carvers, naming it Silawaton ka Mohalla. Some of Jaipur’s best showpieces are the latticework in the City Palace; the sandstone carvings and ornamental stonework at the Hawa Mahal and the Amber Fort gateways.
Today, the stone carvers have to make do with idol making and sculptures. The heart of this industry lies in the southwest quarter of Jaipur. White Makrana marble is carted here in roughly-shaped blocks. A row of holes is drilled and iron wedges hammered into it till the block breaks down along its line of weakness.
To craft the figure, a vertical line is drawn along the axis and the sculptor keeps shaping the outline as he goes along. It’s all done very carefully as even a slight crack renders the idol useless for worship. Apart from gods and goddesses, these men who transform stone into poetry, also fashion animals, human figures and plain geometric forms.