Monday, July 14, 2008

Artisans in India

It's fun writing this post because I hear Mimi having a giggle fit. She and Sarah are playing hide and seek in the room. It is the first she has really let go and enjoyed herself and it makes us all smile to hear it.

When we first arrived in Bhubaneswar, I was enchanted by the stone work in the hotel. The simple white walls are set off by carved sandstone borders and standstone grills in the walls, and panels set into the walls with carvings of women dancers, a dance famous in this area.

The sandstone is beautiful because it holds an array of colors, striations within each block before it is carved, that become accents within the carving.

We had one neat "tour" day in Orissa. Though we got to see some simply amazing temples - one Buddhist and one Hindu, the highlight for me was visiting with some stone carvers.

On our drive from the Buddhist temple, we saw a small house with some 5 foot long blocks of stone outside and stopped the cab. The driver thought no one was there, but I heard hammering, and went to explore. Sure enough, three men behind a woven screen wall, sitting in semi darkness, were at work on sculptures with large wooden mallets and metal chisels.

They were kind, and let me take photos, and shared with us the process. First, they buy a block of stone for roughly 3,000 rupies ($75). Four to five men work on the stone for a month, and when it is finished, they sell it for 15,000 rupies ($375). Works out to less than 40 cents an hour, if they are working 40 hour weeks.

They don't seem to be pickey about which faith they carve for. Hindu gods like Ganesh, dancers, animals and Budda lay about in various stages of birth from the stones.

Also, the ubiquitous wheel, symbol of time, is in most of the carvings and art here. We missed going to see the temple with the wheels, located on the beach, and a celebration that looked pretty exciting. People near a large temple in Cuttack (home of the orphanage) were decorating carts and cars to parade each night that we left there.