Breathing life into stones – the Allagadda Stone Sculptors ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Pearls Across Penna Series (Day 3)

Kadapa to Allagada, 1 hr 15 minutes

Stone-craft in India has perhaps ‘carved’ a niche for itself- no pun intended. With a rich tradition of stonework, as is evident from temples whether it is Khajuraho, the Dilwara temple, Halebid, Belur, or Rameswaram, the list is endless. And behind these marvels are the dedicated and precise hands of craftsmen and women who toil with dedication and passion keeping these traditions alive.

Recently, as we drove from Kadapa towards the temple town of Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh, we met with a set of yet another stone carvers who breathe life into their carvings. The town of Allagadda in the Kurnool district is one of the important stone carving centres of the state. All along the highway, you could see the boards of stone carvers and their workshops, just as you would see when you are near Mahabalipuram.

We stopped by Shilpkar Ravindra Achari’s workshop – Sri Sharada Shilpa Kala Mandiram to understand the craft better. The family has a long legacy in the Allagadda stone-carving technique.

Shilpakar Ravindra Achari (left) with T N Venkatesh (IAS)

It is astounding to learn that the tradition dates back to the 2nd Century BC, when the region was under the rule of the Satavahanas. As we go around the workshop, the beautiful works of art leave us speechless. The Shilpakar and his daughter Bhuvaneshwari, take us through the process of each work of art being sculpted. The sculptors use two types of stones; one is sandstone and the other is black stone or Krishna Sila stone. They are known as Isuka Rai and Pesara Rai, respectively by the locals. These stones are neither too soft nor too hard and are hence tailor-made for the sculptors to achieve fine structures, figures, and other finished products. We see an array of carvings of various gods and goddesses, such as Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman, Lord Vishnu, and even the lunar nodes from the Vedic astrology – Rahu and Ketu. I spot a beautiful statue of Ramanujacharya and there are also statues of the Ashoka Chakra and the Lion Capital of Ashoka.

At the back of the workshop is a huge stone cutter, that slices huge pieces of rocks with ease. The right size of the stone sample is taken and then painstakingly chiselled into beautiful structures. The sculptures get orders from temples, hotels, and other individuals. One such order that we saw was of a mammoth Lord Hanuman. The Allagadda sculptors strictly follow the ancient knowledge of ‘Shilpa Sastra’ in the Vijayanagara style.

Giant Hanuman in the making

Stonecutting machine

Stone sketching

Carvers at work

Their works can also be found in temples abroad, such as the Sri Venkateshwara temple at Pittsburg. Shilpakar Ravindra Achari’s father, Mahashilpi Durugadda Bala Veerachari himself worked on the beautiful ceiling and the garba gruham at the Mahanandi Ramalayam sannidhi at the Mahanandishwara temple in the Nandyal district, which I had the good fortune to see a couple of days later. The family had moved to Allagadda exclusively for stone carving from a village nearby called ‘Gumpuramanu Dinne’ during the 1930s and carved a name and reputation for themselves. Allagadda stone sculptures have been issued the Geographical Indication (GI) registration certificate by the GI Registry, Chennai in year 2018.

Carving at the Ramalayam Sannidhi at Mahanandi Temple, Nandyal

Pictures Credit: A S Diwakar (Chennai)

September 2022

You can read the previous articles of the trail here.

5 thoughts on “Breathing life into stones – the Allagadda Stone Sculptors ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

  1. Pingback:  Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Swami at Devuni Kadapa & Temples at Pushpagiri (Pearls across Pennar Series) #Day 3 (Part 2) ©Sangeeta Venkatesh | sojourn-with-san

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