Gods and Sculptors of Shivarapatna

I came across Narasapura industrial area in Shivarapatna, fertile land which was once the supplier of vegetables and flowers to Bangalore markets as my car passed it. Now, there are very few grape farms, mango farms and vegetable patches left. After a short rickety ride away from the highways, we came to a stop. 

The clinking sound broke the calmness of the Sunday morning of the chisel. Not one or two, but many forming a rhythmic musical sound.

I guess, that’s how you know that you are in Shivarapatna!

Unfinished statues
Unfinished statues

Sculptors Of Shivarapatna

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. Finally, after installing the idol in the temple, he sculpts the eyes and gives life to them.

Yes, the art of sculpting does not involve just making the idol. It consists of following the shilpashasthra, reciting the right mantras, and pouring his soul into the idol. Some do not even do markings on the stone, just like they do free-form sculpting. 

Over the years, techniques and tools have changed. Some of the hand chisels have been replaced by machine cutting.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 a workplace. 

Sunday is when they are all busy chiseling since they walk in to give orders.

Stages of Idol sculpting
Stages of Idol sculpting

“Do you get enough orders?” 

Every other house, statues were lying around, some in front of big houses and some in front of a 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 the olden days, they used to do wax moulding to get the structure of the idol. 

Wax mould is supported by thick clay made from an anthill. 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.

Panchaloha idol
Panchaloha idol

Varadaraja Temple

Walking further down, one comes to the place where the ruins of Varadaraja temple are 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 instead of the abandoned community center.

Varadaraja Temple,Shivarapatna
The missing Varadaraja Temple

“What happened to the heritage walk?”
There was a heritage walk planned to make it a tourist destination and transform it into a heritage site. 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 the 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 the city? 

What if everyone discards 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.

Backyard of a beautiful village house
Backyard of a beautiful village house

“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 houses in Shivarapatna, which needs to be preserved. The place is super cool despite not having a fan on a hot day. 

It is made out of granite rocks for the roof! Uncut, rough stones are balancing and holding each other. And guess what? She had an earthen urn that was way taller than her. They use it to store grains! Cool rocks and earthen urn, who needs a refrigerator? 

We stupid people behind plastic bottles and air conditioners 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.

Old rock roofed house
Rock pillars and rock roof. To the right earther Urn taller than ajji

“I love farming! When there are no orders for the 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 much less water. But who eats ragi? 

They should 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 production; 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, the land will absorb it, and it will do the process of filtration and purification.

And so the groundwater level will increase, which we can use. All the channels have been done, and the approvals are submitted, but I don’t know what the status is.” The canals were now full of tall bushes. It was cleared, leading to a tank, and they were all full once upon a time. 

So much in place, the solution is ready, and we are worried about the burning lake! 

A God Man waiting for his turn

Takeaways From Visiting This Place

Yes, Shivarapatna has the makers of God. 

But it is a village that God does not bless. Kadambari, an NGO based out of Bangalore, is working towards the upliftment of the village and the artisans. But the government needs to play its role too. 

It is just 50kms from Bangalore and has every potential of becoming a great tourist attraction. The plan is in place, but there is no point in the plan being there when it does not turn into action! 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.


Note: This is not a sponsored post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *