veDik LIFESTYLE EXAMPLE:
Family Upholds the Ancient Tradition of Idol Sculpting
THE HINDU: TAMIL NADU, INDIA, January 2, 2005:
Imagine belonging to a tradition that can trace its
ancestry back 600 years. There are 60 descendent families who still live in
Swamimalai. All of them are into our family trade. Mr. Mohanraj Stapathi
with brother Kuberan,and his two
sons, Karunanidhi and Kuberan run a workshop in Swamimalai, Tamil Nadu,
where they employ 20 men and two women and train youngsters. Women do the
wax moulds, filing and polishing of the idols.
Mr. Mohanraj Stapathi is the chief architect of the
renowned Thanjavur Big Temple, explains that foreigners come to his establishment to
observe the sacred art form and that his business receives orders from
temples and cultural centers from around the world.
Idols of Hindu deities such as Ganesha, Dhanvantri and Sivagami are among
the many bronze items on display at Silpa Kalashetram in T. Nagar. Mr.
Karunanidhi has been a recipient of several awards. The 7.7-feet Lakshmi
Narayanan idol weighing 2.2 tonnes and the 4.6-feet shivalingam weighing 500
kg installed in a temple in Madhya Pradesh find mention as the tallest idols
in the 1993 edition of Limca Book of Records. The 38-year-old sculptor, who
became an assistant to his father, Karunanidhi, at the age of 10, has a son
and a daughter. He says they will become his assistants when they turn 15.
It has supplied idols to a New Jersey temple; the navagrahas to a temple in
England; silver and gold covers for idols of Ganesha and Punnai Nallur
Mariamman; cradles, puja platforms and flag posts for temples in Tamil Nadu
and Kerala. The sculptors have made Ayyappa, Jesus and Buddha idols too.
That's not all. Mr. Mohanraj is a research scholar at the Tamil University's
Department of Sculpture in Thanjavur.
Silpa Kalashetram can be contacted at:
Mr. Mohanraj Stapathi quotes a Sankrit slok about the
spirit of his idol sculpting craft:
"When a sculptor decides to make
the wax model,
- the icon is infused with
a spark of jeevan (life);
- when it is cast in metal it is
- When we draw the eyes it
is three-quarters live but
- when it is placed in a temple
and pujas are performed becomes a live being."