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Soft stone sculpture business in Mamallapuram facing struggle

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Hard times for soft stone sculpture business in MamallapuramChennai, Oct 9 (IANS) Even as heavy stone/blue metal sculpture makers are doing brisk business at the world famous Mamallapuram, sculpting in soft stone is slowly dying, said industry players.

Sculptors who were chiselling images out of soft stones have now changed over to hard stone/blue metal carvings.

The coastal town Mamallapuram is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — famous for its stone carvings and rock cut temples of the Pallava dynasty period.

Majority of the monuments at this town were built during the period of Narasimhavarman I during the period 630-670 AD.

“The soft stone sculpting business is down. The sculptures are handmade and the stone prices too have gone up thereby pushing up the end product prices,” Mayan Rajesh of Mayan Handicrafts told IANS.

According to Rajesh, the soft stones have to come from far off places like Rajasthan and Jhansi.

“Prior to the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) the per ton cost was about Rs 8,000 and now it is between Rs 10,000 – 12,000. The availability of the stone is also becoming difficult,” R. Anil Kumar, GBS Stone Carvings told IANS.

“Sculpting in Mamallapuram is generally a family vocation. My father used to carve in rose wood and then in cow horns. As carvings using horns were banned, he shifted to soft stone carvings and I followed him in the trade when I was 28 years old,” said Kumar, now 55.

“But I didn’t want my sons to follow me as the business is dying and many have shifted to hard stone carvings,” he added.

According to him, sales is slowing down as the foreign tourists who come here are budget travellers.

“With the entry fee to view the monuments for foreigners being Rs 600 per head they cut short their other purchases. Further availability of other products on the online platforms has cut into our business.

“Generally, the sales are seasonal as the business will be good for six months and the remaining will be slack season,” Kumar added.

Further there are also sculptures made out of cheaper materials like plastics, initially attractive in terms of price but does not last long.

Sculptures in soft stones are hand carved and takes quite a time to complete one item.

Earlier only foreign tourists used to buy the sculptures but now Indians are also buying.

Kumar said sculptures of Buddha, Ganesh, Shiv Lingam, Nandi and animal sculptures like elephants are fast moving items.

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