The first known sculptures are from the Indus Valley civilization (3300–1700 BC), found in sites at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa in modern-day Pakistan. These are among the earliest known instances of sculpture in the world. Later, as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism developed further, India produced bronzes and stone carvings of great intricacy, such as the famous temple carvings which adorn various Hindu, Jain and Buddhist shrines. Some of these, such as the cave temples of Ellora and Ajanta, are examples of Indian rock-cut architecture, perhaps the largest and most ambitious sculptural schemes in the world.
During the 2nd to 1st century BC in northern India, in what is now southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, sculptures became more anatomically realistic, often representing episodes of the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. Although India had a long sculptural tradition and a mastery of rich iconography, the Buddha was never represented in human form before this time, but only through symbols such as the stupa. This alteration in style may have occurred because Gandharan Buddhist sculpture in ancient Afghanistan acquired Greek and Persian influence. Artistically, the Gandharan school of sculpture is characterized by wavy hair, drapery covering both shoulders, shoes and sandals, and acanthus leaf decorations, among other things.
The pink sandstone sculptures of Mathura evolved during the Gupta Empire period (4th-6th century AD) to reach a very high fineness of execution and delicacy in the modeling. Gupta period art would later influence Chinese styles during the Sui dynasty, and the artistic styles across the rest of east Asia. Newer sculptures in Afghanistan, in stucco, schist or clay, display very strong blending of Indian post-Gupta mannerism and Classical influence. The celebrated bronzes of the Chola dynasty (c. 850-1250) from south India are of particular note; the iconic figure of Nataraja being the classic example. The traditions of Indian sculpture continue into the 20th and 21st centuries with for instance, the granite carving of Mahabalipuram derived from the Pallava dynasty. Contemporary Indian sculpture is typically polymorphous but includes celebrated figures such as Dhruva Mistry.
Orissa Stone Carvings :
The crafts of Orissa are as diverse and dynamic as they are basic and traditional. It has a history that is thousands of years old and stands as a colorful testimony to the integral life force amongst the people from this land. Cross-cultural influences in religion and utilitarian trade have produced a range of exquisite handicrafts that add color and vibrancy to the lives of people.
Orissa's religious heritage and the patronage of Royal courts of have been instrumental in fashioning the range of crafts available today in Orissa. Not only Vaishnavism and Shaivism but also Buddhism, Jainism and strong tribal traditions have shaped Orissa's arts and craft history. Artists villages were created by the visionary kings to promote arts and crafts. There are influences from Indonesia and China too because of Orissa's sea-faring history.
The stone carving craft traditions of Orissa is best observed in the architecture and rock-cut sculptures of the temples of Orissa. Some of the well known temples of Orissa are Lingraja, Jagannath, Mukteshwara, Raja-Rani, temple chariot of the Sun God at Konark (Sun temple). Other noteworthy mention include stupas of Ratnagiri and Udaygiri, Surasundaris or heavenly beauties playing on different musical instruments at Konark temple, the Konark wheel, horse, elephant, lion. Other motifs include Krishna and Radha, Laxmi, Vishnu, Durga, Buddha and Ganesha. Contemporary artisans have made many a decorative and utility articles like ashtrays, paperweights, candle stands and book rests. The other set of products include stoneware utensils and kitchenware.
The art of carving in stone had reached in Orissa dizzy heights of excellence perfected through centuries of disciplined efforts of generations of artisans. It is evident from the innumerable archaeological monuments, rock-cut sculptures, caves and temples built for centuries and embellished with most beautiful and intricately carved statue and other adornments.
The modern scenario in Orissa hasn't changed much as far as Stone Carving is concerned. These artisans are as deft and skilled as their forefathers. The only difference is that instead of carving temples they now do decorative and utilitarian pieces in stone. Simple tools like hammers and chisel are mainly used to draw carve an outline and then work on it. Marble, soapstone and black granite are generally used.
Jagatbandhu Sahoo, 60 years, is one of the oldest a well known artisan of stone carvings from a Bantaligrama a small village in Puri, Orissa. This art is being practised by his fore fathers and is also carried foreward to his son Guruprasad Sahoo, who is also dedicatedly engaged in this work. He is famous for his unique collection of stone sculpture collections in different types of stones. Jagatbandhu Sahoo has also received many awards for his stone artistry. He had trained a lot of students for the last many years. His stone statues are not only sold in India but are also praised abroad.