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Mylaudi-village of sculptors

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Submitted by UMAMAHESWARI on Sat, 2006-12-09 13:11.
Thatched and tiled roofed houses, herds of cattle, cultivated farm, busy mill, hawthorn bushes, sheltered cot, and haystacks –a typical scenario that characterizes any Indian village.
Nevertheless, what makes MYLAUDI so different?
As one approaches this village through a narrow pathway that dissects the paddy field, the clang of greets the ears.
The sculptor is giving the final changes to his work Nataraja. The six feet idol in blue granite took him more than two months to carve. Icons of different sizes can be seen in Mylaudi- a village of traditional sculptors, 13 kms north of Kanyakumari, the land’s end.
Four centuries ago, traditional artists and artisans from Kahukumalai, had come to work at the famous SUCHEENDRAM TEMPLE known for sculptures-across the Pazhayar River. Availability of huge and quality stones for sculpture made them settle down here in Mylaudi. In due course, they form close-knit communities. The skill is transferred from generation to generation and the tradition continues.
The rocks required for sculpting are available in THENGAM POTHAI, AMARAVATHI VILAI, and RAMAN ADICHAM POTHUR. Black and brown stones are considered the best. According to the required size, they are selected.
The society of Stone workers, established in 1958, has 45 members. The customers register their names with the society and specify the size and type of the image required. In the case of sculptures of deities, the bhava needs to be mentioned.
To begin with, the chisels are tempered; its tip is heated to redness, and is chilled immediately. The sculptor draws the outline with a piece of chalk piece, then with a thick red water-soluble solution locally called kaavi.
Rough image is chiseled first. It is filed to obtain clearer ones. The chisel is held firmly, in the left hand. Then striking with the mallet, inch by inch, the sculpture is engraved.
It is followed by ornamentation. Ornaments are mere lines, a few stressed, some subdued, and still other over emphasized.
Once the work is over, gingely oil is applied lavishly, to give the sculpture black color. The sculptor pays obeisance to the idol before delivery.
Though the images are much in demand, within India and abroad, sculpting is not a profitable business says the artisans.
There are no welfare schemes. Even if we are injured for life, or dead, our dependents get nothing. We do not our children to learn this art-they say.

Ironically, there are boys, who have opted for the chisel and mallet. They have stopped schooling. The statue of Thiruvalluvar (1033 ft) & Swami Vivekananda, at Kanya kumari, Kattabomman at kayathar, annadurai at kalakkad etc. are the works of the sculptors of Myaludi.
A four feet icon costs 2500/ and statues costs more than 5000/.
Once, the tip of the chisel broke and pierced the left eye of Mahalingam stahpathi. Some times these stones have cracks deep inside. THE flaw can be detected only while sculpting that portion when it breaks away from the main piece. Thus, the entire structure goes wasted.
Inadequate supply of rocks, high cost of the material, poverty and ill health due to silicosis, are the major problems faced by this cottage industry.

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