History and Origin
The history of Gaurahari Stonework Artisans dates back to the 1800s when this craft form was founded by Shri Michchu Kesari Prasad while he was on a visit to Mahoba, a small district in Uttar Pradesh. He came across the mountain of ‘Gorara Soapstone’ and soon realised that because of the unique texture and the soft radiance of this Gaura pathar, products could be made out of it.
He started making some idols from the unique stone which found a good market in the local areas. Shri Michchu Kesari then permanently settled in the village and laid the foundation of ‘Gaurahari Stonework’. Gradually, many people began to practice this craft seeing less livelihood alternatives and the huge potential.
The legacy was then passed on to Shri Kalideen Vishwakarma Ji who trained the whole village in this craft and came to be known as the master artisan of ‘Gaurahari Stonework’. It was because of his efforts that the Gaurahari Artisans came to be known for their work throughout the country.
What Makes It Unique
(1) The main difference between Artisans of Gaurahari Village from the rest of Stonework Artisans is the design of their products. The Gaura Pathar, a radiant natural stone, out of which the handicrafts are carved, is found only in the Gaurahari Village.
(2) In addition, even the equipment used by the Gaurahari Artisans to give a unique look to their products are used only in this village.
(3) The love that these Artisans have for their craft was the prime motive behind carrying on the same for centuries and then passing them to their next generations. Gaurahari Artisans from Mahoba are known worldwide for their unique artworks of unmatched specimens of Gaura Stone Handicraft.
(1) Stone Cutting- Shaping of the Gaura Stone is done carefully with the help of chisel and hammers. The surface of the stone is smoothed out by rubbing it with sandpaper or file. Big pieces of these stones are then cut vertically into smaller slabs, and rough sketches are made on it. This slab is now converted into the desired figure.
(2) Grinding- Minor carvings are done by the artisans with a pointed chisel. Before carving, the stone is kept in boiling water overnight and treated chemically. This smoothens and whitens the surface of the stone.
(3) While carving, the artisan sketches a rough outline of the sculpture on the stone block. The craftsmen sprinkle water on the stone during the course of their work because the friction generated due to the constant chiseling away of the unwanted material produces a lot of heat.
(4) Polishing- Polishing is done with sand or carborundum pieces for the final finishing. Several of the carved artifacts are then painted. An outline is drawn on hard or soft stone, which is already cut to the appropriate size. Once the outline is incised indicating the shape, the final figure is carved out.
Fall Of The Grandeur
Even after being one of the most thriving craft forms at one point in time, this elegant craft form has almost lost its significance.. After conducting detailed surveys in the Gaurahari Village, we realised one of the main reasons for the decline of the craft form was due to lack of availability of the Gaura Stone. This had happened because the Gaurahari mine, which was the main source of this stone, was shut down by the Government due to an accident that had taken place here back in 2015. As a result, the once flourishing craft form has now been reduced to barely 15 artisan families who are still actively practicing their craft amidst all the difficulties.
At present, the main source of the Gaura Stone is a mine which was recently founded 90 kilometers away from the Gaurahari Village. However, due to the location of this mine and its distance from the village, the artisans have to undertake huge logistical costs for transporting the stones from here. The artisans have no choice but to take up manual labor and agriculture, which unfortunately, hasn’t provided them with adequate means of livelihood.
Modern Day Vision & Our Intervention
The awe - inspiring craft of Gaurahari Stonework talks of not only years of commitment to the artform but also the potential it has to sync into the modern day aesthetics. We believe that this craft form of intricate carvings holds the potential to carve a niche with the contemporary art enthusiasts.
We wish to take this craft to every corner of the world and a sustainable model for supply and demand for the Gaurahari Artisans solve the problem of unavailability of Gaura Stone. We believe that providing the artists with support when it comes to income-generation is of paramount importance. Project Virasat, an initiative by the students of Shri Ram College of Commerce, SRCC strives to solve these problems for the Gaurahari artisans and are actively working to revive this languishing craft.