TIRUPATI: Turning a piece of stone into a beautiful sculpture - an idol or a statute -- shows the unique skill and imagination of a sculptor. Sculpture is a traditional art form practiced since ancient times. Thousands of years ago, Indian seers had inscribed sculptural and temple architectural science. Even after hundreds of years of existence, the sculptures and architecture in the ancient temples are intact and exhibit the dedication and artistry of the sculptors of those days.
Coming to the present day, even though some universities are offering courses insculpture and architecture, it is considered as a modern art form only. In India, only two institutions are offering courses in traditional sculpture and architecture to students and the TTD-run Sri Venkateswara Institute of Traditional Sculpture and Architecture (SVITSA) at Tirumala is one of them. TTD’s uniqueness is that it is providing the education and training to the students free of cost apart from providing free lodging and boarding to them during the four-year course.
Another significant factor is that after successful completion of the training, the students can stand on their own legs as the TTD deposits `1 lakh in the name of the student in a bank when he gets admitted into the institution. The student is given back this amount along with the accrued interest after completion of the course. The TTD also provides job opportunities to the students on piece-rate system to the stone sculptors in its workshop for sculpting the idols of Gods and Goddesses.
According to officials of the TTD-run institute, the TTD started the Sri Venkateswara Silpakala Sikshana Kendram (SVSSK) in 1960 to preserve the ancient art of sculpture and temple architecture for future generations.
Unexpectedly, the response from students was tremendous and they made some changes in the syllabus and introduced a diploma course and developed the institute as SVITSA in 1985 and got recognition from the government of Andhra Pradesh.
About the institute:
SVITSA offers two level courses. One is the Certificate Course for eighth class- passed students and other is the Diploma Course for tenth class-passed students. The Certificate Course is offered in Kalamkari designing. This course is of two years. These students will not be getting the `1 lakh deposit.
Seven different Diploma Courses are offered in subjects such as Temple Architecture, Stone Sculpture, Sudai Sculpture, Metal Sculpture, Wood Sculpture, Traditional Painting and Traditional Kalamkari Art.
In each course, 10 students are trained. The training is given in carving of idols of God and Goddesses.
SVITSA is affiliated to the State Board of Technical Education and Training, Andhra Pradesh.
The institution is a co-educational one and the entire course of study is free of cost.
For non-local students, free lodging and boarding is being provided by the TTD. Separate hostels are being maintained for boys and girls by the institution.
The TTD is maintaining a production centre for making stone idols. At this centre, the students of stone-sculpting get work on piece-rate system after successful completion of their course.
Also, the students can get employment in the Endowments Department and Archealogical Department
Demand for idols:
The TTD distributes five-foot idols of Lord Venkateswara Swamy and Goddess Padmavati Ammavaru free of cost to Lord Venkateswara temples.
For temples other than Lord Venkateswara, the idols are provided at 25 per cent of the MRP.
TTD also enjoys an international audience. It exports idols of Gods and Godesses to more than 20 countries. Hindus who reside in US, Malaysia, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius and other countries order these idols each year.
Every year, on an average, the TTD gets orders for carving 400 to 450 idols.
Construction of idols:
The selection of stones is the most significant part. Only Green Granite, Black
Granite and White Granite stones can be sculptured into an idol.
Green Granite stone is used for making idols of Goddesses.
For Gods, Black Granite (Krishna Sila) and White Granite are used.
There are three types of stones namely Male stone, Female stone and Neuter stone. The first two stones are suitable for making idols. The third one is used as pedestal.
The stone whether to be carved or not be decided by the ringing bell sound (‘Omkara Nadam’) it makes when it is chiseled.
The idols which are carved in red stone are not meant for worship, but only as a show-piece.