Kerala stone works existed from pre-historic times, as it did elsewhere. After wood, it was stone that provided primitive people the conveniences of life. Stone vessels, stone chisels, stone hearths, stone shelters and more were part of their lives.
With progress came more refined uses for stones. Artisans worked on granite stones to create magnificent structures, art works and articles. Grand buildings, huge statues and other stone works remain as memorials to them.
The lamp-pillar shown right is a popular Kerala stonework. You would find it in practically all the hundreds of temples spread across the state. Cups are cut into the circular projections along the pillar and oil is poured into these cups. This oil feeds the wicks that burn around the pillar, creating a fascinating pattern of lights. Oil and soot darken the pillars into dark structures over time (pic left).
There are many other temple-related stone works. The whole temple could be carved in stones. The statues of gods and goddesses are invariably stone works. The statuettes in the pic left are smaller replicas of the statues you would find in temples. In temples, even drainage is along stone structures of different shapes. As are the steps to the sanctum sanctorum, the pillars, doorways and several other specialized structures.
Fascinated by the temple structures, people have begun to replicate these while building their homes. In the pic right, a stone doorway is under construction. In the pic left, you see a stone lamp and a statue of the bull-god, Nandikeswara. Nandikeswara, used as a transport by Lord Siva, is a popular deity, whose statues abound in temples.
Another stone structure you would find at homesteads is the sarpakkavu deity (seen on a pedestal in the pic right). The snake-god is worshipped in a small space where plants grow in wild abandon, never being cut. And the small structure, representing the abode of snake-god, would be in this small "forest".
To the left are shown stone vessels used for cooking curries in Kerala, even today. Many feel that curries cooked in these stone pots have a special, traditional, taste.
In a separate article on traditional Kerala cooking, you would find pictures of several traditional food processing equipment, made with stone. Kerala stone works are indeed varied.
All the photographs and content of this Web site are Copyright © T. Gopinathan.