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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

The hands that sculpted Ram: From Jawaharlal Nehru to PM Modi, a tradition continues

Ayodhya temple’s trustees on Monday picked the Ram Lalla statue sculpted by 40-year-old Arun Yogiraj to be consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum on January 22

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 17.01.24, 05:35 AM
Mysore sculptor Arun Yogiraj with his set of sculptures depicting Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. This is not the statue to be consecrated at the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22 as the 51-inch-tall Ram Lalla idol has not yet been revealed to the outside world.

Mysore sculptor Arun Yogiraj with his set of sculptures depicting Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. This is not the statue to be consecrated at the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22 as the 51-inch-tall Ram Lalla idol has not yet been revealed to the outside world. Picture courtesy: Arun Yogiraj’s website.

A combination picture shared on social media by Mysore-based Arun Yogiraj, the sculptor of the 51-inch-tall Ram Lalla idol to be consecrated in Ayodhya, shows his grandfather gifting a statuette to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952 while seven decades later it was his turn to hand over a granite statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Ayodhya temple’s trustees on Monday picked the Ram Lalla statue sculpted by 40-year-old Arun to be consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum on January 22.

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The Instagram post dated July 24, 2022, signifies the history of the family of artisans, Arun being the fifth generation of sculptors. “Sculpting from past 5 generations, history repeats,” Arun had commented below the combination picture, the first of which shows his grandfather and Mysore Palace sculptor B. Basavanna Shilpi presenting a statuette to Nehru.

Although several of Arun’s works have already attracted headlines, Monday was a special day for his extended family in Mysore, observing Makara Sankranthi, the harvest festival. “It was double joy for all of us in the family as my anna’s (elder brother’s) work has made history,” his cousin and co-sculptor in many of his works, Yeshwanth Shivashankar, told The Telegraph on Tuesday. Arun could not be contacted despite several attempts.

An MBA from the University of Mysore, Arun had very briefly worked for a private firm before his inner calling drove him to his destiny that fetched him multiple awards. “Since then, all he has done is give life to stones and clay,” Yeshwanth said.

An eight-member team of sculptors from the family’s workshop in Mysore helped Arun sculpt the Ram Lalla idol over nearly eight months. “It is carved from Krishna shila (black granite) from HD Kote (about 50km from Mysore). The shila was transported in a lorry to Ayodhya about a year ago,” Yeshwanth said, amid the ambient noise of grinding and cutting stones.

“My anna has since devoted nearly eight months to work on the idol at the temple site in Ayodhya, during which time he visited us only twice for about two or three days each,” he noted, pointing to the dedication required for the work, although none knew then if the idol would make the final cut.

Yeshwanth clarified that a picture circulating in the media is not of the idol awaiting consecration. “The media has been using a picture of Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman, as if that would be the idol to be consecrated. But no one, except the artisans and the trustees, has got even a glimpse of the idol to be consecrated.”

“It is a small idol of Balarama (child Ram), as we say, or Ram Lalla as they say in north India. No one is even allowed to click pictures until the consecration happens,” Yeshwanth noted.

While Arun has created a large number of stone and clay statues ranging from those of Jesus Christ to Dr B.R. Ambedkar to the Common Man of cartoonist R.K. Laxman, it was his 12-foot Adi Shankaracharya in Kedarnath that grabbed national attention. Arun had said in September 2022 that it was the Adi Shankaracharya statue that made the Prime Minister take note of his talent.

The immediate result was the assignment to carve a granite statue of Netaji that was eventually placed in the India Gate canopy in Delhi.

A fitness freak who seldom misses his gym sessions, Arun was part of his university volleyball team and believes that carving stones requires strength and fitness.

Father of a six-year-old daughter and a 13-month-old son, Arun is married to Vijetha and lives with his mother Saraswathi and other members of the extended family of artisans near their ancestral home-cum-workshop in the Gun House area of Mysore.

Saraswathi told a Kannada channel on Tuesday that her son has a special relation with the medium he works on. “It is as if the stone talks to him. He gets immersed in the work and nothing else matters.”

She recalled how he took his father Yogiraj Shilpi to Rajasthan to fetch the best block of white marble after being assigned to sculpt a 10ft statue of Jayachamrajendra Wodeyar, the last ruling Maharaja of Mysore, in 2017.

“He took his father to Rajasthan to select the white marble,” Saraswathi said.

It took about nine months to chisel the white marble statue that now stands tall at the Hardinge Circle in Mysore.

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