20 May 2007


Now this is a very familiar face sitting on the side of Chengam Road, near the entrance of Sri Ramana Ashram. His name is Shanmurgan and he carves statues of Arunachala, Gods and Saints for sale to pilgrims and visitors. He is 52 years old and has been carving for the last 40 years. He is local to Tiruvannamalai, and was born near the Big Temple in town. Years back he set up a stall near Skandashram but slowly competitors moved in, sales went down and so did Shanmurgan who decided to move back to Ramana Nagar. Shanmurgan comes from a family of sculptors and his Father used to carve and then sell his statues near the Big Temple in town.

When I took this photograph of Shanmurgan I didn't notice the plastic bags in the background. We are becoming so inured to seeing trashy plastic lying all over the place, that sometimes one doesn't even notice anymore. Shame! AEED, a comparatively new organisation in Tiruvannamalai is currently doing alot of work in the fields of noise and plastic pollution. You can view them at this link.

Shanmurgan is concentrating on a statue of the God Nataraja and in the below photograph he is lining up the base with the God form.

Below is Shanmurgan's stall and portable showroom. At one corner of the stall is his own private puja area with a nice assortment of various Gods and Saints. Undoubtedly Shanmurgan performs a puja at his altar each morning before starting his day of carving.

He told me that many of the stones they use for the statues come from a place near Sathanur Dam, some 25 kms distance. He also mentioned that this is the third day of his working on the Nataraja statue and he doesn't expect to finish it for another couple of days.

The below represent some of his finished statues and artifacts. Some of the stones come from some distance away. In the case or the red marble Hanuman (on the left), the stone comes from near Gujarat in North India.

The young lad's name is Shiva, Shanmurgan's 16 year old son and apprentice who is currently learning sculpting from his father as his father learnt it from his own father, so many years previously.

So, I left town, on my daily walking exercise and took a photograph of a choultry (rest area for pilgrims) currently being built by the local Municipality. The view is certainly spectacular!

The resthouse (choultry) in more closeup. Its in a perfect position with Arunachala to its right and the outer pradakshina road to its left. the great open space in front of it is part of the temporary bus and coach carpark which is packed during the time of Full Moon.

Off I go home. Maybe I will stop at the nearby Animal Shelter to talk to our wonderful vets from Holland, Kim and Rogier, who sadly will be leaving for their native place in a few weeks. But happily for the very deserving animals of Tiruvannamalai, a lady vet (also from Holland) will be coming from Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh) to take over at the shelter.