Ancient Indian Rock Cutting Technology
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Let us take a look at the ancient rock cutting techniques of India, and how they were able to transform rocks into beautiful sculptures. Sometimes, they were also able to convert an entire mountain into beautifully carved temples by doing an extraordinary amount of rock cutting. Even though rock cutting started as early as 200 B.C, the height of rock cutting technology was reached around 600 A.D by Pallavas in South India. Even though there is a lot of evidence of ancient tools that were really advanced, in this video let us stick to the conventional theory of using chisels and hammers.
This is the first phase of rock cutting, where they carved a hole that is 1 inch wide and 2 inch deep. After making a hole like this, they would place a wooden wedge and hammer it in. Then, they would pour hot water into it and the wood would start expanding inside the rock. Now, this is not going to crack the rock open, but what happens when you make a series of such holes and place wedges into them?
Here you can see how a rock has been completely split into 2 halves and one of them is missing, which means it was transported to a temple and probably made into a beautiful sculpture. We are looking at the other half that was just not used. And this is granite by the way, one of the hardest rocks in the world. You can see how smooth the face of the split rock is.
Once the rock has been split like this, they would start the second phase. You can see how they made rectangular pattern on the smooth side of the rock. Measurements would be made, and the rock would be divided into rectangular parts, according to the size of the sculpture that would be created. Once this is done, the unwanted rectangles would be removed by chiseling them away. For example, if all the rectangles except the middle one were chiseled away, the middle rectangle would stand out as a raised platform.
The third phase is the careful carving of figures on this raised platform. This is the most important part as it would need a lot of meticulous work and precise artistic carving. The Pallavas of South India were able to create some amazing reliefs, sculptures and cave architecture. One example is the Kailasa temple of Ellora, where they carved an entire mountain and created a beautiful temple. It is estimated that over 400,000 tons of rock were carved out of this mountain to create this temple. Over ten thousand Pallava sculptors were transported from the south to North India to create this. Another example is the world's second largest relief that was created in Mahabalipuram.
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