While on a hike through sparsely populated rural south India, I came across a temporary workshop of sculptors on the side of the dirt road. My friends hardly noticed them, so focused were they on our destination but I could barely contain myself. With my growing excitement, I insisted that we stop and investigate. When I see creativity bubbling right in front of my eyes I can’t resist.
The sculptors were busy hammering and chiseling away. They were serious yet welcoming in a shy way. I could detect with my innate traveler’s radar (don’t ask how that works!) that they were from another region and didn’t speak the local dialect, not that I do! They didn’t speak English either so I couldn’t ask all the many questions that were popping into my excited brain at the time. We did manage to communicate a bit; the way travelers do: with hands, facial expressions and any other aids that one can come up with at the moment.
After a few minutes the novelty of our arrival wore off and with the range of topics possible for discussion limited, the sculptors went back to work.
When we first bumped into them we didn’t know that they were preparing sculptures for a new temple under construction down the road but they kept pointing ahead of us and repeating, “mandir,” which means a temple. We continued and about a kilometer down the dirt road, we saw what must have been the site for their work.
I am not an expert on Indian temples but over the years have acquired a basic knowledge of their design and some of the regional differences. This one, however, was round. Most Hindu and Jain temples are rectangular, I believe. I never did solve this mystery but will visit again and let you know.
It was a rare treat and a delight to chance upon these talented and dedicated artisans right on the side of the road. India is full of surprises.