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Nepali Stone Craft

(source: https://handicraftsinnepal.com/stone-sculpture-nepal)


Nepal has been known for its wonderful stone craftsmanship for centuries. Its hand-carved stones are used to build temples, homes, fences, carvings, animals, and even weapons. Some of the techniques used to create these crafts are hammering, chiseling, grinding, polishing, carving, and welding. The oldest technique uses hammering to shape the stone. Then, the stone is placed inside a fire pit where it is heated until it becomes soft enough to carve.


There are many different types of stones that can be used in stone crafting in Nepal. They come in various forms, sizes, colors, and textures. There are three major categories of stones: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Igneous, solidified form of magma or lava, sedimentary,  stones formed from the accumulation of minerals and other materials over long periods of time. And, Metamorphic rocks, forms when existing rocks are subjected to intense heat and pressure causing them to change into another rock type. These categories make up the vast majority of the stone material available like sandstone, limestone, granite, marble, serpentine, soapstone, gabbro, diorite, schist, quartzite, alabaster, basalt, travertine, slate, soapstone, agate, jasper, chalcedony, and many more. Each type of stone has its own unique characteristics and properties that bring different flavors and textures to the stone crafts.


In Nepal, this craft is usually passed down from generation to generation. Many families own these crafts and pass them down from parents to their children. Most people who live in rural areas have some skill in this craft. As Nepal continues to modernize, many people are beginning to appreciate the beauty of this ancient art form. The government has even instituted a program to protect and preserve the country’s cultural heritage.


Traditional Stone Crafts in Nepal


Nepalese stone craft is a traditional art form that has been practiced since ancient times. This craft is still being practiced today. The stone crafts can be carved into different shapes using simple tools, or they can be cut and polished into intricate patterns and designs. Chiseling stone into different forms like sculptures, carvings or art pieces is an ancient craft that has been done for ages past in Nepal. Although craftmanship has been taken over by modern technologies, the traditional method of craftsmanship is still going on in some remote areas of Nepal. This ancient tradition is rich in culture and is practiced not only in rural areas but also in many cities across this beautiful Himalayan nation.

(source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/91150860@N05/8414257076/in/photostream/)


The stone industry has played a significant role in Nepalese society since antiquity. There are over hundreds of different kinds of natural stones found across Nepal ranging from granite to limestone to dolomite. These stones have been used to make everything from tools to weapons and even buildings. Most people who live outside of Kathmandu do not get to experience this ancient craftsmanship. It is only within the last few decades that modern machinery has begun to appear in Nepal. With these machines, some of the artisans began to lose their jobs. Machinery can produce high-quality products in large quantities, but it cannot replicate the skill sets or creativity of traditional stone workers. As a result, many of the old stone carving techniques were lost. However, there are still some stone carvers operating today who follow the traditional methods for their crafts, and their hard work and dedication are reflected in their masterpieces.


As of now, traditional stone crafts are gaining popularity among the urban population as well. Many people are interested in buying products made using this type of technique. The craftsmen use natural colors, patterns, and textures to decorate their products. Since these crafts are done at home, the quality varies depending upon the level of expertise and experience of the individual.


Modern Stone Crafting in Nepal


In the past, stone crafts were created using locally sourced raw materials. With time, human civilization progressed, and different techniques were adopted to enhance the quality of the stones that were being used. The most common technique was chiseling which involved carving the stones by hand, using tools like a hammer, chisel, and other crafting tools. Even after the introduction of machinery and technology, the craft of stone carving continued to evolve over the years. One fascinating thing about Nepal’s stone crafting industry is its ability to blend ancient tradition with modern style. There are many places around Kathmandu Valley where stone artisans work on their traditional skills.

(source: https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/traditional-craft-dying-technology-takes)


The stone crafts practiced today are not really that different from what was practiced in the country in past. While ancient art forms are still practiced today, modern Nepalese stone sculpture has developed from its origins but remains true to its ancient roots. This form of art continues to evolve through time and is still practiced throughout the country. There are many styles of such stone crafts that can be seen in the Kathmandu Valley alone.


Artisans carve their stones into various shapes and sizes. As we move forward in time, newer materials become available to artists. These modern items are used for both functional purposes and for creating decorative pieces. Today’s sculptors use modern technology to aid them in their work as well. Computers are used to design intricate patterns and shapes that would otherwise not be possible. They can even scan existing objects to produce exact replicas.


Modern stone crafting is well known across the globe as unique and antique pieces, however, it was not until the advent of modern technology that this art began to flourish in the western world. Today, modern stone crafting in Nepal has many different kinds of sculptures made from stone including other crafts like statues, fountains, monuments, and memorials.


Stone Crafting Process


This ancient technique involves chipping away at a rock to create the desired shape. The tools used include hammers, chisels, drills, axes, mallets, wedges, and saws. There are two major categories of stone sculpture: relief and intaglio. Relief sculptures feature three-dimensional shapes while intaglio works are flat.


The first step in creating a work of art is choosing the subject matter. Once decided, then comes the step of finding and collecting the right type of stones with the help of visualization or design, which modern stone crafting excels at. Even if the pieces of stone already have some imperfections, with the help of crafting these flaws are refined to the possible extent, as it may not be possible to get the rare stones in the desired quantity crafting is done by allocating and using available resources properly.


Then, carving begins with removing small pieces from the surface using a hammer and chisel. After the removal of the necessary amount from the surface, artisans start drilling to make holes. This allows to insert wooden blocks into the holes and add weight to the sculpture. Next, mallets are used to pound out the excess material. The final steps involve filing down rough edges and smoothing out surfaces.

(source: https://www.dsource.in/resource/shivarapatna-stone-crafts-ii/making-process)


To finish the project, artisans may need to apply several coats of protective varnish. Each coat takes between 2 and 4 hours to dry. Once they are done, the sculpture’s original color will still be intact giving a vibrant finish to the craft. After that, the stone craft is ready for decoration or mount to amply the beauty of any space. As this is a traditional art form that goes well with modern tools and technologies as well as is strictly based on the traditional methods, some stone crafts in the local market are well-crafted works of art, while others are crudely carved.

History of Stone Crafts in Nepal


Nepal is known for its stone carving art and craftsmanship. This country has been at the forefront of this industry since ancient times. There are many museums and monuments that are worth visiting if you are around Nepal that showcase different stone crafts passed down straight from history.

(soruce: https://whes.org.np/galleries/the-art-gallery-juddha-jatiya-kalashala)



The history of stone crafting in Nepal suggests that many of these statues were carved out from a single piece of hard rock which certainly is an artistic marvel. Nepali artisans used to carve out these statues through generations. Sometimes they would even chisel away at the hardest rocks till they get what they want. They didn’t use any cement or glue to fix the pieces of stone together. The techniques used to carve a piece varied depending on its size and shape. Smaller objects were usually carved out of a single block of stone while larger ones are created by joining multiple blocks together. The types of tools used depended upon the materials being worked with. For example, if the object was softer to carve, then the tools like a chisel, hammer, plane, or saw were used. On the other hand, if the material was harder, then tools, like a pickaxe, adze, or axe, were used to give the huge lunk of stones a proper form.


Also, the stone carvings have been used as adornments and decorations for houses and temples. Done using natural stones like marble, sandstone, granite, shale, and limestone. There are different types of carvings including geometric patterns, flower designs, animal figures, birds, mythological characters, and religious symbols.

(source: https://handicraftsinnepal.com/stone-sculpture-nepal)


You can imagine the work that artisans put on their work by just examining the different monuments and sculptures treasured by the rich historic country. There are many monasteries that have been built using various designs due to the different architectural styles. In fact, the Krishna Mandir, the shikhara style temple built by King Siddhinarsingh Malla was crafted with the help of just one single large stone, this alone shows the skills level of the artisans in the country who have passed down amazing and incredible stone crafts that have been astonished the whole world.


Throughout history, Nepal has been known for its fine quality of materials and products. This tradition continues today, where stone crafts goods are highly valued in a country where mass production dominates. These stone crafts are often employed in religious buildings and homes. The arts are also used to make statues of Buddha and other Hindu deities that play a very significant role in the everyday life of the general population.


Current State of Stone Crafts in Nepal


Nepal is now home to many artists who produce fine works in stone crafts. But they continue the traditions brought over by generations before them. The stone craft industry in Nepal has seen significant improvement over the last decade. This can be attributed to the efforts of the government and NGOs who have been working together in order to create awareness about stone crafts and their benefits to the local community. These efforts have helped to elevate the status of stone crafts from being considered merely a hobby into a respectable form of income for many Nepalese families.



The demand for stone crafts has increased significantly due to the increase in construction activities across the country. Today, the market for stone products is saturated and quality products are hard to come by. However, this does not deter the artisans from continuing their work. The traditional methods used for stone carving make these products affordable and accessible to those who may not otherwise afford them. The government also aims to revive traditional Nepalese stone crafts, protect the cultural heritage of this country and ensure that foreign investments are being used for the preservation of skills instead of destroying them.


Compared to the previous generation, the modernization and globalization of social media and digital presence have played a very crucial role to promote the crafts of the Nepali artisans. The market which used to be limited by the border has now been open to a global sector that adores the hard work and dedication the artisans put into their work. Likely, the artisans are also able to sell their products on the global market which only doesn’t revive and shows the future potential of the market. But also the scopes to the new generation who can promote and preserve the tradition and culture without having to worry about not being able to make a living in the sector.


Popularity of Nepali Stone Crafts


  1. They are cheap!


The stone craft industry in Nepal has grown rapidly over the past few years. This is largely due to the fact that many local artisans have been able to make their products affordable to the general public. In addition, the government has taken steps to promote the production of crafts through various initiatives.


  1. Durable!


Nepal’s crafts are often made from natural materials like wood, stone, and clay which are very durable on their own. In the case of the stone crafts made from the solid rocks found in nature, there are no questions about their durability. These materials can last for generations if they are properly cared for.


  1. Eco-friendly!


Many Nepalese crafts are handmade using traditional methods that do not harm the environment. Some of these techniques include using organic dyes, hand painting, and natural glues. So, the Nepali stone craft products hold their natural values and do not impose any kind of harm to the environment.


  1. Replica of country’s rich and diverse culture


Nepal has a unique culture that has been passed down through generations. It is a country where people live together in harmony and respect. They have their own customs and traditions. This is reflected in their traditional crafts. Craftsmen from Nepal use local materials to create items that are functional but at the same time beautiful. These crafts are not only used locally but are exported around the world.


  1. Great gifts!


If you know someone who loves unique things, then you might want to consider buying them some Nepalese stone crafts as a gift. These unique items can be given to friends, family members, or even loved ones as a token of appreciation for their hard work and dedication similar to the dedication artisans put into their work to finish their masterpieces.


Some of the Interesting Facts About Stone Crafts in Nepal


  • In the Kathmandu Valley, the artisans carve stones into fantastic shapes (such as animals) and then paint them bright colors. They sell their work in local markets throughout the year.


  • Each region in Nepal has its own style of stone carving and painting. They use these arts not only for decoration purposes but also to create functional items like bowls, trays, lamps, boxes, vases, and other household and decorative items.


  • Because of limited sources of materials, some craftsmen make their own supplies from local rock. Most of the time, they don’t buy any material from outside sources because it’s expensive. Hence, the quality of the item varies according to the supply of the raw material.


  • Stone crafts are traditional crafts that have been practiced since historic times in Nepal. They are passed from generation to generation without any modern machinery.


  • Crafts are traditional hand-made works that require skill, time, effort and creativity. They are generally considered art forms and have been popular in the country since ancient times in Nepal.


  • Nepalese stone crafts are mainly used for religious purposes, ceremonial ceremonies, and festivals. There are a large number of artisans who make the stone crafts that get passed down the generation and worshipped as deities.


  • Most Nepalese people believe that their gods and goddesses live in beautiful places called Devisthanas (Hindu temples). There they are worshipped and prayed to for happiness, prosperity, health, and peace and these places are usually decorated with exquisite stone craftsmanship.
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