100 Days in India Project

Marble Carving District in Jaipur

48/ 100 Marble Carving District

This photograph, taken in the back streets of Jaipur, is one of those images that makes me want to publish some of my photographs in a large format book, or perhaps even have a print exhibition. There is quite a bit going on in the image and when it’s seen in a small format, such as on a phone screen, I think some of details are lost. I have so many photographs just like that. They look amazing on my 27 inch computer screen but lose something on Instagram.

Throughout India we found that each town would be arranged into zones dependant upon things like religion or industry. When we visited Gaffar’s house in stories 29 and 30 we were very obviously in a Muslim area of Agra. Centrally located in his part of the suburbs there was a mosque, and arranged neatly around that there were shops and the houses where the congregation of that particular mosque lived. In Jaipur there was a huge area dedicated to all of the fabric businesses, and one for meat sellers. There was also the marble carving district.

Marble statues seemed quite common in India and for several city blocks in Jaipur you could walk up and down the narrow and particularly dusty lanes and see them being made; once you’d managed to squeeze by all the feral pigs that hung about there for some reason. When we visited it wasn’t quite the ‘hand-crafted marble artworks’ dream that I had in my mind.

Rather than fancy showrooms, full of gleaming marble statues and artisans gently moulding pieces of marble into exquisite pieces of art, it was row upon row of very dark and cramped workshops full of dusty men sat amongst large blocks of stone, hunched over their piece of marble, sculpting their wares with a variety of power tools. Health and safety was not a concern and it’s hard to imagine that the workers, breathing in prolific quantities of marble dust each day, didn’t develop serious respiratory problems.

Their statues were most often representations of either important politicians and military men or one of the thousands of Hindu gods. Frequently they would take the beautifully polished white marble and paint it from head to toe in weirdly gaudy colours. Gaudy to my eyes, but then I suppose I have no right to say what colour the God Shiva actually was – maybe he really was Smurf blue?

I mentioned the feral pigs earlier. They were clustered together in various corners of Jaipur, doing their bit for the city’s recycling efforts. Every day in Jaipur we could find one rootling through a pile of discarded rubbish looking for something tasty to eat. By the time the variety of street-dwelling creatures has had its go at picking out anything edible all that would be left would be a heap of plastic.

I discussed the origin of the pigs with our host and she had no idea where they had originally come from. Since the Hindus are vegetarian, and the Muslims don’t eat pork, I wonder why there are pigs there at all?