Accepted paper:

The Hindu stone carving tradition and the international tourist market in Mamallapuram, South India


Sanni Sivonen (University of Eastern Finland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the relationship between traditional Hindu stone carving and international tourism in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, and the changes that have occurred in the religious stone carving tradition as a result of tourism and social and economic developments.

Paper long abstract:

The town of Mamallapuram in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India, is famous for its ancient rock-carved monuments as well as for the living stone-carving tradition and it is a popular travel and holiday destination for the Indian and foreign tourists alike. The hundreds of stone carvers in Mamallapuram produce mainly traditional statues of Hindu deities for Indian religious purposes, such as for temples and shrines, but also to be sold at the international tourist market. The development of stone carving industry in Mamallapuram has coincided with the development of tourism in the town and the international tourist market has always been an important source of income for many of the stone carves. As a result of tourism as well as local and global social and economic developments, changes have occurred in the traditional methods of production, material, size, outlook and use of the religious carvings. The stone carving industry and tourist market of the sculptures in Mamallapuram are also characterized by heavy competition, seasonal changes and oversupply of the religious statues. Yet most carvers only produce statues of Hindu deities as they are the most popular items of sale among both the foreign and domestic tourists. Especially Indians living overseas order Hindu statues from the carvers in Mamallapuram. Also foreign tourists, mostly the ones interested in Hinduism and spirituality, purchase statues of various Hindu gods and goddesses as souvenirs as well as for their personal spiritual use.

panel WMW02
Religion In contemporary south Asia