The carving of stones is said to be witnessed from a very prehistoric time. The consequence of carving should have been by striking a soft stone with a tougher one. Ancient sculptures were mostly of human forms, latter were found of animals and more abstract forms in stone. The process of accomplishing the sculptures is termed as stone carving. The pieces of natural stones are shaped by the eliminating or chiseling away some parts of stone in a planned way to accomplish a detailed design. Earlier the carvers themselves had to go in search for the right type of the stone. There are various kinds of stone available in which soft stone is preferable. It is easy to carve on soft stone. Sculptors use basic carving tools and hammers. Before beginning to carve there must be a pre-determined design. To brief it up carving happens in three simple steps – roughly chiseling out the stone, shaping and detailing. These three steps also include sandpapering, mounting and finishing. The basic tools that are required are pointed, flat chisels and a hammer. These tools help the carvers attain the form which they visualize. There have been various styles adapted over the period of time while carving. Though the methods of roughing, secondary roughing and finishing remains the results demonstrates the changes that has happened over years of time.
The stone carving at Varanasi is very unique comparing it with other states in India. Carving is preferred on soft stone. The soft stone is also addressed as Gorara locally. Stones are brought from mines of Chunar and Shivpuri – Madhya Pradesh. The most appreciating quality of this stone is that it is available in a wide range of colors and is easy to carve. Bowls, plates and glasses are known products. Earlier before initial stages of carving on soapstone, artists used tusks and sandalwood as their media to carve and as time passed by due government issues they had to take a hold on it. The soapstone when witnessed in the nearby mines were used by the artists to experiment the same designs what they did on tusks in order substitute and to test the production. The result happened to be a good hit later. The artists prefer a clean even shaded stone, for the carving will not be affected by the variations of pigment or by veining. For example, if artisan carved a nice face with a multi – colored stone, the veins would definitely appear either crisscross or dotted, sideways or right on the face, ruining the actual feel of the piece. Since there are less or no chances of veining in a clean or pure stone the piece comes out to its best of the looks. As the working on stone improvised the use of tools or the use of tools got a push to try out more innovative carvings like undercut. The undercut carving is very much known in the north part of India. The most marketed and noted product of this kind is an undercut elephant. A skilled artist can complete an undercut elephant of size two into three inches in two hours. The undercut carving is well known and Varanasi is one of the main centers of stone carving in Uttar Pradesh. Artisans carve variety of products from soap stone. Lamp stands, small bowls, jaalis, candle stands and decorative items.