(Last Updated on : 12/10/2010)
India is a land of great artists and Mahendra Shah, the master diamond polisher, is definitely one of them. Mahendra Shah was a diamond carver of incredible potential. Diamond carving is not easy when one considers the fact that diamond is the hardest known material. Mahendra Shah's carved diamond Crucifix is truly a piece to behold. The carver not only had patience but also some divine calling to sculpt and bring forth the agony as well as the compassion on the face of Christ. He even invented his own tools to create the Carved Diamond Crucifix. He manually carved on diamond to provide shape to various statues. Among his many famous diamond carvings are sculptures of Black Stallion, Christmas tree, Butterfly, Fish etc. He made statues of Lord Ganesha
and the Jain Tirthankara Parshvanatha
; the carving of Lord Buddha
with map of India at the base and the final crowning glory was carving a big diamond into a Crucifix. Besides being a famous diamond sculptor, Mahendra Shah was also a master diamond polisher.
Early Life of Mahendra Shah,Master Diamond Polisher
Mahendra Uttamlal Shah was born on the 27th of May 1939 in Patan, in the Mehsana district
. Young Mahendra Shah did his schooling from Shri Bhogilal Daulatchand Sarvajanik Vidyalay in Patan. As a young boy he loved to play around temples. During that time a Jain temple was being built in Patan and Mahendra Shah used to sit with the carvers who made statues of Jain Tirthankaras and patiently watched them. He spent hours just gazing at the artisans working on the carvings. His minute observation at such an early age must have helped him in his later stages as a diamond carver. Mahendra Shah enjoyed art and had great passion for drawing. He successfully passed the then Government of Bombay Drawing Examinations both Elementary and Intermediate Grade in the years 1953 and 1954 respectively.
Mahendra Shah also had interest in Sanskrit language
which must have prompted him to study them and appear for their respective state examinations securing first class. In the year 1956 Mahendra Shah, master diamond polisher, completed his schooling by passing the Secondary School Certificate Examination of the Bombay Board.
After completing school in Patan, he took admission in the Vithalbhai Patel Mahavidyalaya of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Vidyapeeth for his graduation. He did his Preparatory Examination in the "B" Group in the science stream. He secured second class in the year 1958. In 1959 he appeared for the Inter-Science examination from M.N. College Visnagar but unfortunately could not pass the examination. At the age of twenty Mahendra Shah went to Mumbai
to carve out a niche for himself.
Initially it was difficult for him to get hold of a job as he was not a graduate. However, luck favoured and he joined as an apprentice with Mr. Popatlal Panachand Shah to learn diamond cutting. Diamond cutting was an enjoyable experience for Mahendra Shah. He took every effort to hone his skills. He would take an extra effort to learn every aspect of it. He studied the customer, he surveyed the market, learned where to procure the rough material, how to sort it, how to buy good polishing materials for cutting. Soon he was familiar with every aspect of diamond cutting: sawing, cleaving, brutting, faceting and polishing. He learnt how to perfect the cut, how to deal with difficult stones and get the maximum yield.
At the age of 25, Mahendra Shah married the 20 year old Veena Maneklal Laheri in 1964. The young couple lived in Malad, one of the suburbs of Bombay and Mahendra Shah continued his diamond cutting. On 25th of May 1974 Veena and Mahendra Shah were blessed with a baby girl called Sweta.
Rise as a Famous Diamond Cutter and Polisher
As time went by Mahendra Shah, the master diamond polisher, started his own cutting unit for diamond. Later he shifted his workplace to Kandivali and finally to Malad. Initially he would cut small stones in star sized pieces. At that time very few people knew how to cut small sized rough material. Almost all the rejected material could be converted to faceted star sized diamonds for setting in jewellery. His profits increased. He set up other units. Owing to his skill and knowledge, Mahendra Shah gradually established himself as a master diamond cutter and polisher.
Although he had established himself as a prominent diamond polisher and cutter yet his long cherished desire was to create something innovative. He always toyed with the idea to carve something out of diamond. However, in those times there were no schools where one can learn diamond carving. But as they say, where there is a will there is a way. Mahendra Shah's urge to create something artistic led him to carve out the crucifix diamond sculpture. The representation of the divine figure brings about great force and this force gives power to the concept of creation. It is not possible for everyone to nurture the thought of creating a sculpture out of diamond. It requires a divine calling.
Artistic Diamonds of Mahendra Shah, the Famous Diamond Polisher
As his business grew he employed workers for the routine diamond cutting, brilliant cut, marquise cut, emerald cut, fancy-cut or re-cutting old stones in his factory. During that time Mahendra Shah established his new company called "Artistic Diamonds". He began diamond cutting on a large scale and later he focused his attention on cutting of melee sized diamonds. In those days very few persons could cut and facet a fancy cut diamond. Mahendra Shah was among the first few Indians did this. He could even facet a heart shaped brilliant cut with a perfect groove. Diamond faceted in heart shape was quite an achievement especially those with a groove. As time went by "Artistic Diamonds" flourished and all the further diamond carvings and sculpting were done under this name.
Famous Diamond Carvings of Mahendra Shah, The Master Diamond Polisher
He began sculpting and carving diamonds in his late 30's. He began sculpting in clay and plaster at home. Unlike other great sculptors who could work as an apprentice at night to famous teachers in the Soho district of New York or Paris, Mahendra Shah was essentially a self-taught artist. His muse was his own desire to render beautiful shapes to the diamonds. He was accustomed to working on more than one piece at a time. This also aided his creativity. While it generally takes time to make a sculptures but diamonds demand more time. For the artists patience is the last word and Mahendra Shah was blessed with this virtue. Slowly and steadily Mahendra Shah had made many figurines and sculptures in diamond. But undoubtedly the Carved Diamond Crucifix is a masterpiece.
In 1981 Mahendra Shah got the opportunity to extend his business abroad. As a diamond cutter he visited Antwerp in Belgium, the Mecca for all diamond cutters. There is a written evidence of his visit from the famous company Gembel N.V. Mr. Shah visited this company and expressed his keen interest in diamond carving. The Gembel Co. in 1981 presented him with small diamond tools which he could use in his works. He made use of these tools while sculpting later in his life.
Mahendra Shah had the premonition that the crucifix diamond sculpture would be the last sculpture he would ever carve; he wanted it to be his greatest achievement. Indeed, ten days after the completion of the Crucifix Diamond Sculpture Mahendra Shah breathed his last on 12th January 2009. He, undoubtedly, accomplished what few would even dare to attempt to do.