Early Life of Mahendra Shah
Mahendra Uttamlal Shah was born on 27th of May 1939 in Patan, in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. Young Mahendra Shah did his schooling from Shri Bhogilal Daulatchand Sarvajanik Vidyalay in Patan. As a young boy he loved to play around temple. During that time a Jain temples was being built in Patan and Mahendra Shah used to sit with the carvers. He spent hours just for 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 the art and had great passion for drawing. He successfully passed the 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 and Jainism which must have prompted him to study them and appear for their respective state examinations securing first class. In the year of 1956, Mahendra Shah, the master diamond polisher, completed his schooling by passing the Secondary School Certificate Examination of the Bombay Board. After completing the schooling 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, 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 outer edges of Mumbai and Mahendra Shah continued his diamond cutting. On 25th of May 1974 Veena and Mahendra Shah were blessed with a baby girl called Sweta.
Works of Mahendra Shah
The last piece of sculpture which Mahendra Shah made, before his death on 12th January, 2009 was a Jesus on a Crucifix. 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 sculpture 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.
Renowned works of Mahendra Shah
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.