Mani stones carved with Buddhist calligraphic mantras and auspicious motifs and designs are found in Ladakh in India and in Bhutan and Nepal.
Home to Buddhist monasteries and communities, these calligraphic Mani stones can often be seen lining the roads and paths leading to monasteries, and form an important part of the local religious and cultural landscape.
Mani stones can also be found in other parts of India where Buddhist communities reside and include Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Mani stones can be seen on the walls of buildings, lining the streets, and in the courtyards of monasteries and temples.
Mani stones are typically made from local river rocks, which are chosen for their size, shape, and smoothness. The rocks are first selected and then carefully chiseled and shaped by hand to create a flat surface for carving.
Once the stone has been prepared, the artisan will use a variety of tools to create the carving. Traditional tools may include chisels, hammers, and rasps, as well as more modern tools such as rotary tools or sandblasters. The design of the carving is first outlined on the stone using a pencil or charcoal, and then carefully carved into the surface using the selected tools.
The carvings themselves may feature a wide range of auspicious motifs and designs, depending on the preferences of the artisan and the traditions of the local culture. Motifs include images of Buddhist deities, sacred symbols such as the lotus flower or the Wheel of Dharma, and mantras, from “Om Mani Padme Hum” and others
After the carving is complete, the stone may be painted or decorated with gold leaf or other materials. Unpainted stones are usually polished to give them a smooth and glossy finish.