This massive wood statue, 72 inches high, 32 inches wide and 13 inches thick in physical dimensions, carved from a single log of fine Bangai wood, one of the finest timbers used for the South Indian temple wood-carvings now for centuries, represents Lord Ganesha in ten-armed, single-tusked and potbellied manifestation. Otherwise an exclusive species of wood of South Indian wood-carvers growing in a small belt around Kala Korchi region in Tamil Nadu, a wood-piece with such massive size is by itself the statue’s rare distinction. A masterpiece of wood-carving the statue is the work of one of the most distinguished artist of Thammampatti, a known centre of temple wood carving in Salem district, Tamil Nadu. The statue took over three months to complete.
The artist is not only a highly skilled wood-carver but also well adept in wood painting, not everybody’s job; wood might yield to chisel a smooth surface, though however smooth it devours colours’ natural brilliance and magic and often gives forth discoloration and dull spaces.He commands all his spaces : apparent and hidden, to allow colours to reveal not only every desired tonal effect but also a paper painting like aesthetic beauty and lustre.
The ten-armed elephant god is seated on a double lotus installed on a two-tiered stylized lotus base with a multi-petalled floral medallion conceived with seven concentric circles like ‘Shri-yantra’, a mystic diagram assuring accomplishment and auspiciousness, defining its face, the centre, symbolic of the axis of the universe that Lord Ganesha enshrines. The symbolic thrust further extends in the form of the double lotuses Lord Ganesha is seated on. The sculptor has conceived neither two full lotuses nor just one but rather one and a half, the one on the bottom being full with inverted and upwards petals, and the upper, just the upwards half. This formation is symbolic of three worlds or cosmic regions, the earth, the sky and the ocean, that Lord Ganesha pervades with his divine presence. On the right corner of the top of the base is installed formally on a pedestal the Lord’s mount mouse with due reverence like a ‘dhwaj’-deity, and on the left, lays a tray of ‘modakas’ – laddus, the fruit of accomplishment with which Lord Ganesha blesses his devotees.
As this sitting posture has been defined in iconographic tradition, Lord Ganesha, with his left leg laid horizontally on the top of the lotus seat, as in ‘yoga’ posture, and right, suspending downwards, is seated in ‘lalitasana’, a sitting posture revealing rare aesthetic beauty and ease.
The entire figure has been most agreeably balanced and rhythmically conceived. From its very base to the top the image’s right half, and the left, reveal delightful symmetry that more powerfully reflects in the figure’s upper part, in rhythmically branching arms, the normal ones and the shoulders from where all arms branch in particular, the face with trunk, eyes, eyebrows, red ‘bindi’ – auspicious vermillion mark on the forehead, ears …, crown, its various parts, two strangely conceived decorative loops branching from the crown’s back … He is carrying in his right side hands elephant goad, trident, rope, snake and in the normal one, his broken tusk; in those on the left side, noose, dagger, rod with blunt head, nail, and in the normal one, basket of ‘modakas’. Apart, he is holding in his knotted trunk a pot believed to contain all treasures of the world.
The figure of Lord Ganesha has been conceived with large ears, small almond eyes, broad forehead and delicate slenderer trunk. He has a prominently broken right tusk and in his main right hand its broken part. These aspects of the image link Lord Ganesh to his Ekadanta manifestation. Similarly, the figure has a large pot-like inflated belly linking the elephant god to his Lambodara manifestation. Ekadanta symbolizes singleness of mind and his readiness to undergo any sacrifice for his devotees and for curving a mischief, and Lambodara, his immense bounties and immeasurable knowledge that he stores in his belly and imparts them to his devotees.
The figure of Lord Ganesha has been clad in a lemon yellow ‘antariya’ : the sole ensemble, embellished with green check-design held on the waist with a broad girdle and a decorative central ‘patta’ consisting of vertical loops conceived like ‘phalis’ – seed-pod. The entire figure : head, neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, belly, waist, ankles, feet …, has been elaborately bejeweled with a number of ornaments most of them consisting of beads and ‘phalis’. The crown with two beautiful loops, one on either side, reveals great magnificence and beauty.
How to care for Wood Statues?
Wood is extensively used in sculpting especially in countries like China, Germany, and Japan. One feature that makes the wood extremely suitable for making statues and sculptures is that it is light and can take very fine detail. It is easier for artists to work with wood than with other materials such as metal or stone. Both hardwoods, as well as softwood, are used for making sculptures. Wood is mainly used for indoor sculptures because it is not as durable as stone. Changes in weather cause wooden sculptures to split or be attacked by insects or fungus. The principal woods for making sculptures and statues are cedar, pine, walnut, oak, and mahogany. The most common technique that sculptors use to make sculptures out of wood is carving with a chisel and a mallet. Since wooden statues are prone to damage, fire, and rot, they require proper care and maintenance.
It is extremely important to preserve and protect wooden sculptures with proper care. A little carelessness and negligence can lead to their decay, resulting in losing all their beauty and strength. Therefore, a regular clean-up of the sculptures is a must to prolong their age and to maintain their shine and luster.
Wood has been a preferred material for sculptures and statues
since ancient times. It is easy to work with than most metals and
stones and therefore requires less effort to shape it into any
desired shape or form. The texture of the wood gives an element of
realism to the sculpture. The selection of an appropriate wood
type is necessary for carving. Woods that are too resinous or
coniferous are not considered good for carving as their fiber is
very soft and thus lacks strength. On the other hand, wood such as
Mahogany, Oakwood, Walnut wood, Weet cherry wood, etc., are
preferred by sculptors because their fiber is harder.
A wood sculptor uses various tools such as a pointed chisel in one
hand and a mallet in another to bring the wood to the desired
measurement and to make intricate details on it. A carving knife
is used to cut and smooth the wood. Other tools such as the gouge,
V-tool, and coping saw also serve as important tools in wood
carving. Although the wood carving technique is not as complex and
tough as stone carving or metal sculpting, nonetheless, a wood
carver requires a high level of skills and expertise to create a
The process of wood carving begins with selecting a chunk of wood
that is required according to the type and shape of the statue to
be created by the sculptor. Both hardwoods and softwoods are used
for making artistic pieces, however, hardwoods are preferred more
than softer woods because of their durability and longevity. But
if heavy detailing is to be done on the statue, wood with fine
grain would be needed as it would be difficult to work with
Once the wood type is selected, the wood carver begins the
general shaping process using gouges of various sizes. A gouge
is a tool having a curved cutting edge which is useful in
removing large unwanted portions of wood easily without
splitting the wood. The sculptor always carves the wood across
the grain of the wood and not against it.
When a refined shape of the statue is obtained, it is time for
making details on the statue using different tools. This is
achieved by using tools such as a veiner to make and a V-tool to
create decorative and sharp cuts.
Once finer details have been added, the sculptor is ready to
smoothen the surface and give it a perfect finish. Tools such as
rasps and rifflers are used to get a smooth surface. The finer
polishing is obtained by rubbing the surface with sandpaper. If
a textured surface is required, this step is skipped. Finally,
to protect the statue from excessive dirt accumulation, the
sculptor applies natural oils such as walnut or linseed oil all
over it. This also brings a natural sheen to the statue.
Wood statues are lighter in weight and less expensive than metal
or stone pieces. Because wood is prone to fast decay by fungus and
algae, statues made out of this material are not preferred to be
kept outside. The rich tradition of wood carving in countries such
as Africa, Egypt, India, and Nepal has been followed for many
centuries. Indian craftsmen are specialized in this classic art
and continue to exhibit their extraordinary artistic skills.
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