A stunning example of
South Indian temple iconography and woodcraft, with a multitude of colors and
carvings to reveal the magnificence of Durga Amman or the Hindu mother goddess
Durga, this large wooden panel carries with it the divine ambiance felt in the
icons of the ancient South Indian shrines.
Such impressive images of Devi Durga are sculpted on the walls and
architectural elements that surround the inner sanctum, marking each corner of
the temple with the presence of Shakti (the primordial feminine aspect).
Appearing in front of her devotees, Durga-Mahishasuramardini (the slayer of the
buffalo demon) takes a benevolent form, standing serenely on the severed head
of Mahishasura, multiple-armed and accompanied by her vicious mount the Simha
(lion). Exquisite and powerful, this standing goddess Durga wood statue is the
visualization of Durga Amman as the supreme protectress and mother, who
annihilates evil and protects the Srishti (creation).
The lustrous earthy tone of wood in this goddess Durga
statue provides the composition with a natural golden shade in the
embellishment and luminous skin color to Devi Durga. A sharply arched aureole
formed with a plentitude of lotus petals is placed behind the standing goddess
Durga statue, which depicts the mother goddess in a potent Ashtabhuja
(eight-armed) form adorned with exquisite ornaments. An ornate Karandamukuta
(crown shaped like an inverted basket) frames the beautiful countenance of
Mahishasurmardini, whose thick arched eyebrows, large almond eyes, fine nose
with Vesara (nose ring) and soft lips lend a charming liveliness to the wooden
statue. Devi Durga, who is the primeval female has the ideal of femininity
oozing from her physique and delicate posture. An elegant green colored dhoti
(lower body garment) secured by an elaborate waistband is the only cloth worn
by the goddess in this wooden statue, which unveils the unbounded etherealness
of Maa Durga excellently. Maa Durga’s lion calmly stands behind her, sharing
the floral pedestal with the goddess. Two diminutive female figures, the
attendants of the universal queen mother flank the imposing wooden Maa Durga
statue with their hands joined in the gesture of offering adulations, their
hair tied in an updo that matches the ethnic fashion of South Indian women. A
bird, probably Mynah sits on Devi Durga’s hand which is placed on her thigh in
the Katihasta mudra, another iconographical attribute that is unique to the
Southern Indian images of mother goddesses. With her primary right hand
pleasingly raised in the gesture of fearlessness, Mahishasuramardini Durga
quells not only the legendary buffalo demon but all the fears and enemies of
her devotees with her omniscient gaze.
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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