These seven statues, each an excellent piece of art, carved out of fine Bangai wood, a timber of high grade used for South Indian temple wood carvings now for generations, represent a rapt Ganesha playing on different musical instruments. From left to right, all seven images represent him as playing on ‘mradanga’ – long drum, ‘shahanai’ – large pipe, male-female drum set, flute, ‘vina’ – stringed instrument, a lyre, guitar, and ‘mataka’ – earthen pot, Indians used as a musical instrument since ages. When struck with palm and fingers with varying beats the air that the ‘mataka’ contained within vibrated and produced sound which, when regulated with the other hand by holding it on its mouth and releasing it gradually, produced desired musical effect. Though each an isolated piece complete in itself, for suggesting the timelessness and universality of Lord Ganesha the wood-carver has represented him as playing on one hand on a ‘mataka’, the most traditional instrument of Indian masses used even as part of Indian classical music, and on the other, on a guitar, a modern and global instrument – one, the primitive, and other, the ultimate.
This set of seven images is unique in imparting a great message. Each image of the set represents Lord Ganesha as playing on a different instrument but Lord Ganesha is one; so is his act of playing, whether on this instrument or that; and, so is his act’s outcome, the music produced with one instrument or the other. Lord Ganesha has thousands of manifest forms, and over a thousand names but strangely, in all seven pieces his form is common, same anatomy, figural dimensions, number of arms and all except what of the gestures or body’s movements pertained to playing on a specific instrument. Lord Ganesha is the inherent spirit that enlivens all forms. This re-affirms the Indian metaphysical doctrine of the spiritual unity of the multitudinous forms of matter. A brilliant approach, the artist did not string all representations by carving them on a single log of wood but discovered their unity in their diverseness, in the commonness of the act performed, and in such act’s outcome. Thus, despite that each piece is isolated and unattached, and also does not narrate a single episode or act, all seven images comprise a set in absolute unity.
A deity of masses, tribes and folks, in popular imagination Lord Ganesha is their companion in all things, material or spiritual. He enshrines a sanctum but also queues up with devotional crowds. Despite the huge bulk of his figure he not only dances for them but also performs acrobatics. On village ‘chaupala’ – public square, he sings for them – their woes and moments of jubilation, loud and wide; he is their dancer, singer, stage performer and all. To the illiterate tribes of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra … Lord Ganesha reads out Mahabharata, Ramayana or Bhagawata Purana, and to the jubilant masses chanting 'Ganapati Bappa Morya' he stages 'Tamasha' and performs 'Bhangada'. Besides a dance-form he is best realized in an image representing him as playing on a musical instrument, and such images of the elephant god have always been very special for in representing him as playing on a musical instrument not just the instrument but even his figure seems to vibrate and produce rhythm.
This excellent wood-panel consisting of seven images of Lord Ganesha, each carved with exceptionally sensitive hands and affectionate touches, portraying not only his form but also his intrinsic being, represents him as playing on seven different musical instruments, namely, ‘mradanga’, ‘shahanai’, male-female drum set, flute, ‘vina’, guitar, and ‘mataka’. All seven figures, installed on identical rectangular ‘chowkis’ – platforms, are seated identically in ‘utkut akasana’, though while the five figures have their right legs laid along the ground, and left, raised and turned from knee height, this position alternates in other two images. They have their left legs laid along the ground, and the right raised and turned from knee height. Similarly, fully absorbed in the melody that their instruments are producing five forms of the elephant god are right inclining, while two of them, turned to left. Unlike most of his images all seven figures have been conceived with normal two arms, large bellies and identically modeled trunks, though differently gesticulated. The seats they are sitting on consist of three tiers, two courses of risings consisting of stylized lotus motifs, and the third, the tops being plain mouldings with rounded corners. Clad just in a loincloth and adorned with few ornaments this panel of Ganesha shall attribute exoticism to any space, a corner in a sitting hall or a seat in shrine.
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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