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  • The Timeless Art of Wood Carving in India

    Woodcarving has been one of the most universal handicraft techniques around the world. Be it intricate pulpits inside Gothic churches in Europe, delicately carved panels in Persia or massive columns from Japan depicting aquatic plants, wood carving is an eternal, timeless craft appreciated across the world.

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    India itself has a rich wood carving history and contributes prolifically to the array of carved handicrafts produced in wood. Being a climactically diverse nation, India is blessed with a variety of soft and hard woods — each being used to produce a different family of wooden crafts. Moreover, the cultural, lingual and religious diversity is reflected in the different handicrafts that emerge from different regions. In Assam, they are reflected in the unusually carved thrones in the shape of peacocks which are called ‘namghar’ or ‘kirtanghar' and the figures of the one-horned rhinoceros. In Uttar Pradesh, we see elegantly chiseled screens or ‘jaalis’ patterned with floral and vine-like details reminiscent of the Kashmiri origins of the craftsmen who first brought them here. Large, chests called ‘pataras’ carved out of rosewood, teak or sandalwood in Gujarat are part of wedding trousseau for brides to this day.

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    Although wood carvings in Tamil Nadu come in a variety of themes such as animals, mythological creatures and dance forms, one of the most prominent of these themes is the depiction of mythological scenes with gods and goddesses mounted on their chariots. From doors to wooden brackets and panels, one can find this theme running across different handicraft items produced in the state. Idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Dashavtara idols of Vishnu are some of the most highly demanded products in the region.

    When creating a wood carving idol, the artisan begins with a single large block of wood. Designs are first drawn on paper which is then imprinted upon the wooden block. Then, using a hammer and chisel, the artisan carves out the wood from the appropriate places in the design, layer by layer. Soon the idol begins to take shape. When the artisan is satisfied with the carving, he buffs the wood so that its natural shine appears. Then it is painted or polished suitably and is ready to go on the market. The whole process takes days and even months depending upon the complexity and size of the idol. Rosewood and sandalwood is most commonly used for creating wood articles produced in Tamil Nadu.

    Over 2 lakh artisans in Tamil Nadu work behind the scenes to uphold our cultural heritage through sheer hard work without proper recognition and appreciation. Poompuhar, in collaboration with the TN state government is proud to be observing March 5 as Artisan’s Day in order to bring these gems to the forefront in the handicraft making process. The video of artisan P Subrayan below is just a small initiative in that endeavour.

  • Art of wood: Wood handicraft In India

    India is a land of great diversity and along with that it also presents plenty of opportunities to an enthusiast to soak in different forms of arts, culture, and tradition in every single part of its vast territory. One such opportunity lies in the form of wood arts. Wood carving has given rise to a unique style of arts which is unmatched when compared to the ones found anywhere else in the world. This one art form has been there since time immemorial and over hundreds of centuries have evolved to several different designing traits which can be easily observed and are spread across various parts of the country.

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    As it is known, civilization started sprawling in the Indian subcontinent first than in many other parts of the world.  Wood art also came into existence almost around that early dawn of civilization too and the pleasure of this art is found cherished since prehistoric times. The way Indian states vary in their culture, language, and behavior; similarly wood art seems to get hold of this variety and hence it exhibits a great range of variation in the design and style. According to each state's background and cultural taste, craftsmen developed their own unique style. The expertise and creativity of these exemplary craftsmen has allowed each state to have their very own distinct artistic identity which is hard to ignore in recent times.

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    To take a good look at the wood arts industry prevailing in India with respect to the different states, we must begin with the state of Tamil Nadu from where it is assumed to be originated in the form of beautifully decorated chariots with their figurines. Next is the state of Karnataka, which produced those trademark sandalwood artefacts in the form of elephants, tray, boxes, figurines, pens, key-holders and so many different things. Rajasthan is not only a rich tourist destination but is also famous for its woodworks indoors, panels, brackets, pillars etc. Not only that, it is most widely known for its puppets, animal figurines, and lovely jewellery boxes. The state of Orissa is famous for Lord Jagannatha and the idol of Lord Jagannatha itself was crafted out of wood, which definitely inspired the Oriya artisans to develop their unique style of wood arts that includes colourful wooden dolls, toys etc.

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    This travelogue of Indian wood arts will never be completed without a mention of the state of West Bengal where the expert craftsmen hail from such enriched cultural background that their style varies and distinctly identifiable even while moving from one region of the state to the other. Terracotta is the famous stone sculpture from this state, which has influenced the wood craftsmen to create their own variants which are more portable, less bulky and comes with a longer durability than then stone counterparts.

    Despite such rich legacy of wood artists in India, not everything is good. The government must come forward to train and make modern facilities available for the budding craftsmen so that they are assured of some basic earnings as well as recognition and honour for their hard work.

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