This statue – temple wood carving, a work with great distinction, in breadth of imagination, all-assimilating strength, aesthetics, technical perfection and details carved with unique precision, minuteness and benignity, and all in a fibrous medium like wood, represents Lord Ganesha with Lakshmi and Saraswati. All three deities are enshrining a fire-arch like composed mesh of vines – curving branches, colourful leaves and flower-buds, patterned like floral arabesques. This mesh of branches – a grove of shrubs-like looking, is symbolic of the entire cosmic nature that Ganesha – the good, Lakshmi – fertility and sustainability, and Saraswati – learning and creativeness, pervade. Entwined with these branches are peacocks – the life, eight of them, four flanking the central image on either side. Thus, representing nature – matter, with life, its integral component, the fire-arch has been obviously conceived to symbolize the cosmos.
The peacock with red beaks and green body-colour looking like parrots represent life in general. Visually, perching on curving branches and upholding another set of such branches on them, and thus peacocks looking like branches, and branches, like peacocks, the composition delights by its rare magic and exoticism, the qualities rarely seen in art. The pair of peacocks comprising the apex of the fire-arch, tinier and different in body colour, carved flanking the headgear of the central image, alternates the auspicious Shrimukha motif. Such Shrimukha motif has been invariably used, and is still used, in South Indian sculptures for defining the fire-arch-apexes, though while the Shrimukha motif often has an unpleasant appearance, this peacock pair amazes by the beauty of form that their symmetry and rhythm afford. As a matter of fact, such symmetry and rhythm is the common quality of all birds, or rather the common attribute of all forms, live or nature’s, the statue consists of.
Essentially the presiding deity the image of Lord Ganesha is larger in size and is prominently carved. It has been installed on the arch’s mid-height on a large wide open lotus that a thickly composed net of branches hold. Entire statue has been composed on a tall podium – a tiered seat two tiers of which are composed of stylized lotuses. The fire-arch rises from the back edge of this podium. Towards its forepart the podium has an additional moulding – a specially raised platform or sub-seat. This subordinate seat houses the images of Lakshmi and Saraswati. Like the main deity image they are also seated over fully blowing lotuses. Though the subordinate icons, and hence, smaller in size, both images have been carved with as much accuracy, precision and concern as the main image. Visually the two images have been installed just under the image of the central deity. With their right feet suspending downwards, and left, laid horizontally on the seats’ floor – the enshrining lotuses’ upper part, all three deities have been represented in identical position known in classical iconography as ‘lalitasana’, a sitting position wherein reveal great aesthetic beauty and complete ease.
The image of the four-armed Ganesha carries in its upper hands elephant goad and noose, while in the normal right it carries broken tusk, and in the normal left, a gold-like glistening mango fruit. Besides holding the broken tusk the normal right hand is held also in the gesture of granting ‘abhay’ – freedom from fear, and the normal left hand, besides carrying the golden mango, is also gesturing ‘varad’ – release from worldly infatuations. The four-armed Lakshmi is carrying lotuses in both upper hands while her normal right hand is held in ‘abhay’, and normal left, in ‘varad’. Far more than an attribute lotus is goddess Lakshmi’s identity symbol. She is known as lotus goddess; however, ‘abhay’ and ‘varad’, though now the essential attributes of her image, are more the attributes of her early form when as Mahalakshmi she was the goddess of battlefield. With two of her hands, the normal right and upper left, Saraswati is stringing her ‘vina’ while in upper right she is carrying rosary, and in normal left, ‘pustak’, both her consort Brahma’s attributes. Strangely, the image of Lord Ganesha, though seated, does not have a halo whereas the images of Lakshmi and Saraswati have. Capable of making the path detriment-free Ganesha multiplies the effectiveness of both, Lakshmi and Saraswati, for Ganesha contains all forces that obstruct one’s path to prosperity and obtainment of learning.
This description by Prof. P.C Jain and Dr. Daljeet.
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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