Handmade Indian Statues

A History of Indian Sculpture

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Maurya Period

Regular use of stone for sculpture and architecture commenced from the Maurya period, (c.325—184 BC) particularly from the time of the great king Ashoka (269—232 BC). From then a happy blend of art and architecture became a conspicuous characteristic of Indian art.

Shunga Period

Sculptural images of the Shunga period (c. 184—72 BC) are characterised by low relief, bicornate turbans on male figures, the symbolic representation of the Buddha and narratives of his life. The stupas of Bharhut, Sanchi and Bodh Gaya are the great monuments of the age. The yaksha/yakshi (demon/demoness) statues of the Maurya and Shunga periods represent the influence of folk cult and the excellence of the Indian sculptural tradition.

Kushana Period

Two great schools of art evolved and flourished simultaneously in the Kushana period (1st—3rd century), one using the spotted red sandstone at Mathura, and the other using the schist stone in the larger territory of the Gandhara region now in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the former carved the images of the deities of all the pantheons (Hindu, Buddhist and Jain) the latter concentrated on Buddhist icons. Both are credited to have evolved the Buddha image. There was a good deal of interaction between the two styles in the 2nd and 3rd century.

Gupta Period

Indian art reached its zenith in the Gupta period with the noble experiment of harmonising rupa and bhava. The schools of Mathura and Sarnath (near Varanasi) played a vital role in this respect. While Mathura represented garments on the human form with rippled pleats, Sarnath favoured “wet” or body-clinging drapery. The serenity of the face and refined treatment of the body are the hallmarks of the age. The sculptures and wall paintings created during the same period under the Vakatakas at Ajanta and other places followed the same trends and are similarly superb.

The political disharmony in the post Gupta period gave rise to regional artistic off—shoots. While the classical features of the preceding age were retained to a great extent, the religious and artistic inclination of the period saw the emergence of ornamentation, as well as sub-deities, family deities (parivaradevatas) and deities with multiple arms and attributes. The notable stylistic periods were those of the Pratiharas (c.900—1000) in the north, the Rashtrakutas (c.753—973) and Chalukyas (c.550—642) in the Deccan and the Pallavas (c.600—750) in the south.

Pala And Sena Period

Remarkable specimens in dark basalt stone came onto the scene particularly in eastern India under the patronage of Pala and Sena kings (c.10th-l3th century) who favoured both Brahmanism and Buddhism. These are slim and slender figures with plinth—like projections (rathas), lotus cushions, flanking acolytes, decorative motifs like the leogryph (simhashardula), lion’s face emitting strings of pearls (kirtimukha), geese (hamsa) and mythical crocodile (makara). Temples in Orissa were also studded with beautiful sculptures and decorative motifs.

Late Medivial Period

The late medieval (11th—l3th century) sculptures are known for mechanical stylisation, pointed and linear clarity, meticulous details of ornaments and further elaboration of subsidiary deities. Divine figures are dominant and the female becomes the focal point in this period. Amorous and sometimes erotic postures also emerge. The temples of Khajuraho, Orissa, Halebid and Mount Abu are known for intricate carving. In the south, monumental gateways (gopurams) and the towers of the sanctums were decorated with hundreds of beautiful sculptures.

Temple Bronze from Chola and Hoysala Statues For Sale

Swamimalai is believed to be one of the six sacred abodes of Karthikeya, the eldest son of Shiva. Lord Karthikeya is known by many names such as Murugan, Kanda, Skanda, Kumara, Mahasena, Shanmukha, Subramanya and Vadivela. Tamil sangam literature designates Muruga as the Lord of the Mountain Regions. His six sacred abodes also find mention in sangam literature. They are: Thiruparankundram, Tiruchendur, Palani, Swamimalai, Thiruthani and Pazhamudricholai. Swamimalai boasts of a beautiful Lord Murugan temple, with an interesting legend, where he is said to have taught the meaning of ‘Om’, the sacred pranav mantra, to his father, god Shiva.

But, what makes this sleepy little town of less than ten thousand inhabitants special, is its long, traditional and time-honoured association with the ancient Indian art of bronze sculpting. Apart from being a center for pilgrimage and tourism in South India, it is also the de facto bronze icon capital of India. The skillfully crafted Swamimalai bronze idols are some of the most sought after artifacts by art lovers and connoisseurs throughout the world. Swamimalai bronze icons embody a characteristic grace and precision, bringing together in a perfect combination, the skill of an expert craftsman, the imagination of an artist, and the sensibilities of a poet.

India has a long and illustrious tradition of bronze casting and metal work dating as far back as the Indus Valley Civilization. Metal artifacts, over four millennia old, were excavated from Mohenjodaro and the other Indus Valley sites like Harappa, Ropar and Lothal. Perhaps the most famous of them is the bronze dancing girl, a unique piece constructed by lost-wax casting, the cire-perdue - the same technique used in Swamimalai many millennia later - where a duplicate metal object is cast from an original piece that is lost during the process of crafting. Many other bronze icons and statuettes of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain deities have since been excavated and dated from many other regions all over the Indian subcontinent. The Swamimalai is one of the regions where this ancient heritage was preserved through a passing down of these unique skills and knowledge by successive generations of sthapathis. 

All the icons crafted by the Swamimalai sthapathis religiously follow the strictures laid down by the dhyana slokas from Shilpa Shastra. Each of the idols are solid metal, individually crafted, and exhibit high levels of fine detailing. The alluvial soil of Swamimalai region used for the mould is special in that it never develops cracks during this entire process enabling a smooth and pristine finish to the metal. Because of the use of the ancient method of madhuchishtavidhana (lost-wax method) the original wax cast is lost during the crafting and no duplication is possible. A fact that renders the Swamimalai artifacts truly unique and one of the most sought after metal icons in the modern world.


Q1. What is the difference between sculpture and statue?

The main difference between a sculpture and a statue is that a sculpture is a three-dimensional work of art, produced by carving wood, stone, or metal. It is purely based on imagination and creativity and is thus a unique piece of art. Whereas, a statue is a free-standing sculpture that is life-size or full-length portraying a person or an animal. In other words, all statues are sculptures but all sculptures cannot be considered statues.

Q2. What is another name for a statue?


The names for a statue are as many as the cultures that learned the art of creating three-dimensional art with different materials. A statue in today’s world is known as a sculpture, idol, image, effigy, figure, or icon. In Indian tradition, a statue is known as Murti (a solid representation) or Pratima (an image that depicts a resemblance to the subject).

Q3. What does a statue symbolize?

Sculptural images may be symbolic on several levels. Apart from conventional symbols, A few common examples are figures that personify the cardinal virtues- prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, the theological virtues - faith, hope, and charity, the arts, the church, victory, the seasons of the year, industry, and agriculture. These figures are often provided with symbolic objects that serve to identify them; for example, the hammer of industry, the sickle of agriculture, the hourglass of time, and the scales of justice.

  • Animals are also frequently used in the same way; for example, the owl (as the emblem of Lakshmi and the symbol of wealth), the lion, symbol of Energy (Durga), etc. The Hindu image of the dance of Shiva is symbolic in every detail.

Q4. What is another term for statue?

Model : A three-dimensional representation of someone or something, typically on a smaller scale

Idol : A symbol or item representing a god that is worshiped, sometimes considered false

Portrait : Artwork of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.

Icon : An embodiment or manifestation of something (abstract).

Masterpiece : A person or thing regarded as precious or special.

Sketch : A drawing or painting, version of a work, typically freehand and rough or unfinished.


Mascot : Something thought to bring good luck.

Q5. Best material for God idols


The choice of material for making God’s idol or deity should be according to the Vedic injunctions. It is mentioned in many places in the scriptures that the ideal materials for deities are wood, metal, marble, or stone. Out of all these, marble is most preferred by artisans because of its highly durable nature. It can withstand many harsh conditions and is easy to work with as compared to other materials.

Q6. What is the world's largest statue?


The Statue of Unity (Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel) is the world's tallest statue, with a height of 182 meters (597 feet), located near Kevadia in the state of Gujarat, India. The total cost of the construction was 2700 crores. For the construction, the required quantity of iron was collected from farmers all over India. The farmers donated their used farming instruments and by 2016, 135 matric terms of scrap iron were collected to build the statue of unity.


The designer of the statue is the Indian sculptor Ram Sutar. And the statue was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 31st October 2018, which was the 143rd anniversary of Vallabhbhai Patel’s birthday. Currently, the statue in white marble of Bhagwan Ram is being built at Ayodhya, which is 151 meters (594 feet) high.

Q7. Why is Bronze a good material for statues?


Bronze is an alloy primarily made of two metal elements Copper and Tin, and some additional elements such as Phosphorus, Silicon, Aluminium, etc. These additions make bronze a stronger and corrosion-resistant material. These properties are suitable and a great advantage for making long-lasting outdoor sculptures and statues. Also, the beautiful reddish-brown color of Bronze and the fine carving details on its light gold-toned surface give the statues an exceptional appearance.

Q8. The materials or metals used in God’s statue


According to the Vedic scriptural injunctions, there are different kinds of materials recommended for making God’s statue or deity. These are marble, stone, metal, and wood. The most preferred metal to create a statue is either bronze or copper. These are metal alloys that are highly durable and have a definite structure which makes the statues strong and long-lasting (for many centuries). Fine carving on the metallic surface turns out exquisite, adding to the beauty of God’s beautiful form in the statue.

Q9. How long the brass statues can last?


Brass is not only known for its aesthetic golden beauty but is also preferred by artisans and sculptors for its highly durable nature. It is a metal alloy that is made of copper and zinc which gives it a definite structure. If properly maintained, brass statues can easily last at least a thousand years with no fading away of its shine and luster.