As is the legend, a horse-headed demon, and hence named Hayagriva,
born of Diti, the mother of demons and one of the wives of sage
Kashyapa, Brahma’s grandson, once performed great penance and
propitiated Brahma to grant him the boon of immortality and when
Brahma expressed his inability to do so, he conceded that no one other
than Hayagriva – one with the face of a horse, could kill him.
Hayagriva believed that he would not kill himself and hence considered
himself as one beyond death. This led the arrogant demons to inflict
atrocities on all. Finally, Vishnu, with his face transformed as of a
horse, took to the form of Hayagriva and killed Hayagriva, the demon.
Varaha and Narsimha were Vishnu’s incarnations for accomplishing other
objectives. Vishnu is said to have incarnated as Varaha for killing
the notorious demon Hiranyaksha and to restore the earth. Hiranyaksha,
a mighty demon, once uprooted the earth from its place and dragging it
to Patala-Loka – nether world, hid it there. Gods, saints, Brahmins
and all prayed Vishnu for freeing the earth from the clutches of
Hiranyaksha. Thereupon Vishnu incarnated as Boar, descended into deep
waters and after killing Hiranyaksha carried the earth on his tusks
and installed it back in its place. Vishnu had incarnated as Narasimha
for killing the atrocious demon Hiranyakasipu who had from Brahma the
boon that he would not be killed by either of the man or animal. The
boon did not provide immunity against blend of two forms : Narasimha,
who was neither man nor animal.
The statue represents Hanuman as the central figure of the image and
other four faces as his aspects. All five faces are carried over a
human torso suggesting the unity of cosmos which despite the outward
diversities is just one. Having been in multitudinous divine roles and
situations the tradition venerates Hanuman as the representative form
of the entire trans-human or animal world. Emerging just for a
specific objective Varaha, Garuda, Narasimha or Hayagriva, despite
that two of them are Vishnu’s direct incarnations, do not stand on par
with Hanuman. Hence, the represented figure has them as Hanuman’s
iconic components. Corresponding to five faces the image has ten arms
carrying in them various attributes : Purna-ghata, dagger, a medicinal
plant, disc, trident, noose, hand-blow and a bowl. The normal two
hands are held in ‘abhaya’ and ‘varada’.
Though the figure of Hanuman carries a trident, a Shaivite attribute,
as also a ‘Purna-ghata’, a reminiscent of the Mother Goddess cult, his
form has been conceived on strict Vaishnava lines. A towering
Vaishnava crown, a Vaijayanti-like looking garland trailing down to
ankles, his Vishnu’s figures’ like standing posture and many of
Vishnu’s attributes, ‘Chakra’ in particular, all endow to the image
Vaishnava character. The image has been installed in a ‘Prabhavali’
conceived on strict South Indian lines : the lower half being an
architectural unit and the upper, a three-fourth circle comprising
lotus design with an elaborate Kirtti-mukha motif. A pair of fish
forms, considered as much auspicious, flank the Kirtti-mukha motif.
The statue has two female devotees around the Prabhavali’s top and two
ascetics around the Prabhavali’s base.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain
specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of
numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the
curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New
Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of
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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