With his right hand gesticulated in ‘vitarka-mudra’ – interpretive posture, the statue represents the Great Master as delivering sermon to his disciples. He led the ignorant mankind to the path of righteousness for some forty years, though for portraying this aspect of his life these are just two sets of his images that are often used : one, when he delivered his first sermon to his five errant friends at Deer Park in Sarnath, known in the Buddhist tradition as 'dharmachakra-pravartana' – setting the wheel of Law in motion, and the other, representing him as moving from one place to other teaching ignorant ones, an image usually designated as ‘Buddha, the Universal Teacher’. As the Buddhist texts and tradition have it, after he was enlightened and all knowing, he decided to share his knowledge with the world for its weal. He hence proceeded from the place he was doing penance and reached Sarnath where he encountered his five former friends who had deserted him. The divine glow on the Buddha's face led them to prostrate before him. Here at Deer Park Buddha delivered to them his ever first sermon and thus the wheel of Law was set in motion.
Thus, the wood-piece represents the Buddha as teacher. His image enshrines a lotus seat installed on a podium consisting of conventionalised lotus-motifs. An exquisitely incised half ‘vedika’ consisting of four as elegantly carved pillars and a back-wall houses the lotus-seat that the Great Master enshrines. The lotus, the Buddha enshrines, has been beautifully conceived. The glow that enshrines his face is born of the enlightenment, and sublimity and divine calm, of his great spiritual strength. Broad forehead, sharp nose, elegantly delineated lips, though pointed but subdued chin and lotus petal like carved eyes define the aesthetic beauty of his face. An elegantly pleated ‘chadara’ – long sheet of unstitched textile, not only covers his entire figure down to foot-joint, except the right half of the torso, but also lay folded on the figure’s left shoulder and left arm and spread on the pedestal under the Buddha-image.
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 books.
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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