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Amidst the Dying Art of Wood Carving, Meet the Wood Carver who keeps it alive in India

P. Sengottuvel owns a degree in chemistry but is still practicing this art because he doesn’t want to see this art dying

  • Woodcarving is influenced by a number of local Indian religions 
  • Woodcarvings are usually found in a few homes in Kerala and temples 
  • P. Sengottuvel from Tamil Nadu has been practicing woodcarving since 30 years 

A lost art

India is a land of diverse culture and traditions. It is known for its rich heritage which comprises of art, literature, scriptures, sculptures and monuments. Woodcarving is one such art is being practiced since years.  Woodcarving is influenced by a number of local Indian religions. It is surprising that every religion of India has its own style of wood art! The wood from available trees is used as raw material to design wood carved sculptures, furniture and statues.

Woodcarving is practiced in India since time immemorial. Many wood carved temples still exist in India. Some of these temples are located in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. The art is reviving with the sandalwood art of Karnataka and teak wood in Kerala. However, this art is dying in modern India. Modern furniture is made from different materials which hardly leave any scope for Indian artisans involved in woodcarving to continue their work.

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The Revival 

But there is one such artisan who has still kept his art alive. P. Sengottuvel has inherited this art from his forefathers. Though he owns a degree in chemistry, he is still practicing this art because he doesn’t want to see this art dying. He lives in a village called Thammampatti, 60km from the city of Salem, Tamil Nadu, said the star2.com report.

P. Sengottuvel has been carving wood since 30 years Image: www.star2.com
P. Sengottuvel has been carving wood since 30 years
Image: www.star2.com

According to Star2.com, initially, he learnt to make wooden jewelry and then moved on to bigger things. His grandfather also makes chariots for temples and was awarded the Living Treasure Award by the government of Tamil Nadu. He also exhibited his work at the Artistic Treasures Exhibition at the Temple of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore. Most of his carvings comprise of Lord Ganesha. His works are very detailed which takes a lot of hard work.

He also takes up orders and the stock is easily sold. He works full day only taking breaks for meals. He wishes his children to follow his legacy just as his father taught him this art when he was a little boy.

Tracings of the Art

The Hidimba Devi Temple also known as the Hadimba Temple in Manali, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Hidimba Devi Temple also known as the Hadimba Temple in Manali, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The traces of ancient wooden carvings are found in temples of Himachal Pradesh. One such temple is Sankat Mochan Temple in Shimla. This wooden temple also has an Ayurvedic clinic. The Hidimba Devi Temple in Manali is popular for its 24m tall wooden tower and is built around a cave in a thick forest.

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Mathi Temple at Chitkul, India Image: www.tourmyindia.com
Mathi Temple at Chitkul, India
Image: www.tourmyindia.com

The Mathi Temple in Chitkul is 500 years old and is made of wood. Maa Shavari Temple is a prominent temple in Manali. Maa Shavari is known to be a manifestation of Goddess Durga.

Traditional Kerala House! Kerala, South India. Image: Pinterest
Traditional Kerala House, Kerala in South India. Image source: Pinterest

Woodcarvings in homes can also be found in some homes in Kerala. In Uttar Pradesh, most of the wood carvings are influenced from the Mughals. Kerala and Karnataka also posses many beautiful wooden deities.

 

-prepared by Shubhi Mangla, an intern at Newsgram. Twitter @shubhi_mangla

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