“Venugopala”- Krishna as the pala (protector) of Go (cows and cattle) playing sweet melodies on his flute known as “Venu”, is one of the most popular and mesmerizing depictions of the dark-skinned lord in Hinduism. Krishna in this wooden Venugopala murti is divinely adorned by the sculptor and strikes his distinctive “Tribhanga” (triple bent) posture. A heavenly four-armed (Chaturbhuja) aspect of Venugopala, this form of Sri Krishna in art is the conception of Krishna as the Universal cowherd god, who leads the innumerable masses of living beings through the ocean of existence (Bhava Sagara), with the tunes of his Venu acting as the guiding strings to the souls.
Standing elegantly on a rectangular lotus pedestal, Sri Krishna in this wooden statue is covered in ornate ornaments that enhance the grandeur of the composition. Like a creeper filled with life essence, Krishna’s body bends and is beautified by a tasseled Mukuta (crown), earrings, necklaces, armbands, Vaijayanti mala (Krishna’s celestial floral garland), anklets, and an ornate Mekhala (girdle) with its jeweled chains forming a short, gemmed dhoti (lower body garment) for this wooden fluting Krishna murti. In his primary hands, Krishna holds a flute while his secondary hands carry the attributes of Sri Vishnu- a chakra (discus) and shankha (conch). Tassels from this heavenly ayudha (weapons) as well as the fringes of this wooden Venugopala’s ornamentation seem to be graciously falling.
The Gau mata or cow behind Sri Krishna is beautifully ornamented and has a U-shaped Vaishnava tilak on her forehead. As a symbol of her affection for her protector, the cow lovingly licks Krishna's curved foot. Witnessing this divine scene, two heavenly maidens near the aureole join palms in a devotional mood. As if meditating on the notes that he plays, Sri Krishna is the picture of divine transcendence. Placed in your space, in front of the ritual lamp, this wooden Krishna is capable of casting the most gripping shadow on the wall and on a devoted heart.
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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