Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Traditional woodcarving of Nepal

Woodcarving of Nepal, decorative detail
Wood carved decoration of the Kumari house, Basantapur

One of the things that Nepal can really be proud about is its traditional art of woodcarving. You can stumble upon beautiful pieces of wood-carved art literally at any corner of Kathmandu. Struts, pillars and beams of the temples, doors and windows of the common houses and office buildings, photo- and mirror frames, furniture - everything that is wooden is decorated either with finely carved figures or with intricate patterns.
The tradition of woodcarving in Nepal goes back to the 12 century. Since then, the carvers have achieved great skill by passing secrets from generation to generation and acquiring and sharing new techniques. In the Newar community, to which wood carvers mostly belong to, medieval texts are still kept - instructions and rules for wood carving, which are used in practice until now. For example, the masters still do not use any nails or glue to create their works.

Woodcarving of Nepal, peacock window
One of the windows in Basantapur

Woodcarving of Nepal, doors
Wood carved doors, Bhaktapur 

Woodcarving of Nepal, doors
Wood carved doors, Bhaktapur 

The finest examples of medieval wood carving can be seen in Bhaktapur. The most impressive and well-known are the "55 windows" of the former royal palace  and the "peacock" window.
The palace in Basantapur is decorated with elaborately-carved wooden windows and panels and  beautiful and grand wood carving can be seen in the inner courtyard of the Kumari ghar (house).

Woodcarving of Nepal, window
Wood carved window, Bhaktapur

Woodcarving of Nepal, decorative panel
Wood carved decorative panel, Bhaktapur

Woodcarving of Nepal, peacock window
Wood carved peacock window, Bhaktapur

As well as two other ancient capitals of the Kathmandu Valley, Patan can offer excellent examples of wood carving too. Most of them date back to 17-18 century, some are "younger" as many temples damaged during the earthquake of 1934 had to be restored.
The most common themes of Nepal's wood carving are Hindu and Buddhist deities and symbols, scenes of everyday life, animals and erotica. The latter usually decorates the struts that support the bottom tier of a temple. There are several explanation of why they are there. The most popular one is about the goddess of thunder and lightning who is a young virgin who would shy away from such images and never strike any building covered with naughty decorations. But that doesn't explain why erotica is carved on the struts where lightning is unlikely to strike and why there is not a single image on a temple's pinnacle.

Wood carved temple strut in Nepal

Wood carved temple strut depicting a hindu deity in Nepal

Wood carved temple strut depicting a hindu deity in Nepal
Wood carved temple struts' decorations, Patan

Another interesting explanation is about a king who ordered to carve erotic images on the temples' struts to increase the nation's fertility. But that implies that the Nepalese at that time were so sexually letargic that they needed a dose of erotica to arouse them.

Wood carved temple decoration, Nepal
Wood carved erotic scene, Patan

Wood carved scene decorating temple in Nepal
Wood carved erotic scene, Basantapur

Whatever the reason thanks to it numerous wood carved erotic scenes decorate many temples in the Kathmandu valley. They depict people in different positions, from ordinary to acrobatic, couples and trios, solo or with animals. Sometimes one can see a carved scene that is impossible in real life, as for example, elephants in a human's position.
For those who is interested in woodcarving or simply admire this form of art and wish to take a piece home as a souvenir there are many incredibly beautiful examples on sale, from affordable to expensive.

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