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Temple wood carvings of Thammampatti in Tamilnadu

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ॐ श्री गुरुभ्यो नमः ॐ श्री शिवानन्दाय नमः ॐ श्री चिदानन्दाय नमः ॐ श्री दुर्गायै नमः 

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Hindu God Ganesha : Thammampatti Wood Carving

After seven long years, Thammampatti wood carvings of Salem to get GI tag – An article published in NewIndianexpress in July 2020 :

The Thammampatti wood carvings of Salem carried out by a group of artisans of the region was granted the Geographical Indications (GI) tag sometime back.

After a relentless effort of seven years, the GI Registry granted the coveted status to the two applicants ‘Silpa Gramam Thammampatti Wood Carver’s Artisans Welfare Association’ and ‘The Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation (Poompuhar)’.

Thammampatti wood carvings-Durairaj wooden carvings - Home | Facebook

Since there was no objection received for the application, the certificate was issued once the lockdown due to the global pandemic was lifted .

The wide range of wooden products that are being made in Thammampatti include idols of Hindu gods, wood carvings based on Hindu mythological stories, Dashavataras, Vahanaas, mythological creatures, door designs, door panels, temple doors and Pooja Mandapams.

Thammampatti located in Gangavalli Taluk of Salem District between Pachaimalai and Kolli hills in Tamil Nadu is known also for its varieties of local woods.

The climate of the place allows for the growth of Raintree and the Vaagai tree with a fine texture which are primarily used for making these wood carvings.

The ‘Oddar’ community has been in this business of wood carving art that has been handed down the generations.

The forefathers of the artisans in Thammampatti have settled in this region as early as 1942. They have been practising the art of making wood carvings for over 75 years in Thammampatti.

Presently, Thammampatti artists are working on their traditional style and as per the needs and choice of the customers. These artefacts are mostly being exported abroad for household decorations.

The entire process of wood carving is environment friendly with minimum exposure to chemicals. Seasoning of wood is done naturally by exposing the wood to different climatic conditions. It’s not developed under regulated artificial conditions.

Thammampatti wood carving was the 36th product from Tamil Nadu that was granted the GI status.

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Works of wooden wonder – An article by Vaishali Vijaykumar published in January 2022 in https://www.indulgexpress.com/ :

A 36-inch idol of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati on his lap remains seated on Nandi. The entire figurine is supported on a lotus base.

From the Abhaya (fearless) Mudra on Shiva’s hand to Parvati’s anklets, every element, carved out of raintree wood with a wax finish, is chiselled to perfection with precision.

Courtesy : craftsman Sengottuvel. Coming from multi-generational families of woodcarvers in Thammampatti, this is no big feat for Sengottuvel and his ilk, who’ve been sculpting such masterpieces every day. 

Basking in the glory of the GI tag, wood carvers of Thammampatti open up about the responsibility that comes with this recognition.

Carving a livelihood :

Their years of hard work to put their signature art-form on the global map was recognised in 2021 when the wood-carved idols got the honour of being the 36th product from Tamil Nadu to be granted the Geographical Indication tag.

Located in Gangavalli Taluk of Salem district, the village houses 120 families following this profession.

Neither the ups and downs over the years nor the pandemic has put a pause on the demand, says Sengottuvel, the president of ‘Silpa Gramam Thammampatti Wood Carver’s Artisans Welfare Association’ and the owner of Sengottuvel Wood Carvings.

“We’ve been witnessing a steady flow of orders through word-of-mouth. One significant change during the lockdown has been our presence on social media to market our sculptures widely.

Currently, we also ship to the US, the UK, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia and France. The idols are priced anywhere from Rs 250 to a lakh. We’ve also been adapting to contemporary designs,” he says.

Thammampatti wood carving encompasses a wide variety of motifs, designs that are derived from the architectural details of Tamilnadu temples.

The main product range includes idols of Hindu gods, Hindu mythological events or stories, Dasavatharam, Vahanaas, mythological creatures, door panels, temple doors, Puja Mandapam, temple chariots etc.

The size varies from two to six feet in height and of proportionate width with an antique finish.

The wood varieties commonly used are Thoongavagai (raintree), Vaagai  (Albizia Lebbeck), Mavilangai (CrataeveRoxburch), Atti (Ficusracemosa) and Indian Kino (Pterocarpus Marsupium).

Work is worship :

The wood carving practised by these craftsmen is specific to the rules and measurements of ancient Indian iconography known as Shilpashastra.

There are three main stages involved – the preliminary cut, called Jadippu; the second phase is sculpting and the third phase is when the whole idol is chafed to a smooth finish. The face is reserved as the last step.

Notes C Srinivasan, founder, C Srinivasan Wood Carvings,

“Sculptures, earlier considered objects of worship, have turned into utility items. I frequently ship statues to Mumbai and Hyderabad. If we don’t stay updated and cater to the needs and preferences of the customers then we don’t have a market.

The Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation is doing its best to provide marketing assistance, upgrading the skills of artisans by imparting appropriate training, encouraging innovation in design, and providing socio-economic security for the craftsmen. But there’s still room for improvement,”

Subject to the magnitude of the project, six or seven artisans work on a piece for a labour charge of Rs 500 to Rs 600 a day. 

While the profession seems to be thriving till date, the future remains uncertain, rue craftsmen.

“Despite having a degree, we opted to pursue this art-form out of interest. We cannot expect the same with our children who could earn more from corporate jobs.

Having said that, my kids are helping me with marketing, branding, and export. But I do not know if they will be interested in learning the art.

We have projects round the year. With support from the government, we are blessed to be provided with opportunities to showcase our skills and work within the country and overseas.

And the respect that comes with the profession is perhaps the biggest motivator that keeps us going,” beams Sengottuvel. 

Turning the spotlight on the talents of Thammampatti village, Chennai-based Big Short Films released a five-minute documentary in April. With over 69,000 views, the film put the local craft on a pedestal among global audiences.

Vivi Raaj, the director, shares, “Visual media has power to take such promising stories outside. During our shoot, we were exposed to the ground reality of the craftsmen, their living conditions, and their challenges.

But, we need to learn how to balance art and commerce from these craftsmen, and how they sustain in the modern world. Their journey could be a fine example to other artisans.”

At a time when native art and artisans are struggling, this film could offer hope.

Awards and accolades

In this village of 120 families, there’s a total of 40 awardees; with one Presidential Award, three Living Treasures Awards, eight state awards, and 25 district awards.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

Pictures of Temple Wood-Carvings of Tamilnadu.

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Thammampatti Wood Carving

The southern part of India has been known for centuries for exquisite wood-carving culture, and the artisans here even today carve various religious and cultural figures on wood.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

Rainforests in the region provide abundant supply of wood for carving purpose. Poompuhar an ancient port town in Tamil region, is famous for its rich cultural-heritage, primarily for its wood carved sculptures

Thammampatti Wood Carving

Art of Wood-Carving        

Sculpting is perhaps one of the oldest techniques of creating artifacts. Throughout human history sculptures have been created using several methods; Wood-Carving being the most prominent among them.

Thammampatti Wood Carving
Thammampatti Wood Carving

Although the metal-carving scores high on the scale for longevity, but wood-carving has been practiced since prehistoric times.

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Thammampatti Wood Carving
Thammampatti Wood Carving

Ancient civilizations of Egypt and Indus Valley made extensive use of Wood-Carving. European settlements in the middle ages have produced scintillating pieces of art carved on wood.

Thammampatti Wood Carving
Thammampatti Wood Carving

Advent of Christianity during early centuries of Common Era experienced a little growth. But Wood-Carving culture reached its pinnacle in 12th century AD, when it flourished in the entire continental Europe and Eurasian lands defining the cultures of the regions.  

Thammampatti Wood Carving
Thammampatti Wood Carving

Thammampatti Wood Carving

The presence of innumerable wood carved pieces in the temples and historic sites, is the perfect proof to the practise & evolution of wood carving, since ancient times.

Thammampatti Wood Carving
Thammampatti Wood Carving

Another major factor which has influenced the emergence of Wood-Carving, is the geographical availability of appropriate wood to be carved.  

Thammampatti Wood Carving
Thammampatti Wood Carving

Thammampatti wood carvings which is a Signature Artwork of Artisans in Salem Region, becomes Tamil Nadu’s 36th Geographical Indication (GI) product. It has been thriving in Salem area for more than 75 years.

Thammampatti Shri UgraKathali Lakshmi Narashimha Swamy’s temple Car was made by the craftsmen of Thammampatti in 1948.

Thammampatti wood carvings refers to various types of wood carvings, practiced by one of the highly skilled community of craftsmen on wood which is locally available in & around Thammampatti.

Samaneasaman (rain tree wood), country wood, Vaagai (AlbizziaLebbek), Mavilangai (Crataeve Roxbyrch), and Atti (FicusGlometrea) are predominantly used by the sculptors of the region.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

The artisans are skilled in this particular craft and this art is traditionally and hereditarily transferred from their forefathers.

Thammampatti wood carvings that are predominantly made by the people of the region, encompass a wide variety of motifs that are traditionally followed by their forefathers, and the skill of intricate technical knowledge is passed down to this present generations of wood carvers by legacy.

Thammampatti wood carving encompasses a wide variety of motifs, designs that are derived from architectural details of temples.

The main product range includes idols of Hindu gods, mythological events or stories, Dasavataras, Vahanas of various sizes, mythological creatures, door panels, temple doors, Puja Mandapam, temple cars etc.

The size of the friezes or tablets vary from 2 ft. to 6 feet in length and of proportionate width with an antique finish.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

The wood used to make such products includes Thoongavagai (Samaneasaman/ rain tree), Vaagai (Albizzia Lebbek), Mavilangai (Crataeve Roxburch), Atti (Ficusracemosa), Pterocarpusmarsupium (Indian Kino).

The rain tree wood found in agricultural lands tends to be in golden to dark brown color. It is durable and has medium to fine texture.

The Vaagaitree is moisture tender, it has a good natural lustre with a fine texture. The Mavilangaitree is a wild or cultivated tree which is wide spread in Thammampatti region and occurs on glades and near rivers and lakes.

The Atti tree is a large deciduous tree, grows to a height of 7-10 metres. It has smooth white bark which is best suited for ornamental purpose. Even Teak & rosewood is used in making door or doorpanels.



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Thammampatti Wood Carving

The wood carving craft practiced by these craftsmen is specific to the rules and measurements of iconography defined in ‘Shilpashastra’.

Thammampatti wood carvers are experts in working out geometric proportions and scale of detailing required for carvings especially the temple chariots.

The wood carving craft practiced by these craftsmen is characteristic to the rules and measurements of iconography described in ‘Shilpashastra’.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

The process of wood carving is environment friendly with minimum exposure to chemicals. Seasoning of wood is done naturally by exposing it to different climatic conditions. The process is natural and is not developed under regulated conditions.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

The wood carvings of Thammampatti are not only beautiful and unique but also have a subtle human touch passed down the generations.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

Thammampatti is located in Gangavalli Taluk of Salem District between Pachaimalai and Kollihills in Tamil Nadu. It is situated on the banks of Swedha river. It is 63.4 kms from the the city of Salem in Tamilnadu.

Thammampatti Wood Carving

More information on Temple Wood Carvings of TamilNadu, with web-links to the sources of the following images of wooden statues, will follow soon. Stay tuned, & please don’t miss the fun of exploring these craft-forms of India.

Want to buy some of these beautifully carved temple wood carvings sculptures of Tamilnadu for your living room space or Pooja room shelf? Here are some statues posted underneath for your convenient purchase :

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Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Though academically trained in modern Western Sciences, Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar is a crazy maniac of India's ageless, timeless ethnic arts, crafts & textiles. The rich & glorious cultural & spiritual heritage of India is a subject extremely dear to her heart, and the whole of this Blog has been dedicated to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide, to every nook & corner of the globe, through these simple Blog-posts. Any constructive criticisms & suggestions in this regard for improvement of the Blog 'MOST WELCOME'. Also, High-Quality Guest Blog-posts 'MOST WELCOME". LinkedIn Profile : https://in.linkedin.com/in/mala-chandrashekhar-04095917a