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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)’.
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, nestled between the Pachaimalai and Kolli hills in Salem District’s Gangavalli Taluk, Tamil Nadu, is renowned not only for its scenic beauty but also for its diverse local woods. The region’s climate fosters the growth of Raintree and Vaagai trees, known for their fine texture, making them ideal for wood carving.
The art of wood carving in Thammampatti has been the hallmark of the ‘Oddar’ community, a tradition passed down through generations. The roots of this craft in the area trace back to 1942 when the ancestors of today’s artisans settled here, honing their skills for over 75 years.
Currently, Thammampatti’s artisans are preserving their traditional methods while adapting to the tastes and preferences of their customers. Their handcrafted pieces, mainly exported for home decor, showcase a blend of tradition and contemporary design.
The wood carving process in Thammampatti is environmentally friendly, with minimal chemical use. Wood seasoning is performed naturally, leveraging various climatic conditions, rather than relying on artificial methods.
Thammampatti’s wood carving craft was recognized for its unique cultural and artistic value, earning the Geographical Indication (GI) status as the 36th product from Tamil Nadu to receive this distinction.
A 36-inch idol of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati, meticulously carved from raintree wood and finished with wax, sits on Nandi, supported by a lotus base. Every detail, from Shiva’s Abhaya Mudra to Parvati’s anklets, showcases the exceptional craftsmanship of Sengottuvel, a woodcarver from Thammampatti, a village with a rich legacy of wood carving. This skill, passed down through generations, has earned the Thammampatti wood carvers the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2021, marking it as the 36th product from Tamil Nadu to receive this honor.
Thammampatti, located in the Salem district, is home to 120 families dedicated to this craft. Despite challenges like the pandemic, the demand for their work hasn’t waned. Sengottuvel, leading the ‘Silpa Gramam Thammampatti Wood Carver’s Artisans Welfare Association’, mentions the importance of social media in expanding their market globally, with shipments to various countries and products ranging from Rs 250 to Rs 1 lakh.
The carvings, varying in size and design, are inspired by Tamil Nadu’s temple architecture. They include depictions of Hindu gods, mythological events, and other traditional motifs, using various types of wood. Adhering to ancient Indian iconography standards, the process involves several stages, culminating in finely finished sculptures.
However, as C Srinivasan of C Srinivasan Wood Carvings points out, there’s a shift in perception of these sculptures from objects of worship to utility items, necessitating adaptation to current market trends. The Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation aids in marketing, skill enhancement, and socio-economic support for these artisans.
Despite the craft’s current success, its future remains uncertain. Craftsmen, even with degrees, chose this profession out of passion, but they are unsure if the next generation will continue the tradition. With government support, they get opportunities to display their skills both domestically and internationally, gaining respect and motivation.
Highlighting this talent, a documentary by Big Short Films in Chennai has garnered global attention, emphasizing the importance of balancing art and commerce. Vivi Raaj, the director, speaks of the craftsmen’s challenges and their inspiring journey.
The village boasts 40 awardees, including one Presidential Award, three Living Treasures Awards, eight state awards, and 25 district awards, testifying to the exceptional skill and dedication of these artisans.
Pictures of Temple Wood-Carvings of Tamilnadu.
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.
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.
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.
Although the metal-carving scores high on the scale for longevity, but wood-carving has been practiced since prehistoric times.
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.
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.
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.
Another major factor which has influenced the emergence of Wood-Carving, is the geographical availability of appropriate wood to be carved.
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.
In 1948, the craftsmen of Thammampatti meticulously crafted the temple chariot for the Shri UgraKathali Lakshmi Narashimha Swamy temple, showcasing their renowned wood carving skills.
Thammampatti’s wood carving tradition involves a highly skilled community of craftsmen who specialize in working with various types of locally sourced wood. These craftsmen skillfully shape and design wood from the surrounding areas of Thammampatti.
The types of wood primarily used by these artisans include Samanea saman (rain tree wood), local country wood, Vaagai (Albizzia Lebbek), Mavilangai (Crataeva Roxburghii), and Atti (Ficus Glomerata). Each type of wood offers unique characteristics, allowing the sculptors to create a diverse range of intricate designs and pieces.
The Thammampatti wood carving tradition, primarily practiced by the local artisans, is a craft passed down through generations, inherited from their ancestors. This art form showcases a plethora of motifs and designs, many of which are inspired by architectural elements found in temples.
These artisans create an array of products, including figurines of Hindu deities, depictions of mythological tales and events, the ten incarnations of Vishnu (Dasavataras), vehicles (Vahanas) of various sizes used by the gods, mythical creatures, and intricately carved door panels and temple doors. They also craft Puja Mandapams and temple chariots.
The size of these works, whether they be friezes or tablets, ranges from 2 to 6 feet in length, each proportionately wide and finished to resemble antiques. This legacy of craftsmanship not only preserves the rich cultural heritage but also demonstrates the intricate technical expertise passed down within these communities.
The materials for these intricate woodworks include a variety of woods such as Thoongavagai (Samanea saman or rain tree), Vaagai (Albizia lebbeck), Mavilangai (Crataeva roxburghii), Atti (Ficus racemosa), and Pterocarpus marsupium (Indian Kino).
Thoongavagai, commonly found on agricultural lands, boasts a range of hues from golden to dark brown. This wood is not only durable but also has a medium to fine grain, making it ideal for crafting.
Vaagai wood, known for its susceptibility to moisture, is distinguished by its natural sheen and fine texture. Mavilangai trees, both wild and cultivated, are prevalent in the Thammampatti area, typically growing in open spaces and near bodies of water.
Atti trees, large and deciduous, can reach heights of 7-10 meters and feature a smooth white bark, making them particularly suitable for decorative uses. Additionally, teak and rosewood are also employed, especially in the creation of doors and door panels.
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These craftsmen excel in wood carving, adhering to the precise rules and measurements of iconography as outlined in ‘Shilpashastra’. The artisans of Thammampatti are particularly skilled in calculating geometric proportions and fine-tuning the scale of details, a proficiency that is especially evident in their work on temple chariots. Their craft is defined by a deep understanding and application of the principles described in ancient India’s ‘Shilpashastra’.
Wood carving is an eco-friendly process, involving minimal use of chemicals. The seasoning of wood occurs naturally, as it is exposed to various weather conditions. This method is entirely organic, not reliant on controlled environments.
The wood carvings from Thammampatti are not just aesthetically pleasing and distinctive, but they also carry a nuanced human touch that has been handed down through generations.
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.
Stay tuned for more details about the Temple Wood Carvings of TamilNadu, including web links to the sources of the featured wooden statues. Don’t miss out on the excitement of discovering these unique Indian craft forms. More information is coming soon!
Looking to enhance your living room or Pooja room with exquisite temple wood carvings from Tamilnadu? Below, you’ll find a selection of these beautifully crafted sculptures available for purchase, making it easy for you to choose the perfect piece for your space.