The Art of Wood Carving in Kanchipuram: Beyond the Kanjeevaram Silk Sarees

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

Kanchipuram, a city situated in the southern part of India, is often synonymous with its exquisite silk sarees, revered for their elegance and intricacy. However, there’s another artistic tradition in Kanchipuram that deserves equal admiration and recognition — the traditional wood carving, particularly in making idols and temple chariots.

A Legacy Carved in Wood

Wood carving in Kanchipuram is not just a craft; it’s a legacy passed down through generations. This art form is deeply intertwined with the religious and cultural fabric of the region. The skilled artisans of Kanchipuram, known as ‘sthapathis’, have been the custodians of this tradition for centuries, creating masterpieces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also hold great spiritual significance.

The Divine Craftsmanship

The primary focus of Kanchipuram’s wood carving is on crafting idols of deities and the intricate chariots used in temple processions. These chariots, known as ‘rathas’, are magnificent in their design and construction. Made from a variety of woods like teak, neem, and sandalwood, these chariots are not just vehicles for the deities during religious processions; they are embodiments of sacred art.

The idols, on the other hand, are a testament to the artisans’ profound understanding of religious texts and iconography. Each idol, be it of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, or Goddess Lakshmi, is carved with meticulous attention to detail, adhering to the guidelines laid down in ancient scriptures like the Shilpa Shastras.

The Process Behind the Masterpieces

The process of creating these wooden wonders begins with selecting the right wood, which is then seasoned to ensure durability. The carvers then sketch the intricate designs on the wood, followed by the painstaking process of chiseling and carving. Every stroke of the chisel and every cut of the saw is guided by years of expertise and devotion. The final product is often polished and sometimes painted, bringing to life the mythological stories and spiritual themes.

Challenges and the Future

Despite its rich heritage, the art of wood carving in Kanchipuram faces challenges. With the modernization of art and the advent of quicker, cost-effective methods of production, the traditional wood carving industry is struggling to keep up. Additionally, there’s a need for more patronage and recognition at both national and international levels to keep this ancient art form thriving.

Preserving the Heritage

Efforts are being made to preserve this traditional art form. Government initiatives, along with NGOs, are working towards providing better facilities and platforms for these artisans. Workshops and exhibitions are being organized to increase awareness and appreciation of this craft.

Moreover, there’s an increasing interest in sustainable and traditional crafts in the global market. Kanchipuram’s wood carving, with its deep cultural roots and exquisite craftsmanship, has the potential to capture the imagination of the global audience.


Kanchipuram’s wood carving is an art that goes beyond mere craftsmanship; it’s a spiritual journey carved in wood. While the city’s silk sarees have always been the center of attention, it’s time the world also recognizes the magnificence of its wood carving traditions. This art form is not just a cultural treasure of Kanchipuram but also an invaluable part of India’s rich artistic heritage. As we move forward, it’s essential to not only celebrate but also actively participate in preserving and promoting such traditional arts.

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Introducing Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar - A specialist academically trained in modern Western sciences, yet deeply enamored with India's timeless ethnic arts, crafts, and textiles. Her heart beats for the rich and glorious cultural and spiritual heritage of India, and she has dedicated her entire blog to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide. Through her simple yet impactful blog posts, Mala aims to reach every nook and corner of the globe, sharing India's beauty and wisdom with the world.

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2 replies on “The Art of Wood Carving in Kanchipuram: Beyond the Kanjeevaram Silk Sarees”

Dear Mr. Velu,

Explore Local Craft Markets and Shops. Visit local craft markets and shops in Kanchipuram where artisans sell their work. These places often feature works by local craftsmen and can provide direct contacts.

Word of Mouth: Ask locally, especially in places like temples, cultural centers, and hotels. Residents and other local businesses can often recommend skilled artisans.

These approaches should help you connect with talented wood carving craftsmen in Kanchipuram.

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