Memoir of Nepali Sculpture

Statue in Nepal

History says that the memoir of Himalayan art, the Nepali sculpture, has carried a historical tradition in the making. Starting from the Kirat dynasty, it continued carryforward by Lichhavi, Malla, etc. Nepalese sculpture is most recognized for miniature bronze or copper alloy religious figures and ceremonial items, but it also has other virtues. The Newar people of Nepal have a long history of making small bronze statues, generally religious and mainly Buddhist.

Despite deriving from Indian sculptural traditions and Buddhist and Hindu religious symbolism, Nepalese sculpture developed its distinct style, with a preference for ornamental flourishes, exaggerated bodily postures, and extended portrayals of facial characteristics. Sculpture is the art of sculpting solid materials such as glassware, metals, stones, clay, wood, and wax into various forms and motifs. Sculptures, like paintings, are linked to our culture and religion. In Nepal, constructing sculptures of gods and goddesses out of metals or stones is a tradition. 

The Newars, one of Nepal's ethnic groupings, were the pioneers of Nepalese sculpture. Sculpting a metal statue is a time-consuming process requiring a high talent level. A vast metal sculpture can take up to more than two months to complete and involves the participation of multiple individuals. It might be exhausting to do the task by hand. The expertise was passed down from generation to generation. 

Nepali artisans have honed their skills by manufacturing handicrafts for decades for Tibetan monasteries. A handful of the finest artisans perfected the best sculpting techniques throughout time and kept their expertise a closely guarded secret. The artist of Kathmandu valley has not only crafted statues of deities but also of the Buddhist ritual items. 

Hand Crafting Nepali Artist

Mainly, two-family castes artists have traditionally dominated Nepali sculpture. The descendants of the two family castes still live in Lalitpur Metropolitan City, located in the southeast corner of the Kathmandu Valley. Following is the list of the two Newari families.

  1. Tamrakar Family Artist
  2. Shakya Family Artistbuddha-statue-crafting-in-nepalSource: Global Press Journal

Tamrakar Family Artist

Tamrakar is a Sanskrit word that may be divided into two components. Tamra denotes copper, while aakar denotes shaping or forming. As a result, the Tamrakar is a Nepalese caste of coppersmiths and other metal casters. They are one of the three family castes in the Kathmandu Valley and are members of the Newar community. The Nepalese Tamrakar caste uses bronze and brass as their primary foundation materials for sculpting. In addition, the Tamrakars are known for hand-crafting their metal sculpture, which takes a long time.

Shakya Family Artist

Shakya comes from the Sanskrit word Shakya, which means "capable." Moreover, the Shakya caste may be followed back to the Vedic era, which predates the birth of the Gautama Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal. Metal sculptures are made by Shakya artists using lost wax casting and repousse techniques. Each of their sculptures and ceremonial objects is handmade and hence one-of-a-kind. Hand-sculpting metal artwork is a complex and time-consuming technique that demands a lot of talent. A single sculpture requires the collaboration of several craftspeople, and the process might take more than 3-4 months for the most delicate creations. The unique beauty of this old skill is that each sculpture has its personality and vibe.

Nepali Buddha Statue

Statues have always been significant in our lives. We may follow various religious paths, but we share the same ethical ideals that push us to live correctly. Nepal is one of the few places where religious beliefs are never fought over. Creating statues has been going on in Nepal for a long time. The Malla dynasty is considered the most significant era of sculpture in Nepal. During this time, Ganesha, Lakshmi, and Shakyamuni Buddha statues were made. Shakya's family has always aided in creating the most acceptable figures over time. They have dedicated themselves to producing high-quality Buddhist and Hindu sculptures across Asia.

Gold Plated Statue Collection

The Kathmandu Valley's artist community is well-known for its metalsmithing talent and craftsmanship. Making traditional Himalayan Buddhist sculptures is a collaborative process that takes a long time and requires a high skill level. The appeal of Nepalese sculptures derives from the fact that Kathmandu Valley artists handcraft them with complete commitment and love. Artists must put forth a lot of effort to give sculptures meaning so that practitioners properly worship the deities. Making statues is a culture in Nepal, and the craft is passed down from generation to generation. The Buddha statue is well-known throughout the world. The Buddha's hand may be seen in various mudras (hand gestures) on the statue. Each posture represents a distinct aspect of the Buddha's character.

Buddhist Ritual Items

After the Buddhist deity statues, Buddhist ritual items is widely sculpted statues in Kathmandu valley by the Nepali artists. Dedication is a motivating thought for many Buddhists who want to be free of suffering. And in Buddhist practice, the presentation of this religious belief is a highly significant Tibetan ceremony. Buddhists perform rituals at home or places of worship as part of their daily practice. The diverse roles and symbolism of the ceremonial items used in ceremonies assist in identifying Tibetan Buddhism across the world. Artists and artisans who create ritual objects see their work as a method of accumulating qualities for the next world.  

Evolution of Statue in Nepal

Nepalese ancient architecture, as well as Nepalese artwork and sculpture, is regarded as extraordinary. Nepal has distinct forms of ancient architecture that date back to more than 2000 years. In terms of craftsmanship and chiseling skills, the ancient building is breathtaking. Most of the antique and old crafts represent Hindu gods and goddesses. The introduction of Buddhist statues and representation of Buddhist deities emerged 5th century onwards. Patan is one of the historically rich cities of Nepal. The two notable legendary craftsmen of Nepalese history, Araniko and Kuber Singh, were born in Patan. They have uplifted the Nepalese arts and architects in a foreign land. There were many rulers in Nepal. The Kirat reign is noteworthy for being the longest, spanning the prehistoric through historical periods. 

Kirat Dynasty

The Kirat dynasty ruled Nepal from 900BC to 300AD. During this time frame, there was a total of 29 kings. Nepal flourished to a great extent. There was considerable progress in art, trade, architecture, and commerce. More individuals were involved in business than agriculture since commerce was more financially beneficial. This factor influenced the migration of individuals of many racial origins to Nepal, each with its customs and cultures.

kirat dynasty Birupkshya-Statue

The sculptures of Birupkshya that are present at Aaryaghat of Pashupatinath temple and Yakshya were sculpted during the Kirat period. Those are one of the oldest sculptures of Nepal. Buddhism is said to prosper under the Kirat dynasty. During the reign of King Jitedasti, Shakyamuni Buddha visited Kathmandu valley with his disciples. Numerous temples, stupas, and pagodas were built. The majority of them are modeled on Buddhist art.  

Licchavi Dynasty

The Licchavi started their reign after defeating the Kiratis during the rule of King Gasti. 'The art of the Licchavi period represents the start of documented Nepalese history and has understandably received much attention from art historians and Nepalese art enthusiasts. The works of this period are notable not only because they mark the beginning of excellent Nepalese art on par with contemporary Indian works in stone and metal sculpture but also because the masterpieces of this period have influenced Nepalese art throughout its history.Lichchavi Dynasty Statue

It is believed that the sculptures made in this regime were much more notable. The art of Baman Trivikram is considered one of the oldest dated art in Nepal. It was sculpted during the reign of King Mandev. The other historical pieces like Vishnuvikranta in Lazimpat and Pashupatinath, statues around Palanchowk Bhagwati, and idol of Lord Visnu in Budhanilkantha, and statues inside Changu Narayan temple are some of the most highly praised artworks of Licchavi administration.

Malla Dynasty

The reign of the Malla dynasty began with Ari Malla during the 12th century. The sculpting tradition was notable during the Lichchavi period. But it reached its peak during the regime of Malla rulers. The rule of the Malla dynasty is often referred to as 'the golden period of mutrikala.' This era was more aligned with metal, stone, and wooden statues. The Lichchavi period had simple and elegant designs in sculpting. But the Malla era crafted more complex and vibrant sculptures.Malla Dynasty Statue

The Ugrachandi (having 19 hands) is the prime example. The artwork is still preserved and highly regarded in the Nepalese community. The statues of Ganesh, Lord Shiva, Surya, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Saraswati, and Buddha are some of the highly praised artworks in Kathmandu valley. The Suryanath of Banepa, Mahishasur Mardini of pharping, Narsimha of Hanumandhoka, Lord Bhairav of Kritipur, Garuda of Mahankal, and Lord Vishnu in Bhaktapur, Statue of King Yoga Narendra Malla in Lalitpur, Royal Palace and Hindu temples in Patan, Bhaktapur Taumahi Square, Temple of Nyayapola, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, and Old Royal Palace are some unique sculptures, temples and artwork of Malla era.

Araniko, one of Nepal's most famous, skillful architects and painters, was present during the Malla period. He was sent to China alongside 80 other Nepalese artists to Lhasa to make statues by Jaya Bhimdev Malla at the request of Chinese emperor Kublai khan. In Lhasa, they constructed many pagoda-style monasteries. The Chinese were delighted with Araniko's efforts. In China, he built several temples and stupas. Emperor Kublai Khan of China selected him as the controller of imperial architectural studies after being impressed by his artistry. This is one of the prime examples of craftsmanship during the Malla era.

Trade of Nepali Statue

From ancient times Nepal has been proclaimed as a center of trade. Indian traders were routinely making their way to the Kathmandu Valley, which sits across one of the critical passageways linking India with Tibet and the historic east-west trade routes around the 5th or 6th century B.C.E., Nepal became a crossroads for pilgrims traveling from China and Central Asia to India's big monastic institutions. 

Due to its location, the Kathmandu Valley was most likely a key element in its economic and, eventually, cultural growth. The snow stopped the mountain routes going north to Tibet in the winter, while malaria kept caravans away from the forest pathways of southern Nepal in the summer. Traders found it more convenient to cross one or the other as quickly as possible, then rest in Kathmandu until a more favorable season arrived before continuing their voyage. As a result, Kathmandu became an important cultural crossroads.

Trading was done immensely during the Kirat, Lichchavi, and Malla dynasties. Historically, Tibetan monasteries and practicing Buddhists have been the primary consumers of Nepali artists. The demand for traditional sculptures is still going on in the present context. People still look for authentic statues molded using the traditional lost wax method. This causes the difference in buddha statues price in Nepal as well.

Leave a comment