Information on the Hindu Deities
Mango-Wood Carvings: All the mango wood carvings are the creation of one family of three fabulous master artist brothers and their uncle. This family lives in a very small village consisting of about 25 families. The only mode of transportation to their village is a bullock cart. These skills have been handed down to them by their forefathers. They use very few and simple tools.
Brass / Bronze Icons (Lost Wax Process):The artists continue an age-old tradition passed down for more than 3000 years. The process starts with the artist creating the figure out of wax. This wax figure is coated with successive coats of clay slurry until a thick clay shell surrounds the wax figure. The clay shell is then fired and the wax melts out, leaving a hollow impression inside the shell. The brass / bronze is now poured into the hollow shell. Once cooled, the clay mold is broken, exposing the rough casting. Naturally, each piece is one of a kind. At this stage the artist meticulously hand-tools all details of the piece, using only a chisel and hammer. The entire process can take many months to complete.
This sets apart these pieces, from the mass produced manufactured castings (frequently imported), that contains no handwork and thousands of identical pieces are produced from one mold. Usually, finer details of workmanship, necessary to be considered a piece of art, are missing. We import mostly lost wax icons. We feel there is a need to support the artist to preserve their age-old tradition from becoming traditions lost due to competition from manufactured copies.
Sandalwood Carvings: The Govt. Of India, to declare its ownership, tags all sandalwood trees. (Even trees on private property.) No one is allowed to own or cut down a sandalwood tree in India. It is considered a national treasure and each tree is carefully documented. Nearly extinct in the rest of the world India is a major source. This slow growing hardwood tree is not cut down unless it is a minimum of 100 years old. Because of the poaching of these trees very little wood is avaialble for carving any more.. Sculptures carved from the aromatic core of the tree, retain their scent for the lifetime of the piece. Sandalwood - among the most valuable woods in the world sells for huderderd of thousands of dollars per ton for logs. Sandalwood is very dense and close grained. It is excellent for the tiniest detail and polishes nicely without any varnish. Some extraordinary pieces in our showroom have taken a year or more to come to achieve its final form.
Common symbols and their meanings
Most all figures have a base of a lotus. This symbolizes the relationship between Bramha (the creator) and the subject.
The monster-demon-like face at the top of many carvings is called 'Kirti-mukh'. It is warning of danger to the impious and a guarantee of protection to the devotee.
Basically, the vehicle of each god denotes the sphere of the god's influence, the element or realm his power prevails.
Horizontal or half moon shaped lines on the forehead of a male figure symbolize that the figure is Shiva or his manifestation or his follower.
U shaped lines on the forehead of the male figure symbolizes that the figure is Vishnu or his manifestation or his follower.
Description of Figures (Alphabetically)
He is the creator. He is married to Goddess Saraswati. His vehicle is the swan.
Mahishasura-mardini - Unconquerable Goddess (Durga), killing (mardini) the demon (asura), buffalo(mahisha) - rescuing the universe from the tyranny. A powerful demon had acquired invincible strength, through terrific austerities. Assuming the shape of a gigantic buffalo - in keeping with his strength - he expelled the gods from their spheres of power and regaled himself in reckless, selfish, tyranny over the universe. Whereupon all the gods (wind-god Vayu, fire-god Agni, sun-god Surya, etc.), finding themselves unable to conquer him, went with Bramha in the lead to Vishnu and Shiva. Complaining of the triumphant demon, they asked for assistance of these two high Gods. Vishnu, Shiva and all other deities breathed out fiery energies of their wrath. Each exhaled the particular force of his particular nature. These vehement fires, from all the mouths, combined into a single cloud of flame, which grew, condensed and eventually took form, assuming the shape of the Goddess - with eighteen arms - Durga. Energies of various divinities formed various parts of her body. ( e.g. Energy of Shiva: her face, energy of Vishnu: her arms, etc.) Similarly, various deities gave her their own weapons. (Trident, discus, conch, sphere, bow and quiver with arrows, thunderbolt, bell, a rod of fate, noose, a necklace of beads, earthen water pot, rays of sun, sword and spotless shield, a necklace of pearl and undecaying garments, various ornaments, axe, weapons of many shapes and unpierceable armour, a garland of unfading lotus flowers, a lion for vehicle, cup full of wine, a serpent necklace). Thus, the particularized and unlimited, powers and attitudes of the various divinities became integrated in Durga.
(God of the masses) This elephant headed God is the son of Shiva and Parvati. His vehicle is the rat. He is also known as the Vighneshwara (Lord of removing obstacles). He removes any large or small barriers from the path of a devotee. His irresistible force, progressing toward and attaining goals, goes ahead like an elephant through the jungle, or like a rat into the most carefully protected areas. Ganesh is invoked in India at the beginning of every sort of enterprise and at the openings of manuscripts for the safe progress and promotion of whatever teachings they may contain.
In various carvings he is shown with a cobra, a conch, a mace depicting his father Shiva, a rosary, a trident and water pale characteristics of a yogi. He is also shown holding a sweet rice dumpling preparation - modak, his favourite. He is known to consume 21 modaks in one sitting. A task that mortals try to achieve. An elephant is a symbol of prosperity abundance, strength and intelligence.
He is the son of the God of the wind (Vayu). He helped Rama rescue Sita from Ravana - the ten headed demon. He is the monkey God with extraordinary strength. He is a fervent devotee of Rama. He was never married and is noted for his power of abstinence.
Hindu-Trinity:(Bramha, Vishnu and Shiva) Bramha is known as a creator, Vishnu as a preserver and supporter of the universe and Shiva as its destroyer. Yet each may appear in any or all of the roles, since in substance these three supreme personalities are identical.
He is seated on his vehicle elephant - Aairawat.
KalpaVriksha: (Wishing tree) The heavenly tree that fulfills any desire, instantaneously granting, through its fruit every wish.
He is an incarnation of Vishnu. Vasudev and Devaki are his parents. He was born in Mathura and spent many years in Vrindavan as a boy among the cowherds and milkmaids. When he grew up, he killed the demon-tyrant Kamsa, which was the task for which he had descended into the world. His chief wife is Rukhmini and chief mistress Radha: Krishna frequently plays a flute which is very pleasing and delightful for everyone around him, the cows gave more milk, his friends went into a trance, and the young milkmaids gathered and danced around him.
rishna-Kaliya:Though still a child, dwelling with the cowherds on the bank of the Yamuna, Krishna to protect his friends, dove into the water and conquered the poisonous serpent simply by dancing on his head.
Krishna and Arjun:
(from the epic of Mahabharat) On the battlefield at the opening of the battle Krishna tells the doctrine of the 'Bhagawad Gita'.
A queen - consort of Vishnu, mother of all creatures, goddess earth, goddess Lotus, bestower of fertility (to humans, soil, cows and horses), riches, prosperity, fame, success, and all earthly fulfillments. She generally sits on a fully opened lotus, and carries a lotus in each of her upper hands. Two elephants on her sides are her guardians and she is delighted at their trumpeting.
Vishnu's incarnation as the Man-lion. The pious son of King Hiranyakashyapu praised Lord Vishnu, as Sustainer of the world, present within all things. Whereupon the king kicked one of the pillars of his palace and challenged the god to emerge from it, if this were true. Vishnu in the form of half-man and half-lion appeared and seized the king, and tore him apart.
Rama and Sita: (from the epic Ramayana). He is an incarnation of Vishnu. Sita married Rama when he fulfilled the challenge of bending and breaking Shiva's very heavy and enormous size bow in two pieces with his arms. Rama is frequently accompanied by Maruti. (Also known as Hanuman- the monkey God).
She is the goddess of learning, music and fluent speech. This goddess generally carries a Vina (a musical instrument). Her vehicle is a peacock.
His vehicle is the while bull - Nandi. His consort is Devi - Parvati. They have two sons. Ganesh (God with Elephant head) is one of them. Shiva is the god of destruction - of all evil.
Once when Bramha was very arrogant, Shiva cut Bramha's fifth head. Consequently, in order to expiate the sin, Shiva had to wander about the worlds carrying the skull of Brahma (which had stuck to his hand) for twelve years, begging his food in it.
Shiva with his two lower hands represents a divine teacher of music (sangita), holy scriptures (shastra), divine wisdom (dnyana), yoga. However, the uplifted hand exhibiting the deer, shows that he is also the lord of the wilderness, the divine huntsman (Pashupati). And the two roles are linked - for both are roles of destruction. This is because arts, yoga, wisdom and the scriptures lift the heart to union with the transcendent principle and so break the bonds that bind the world.
(king of dancers) - the cosmic dancer. He is here the embodiment and manifestation of the eternal energy in five activities (pancha - kriya)
1. Creation, pouring forth, unfolding (srushti)
2. Maintenance or duration (sthiti)
3. Destruction or taking back (samhara)
4. Concealing, veiling, hiding the transcendental essence behind the garb of appearance (tirobhava)
5. Favouring, bestowing grace through a manifestation that accepts the devotee (anugraha)
The god is dancing on the dwarfish body of the demon Apasmara purusha representing ignorance, the destruction of which brings enlightenment, true wisdom and release from the bondage of existences.
Shiva's upper right hand carries a small drum, shaped like an hourglass; for sound was the first element to evolve in the unfolding of the universe.
The upper left hand, in half moon gesture (ardhachandra mudra), bears a tongue of flame; the element of the final destruction of the universe.
Thus, the two upper hands symbolize the balance of creation and destruction.
The lower right hand in the fear-not gesture (abhaya mudra), bestows protection.
The lower left hand, in the outstretched elephant trunk posture (gaja-hasta), points to the lifted foot as the refuge of salvation of the devotee.
The right foot planted on the back of the demon Apasmara-purusha symbolizes destruction of ignorance.
The lifted left foot symbolizes the release of ignorant. It therefore is worshiped, in order to gain union with the god and therewith enlightenment.
Thus, the two feet denote the continuous circulation of consciousness into and out of the condition of ignorance.The ring of fire (prabha mandala) surrounding the figure symbolizes the dance of nature (prakruti), which is the life force of the universe and its creatures, and within which there is taking place eternally the dance of the prime mover, the Lord God.
Shiva Maheshwara: Shiva in his manifestation of the Great Lord) Three headed Shiva. The left head is male (aspect of anger and force of destruction) and the right head is female (world mothering principle). The centre head is of the world-supporting, transcendent, undifferentiated essence.
Another form of Parvati ( Shiva's wife.)- mother Goddess. Many a times she is shown carrying the bilva fruit in her hand.
Hand facing downwards. (Granting gifts)
Vishnu's incarnation as the Cosmic Board, rescues the goddess Earth. According to the legend, when man and woman were created, they asked Bramha (Creator of the universe) as to where they could live, because the earth was submerged at that time in the Cosmic Ocean. While the Creator was considering their problem, a thumb sized boar (Vishnu - Preserver and Supporter of life) slipped unnoticed from his nostril. The animal expanded in the free air to the size of an elephant, flew across the heaven scuffing aside the clods. While in search of the earth, he killed the Lord of the Demons (Daitya Hiranyakasha). He then returned to the surface of the Cosmic Sea with goddess Earth.
He normally carries a lotus, a war club, a keen edged discus, and the conch which is blown as a trumpet when he goes to war. His vehicle is the sun-bird Garuda, and when recumbent on water rests on the cosmic serpent Ananta.
Vishnu (mainly the Preserver and Supporter of the universe) is recumbent in the coils of the huge endless serpent (Ananta). This serpent dwells in the cosmic abyss and symbolizes waters of life, which feed creation. Ananta, it is said, supports on his expanded hoods the whole weight of both the earth and celestial spheres. Ananta is also known as Shesha (The Remainder), because he remains at the cosmic sea.
CLICK HERE FOR IMAGE GALLERY