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Wood Carvings in Nepal

18 September, 2017
Sapana Maharjan
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Wood carvings of Nepal are created by clans of Newar:  the “old people” of Kathmandu, Lalitpur (Patan) Bhaktapur, and gracing traditional architecture of Nepal since the 12th century. The oldest wood craft can be found at Indreswara Mahadeva temple in Panauti dating back to 1396. But it’s believed the craft was already applied during the Licchavi period (300-879 AD).

Heritage sites, which were built were build during the Malla period (13th to 18th Century), bare witness to the beautiful, old wood carvings and can still be admired today. And through the involvement of the youth, the Newar are successful in passing the craft to the younger generations, making this tradition live on.

The wood carving designs are mostly based on Holy Scriptures and mythical structures of Buddhist or Hindu Faith—sculptures of deities, demons, animals, religious symbols as well as intricate patterns. Some images also include erotic art, carved into the wooden beams of roof structures. Their real purpose however is unclear.

Bhaktapur however is an example how loves for the city and ancient art can turn an old city into a living museum. After being severely damaged during a 1939 earthquake, the city has been restored and has not only become a tourist attraction but also a living city where culture and crafts are celebrated.

The art of wood carving has been the pride of Nepal for many centuries. Wood work has been part of the traditional architecture of Nepal and wood carvings have been graced monasteries, temples, places and residential homes since the 12th century.

Wood has been traditionally the main building material in the Valley and it was only natural that the heavy wooden framework, which forms the essential part of the structure, and the beams, struts, pillars and entablatures, forming an ingenious system of load distribution and roof support, should be used for ornamentation. Consequently, all available surface of wood, including doors, windows, cornices, brackets and lintels were beautifully shaped and formed and lavishly carved in intricate patterns of geometrical, floral, human and animal forms.

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