Deities an Murties
Process of casting Forms of God in Metal
One important reason for Asia’s mystic appearance is its mastery
in temple architecture, and everything involved along with that. This knowledge
is given in different parts of the Vedas (ancient holy books) and called as
Vastu- or Silpa-sastras handed down by the Silpis (Sculptors and Artisans).
One branch of this science is casting the Form of God made with material products
(earth, metal mixtures, precious stones and stone) for the worship in temples
and private home. Gold was brought from the Himalayas and gold mines in the
area to be turned into Vigrahas (Images) and jewellery by this Silpis, and
they were also exported to other areas (some asian handwork ship like Buddha’s,
jewellery etc. where even found in Viking burial grounds) by the 3th century
AD. The method of metal casting practised in the ancient Indian subcontinent
is called the lost wax casting method.
Unique in approach, the style involved
creating a wax image of final product intended, casting the image in clay and
then heating the image so that the wax melts away and leaves a hollow that
allows sculptures to pour in molten metal to acquire the wanted shape. Images
are created using simple procedures that yield complex and quality results.
In south India very complex method of Pancaloham (five metal copper, tin, gold,
sliver, brass) in different mixture quantity are described in the Agama and
Vastu Sastras and gives the Vigraha (Image) a special look and appearance.
Where in North India simple brass mixture are used, and in Nepal and Tibet
the Vigrahas getting gold polished with affixed precious stones on each model.
The lost wax metal casting process is described here shortly:
A wax image in exact size and details of the desired product is created. The
wax images, now with a thick clay covering, are dried. Once hard, they are
placed in an oven. The handmade ovens, either inside the earth (used mainly
in south India metal casting) or as normal one (used in Nepal and Tibet)
though it looks primitive, can achieve temperatures that can melt even gold
if required. The wax image within the clay melts away. However, in place
of the image remains a hollow space where molten metal can be poured in within
the clay structure.
The image is now ready for the next phase of the metal
casting process. It needs to cool down. Many of the artisans involved in the
process are young. Their work is supervised by a master craftsman. The same
oven is again prepared, this time to melt the five metals, or only copper and
brass metal the popular metals in use in the North India / Nepal today. The
molten different metals are poured into the hollow terra cotta structure along
with Vedic mantras to bring out the figure of the God they wish to model. Than
the metal is allowed to cool and harden. After this the terra cotta layering
is tapped away and the rough image is seen. Now they will bring the appearance
in perfection with all described details in the Sastras. Visible cracks and
faults are corrected with the expert hand of the stapathy (master craftsman).
dyes and agents are used to bring out the colour in some cases. While some
small statues are created whole, larger images require the joining of many
pieces. The different chisel enhances the details, the statue has to be smooth
and perfect before its face and other details can be carved. The statue made
in Tibet and Nepal goes to the painters who add expressions with colour or
silver and gold layers. Done well, this process doubles the value of the statue
in the world wide market.
Otherwise the Vigrahas (Images) are now being brought
to the priests who do the final invocation and calling of the Lord to appear
in this wonderful Form to be present to bless the worshipper. Only then the
full manifest splendour of the Supreme Deity is recognized and worshiped with
respect, awe and reference par excellence.