Crafting Traditions



Between the soulless anonymity of mass-produced goods and the dizzying price levels of antiques, some artifacts can still be loosely categorized as folk art. Woodwork of Paharis is one such example, an effort at continuing our artistic and cultural traditions.

Himachal Pradesh is an inexhaustible source of marvel and fascination. Its wonder and mystery are deepened by the large number of artifacts produced by rural artisans over the centuries. The artifacts have helped preserve the ancient artistic and cultural traditions in the villages.

Wooden Sculptures and Religion

All over Himachal Pradesh, one finds innumerable wooden sculptures in rural style, each carved respectively in the local style of the area. Freestanding, three-dimensional sculptures in this style are very few in number, while those carved in relief on the wooden planks are numerous. Both the varieties are marked by an expressive quality that results from direct carving. The rural folk satisfy their religious responsibilities through these images. Very often, one finds them enshrined in a shack-like structure near a big temple.

Around Shimla, one can come across plenty of such sculptures in the compounds of Naga Temple in Naldehra and the Launkara Bir Shrine outside the old Jubbal Palace. The significance of these religious sculptures for the Paharis is that they have implicit faith in them.

Representational Not Symbolic

The Pahari wooden sculptures are not symbolic but representational. Each sculpture represents a well-known Hindu deity and is carved in strict adherence to iconographic tenets for immediate recognition. This adherence imposed a powerful discipline on them and also strengthened the hold of tradition. The carvers fashioned these images out of deodar wood; sometimes sheesham (teak) wood was also used. The idea of ugliness or beauty apparently did not bother them nor did it bother the devotees who worshipped them with unflinching devotion.