Woodcrafts in Nepal

We all have our own home decorations ideas. Some like their house to look standard, some want it cute while few want it authentic, representing a unique culture of their own, or including items that has a story, a history, and a piece one of its kind. Wooden pieces are one of the most used decorative materials in every part of the world, and especially the ones crafted by hands of skilful artists that tells a story, of an animal, nature, birds and most importantly the history.

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Picture: Wooden Traditional Handcrafted Peacock Window / Wall Decor/ Wall Hanging

How did woodcraft evlove in Nepal?

The stunning architecture of ancient palaces and temples in three classic Durbar squares situated in three different cities, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur, is one of the reasons tourists visit Kathmandu. These three culturally unique courtyards have finely constructed and tastefully transformed timber and brick temples. According to legend, the city’s name, Kathmandu, is obtained from the Kasthamandap, the oldest surviving wooden temple erected during the Lichhavi period, which was then formed by two terms, Kastha meaning wood (a primary material used in temple construction) and mandon meaning temple (temple or an edifice).

As a result, Kathmandu literally translates to “city of wooden temples.” As seen in most of the temples, the use of wood is secondary to the creative value of the material. This assertion is supported by the complex and creative carvings of Hindu gods and religious symbols in the pillars, brackets, arches, advanced and sophisticated beam frames, window, and door frames. Woodcraft is no longer confined to the pillars of temples and palaces; craftsman today carve the figure of Buddha, Buddhist components, windows, doors, sculptures of various Hindu gods and goddesses, tables, name plates, artistic doorbells, and everyday items. 

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Picture: Wooden Handcrafted Door Bell/Home Decor

Who makes woodcrafts?

Designers, woodcarvers, traditionally from the Silpakar family, and carpenters, usually known as Sikarmi, are the three categories of craftspeople in Nepali woodcraft heritage. However, as more castes step up to fulfil this labour, the practise is steadily changing. Typically, the artist and the woodcarver are the same person. The carving business has remained a family affair thus far, with ideas passed down from father to sons. Woodcarvers’ art is a vast specialisation that falls under the category of iconography and religious importance of decorating.

The sophistication of an intricately carved god, multi-handed and bearing symbols all religious significance, necessitates not only significant understanding of the holy literature but also the talents of a craftsman competent to accomplish the work. The Vedic and Buddhist ideas have impacted the majority of wood crafts. So, if you find any kind of behaviour displayed on a temple, you may be certain that the art has some form of meaning in ancient religions.

Although the majestic showcase of wooden art in Kathmandu valley can be seen in conventional Newar doors and windows, the durbar square, and temples, skill can now be found in a variety of forms such as small decorative items, handicraft gifts such as a display case, shelf with hangers, key holders, small boxes, animals, buttons, furniture, decorative wall hangings, and so on from the limited supply.

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Picture: Wooden Hanging Namaste/Wall Decor

How wooden crafts are made?

The numerous traditional Nepalese art styles each have their own significance in Nepalese culture. Each has its own traditional procedures and techniques, and, like other Nepalese arts, there are no codified methods or techniques for making wooden crafts. Through experience, the techniques are passed down from generation to generation. It is vital for the artist to live through his labour to create a good work of art. If the artist does not care about his work, it will not be created.

With contrast to metalwork, no moulds are used in woodcrafts. Like stone carving, the craftsman begins work on the raw wood item right away, devoting all of his ability into bringing it to life. Out of all the available woods, the artisan first chooses the perfect one for his job in terms of strength, colour, and smoothness. Sal/Agrath or Sisau wood is commonly used for structural purposes, furniture, and other goods that require strength. These are the most durable woods available, and they have a brownish tint. Haldu wood is commonly used for replicates, miniatures, and statues because of its light weight and hue, which allows the artisan to finish the piece in any desired colour. Despite its higher weight, Sissau is occasionally used for replicas and statues due to its lovely natural texture.

Another significant consideration for craftsmen is the synchronization of the wood grains; otherwise, it will be like swimming against the stream in a river. Because the grains are generated organically, the artisan must work with the wood in accordance with them. Once the correct type of wood has been chosen, the artisan usually designs the required design to be carved on it and then begins working on it gradually. The craftsman hammers away at the pieces of wood with various sizes and types of tools to achieve the required shape of the statue in the raw wood. Here, the craftsman’s imagination is crucial.

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Picture: Paanas Designed Wall Decor/ Key Holder/Decorative Accent/Home Decor/Interior

Woodcrafts such as wooden traditional window, handcrafted doorbells, wooden name plates, paanas designed key holder, wall décor and many others symbolize the authenticity of Nepalese culture. It’s a unique piece to have hanging on the walls, especially when you are away from the country as it constantly reminds you of the roots you come from, the culture you celebrate and a feeling of nationality. Imagine gifting these to your family member, a friend for his/her birthday or to hang it in someone’s office! Spreading love, joy and culture through these wooden crafts really sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?

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