The best-known example of an Indian spirit carving is the Ganesh, an elephant-headed god, son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesh’s popularity is due to his role in overcoming obstacles and removing obstacles, including the obstacle of death.
The traditional method of making a wood spirit carving is to carve the figure from a single block of wood and then paint it with natural pigments.
The carver begins by selecting a block of wood that has the most appealing grain and appearance. Then, with a small spear-like knife called a chisel, he starts removing thin slices of wood in order to reveal the spirit inside. The carving is done between two hardwood boards with clamps for pressing down on the wood. This allows the artist’s hands to remain free to guide the chisel while he “listens” for where to put it into the wood. Often, other people do much of the carving because this requires very close attention and doesn’t allow time or space for distractions like talking. The more complex figures can take several months or years before completion.
Wood spirit carvings are made from trees that have been felled and their mortally wounded spirits released. A tree’s spirit is released by having the proper rites said over it. The Indians say that one can “see” a wood spirit in a living tree as a hollow spot or knot on its trunk or branches.
Wood spirits are seen as guardians of people, plants and animals; an illness among those under their protection is thought to be caused by the spirit losing interest in the community.
There are many different types of wood carving used throughout the world but none has quite captured peoples interest like Indian Wood Spirits do with its regal figure head which features stunning clarity and detail along with beautiful colors applied by hand painted imagery.
The best type of wood to carve is a hardwood tree which is often referred to tropical forest wood. Areas of India that are rich with these types of trees like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Kalahari Desert and the Amazon Rainforest have provided a home for its people and wildlife for centuries.
There are many traditional uses for wood spirit carvings in the Indian culture:
A Wood Spirit carving is thought to be good luck if worn as an amulet on your person or kept in their line of vision. This type of superstition comes from ancient tradition passed down through generations that believes this will put you at peace with nature/animals because it recognizes the harm they can inflict upon us humans should we enter there territory without asking permission.