Wood Work of Dharamsala


Wood craft is an important element of the Tibetan culture. Wood is widely used, intricately carved for entrances to temples and for interior pillars and in covers for scriptures in monastery libraries. References to the Tibetan art of wood carving date back to the construction of the Tsuglagkhang Temple at Lhasa in the 7th century AD. The site is recorded to have contained elaborately carved narrations of the story of the Boddhisattvas as well as intricately detailed wooden tea bowls, carved windows, shrines and thrones. This ancient craft grew from the monasteries and filtered down to the public. The Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Culture in Dharamsala, conducts training program for the youths in the art of wood carving. The wood that are usually used are the khari, chilpine and other softwoods and the wood is selected based on its plasticity, ease in carving and durability.

The Tibetan folk wood carvings are particularly characterized by their exaggeration. It is worth noting that the exaggeration does not make the work appear unreal; on the contrary, it strengthens the expression and the artistic appeal of the works. Some examples of exaggeration are the basin-big lotus flower, the big-headed and small-bodied flying beauty, the long-browed and big-eyed goblin, the beast-big fruit, and the umbrella-big leaf.

A traditional bamboo fret saw known as the “bah” is used to remove wood along the drawn pattern to facilitate the second stage of the carving process which is the creation of an intricate fretwork. The carving tools are made by the local blacksmith or by the students themselves. The finer details are later carves out using fine chisels and the object is then finished through painting, lacquering or varnishing. The paint work is sometimes undertaken by the artists from the Thangka studios thus granting the carved work the distinct colour scheme and style of the thangka painters.

Products created include: Architectural elements, Cupboards, Statues, Altars, Picture frames, Boxes, Musical Instruments.