Travel

Cast in bronze

The Hotel Paradise Resort. Photo: Soma Basu   | Photo Credit: mamp08bronze1

“Ma’am would you like to take a bullock cart ride to the village nearby?”, asks the polite young staff at the Paradise Resort. I want to tell him, “Do I look like a foreigner? I have seen enough Indian villages!”. But I don’t. He guesses it from the look in my eyes. “How about checking out our Ayurvedic package?” he persists.

“Or just a foot massage?…Or enjoy a walk in our lush green lawns with geese and turkey strutting around” – I can see he is giving up on me.

“May be you would want to watch how Gods come alive in the hands of our artisans”. Now I latch on to that.

Having seen and read about the mind-blowing sculptures of the Chola period, obviously I am thrilled at this invitation and pleasantly surprised to find the small bronze factory tucked in one corner of the hotel premises bustling with activity.

Seven men are at work, totally immersed in what they are doing. Raja is making the measurement for every part of a model with strands of coconut leaf. Raghupathi heats the wax and leaves it aside to cool down before making the wax model of a deity. His fingers move with an amazing deftness and dexterity in moulding the wax to a particular figurine’s form. Muthukumar heats a smooth metal file and moves it up and down the wax model to shape the details. Occasionally using a scalpel, he chisels it to a perfect pose, the hands raised in a mudra, the expressions on the face. It is an exact replica of what the finished bronze piece will look like.

“If it is a large piece, we will make the head, torso, arms, legs and bases separately and carefully assemble them by heating at the connecting points so that they can be melded together,” he says.

Once completed Kalai Perumal places the wax model into the water to ensure it does not loose shape. He also gets the soft clay from the riverbed, that crosses the estate, to make the mould. He makes it to the right consistency which will allow it to pick up the finer features of the wax model.

After two hours of cooling, the wax model is wrapped in the clay mould and an iron wire is tied around it. Once dried in the sun (can take two to three days depending on the size), the clay mould is heated in a furnace from two hours to a day, again depending on the size to harden the outer covering like a rock and the melted wax flows out through an opening kept at the base of the mould.

The hollow clay form is then filled with molten bronze to form the final figure. Says Murugan, the leader of the collective and adept in all the departments of making of the chola bronze statue, “we specialise in making the panchaloha bronze deities in which the five metals -- gold, silver, copper, brass and lead – are used.”

The contemporary artisans primarily use three main ingredients, copper, brass and lead. With traces of gold and silver in it, copper is also more malleable for sculptors to make alterations for the beautiful finish.

Covered in hay stack the mould is kept for final drying

After allowing the molds to cool for at least two hours, then the bronze is uncovered by breaking the mold carefully and chipping the layers of coating away. The entire statue is then filed down by the artisans and the statue is sanded and buffed to remove any scratches and give the finished piece a shine.

To watch them carve out the exquisitely poised and supple bronze deities with such care, precision, perfect sense of timing and creative ability is indeed a celebration of the divine beauty.

Most of them have undergone three to five years of training at the Government centre in Poompuhar or gurukulams run privately by skilled artisans. They literally make the deities speak with their hands and mudras, eyes and facial expressions. I return convinced that there is art in the palm of the hands of these skilled crafts persons. Their work is full of grace and the pure essence of it shows in the final piece.

Tidbit: It takes a week to 10 days to complete an 8 to 10 inch. The artisans can make from miniatures to full figure sculptures, portraiture busts, big statues, life-size statue monuments, wall plaques and bas-reliefs.

Recreating old charm: Paradise Resort located on Kumbakonam-Tanjore Main Road near Darasuram Temple gives an experience of the past relived. Rooms are designed as traditional homes to showcase real India. This is the only property in that belt which receives heavy flow of domestic tourists visiting the Navagraha temples. Latha and Ganapathy Raman love to evoke the age-old charm for their guests and have built two dozen antique cottages, 20 rooms and an agraharam style of houses. Every piece of furniture within the property starting from the reception desk, the dining hall, the rooms boast of the State’s rich craftsmanship. Enjoy the hospitality and find inner peace here.

How to reach

Paradise Resort is 35 km from Thanjavur, 91 km from Tiruchirapalli, 211 km from Madurai and 275 km from Chennai and very close to the Swamimalai Temple in Darasuram.

For details contact 9943311354 / 9787711349


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 11:22:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/cast-in-bronze/article7850534.ece

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