Wood carving is another important handicraft of
Orissa. This again can be broadly grouped into
three sub-groups-painted wood carvings, plain wood carvings and wood
Idol & Chariot Decorations
The first group comprise of painted wooden toys of Puri and Bargarh masks, and idols and chariot decorations. Usually light varieties of wood are preferred and vegetable and mineral colours are used. The art is mostly practiced by the carpenter caste who has the title "Moharana". They use the simple carpentry tools like hammer, chisel etc.
The motifs include various stylized animals and birds like horse, bull, elephant, lion, tiger, peacock and Nabagunjara etc., Radha and Krishna and 'Sakhis' and most popular of all, the three deities of the Puri temple - Jagannatha (also spelt as Jagannath), Balabhadra and Subhadra. There are also excellent painted wooden doors with panels depicting various scenes from Krisna's life, Ramayana and other stories. Various wooden masks with a hollow back are also painted representing stylized human faces.
The three chariots of the Puri car festival are profusely decorated with wooden images depicting various deities as Parswa-Devatas. Image of the 'Sarathi' or the charioteer and the horses attached in front are also made by wood carvers of Puri. Similar items are also attached to the chariot of Lingaraja during "Ashokastami" at Bhubaneswar .
One can also find an interesting wooden painted image of Brahma in the Lingaraja temple immediately to the right of the entrance. Images of Radha, Krishna and Sakhis as well as other decorative items made by wood carvers are attached to the Kunjas or ceremonial swings for the spring festival called "dola". This shows the close links of the craft of wood carving to the cultural and religious traditions of the State.
Plain Wood Carving
The plain wood carvings are mostly done on a soft creamish wood called "Gambhari" or white teak. While the features in the painted wood carvings are usually less defined and blunt, those in the plain carvings in Gambhari are not only sharp and fine but attain exquisite needle work finish and are more akin to the workmanship of the sculptors.
Well proportioned and finished to great smoothness these items are fit for a connoisseur's including Konark wheel besides other items based on myths, legends and folklore. Indolent damsels, Krishna, Radha, Sakhis, Haraparvati. Konark horse, Konark elephant are popular but the scene from 'Mahabharata' depicting Krishna teaching 'Arjuna' the tenets of the 'Gita' when the latter shies away from the battle, with the grand chariot with its divine charioteer and the valiant rider depicted by the wood carver is most captivating.
This variety of wood carving is mostly practiced in Cuttack town though a few craftsmen are also found at Bhubaneswar and Puri . Wood turned articles using the creamish Gambhari and the harder and darker 'Sisu' or rose wood is a specialty of the artisans from Daspalla area in Puri district.
Popular items are small pitchers with mango leaves and coconut, glass, bowls, and incense stands. It is interesting to note that although the process of wood turning with small hand operated wooden lathe is also used else where in India, the Orissa artisans prefer to leave the surface plain and they do not lacquer it like the famous toy makers of Chennapatna in Karnataka .
Wood Carving Excellence In Temples
Samples of the excellence of the wood carvers of Orissa can be found in temple ceilings and carved wooden beams and doors in places like "Birnchinarayan temple" at Buguda, "Charchika temple" at Banki, "Shiva temple at Kapilas, and "Laxmi-Nrusingha temple" at Berhampur.