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Erotica in Wooden Carvings
Indians have a special arrangement by which everybody will have glimpse of their deity at least once in a year. The mobile chariot ("teru") represents the temple itself. Specialized craftsman construct "teru" out of hardwood. It has all essential areas of the temple itself. A permanent frame work is in dumbbell shape, erected on four wooden wheels mounted on two axes. Steel ribs protect the wheels from wear and tear. Panels, depicting mythological themes are carved and fixed to the main body of the car. Erotic carvings are usually restricted to the isthmus region of this basic structure.
K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
West coast of Karnataka is very rich in ever green hardwood forests. Hence almost every temple in this region has its own chariot. Those in Mangalore, Baindoor, Bappanadu, Mulki, Udupi, Kundapur, Shirali, Idagungi, Gunavante, Kasarkod, Honavar, Mavinkurve, Hosad, Agrahar, Haladipur, Hegde, Ankola towns have century old, beautifully carved terus. As burning sun and heavy rain-fall affect the wooden structure, the terus are kept in specially constructed sheds most of the year. On specific, auspicious day the devotees of the temple gather together and pull out the teru from the shed. From that day on the erection of upper part commences. Painted planks are erected so that a small chamber is created in which deity is installed. On the top of it, a huge dome is constructed and various color-flags are fixed. This takes about a week's time. For each temple, there is fixed day on which final car festival is celebrated. This period lasts from January to May each year. As these terus are extremely heavy and as tall as a coconut palm tree, great many people are needed to pull it through the main streets of the town. There are experts who will control movements of the chariot. All along the road, devotees offer fruits and coconuts to deity. The businessman do very brisk business.
As these wooden structures get attacked by termites and other insects, specialized artisans have to replace the damaged parts. Before its final parking in its shed cashew nut-oil coating is given to every part of the teru. When sand and dust gets mixed up with oil coating, a hard scum gets deposited on the carvings. Hence elaborate carvings get obscure. Since the erotic carvings are very minute, they almost become invisible. One has to take special pains to study them and what such panels represent. Unfortunately, no such studies have been undertaken by academicians, art historians and any other researchers.
Gudigars, the local artisans are expert in wood carvings. The temple authorities summon then and assign the work of teru building. They select seasoned hardwood and mark out details of the carvings. They used different steel instruments for the purpose. Finally when the chariot is ready it is dedicated to service of temple and god. A well protected teru lasts anywhere between three to five hundred years. When it becomes unserviceable, it is either burnt or dumped into a river. thus very valuable wood-carved-art is lost forever!
The erotic carvings on teru are very varied. Some are purely isolated and others form the larger part of a story. Like sculptors and painters the Gudigars also select similar topics for carving but their approach is entirely different. Sometimes a single panel is very large and humorously interconnected. For example the bum of mating lady becomes a pillow for another couple in coitus! In another panel a rat takes liberty to move about on the body of an young couple. There panels which depicts, two men competing with each other to win over a lady; the woman extends warm welcome to the winner; then follows, the lady extending her respect to fully stretched linga; finally the couple is shown in vigorous coitus. The craftsmen have utilized their artistic liberty to entertain the masses, depicting erotic topics in a grotesque way.
A dedicated survey work may bring out innumerable such carvings to light.
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