“I don’t know what has made me carve the idols of Gods and Goddesses all through. Perhaps, ‘devis’ and ‘devtas’ are deep-rooted in Chamba’s cultural faith,” said Tilak Raj Shandilya, 68, a sculptor from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh.
Shandilya had a penchant for painting, but he got the opportunity to learn metal craft, instead, during his graduation in the early 70s. Since then, he has been silently carving Chamba’s legacy on brass with passion and emotion, ‘unsung’ and ‘unrecognised’.
He is among very few artists left now, who deal with ‘lost wax process’ in metal craft, wherein the idol is first made of natural wax and then wax is melted within to pave the way for metal. He was here to showcase his work in state level gram shilp mela organised by Language and Culture department of HP government from 17-21 May.
Shandilya has made countless brass idols in ‘Chamba Kalam’, which are master pieces and rare, and are now being worshipped by people in their homes and some temples in HP- ranging from Bhagwati, Gauri Shankar, Nag devta to Mahishasur Mardini and Maha Bhairvi. An idol of 150 kilograms of Nag at Manimahesh temple in ancient ‘Chaurasi’ temple complex in Bharmour in Chamba is his creation. He made it on demand of the temple committee few years ago and it was priced at Rs 2.5 lakh.
Some of his creations have found way to different cities in the country and abroad also, with art lovers approaching him through his personal links.
“The tough and time consuming art work is dying as it is a costly venture with meagre profits. I wouldn’t have been able to make the two ends meet with this, but for God’s blessings due to which my wife got the job,” the sculptor said.
The sculptor shared that many of his idols are sold for a high price, but there are not many buyers.
“I do everything on order as it takes months together to complete an idol depending on the size and complexity of design,” he said, as he was grateful to people from tribal area of Bharmour, who have been giving him orders to make local deity Keling ( Kartikya Swami) for their homes.
Shandilya makes all the idols, referring to their images in established literature.
He gets engrossed in their making so intensely that he does not dispose any idol that he is unable to create with perfection. Shandilya points to a half done idol of Maha Bhairavi in his stall in this regard.
Apart from idols, he has made two big portraits- one of Shahid Udham Singh, which is installed at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala in Punjab and another one of Vikram Batra, a martyr, in Palampur.
The sculptor, who received initial training from national awardee in metal craft from Chamba, Prakash Anand (octogenarian) four decades back, has traversed a long journey since then and has given demonstrations across the country on invitation. His contribution in promoting the unique art form has, however, gone unrecognised in his home state so far!