Besides being the ubiquitous herbal beauty product and an indispensable item used during the religious rituals, the sandalwood is also a popular decorative tool. Kerala is a repository of this fascinating handicraft. The temples of Kerala are a treasure trove of sandalwood art with intricately carved pillars, beams, door frames. In fact you would be gripped to know that each house used to have a temple that was beautified with sandalwood carving. The pillars, beams , brackets were adorned with flora and fauna images. The Matsya Purana has it that the carved wooden door frames were the perfect way to usher guests. This art became the trendsetter of sorts for temples and buildings across the country. The enamoring temple art is, however, slowly dying.

Chests, furniture, collector’s items like paper weights, candle stands, incense stick stands are the top draws. The spell binding Kathakali is fodder for the sandalwood artisans. Beautiful models in several riveting poses, with the nuances of a live performance captured, adorns many a art lovers’ house. Other mythological characters too are represented. The elephant which is considered a religious icon and is worshipped with great pomp and grandeur, also finds prominent depiction in the sandalwood art. Nut containers, flower vases, snuff boxes are some of the other popular items that are carved out of sandalwood.

The sandalwood artisans follow different patterns like the engraved form, sculptural relief and clip. Cochin, Ernakulam, Travancore, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram have gained reputation for their magnificent sandalwood artistry. Each place has its own unique selling point. The Travancore artisans etch out motifs in bold patterns. The carved tables and chairs stand on equally engraved legs which are often chiseled in the shape of vyali, which is considered to be the protector of gods. The mandapam form is another pattern of sandalwood art prevalent in Thiruvananthapuram temples. The Mahadeva temple is a case in point. The mandapam model comprises a chiseled out Lord Brahma riding on a swan, surrounded by a host of other deities. The churches of Kerala also fine testimonials of the sandalwood art. Sandalwood is an auspicious commodity in a Keralite’s life.

Maps of India is your guide on a virtual tour of Kerala. It tells you all that you need to know about the traditional handicrafts of the state ranging from the brass and bell metal industry to the sandalwood carving art.