Origin: The land of Karnataka is home to a huge forest-belt thus making it an idol location for sandal wood carvers. Sandal wood is native to the forests of Karnataka. The expert skills of sandalwood carving are an integral part of family heritage that is inherited from one generation to another.
Sandal wood is classified in two categories: close grained Srigandha that is yellowish –brown and is used for carving. The other being darkish brown Nagagandha used for oil extraction. Hindu mythology states that Sandalwood trees are blessed by the Gods with its mesmerizing smell. Thus, Vedas prescribe using sandalwood for pujas, rituals and vajnas.
The ancestors of the Gudigar families hold the secrets to this crafts origin. The Gudigars have been engaged in this craft for centuries. Historically, Gudigar men crafted idols, figurines, agarbati stand, paper clips etc. and womenfolk use slender layers of scarped sandalwood to make garlands and wreaths.
The art of sandalwood carving dates back to thousand years. However, till 1916, Karnataka exported sandalwood to European countries for oil extraction. During World War I, huge wood stocks piled up and thus an oil-extraction unit was set up in Mysore and at Shimoga.
Present Day: Even today, the Gudigars are carrying forward the legacy of their forefathers. The verandahs of their house are vibrating with Gudigars crafting brilliant items using simple tools such as knives, screwdrivers, hand drills and saws. They are focussed in Agar and Sorab regions in Shimoga district.
Today, the carvings have advanced from Gods and Goddesses to a wide range of craft items such as animal figures, wall hangings, paper cutters, walking sticks, name cases, trays, boxes, photo frames, fans, cigarette cases, holders, elephant etc.
The Government has adopted copious steps to encourage artisans. The Karnataka government regularly supplies wood, silver and zinc to artisans at subsidized rates. Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited, (A Government of Karnataka Undertaking) was established in the year 1964 under Companies Act 1956. This corporation works towards preserving, developing and promoting handicrafts. In order to polish the skills of artisans, regular workshops and training programs are organized by the government. This corporation has opened both national and international markets for artisans.
Procedure: As per law, only trees that have aged 30 years can be used for wood carving. The heartwood is utilized for carving, powdered bark is used for producing agarbatis, and oil is extracted from the tees root.
During monsoon season, sandal wood trees are uprooted. The reason being, this time of the year, roots are richer in oil.
Bring Home Sandalwood Craft of Karnataka: To experience the God blessed fragrance of Sandalwood walk in Karnataka Government emporium in Bangalore