This pair of wooden struts from Nepal, dating from around the 17th century or early, is an interesting example of the wood carving tradition of the region. The carving depicts ithyphallic (1) guardians or protectors. The struts would once have adorned one of the many-tiered temples in the Kathmandu Valley, forming a bracket between a wall and the edge of a roof. Probably the wood used is “sal” (2).
(1) Etymology: from ithyphallos erect phallus (ithys = straight and phallos = phallus)
Definition: showing erect penis in art: in sculpture, painting, or other art, having or showing an erect penis
(2) Sal – Agrath – Shorea Robusta
Sal is a tree of the lower altitudes, being found in Nepal from the Terai to about 1200 meters. Is one of the most important timber in India and Nepal. It is used for building constructions and for any kind of works where strength and durability are the main criteria. The wood is also used in temples for carvings and for decorative beams and doors. This is the most widely used timber for any wood work in Nepal.
According to mythology the Kathmandu Valley was once a holy lake encircled by mountains. Was an important trade route between India and Tibet, which explains its historical, political, and economic importance, and its artistic roots.
Kathmandu is capital of Nepal. The name of Kathmandu is derived from Kasthamandap, an imposing Pagoda near Durbar Square. The Vishnumati River frames the west and runs north to south, with the Bagmati forming the southern boundary. Kathmandu is separated by a short bridge across the Bagmati River from the city of Patan. Kathmandu is also known as Kantipur, the capital of the Kingdom of Nepal.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
This is the historic places of the ancient kings of Nepal. A complex of many temples and monuments, built between the 12th-18th centuries.
This city, once called Lalitpur (the beautiful city) lies across the Bagmati river, south-east of Kathmandu. The distance between the two Durbar Squares is approximately seven kilometers. The city is full of Hindu temples and Buddhist monuments with bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful carvings. Is the city of fine arts, enclosed within four stupas said to be built in 3rd century AD, by Emperor Ashoka.
Patan Durbar Square
Situated in the heart of the city, is the main tourist attraction. The square is full of ancient palaces, temples, and shrines noted for their exquisite carvings.
To get to Bhaktapur (19 km from the heart of Kathmandu city) one has to travel to the eastern quarter of the Valley on a road fringed by rich green paddy-fields and brick houses.
Is also known as Bhadgaon meaning the city of devotees, this place is the home of medieval art and architecture. The city is at the height of 4600 ft. above see level.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is an assortment of pagoda and Shikhara-style temples grouped around a fifty-five-window palace of brick and wood. The square is part of a charming valley as it highlights the wood carvings (struts, lintels, tympanums, gateways and windows).
“Secrecy is a pervasive and fundamental aspect of Bhaktapur’s life. Its major symbolic representation is in the worship of the dangerous deities—above all in the Tantric mode with its emphasis on esoteric secrets, swearing of oaths to keep those secrets, and levels of initiation into progressively deeper ones. Many component units contribute elements to larger ritual or symbolic performances. Mask makers, ritual dancers, potters, image markers, astrologers, Brahmans, Acajus, and so forth may all contribute objects and/or actions.
Tantrism is intimately connected with the meanings of the dangerous deities who are the objects of its worship. Tantrism and the dangerous deities represent amoral forces and the force that controls such forces, and thus the possibility of using this force to protect the moral system itself. They represent danger and chaos, but also fertility and creativity”. Levy, Robert I. Mesocosm: Hinduism and the Organization of a Traditional Newar City in Nepal.
“The art of wood carving has been the pride of Nepal for many centuries. Woodwork has been part of traditional architecture of Nepal and wood carvings have graced monasteries, temples, palaces and residential homes since the twelfth century.The history of woodcarving in Nepal is older than that. A Chinese traveler Wang Hsuan Tsang (643 AD, has clearly mentioned the beautiful woodcrafts, wood sculptures, and decorations”.
“The people of Nepal are skilled in arts. Their houses are made of wood and carved.” Wang Hsuan Tsang: Memoirs. AD 643.