The Thanjavur region’s wealth of artistic traditions includes the creation of exquisite bronze images through the process known as Cire Perdue or the “Lost Wax” technique. A model of the image is first made in wax and then coated with layers of clay to create a mould, which is heated to allow the melting wax to flow out through a hole at the base. A molten alloy of five metals (Pancha Loha) is poured into the hollow. When it cools, the mould is broken and image is finished and polished. Finally, the image’s eyes are sealed with a mixture of Honey and Ghee, and then ritually “opened” by a priest, using a golden needle.
Even today, traditional artisans, known as Sthapathis, create these images according to a fixed set of rules and guidelines laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient treatise on art. The main centre for bronze casting in Tamil Nadu is Swamimalai.
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