From there the skills slowly moved to the Indian sub-continent where the oldest existing example of the Lotus flower being used as a feature decoration are within the sandstone carved relief railings found at the Great Stupa at Bharhut Northern India which dates back to around the middle of the 2nd century B.C. (a stupa is a mound-like structure usually containing Buddhist relics).
This ancient stupa holds significant importance within the Buddhism faith.
From India the skills & techniques slowly migrated eastwards, there next point of call being Burma ( Myanmar) arriving there in the 10th century A.D.
The oldest examples of hand carved relief panels carved in Thailand date back to the 13th century, around the time of the “Sukhothai Period” which was the first Thai kingdom stretching from the Malaysian border in the south, right up to the Laos border in the north.
It was during the last few years of the 13th century that the northern kingdom of Lan Na Tai(the million rice fields) was established by King Mengrai
, its newly founded capital was Nophaburi Sri Nakorn Ping Chiangmai (later changed to just Chiang Mai for obvious reasons !).
And so the long journey of the hand carved relief panels has finally found its home in the mountainous areas of Northern Thailand and has been here ever since !.
As you travel around Thailand you cannot help but notice the absolutely stunning architecture on show at the 1,000s of Buddhist Wats (temples) around the Kingdom.
the majority of the highly ornately carved relief panels & fine carved wooden decorative pieces all originated from the Chiang Mai area of Northern Thailand.
The crafting of the hand carved relief panels was for centuries traditionally done by the farming families that produced rice crops during the season, and in their spare time carved the wooden panels from the plentiful supply of teak trees that covered all of the northern areas to supplement their meagre existences.
Over the years those basic early skills that arrived from Burma in the 13th century have been honed & fine-tuned, also greatly assisted by the large influx of skilled artisan Burmese Hill Tribes people that started settling in the Northern areas from the 17th century onwards.
The basic implements used today are still very similar in design & purpose to those that would have been present all those years ago, the skills required are carefully preserved within the families & have been handed down from generation to generation, from grandfather to father & father to son.
Typically training would begin before the child was 10 years old, and by their 12th birthday would be turning out beautiful carved wooden items !.
The manufacturing process of taking “raw” teak wood, and turning into stunning works of art is usually shared between different family members, dependant upon their individual skills levels.
The most artistic members typically do all the design & actual carving work, the more practical ones do the wood preparation, drying, sanding & finishing, there are jobs for everyone !!.
Today, the felling of teak (Tectona Grandis) is strictly controlled by the Thailand Royal Forestry Department from sustainable farmed teak forests, which means that the artisan families can no longer just go out & cut a local tree down !.
Rather than just source all of their teak wood requirements from the farmed teak forests, which would have increased their costs dramatically, the ever resourceful families came up with an excellent alternative using recycled rough-hewn teak planks(floor boards) from old dwellings and community buildings !!.
The reason teak wood is used for the manufacture of handcarved relief panels is because it is easily worked and has natural oils that make it suitable for use in exposed locations, where it is exceptionally durable even when not treated with oil or varnish, it is also a very dense hardwood & therefore very resistant to termites & other wood boring insects.
The 3 dimensional Handcarved Lotus Panel is a marvel of intricacy & is a highly prized & valued possession within Thai society.
The lotus flower itself is a very important symbol within the Buddhist religion as it symbolizes prosperity and fertility. These Handcarved Lotus Panels are so prized that Thai families typically make them the centerpiece of a room.
Each Lotus Panel created by hill tribe craftsmen in Northern Thailand is the result of countless hours meticulously shaping, sanding and finishing each of the intricate lotus flower motif designs.
These wonders of wood are all completely crafted by hand, the smaller Lotus Panels can take a couple of weeks to complete, the larger panels EACH take between 3-6 months !!.
For ease of making, shipping & mounting each Lotus Panel is cut into 30cm(12″) wide sections that all fit together perfectly when assembled.
These exquisitely detailed carvings help pay for new community buildings & other projects within the remote mountain villages of the far north of Thailand, each piece is completely unique, variations in wood color and carving will occur, which only go to enhance the beauty of the panels.
Our online shop Chiang Mai Arts & Crafts carries a substantial range of stunning Lotus Panels ,along with beautiful ranges of Buddha & Angel handcarved relief panels, and the ever popular handcarved Elephant Wallpanels ranges, please just click on the links to visit those pages.
Please don’t forget – ALL ITEMS INCLUDE FREE SHIPPING ! &
we are always happy to receive your BEST OFFERS !!
Source: By: Kevin Butters