When a newcomer, eager to acquire a statue, steps into our store and finds themselves surrounded by a wide array of captivating collections, the choices can be overwhelming. However, we are dedicated to guiding and educating the practitioners and enthusiasts about the diverse varieties and sizes available. Drawing from our experience of guiding practitioners in their statue selection journey, we now share essential steps to help you navigate through any confusion and make a well-informed decision.
Before delving into the specifics, it’s crucial to recognize that purchasing a Dharma item, whether it’s a statue, thangka, maalas, or any other sacred item, is not a typical transaction akin to buying everyday products. Instead, it’s a profound investment in something that can inspire and support you throughout your spiritual journey and practice for as long as you breathe. These items carry great significance and can be cherished and passed down to future generations. As you begin to engage with the statue in your practice, it becomes invaluable. With this profound understanding, let’s now explore the key steps that are vital when buying a statue.
1) Getting the name of the Deity and its iconography right
Being specific about the name of the Deity and understanding their unique qualities is paramount when considering the practice of Vajrayana or Mahayana. In this rich tradition, numerous Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and esteemed Buddhist masters are revered. As a practitioner, it is essential to engage in a brief study of the specific Buddhas or Bodhisattvas one seeks to connect with. Understanding the nuances of their practices and iconography becomes crucial. While the term ‘Buddha’ often conjures the image of the historical Buddha, ‘Shakyamuni Buddha,’ it is important to be aware of other significant Buddhas like ‘Amitabha Buddha’ or ‘Medicine Buddha,’ each embodying distinct representations in terms of hand positions, colors, and the items they may hold. By being precise about the name of the deity and its iconography, you can ensure clarity and find the perfect statue that resonates with your practice.
2) Understanding Statue Sizes and Finishes
Once you have a clear understanding of the deity and its iconography, it’s time to explore the wide variety of statues in terms of sizes and finishes.
Statue Sizes: Statues are available in different sizes, ranging from small to big and even large. Let’s take a closer look at the general size categories:
• Small size statues (4” – 6” inches)
• Medium size statues (7” -10” inches)
• Big size statues (12”- 15” inches)
• Large size statues (16” inches and above)
Keep in mind that crafting small size statues can be more intricate and challenging, which might impact the overall quality compared to medium or larger statues. Statues smaller than the small size are not as commonly available nowadays, and if found, they are often mass-produced using machines (Vacuum Moulding). Medium-sized statues are popular among house-hold practitioners, while big size statues are also well-received. When deciding on the size, consider the dimensions of your shrine or altar, and choose a statue that fits harmoniously within the designated space.
Statue Finishes: In Nepal, statues are predominantly crafted from copper, though stone sculptures can also be found. Metal statues, primarily made of copper, are often plated with Gold or Silver to enhance their appearance. Here at Rupamaker, we offer a variety of finishes to choose from:
• Full Gold plated
• Part Gold plated
• Part Gold two-toned
• Full Silver plated
• Part Silver plated
• Copper Oxidized
• Two-toned copper oxidized
Since gold is considered an auspicious metal, many practitioners prefer statues with either part-gold plating or full gold plating. However, the presence of gold is not a strict requirement, as silver-plated and copper-oxidized statues also hold their own unique charm. Some manufacturers even opt for painting the statues for added artistic appeal.
Selecting the right finish for your statue can be a personal choice, influenced by cultural preferences and the overall aesthetic you desire. Whichever finish you opt for, each statue is a work of art that exudes timeless beauty and devotion.
3) Observing the Statue
The next crucial step in buying a statue involves observing it with a keen eye, considering two fundamental aspects: its iconography and quality.
On the Basis of Iconography: Iconography plays a vital role in the representation of the Deity. Begin by examining whether the statue adheres to the specific iconography of the chosen Deity. Pay attention to hand postures, sitting position, and other defining characteristics that you have learned about the Deity’s representation.
On the Basis of Quality: Once you have ensured that the Deity’s iconography is accurately depicted, shift your focus to assessing the overall quality of the statue. While our immediate attention tends to gravitate towards the facial features of the statue, it is essential to evaluate the entire sculpture holistically. Start by observing the proportions of the body. Does the head proportion align correctly with the rest of the body? These are essential questions to address during your observation.
It is essential to understand that statues are created using either original molds or copied molds. Original artists first create their unique statue and then produce a mold directly from that original piece, typically made of wax. This initial mold, which can create replicas of numerous statues, is called the original mold. Subsequent replicas produced from the original mold are referred to as original casts. These original casts may, in turn, be copied to create a 1st copy mold, and the replicas from this mold are called copy casts. The process of copying can continue, but with each iteration, there might be some deformation in terms of size and structure of the original statue. While the immediate original and its copy casts may be hard to differentiate individually, they can be discerned by comparing them side by side. The cast of the original will appear larger compared to the smaller size of the copy. It’s important to note that not all original casts are of high quality, and not all copy casts are of inferior quality. In some instances, copy casts may even appear better compared to the original cast. Assessing the proportion, structure, and design of the statue is crucial during this initial step of evaluating its quality.
Next, focus on the quality of the carving work. Check the clarity and smoothness of intricate parts, such as hands, fingers, and feet. Numerous tiny holes and roughness may indicate that the statue has not been finished with precision. Examine the engravings of intricate details on the jewelry, robe, and borders. The belief that more swirling details on the robes indicate higher quality is a common misconception. Instead, focus on the neatness and smoothness of the engravings, as that determines the quality of the workmanship. The surface of the statue should be smooth and free from too many irregularities.
Finally, when assessing the statue, pay close attention to the quality of the face painting. It is beneficial to consider this aspect at the very beginning, but regardless of when you evaluate it, ensure that the lines and details painted on the face are executed with precision, smoothness, and cleanliness. The face is the most prominent and expressive feature of the statue, and its painting significantly impacts the overall appearance and aesthetic appeal. A well-painted face adds a sense of life and beauty to the statue, elevating its spiritual significance and making it a captivating centerpiece for your shrine or altar.
Since the entire statue-making process is executed by hand, achieving absolute perfection in every detail may not always be consistent. However, the overall quality of the statue is heavily reliant on the factors mentioned above.
4) Making a Decision
When considering the purchase of a statue, several important factors come into play. Statues are not a necessity but rather a meaningful choice that reflects one’s spiritual journey. As handcrafted creations, specific designs may have limited availability, making each statue a unique and precious representation of devotion. Investing in a statue means welcoming a lifelong companion, an artifact that may endure for generations to come and potentially appreciate in value over time. While the initial cost may seem significant, the statue’s long-term value can be immeasurable in terms of its spiritual significance and sentimental worth.
When making this decision, it is crucial to be conscious of one’s budget and financial constraints. Owning a statue is a personal choice, and there is no requirement to possess the most elaborate or expensive piece. The essence lies in the spiritual growth and progress of one’s dharma practice, irrespective of the statue’s external attributes. Each individual should carefully assess their spiritual aspirations and select a statue that genuinely resonates with their heart and inspires their practice.
Iconography, craftsmanship, and attention to detail are key elements to observe when selecting a statue. By studying the iconography, one ensures that the representation of the chosen deity aligns with traditional symbolism and teachings. Assessing the quality of the craftsmanship involves examining the proportions, structure, and design of the statue. Additionally, intricate engravings, smooth surfaces, and meticulous face painting contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal.
Moreover, the statue’s size and finish should harmonize with the space it will occupy, whether on a shrine or an altar. Careful consideration of these aspects ensures that the chosen statue becomes a focal point of spiritual devotion and inspiration.
Ultimately, a statue holds deep spiritual significance, representing devotion, faith, and dedication to one’s spiritual path. Whether ornate or simple, it is the profound connection between the practitioner and the statue that imbues it with divine energy. When chosen thoughtfully, a statue becomes more than just an object; it becomes a tangible representation of one’s inner journey and a constant reminder of the sacred path pursued with unwavering determination.