Kinnala Dwarapalakas

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Size: 18 x 9 x 34 inches each
Material: Polychrome Wood
Origin: Karnataka


This is a pair of large Kinnala dwarapalakas standing on lotus petal decorated platforms. Dwarapalakas are door or gate guardians meant to act as protectors.
Kinnala or Kinnal craft comes from a village called Kinnal or Kinhal in Karnataka. This disappearing craft dates back to the Vijayanagara era where kings invited crafts people from across India to come and work in their capital Hampi. After the decline of the Empire, families migrated to the other regions in search of patronage from different Nawabs. It is thought the early practitioners, still called Chitragars (the name means ‘one who draws/paints’), were painters and sculptors of temples and palaces in Hampi.
These dwarapalakas are sculptured from wood, fitted together, and then coated with thick Tamarind gum that can be worked into the correct shapes and is useful in building up facial features. Then layers of cloth soaked in tamarind paste have been applied to coat the figure, followed by the application of traditional vegetable colours.
  • ABOUT Kinnala Art

    A relatively unknown and ancient Indian art form dating back to the 15th-16th centuries, Kinnala comes from a village called Kinhal in the Koppal district of Karnataka, India. It originated during the rule of the Vijaynagara Empire, when kings invited crafts people from across India to come and work in their capital, Hampi. The early practitioners of Kinnala, called ‘Çhitragars’ (which literally means the one who draws and paints), were painters of temples and palaces in Hampi. The famous mural paintings in the Pampapateshwara Temple, and the intricate work on the wooden chariot at Hampi, were completed by ancestors of the Kinnala artists of today.

    The wooden idols of Kinnala have been accorded a Geographical Indication (GI tag number 159). A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Today, there are only 25 families in Kinhal village practicing the art of Kinnala.

    Kinnala idols are known for their vibrant colours and glossy finish. They usually depict gods, mythological characters or animals. Each Kinnala idol is entirely handmade, and the process is very laborious. The wood used to create the idols is from a tree called ‘Ponki Marra’, which grows in and around Kinhal village. This wood is soft and light weight, making it easy to sculpt.

    A Kinnala artist first roughly draws the character on the wood, and then chisels to create an initial model. After this, a mixture of liquid tamarind and pebble paste is applied, and the idol is left to dry. Finer details are then carved out and the final shape is given. If the piece is very large, different components such as the limbs and head are made separately and joined together using a mixture made from boiling a mixture of ground tamarind seeds, wood powder and thin jute strands. A paste of pebble powder and liquid gum is used as an adhesive for embossing patterns including jewelry, on the idols. Layers of cloth soaked in tamarind paste are applied to coat the figure. Once the idol is complete, it is covered in white paint, made using chalk powder, after which colours such as red, green, blue and yellow are applied. In some pieces, a rare technique is used without the use of fabric, where fine beaten zinc mixed with herbs is applied to the wood, producing a shiny gold colour. This is a lengthy and costly process, and hence, only a few families still practice the technique.

    The lack of financial support, adequate training and economic viability is making the next generation in Kinnala artist families reluctant to carry on this centuries’ old tradition. Wider recognition, and support by patrons will help sustain this incredible artform.

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