How our Buddhist statues are made

Buddhist statuesThe shop at Kagyu Ling sells a selection of Buddhist statues (rupas).  These range from reasonably priced, mass produced items for people on a budget to very special, high quality items.  You might consider these expensive if you are simply looking for a piece to decorate your home but our rupas are precious items, designed to support our Buddhist practice and they are painstakingly hand-made to reflect this purpose.

Our quality rupas are made by craftspeople in Patan – the metal working centre of the Katmandu Valley in Nepal.  Patan was badly hit by the earthquake of 2015 and foreign purchasers of its beautiful products are helping local people rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

Buddhist statues made in nepalThese rupas go through a six stage manufacturing process, each of which is carried out by a different specialist.  The process is supervised by the latest in a long line of family goldsmiths, Gyan Bahadur, who chooses only the best craftspeople and materials.  Each of our rupas is unique and Gyan, a Buddhist himself, understands the importance of them being perfect because he knows they will be devotional items.

Making Buddhist statues The process begins with making a one-off mould and casting the rupa in copper.  The larger ones are cast in several pieces and welded together.  Then begins the laborious task of carving the detail into the roughly cast figure with tiny chisels.  This is where its character really develops because facial expressions, the folds of its clothing, the way its hair falls, etc all emerge during this process and depend on the vision of the craftsman.  This is a labour intensive task – for example, it can take 25 to 30 days on one of our larger Buddhist statues (20 inches).

Buddhist statues being made Once the figure is complete, it goes to the goldsmith.  He and his staff then paint a mixture of ground 24 carat gold and mercury on to key areas such as its face and hands.  In some cases, the entire figure will be gilded.  It is then fired and the mercury evaporates, leaving a film of gold behind.  This is dangerous work, done in tiny local workshops, but these are highly skilled people who use tried and tested methods developed over many generations.

Finally, the rupa is sent to the face painter.  This very special skill is instrumental in ensuring that the expression of each figure is unique.

We order a small selection of these hand-made Buddhist statues once or twice each year so keep an eye on our display cabinet for new arrivals.  We can also commission very specific pieces if  you want something we haven’t got.  Bear in mind, of course, that this process and the distance the rupa has to travel could mean you’ll be waiting several months for it.  You will, however, have something beautiful, unique and precious.