Iraivan's Historic Avudaiyar

Here the master metal worker, Kubera Sthapathi, shows the amazing masterpiece that will be sent soon to Kauai. Selvanathan Sthapati, shown with Bodhinatha in the photo below, tells the story of the casting the Avudaiyar, the base for the crystal lingam to be installed in Iraivan Temple. We let him tell the story in his own words. "Iraivan Temple's mula beram (Deity) is a six sided crystal called sphatika lingam weighing 700 pounds. The monastery decided to make a suitable base for the sphatika lingam in accordance with the Agamas' shilpaic principles. As stated in the texts, a sphatika lingam should have a base (avudaiyar) made from the same material, in this case crystal. Otherwise, metal can be used. In this case, a Chola-style avudaiyar was designed and approved to be cast in panchalokam, a traditional mixture of five metals: copper, tin, lead, silver and gold"

This art shows the lingam as it will be installed in the sanctum, and the shape of the avudaiyar which holds it. Selvanathan's story continues. "The Maha Avudaiyar measuring 25.5 inches x 45.5 inches x 13.75 inches (64.77 x 115.57 x 34.925 cm) is fashioned in the style of Vedibhadra peetam. This is cast in solid metal, which is called ghana in technical parlance. "This huge base cast in panchaloka is rare of its kind. Nothing like this has been done before in the history of metal work. It weighs approximately 4,700 kilograms, or 10,361 pounds. The casting work was carried out systematically in three parts, making use of both ancient and modern technical methodologies. The top part, known as the padmam with gomukhi, middle part known as the kandam and the bottom part known as padmam were cast at different times then assembled together in one form.

Based on the skill and expertise of the sthapatis, the Maha Avudaiyar casting work was done in the following manner. First, a life-size model of the avudaiyar was made using bricks covered with cement mortar as per the architect's drawings. Then a wax replica of the cement model was made; in three parts as previously described. The wax used was a combination of beeswax, kungiliyam (oil derived from the plant Boswellia serrata) and oil. This mixture is soft and flexible and suitable for molding. "The decorative elements of the avudaiyar, too delicate to be duplicated in the cement model, are then added to the wax model. In the next step the wax model is encased in clay. Then the clay is slowly heated. The wax melts and runs out of the clay through openings specially made for the purpose. These same openings are then used to pour molten metal into the clay mold. The three resulting metal pieces are then tooled to remove small defects, add additional embellishments and then joined together. A request will be made to the Indian government to have the chief craftsman, Kubera Sthapati, honored for this extraordinary accomplishment."

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