On July 13 artisans, supporters and devotees assembled in Loveland for the Big Day, when Hanuman would be transformed from golden bronze to deep green jade. This is some, not all, of the group posing at the end of the day, after celebrating an amazing accomplishment.
As today's slideshow reveals, we all came to witness the magic of Patrick Kipper, America's foremost patineur, that community of experts who put the final finish, color and texture on bronze statues. Patrick, who basically wrote the journeyman's Bible for this craft, had agreed to personally apply the patina to Hanuman, and we were delighted.
What he does is suspiciously close to alchemy. Alchemy? Yes that medieval forerunner of chemistry which seeks to transform matter, particularly to convert base metals into gold, or in our case into the mineral jade.
As you will see, we had chosen a patina that looks exactly like deep green jade, one that Patrick invented and the monks had seen last year on a Cambodian Buddha he owns. Seeing that Buddha made the decision for Hanuman easy.
The day began early with a simple arati. Yoginathasweami placed a 9-foot-long garland made of Hanuman's favorites: red and yellow. After the arati we called Patrick forward to bless the work he will do today, gave him the traditional shawl and dakshina, and all applauded.
Patrick took Hanuman through a number of stages, working hard hour after hour to clean and polish the surface of the metal, spray on a sulfuric compound to turn the metal black, then rubbed that back to a deep cocoa brown with a Scotch pad, then layers of splattered green followed by 350 degrees of heat with a hand-held torch. This is hard work and hot.
At one point Bobby Page offered a blue ice pack for Patrick's head, which he soon abandoned. Clearly, he is accustomed to these extreme conditions. But we are not, so we retreat to a tent that Rajkumar had set up under the trees outside. Or we climbed a flight of stairs to a room that Kathy and Rajkumar had turned into a little conference space. Here Paramacharya Sadasivanatha shared Gurudeva's vision of Hanuman, spokes of His importance as a model of loyalty, strength and service to God. He also shared that this particular form is from the Chola empire, one of the reasons it is so graceful. That also makes it artistically similar to Iraivan Temple. Paramacharya played a few short videos and slideshows he had prepared to tell the amazing tale that has brought us all to Colorado and to Page Bronze's remote workshop--then mentioned that President Obama always carried a 2-inch bronze Hanuman in his pocket for strength and protection.
Lunchtime comes and we adjourn to the front foyer where Kathy and Rajkumar have laid out a catered feast which all enjoy. Then back to our favorite activity of the day, watching Patrick work his magic. Another layer and another. Each time the artisan has to cover the entire body of Hanuman, all the sides and shapes, all the nooks and crannies.
As we watched, the tones of Hanuman have gone from bright gold to black, then to brown and shades of splattered green. Now it all begins to melt and merge into the metal, so much so that the metal disappears before our eyes. In its place stands Hanuman seemingly carved from the world's largest jade. It is a marvel. But more layers are ahead. Patrick adds them with amazing focus and enthusiasm, then sprays the whole murthi with lacquer, and two layers of wax. The wax will protect from Kauai's tropical sun and rains, and will be refurbished each year or so. As he works, we all watch in wonder.
While we all go off to a dinner together, Patrick informs us that he cannot join, since the heat he has built us in the metal would dissipate and the colors would be less than perfect. We all drive to PF Changs for a veggie Chinese meal and talk of Hanuman and his big day. In the end Hanuman stands: imposing, artful, poised, His might mace ready to protect all devotees, His left hand holding Iraivan Temple, which He has carried all the way from India to the Garden Island. We leave full and overfull with blessings and appreciation to the 29 artisans in the USA and 25 more in India who made this possible. Next stop for Hanuman: Kauai island!
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