Amidst the rhythmic sounds of hammering and filing, sits a gentle, dapper bespectacled man, lost in his own world while shaping a contemporary figurine of Lord Ganesha. He is none other than master craftsman R Veerabhadra Chari of namma Bengaluru. The 73-year-old artist has gained name and fame through his innumerable art works of bronze which were once exquisitly designed, carved and casted by him. It is late evening and one can still see a group of trained artists and students busily filing and polishing at their work tables. Housing seven artists at Rudra Arts, his workshop at Mookambika Nagara is a veritable treasure trove . One is mesmerised to see an eclectic collection of images and busts that are waiting for the final touches by the master himself.
He has trained 25 youngsters, mostly from the Vishwakarma community. A highly skilled job, each person in the workshop does a specific work either box casting, welding, buffing, polishing or antique finishing.
"I was trained by distinguished master craftsmen like Bhashyam Sthopathi in Chola and N P Srinivaschar in the Hoysala styles over a period of time. Joining the Regional Design and Technical Development Centre as an Assistant Craftsman in 1958 gave me an opportunity to learn and hone my skills. I retired in 1997 as a master craftsman. After this, I set up this workshop," he says.
Veerabhadra Chari caters to government art emporiums, private art shops, temples as well as individual and bulk orders from institutions and organisations. Orders invariably include images of Lakshmi Narasimha, Venkateshwara set, Ganesha, Shiva, Durga, etc and of course, silver kavachas for idols and decorative pieces. Be it the Virupaksha temple of Hampi (silver mukhavada for the main deity), Shiva Ganga Kshetra (Pancha loha mukhavada of Shiva) in Tumkur district, Devagiri Devasthana (Venkateshwara set) in Bangalore, or the Cauvery Handicrafts on MG Road or any private art and crafts outlet in Bangalore, one gets to see the mastery of this bronze sculptor.
He has won many state and national awards including the Loha Shilpa Karnataka Crafts award in 1978, the Ramsons Foundation award in 1997, Karnataka Shilpakala Academy award in 1998, the Rajyotsava award in 2004 and finally the Jakanacharya award in 2008. The bronze idol of Bhasma Mohini in the Hoysala tradition won him laurels and was displayed in the Indian Crafts Exhibition in China while the idol of Vishnu in Chola style got him the state award and the Chaturbhuja Natya Ganesh in Hoysala style garnered appreciation.
In the footsteps
42 year old Lokesh with a diploma in civil engineering has preferred to follow his father and says, "This is my life now and I have no regrets. We can earn our livelihood as we continuously get temple and personal orders. Bronze casting is here to stay and I hope my children too will take it up," he signs off.