Metal sculpture is a process of shaping metal sheet into desired shape by hammering, which has some similar feature of Repoussé technique. One of the earliest traces of metal sculpting can be seen in Hindu and Buddhist civilization. The earlier days of Buddhist civilization lacked with forms of visual art. Third century BC was the time when visually divine figure came into existence into region of Tibet, Nepal, China and northern India. During the first century AD, representation of Buddha was seen in stone and wooden sculptures, which was a sacred art and widely spread through Himalayan and Nepal region.
During the Gupta period (i.e:320-475 century), Indian handicrafts and Napalese art were popular and Napalese artisan started using metal to represent the Buddha and Indian deities. Higher representation of metal sculpture was seen during the Licchavi period (450 – 750 century) under licchavi dynasty, which originated in India. Licchavi dynasty used Indian style embossed coins while trading with Tibet, due to which political and cultural relation become stronger with Tibet.
Metal statue art work is one of the most innovative and treasure art in Nepal, In 7th century, Sprincess bhrkuti of Nepal, brought a Buddha figure in her dowry after getting married the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (618-649 century), the idol was placed in Jokhang temple of Tibet. This lead to the development of metal sculpture in Tibet. Newari community of Nepal is one the traditional groups known of detailed metal sculpture. This lead to the development of metal sculpture in Tibet. Newari community of Nepal is one the traditional groups known of detailed metal sculpture Newari craftsmen are well known for their high quality metal work. There work has influenced the traditional art of china and Tibet, Newari artisan travelled to both the countries to showcase their skills in temples and monasteries. Majority of metal sculptures made by these artisans, did not focus on only one religion (Hindu or Buddhist), they produced idols for both the religion. Nepal is one of the places in the world, where Hinduism and Buddhism cohabited peacefully for almost 2,000 years. Newari craftsmen created their own unique style of metal sculpting. Some of the feature which can be seen in Newari metal sculpture are long and relaxed eyes, wider face, ornamental embellishments, exaggerated postures and unique jewelry styles. Many of the early bronze or copper sculpture were small in size but very much appreciated for craftsmanship involved in the work. Newari community is further divided in Tamrakar, Shakya and Swarnakars. The craftsmen developed techniques to melt gold and apply on metal sculpture. These techniques were much appreciated by the dynasty of Himalaya region, particularly Tibet. Many of the Buddhist monks of Tibet region were involved in the making of metal sculpture at Buddhist monastery. Due to the influence of outside world, new scripture and legends, the number of god and goddess increased. This was the time when there was a huge development in the productive of metal sculptures. Idols of god and goddess were exported throughout Asia and to other parts of the world from Tibet.
At this time anatomy of the figure were kept under high standard, the idols were in slender form, with well-shaped limbs and finger. Voluptuous features like full bodies, broad hips and full chest were seen on the idols. Many believe that these feature were inspired by the idols made at Mathura kingdom. Due to influence of Mughal era by the end of twelfth century and many wars which happened before that, metal workers of Kathmandu come up with their unique style of metal sculpting like water containers, pots, plates, cups, and bowls, the high quality finish products were sold to Kings, traders and priests. Newari community developed new system of working at home by building workshops at ground floor and their home at 1st floor. Kathmandu valley divided into three kingdoms after the death of yaksha malla (king of Nepal) in 1484, all the three kingdoms showed their greatness by demonstrating art and architecture present in their kingdom. Each kingdom showed there superiority in metal, wood, stone and textile crafts. Craftsmen with finest skills in these art were highly rewarded. Mallas encouraged the development of metal art and supplied it to temples, Buddhist monastery and utensils to rich people thought out Asia.
Influence of Buddhism can be seen thought the region of Himachal Pradesh, many of the craftsmen from Tibet and Nepal has settled in the monastery of Himachal Pradesh about 500 years back. Metal sculpture is one of the rare art which is still practiced in these monastery. This crafts has been passed through one generation to other and many of the essential steps in making of metal idols are kept as secrets. Still today one can find tamrakar, shakyas and swarnakars in the valley of Nepal and Tibet, who have devoted their life in preserving the ancient and cultural gift given by their ancestors. There skill of creating metal sculpture have been perfected with the years’ experience, which is appreciated throughout the world.