The Tundal

Aug 04, 2015 |

The Tundal - a small carved wood block - is a traditional Nepali architectural design possessing both spiritual and aesthetic values. Tundals are placed diagonally at the end of a wall beam and used to support the slant roof outside the wall. Tundals are also considered to protect temples and buildings spiritually by virtue of carved imagery. Another interpretation is that they encourage procreation and reproduction in war-torn regions. The Tundal is a quintessential example of the Nepali woodcarving.

Images carved on a Tundal range from simple decorative patterns and images of animals, humans and divinity to diverse activity as well as erotica. These patterns create visual rhythm, melody and music. In general, a Tundal is divided into three parts — the lower, the middle and the upper parts which represent heaven, hell and earth. Visual rhetoric is potently present in a Tundal and in the Tundal series which typically run from one corner to another in an architectural form. Erotic images carved on the Tundal are believed to function as motivation for procreation. In addition, floral patterns also create visual poetry. Tundal imagery is known as key to understanding divinity and the self. Explorations on the mystery of creation are also intimated on Tundal symbolism and narratives.

A popular saying posits, “Lightning will never travel by the temple because she is considered a virgin.” Her feminine reticence alters her course away from the temple and, thus, the Tundal protects the temple from lightening and tempests. By virtue of the immutable nature of this belief, the Tundal, with carved erotica, is an integral part of temple construction even today. Critics opine that the erotic images carved on the Tundal facilitate intimacy and marital harmony among young married couples. Additionally, the tradition of young married couples visiting temples is seen as imperative in light of the fact that these erotic images help them gain selfknowledge.

Tundal imagery is known as key to understanding divinity and the self. Explorations on the mystery of creation are also intimated on Tundal symbolism and narratives.

During the Dashain Festival, the tradition of Tika signifies blessings from elders for children to be borne so that they may carry forward the family name and good works. In earlier times, war and conflict meant that the population of a state decreased considerably. Children were, thus, considered to be a boon. In relation, erotic imagery in the Tundal was used as instruments of motivation which is considered chief among the pragmatic values of the Tundal. Other critics believe that erotic images carved on the Tundal are keys to understanding the self and the spiritual world. Why does nature signify reproduction and rebirth? The answer then is: to continue life and for continuity itself. Who requires this continuity? Popular belief systems hold that an invisible force wields control over the activities of all living creatures. Explorations of the mystery of life are also thematically interwoven in the Tundal’s erotica.

Tundal imagery is also linked to Tantrism. Traditional religious practices argue the transcendental importance of enlightenment and the union of the self with the cosmic being and the mortality of mundane desires such as hunger and sex. In this cannon, study of the Sastras as well as meditation are seen as essential. Tantra brings enlightenment within reach of common people. Sex, in tantric practice, is the beginning of the journey of enlightenment. An erotic union also constitutes a union of the self and the Supreme Being - the male and the female principles are Prakriti and Purusa; Uma and Maheswor; Samvara and Vajravarai. A union such as this means that the duality of the self and the other is dissolved and this moment of enlightenment lives in perpetuity.


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