Mahavishnu Sculpture: It required 70,000 hours of labor from a diverse team of sculptors, designers, engineers, technicians, and support staff. This dedicated team worked tirelessly for three years, undertaking study trips to temples across southern India, overcoming numerous technical and logistical challenges, and investing a significant amount of money. However, when you gaze upon the magnificent Mahavishnu sculpture, all the time, effort, and creativity poured into its creation appear justified.
The Majestic Mahavishnu
Situated at the office of Anuradha Timbers International in Secunderabad, Telangana, this extraordinary ekandi sculpture of Ananthaseshashayana Shri Mahavishnumurthy, the reclining Vishnu, has been attracting a steady stream of visitors since its public unveiling on July 1, 2023, by the former Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu.
This remarkable sculpture is meticulously crafted from a single, ancient teakwood log estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,500 years old, as evident from the annual rings encircling the log. Weighing approximately 3.5 tonnes, the sculpture measures 21 feet in length, 8.6 feet in height, and 20 feet in girth, making it a colossal masterpiece. The material used is Burma teak, sourced from the world’s largest teak tree.
The central figure of Mahavishnu, along with his consorts, Bhoodevi and Sridevi, and the celestial serpent Adisheshu, upon which he reclines, are all impeccably carved to achieve a lifelike, tactile representation of their skin, jewelry, hand and foot contours, and even their nails. The woodwork is exceptionally smooth, devoid of any visible wood grain or nodes. The finely textured clothing adds to the overall intricacy of the piece.
Beyond the central figure, the sculpture includes around 84 additional sculptures, such as the 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, two Ashwini deities, seven Maruths, Saptharishis, Hanuman, Navagrahas, Ashtadikpalakas, Brahma, Saraswati, Gandharvas, Kinneras, and more. Above the sculpture, there is a banner bearing an inspirational verse from the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Shloka 6.
Behind these impressive statistics lies a story that pays homage to faith, craftsmanship, and dedication to a spiritual vision. Chadalavada Sharath Babu, the managing partner at Anuradha Timbers International, spearheaded this visionary project. The unwavering support of his father, Chadalavada Thirupathi Rao, who leads the company, was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition. Anuradha Timbers International boasts a track record of executing woodwork for prestigious projects like the Parliament library building, Thalacauvery temple in Karnataka, the renovated Yadadri Shri Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Telangana, ashrams of spiritual leaders, churches, luxury yachts, and even projects for renowned figures like the Emirs of Gulf countries, Saudi Arabian kings, and the King of Spain. Currently, the company is engaged in crafting the woodwork, including the doors of the sanctum-sanctorum, for the forthcoming Shri Rama Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya.
A Manifestation of Destiny
Reflecting on this remarkable artwork, Sharath Babu humbly states, “It is all destiny! I am so overwhelmed by the response! I was just conducting business as usual when I began to envision this sculpture with one of my purchased logs, simply aiming to create a beautiful offering to God. I had no other ambitions. The project took on a life of its own, and now it has garnered admiration from people across India and around the world, from ordinary individuals to VIPs, art curators, and connoisseurs.”
In a spiritual context, he adds, “In a way, I believe that Mahavishnu was already present within that log. We merely uncovered him by removing the outer layers. It feels as though he guided us in his manifestation.”
Sharath Babu recounts the journey of this sculpture, saying, “As part of our regular sourcing process, we search for the finest Burma teak logs for our clients. In 2017, my brother, Chadalavada Rajesh, identified an enormous log at a timber depot in Myanmar. Thrilled by the discovery, he sent me a photo of himself standing next to it. The log was put up for auction by the Myanmar government, and we won the bid against 30 countries, despite a record price due to its high value. A regular customer purchased it from us, and we stored it in our Yangon facility. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the customer graciously allowed us to repurpose it for a greater cause. So, we retrieved the log.”
Sharath Babu had a vision for this unique log, and that vision gradually took shape. He was determined not to cut this massive, centuries-old log into smaller sections for doors, windows, or panels. “I recognized its extraordinary value and wanted to preserve it in its original form for future generations. I wished I could have brought it back to India like this, but Myanmar’s regulations do not permit the export of logs in this form. Exportation would have required cutting it, which I was unwilling to do. Hence, I resolved to transform this colossal piece into a sculpture.”
The fact that this particular type of Myanmar teakwood log lacked sap, contained natural oils, and had very low moisture content made Sharath’s dream a feasible reality. His brother, Kiran, also wholeheartedly supported this endeavor.
A friend recommended the artist Rayana Giridhara Gowd, who resides in Garuvupalem village, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. Gowd presented four design options, including Gajendra Moksham, a futuristic female figure, and two variations of the Ananthaseshashayana Sri Mahavishnu. After extensive deliberation, Sharath Babu and Gowd chose the latter.
A Legacy of Artistry
Gowd elaborates on the decision-making process, stating, “We opted for this design because Sharath sir and his father, Thirupathi Rao sir, were insistent that the log remain intact and its shape preserved as much as possible. Secondly, the log’s shape naturally lent itself to a reclining figure. Lastly, the central area of the log allowed for the creation of a hip. Valuable input was also received from experts such as Sthapathi Kumaraswamy and Vedic pandits.”
Sharath Babu sought permission from the Myanmar government to convert the log into a sculpture, a process that took over a year to complete. Subsequently, sculptors were dispatched from Mahabalipuram, India, to Myanmar, but unfavorable conditions prevented their travel. “Therefore, we identified a small village in Myanmar inhabited by award-winning sculptors. It was a significant risk! However, we provided detailed instructions to these talented sculptors, installed CCTV cameras, and established two-way communication channels for continuous guidance from India. For example, we sent life-sized images via computers to our team in Myanmar, who printed and handed them to the rural sculptors. We monitored and supervised every step online for a year and a half, until 40 percent of the work was completed. Afterward, we transported it to India.”
Simultaneously, sculptor Gowd and other team members embarked on study tours of heritage sites like Mahabalipuram, Hampi, and especially the Ramappa temple in Warangal. The remaining 60 percent of the sculpture’s creation occurred in India, a demanding task as wood is a living material requiring meticulous and extremely delicate handling during sculpting.
Gowd reflects, “I incorporated as many traditional elements as possible and often adjusted design ideas based on how the log was shaping up. The entire team gave their utmost effort. Today, after years of hard work, we feel an immense sense of fulfillment.”
Inspired by this success, the company has initiated work on a large sculpture of Shri Rama Pariwaar. When asked about the future of the Mahavishnu sculpture, Sharath Babu humbly remarks, “It was not created for commercial purposes. Let God decide where He wishes to permanently reside.” We wholeheartedly echo that sentiment.