Orissa is the region in eastern India that once held vast control over the Bay of Bengal. For hundreds of years, it was one of the most financially and culturally wealthy nations of India so ancient tributes to Lakshmi—the goddess of wealth, fortunes in Hindu mythology—took place annually and continue to this day.
There are a great many sculptures of Hindu gods—which number in the hundreds—and some depict Lakshmi with an owl as her vahana, or carrier.
Uluka, which means ‘owl’ in Sanskrit, is also one of the names of lndra—the king of gods, personifying wealth, power and glory.
As all the points come together, they help explain why valuables might be kept in a vessel like the orissa brass owl for safekeeping—assuming Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, could not have found a better vahana than the king of gods.
Made using the traditional and complex process of lost-wax casting, it’s one of the most accurate forms of casting hand-made models as it re-produces intricate works with superior definition.
To begin, a sculptor creates a model out of clay or plaster which is coated with a thick layer of wax.
Another layer of plaster or clay then goes over the wax layer to create the outer shell so that when the whole piece is heated, the wax melts away leaving a space between the plaster layers.
Molten metal is then poured into the newly created mold and once cool, the mold is broken to reveal the solid metal replica of the original sculpture which is then finished using traditional metal-work techniques.