Carving out ‘wonders on wood’ is his passion and mission

At the age of 71, Pt Mahesh Chand Sharma’s motto in life is to “work for needy human beings till his last breath”. Pt Sharma is a renowned wood-carver from Delhi who has been honoured with the State and National Awards and the title of ‘Shilpa-Guru’ by the President of India. In this exclusive interview with, Pt Sharma talks about his contribution to the wood carving craft and his vision for its future.

How and from where did you learn this unique art of wood carving?

I have always been inclined to be in touch with my traditional roots and this craft was bestowed on me by my family. Earlier my family used to practice carving on ivory, but in 1985 when the ivory sale was banned we shifted to Chandan (sandalwood) and Sangria wood.

You have been working on this handicraft for over 55 years. What has been your motivation?

This archival art is very valued in the domestic market as well as foreign countries. Over the years I have received appreciation in many forms but in 1994 when I was honoured with the National Award my spirits were lifted to another level altogether and it reinforced my belief in this art. There was no looking back after I was felicitated with the title of ‘Shilpa-Guru’ by the President of India in 2007.

Tell us about your projects to teach woodcarving to Tihar Jails inmates.

Pt Mahesh Chand Sharma (second from left on top) displaying the woodcarvings done by Tihar Jail inmates (below)

I have trained more than 40 inmates in Tihar Jail No.2 between the years 2011 to 2016. In July 2016 I had also started training inmates in Faridabad Jail. Dr Kiran appreciated me on these initiatives.

What are the other programmes/initiatives you were associated with over these years?

In 2008, we conducted a successful Craft-Exchange programme for 15 days at INA Delhi-Haat. In 2010, I created five unique handicraft pieces to be displayed for the visitors at Rajeev Gandhi Museum. These were India Gate, Golden Temple, Pashupati Nath Temple, Jharokha Frame and Jal Table Lamp. In 2015 we participated in the Exhibition Shilp-Bazaar (for traditional handicrafts) for the first time in the Lok Sabha.

What is your vision for the future of this intricate art?

My vision is to keep my traditional wooden handicrafts alive by imparting skill training and knowledge to the young generation. This handicraft has a great future and we need to believe in it and appreciate it for it to grow. I will continue to function with the same spirit and enthusiasm till my last breath.