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Kerala sculptor crafts life-size elephant statues, wins orders from UK, Canada

Vipin Raj with his elephant sculptures. Image Credit: Special Arrangement.

For a moment, you will definitely be taken aback upon seeing an elephant in front of you. But only through close scrutiny will you reveal that it’s a genuine life-size elephant sculpture. Such is the skill of Vipin Raj, a 37-year-old sculptor from Kerala, who specialises in creating awe-inspiring life-size statues of elephants. Raj’s exceptional talent has earned praise from various quarters, captivating art enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

His life-like rendition of Mangalamkunnu Karnan, a 63-year-old tusker from Palakkad, which had a massive fan following due to its majestic appearance, is a testament to the artist’s ability to capture intricate details and the essence of elephants, faithfully recreating their lifelike forms.

Vipin Raj, who hails from Kochi, meticulously crafted the 11.5-foot-tall statue of Mangalamkunnu Karnan after the elephant’s family decided to commemorate their beloved tusker, who passed away three years ago.

What sets Vipin apart is his versatility in utilising different mediums to bring his creations to life. From wood to concrete, his elephant sculptures transcend artistic boundaries, showcasing his profound understanding of both the subject matter and the materials he works with. Vipin has been crafting life-like elephant statues for the past two decades, but his most challenging endeavour was creating the sculpture of Mangalamkunnu Karnan.

“Unlike other life-size elephant sculptures I’ve done before, Karnan’s was the most challenging. He was so beloved among the people that the statue had to perfectly resemble the tusker. For the intricate details, I meticulously studied old photos and videos of the tusker, collaborating with my friends. The statue was ultimately completed in three months and handed over to the Mangalamkunnu family for installation.” The concrete tusker statue cost around Rs five lakh. Crafting realistic-looking elephant sculptures isn’t just a passion but a profession for Vipin.

“People often mistake my sculptures for real elephants. Elephants enjoy an immense fan following in Kerala, and some elephant enthusiasts can identify individual elephants just by observing their physical features. Consequently, before starting a model, I visualise the animal in my mind and then commence work,” Vipin shares.

Though Vipin initially began sculpting elephants in wood, he expanded his repertoire to include other mediums such as stone and cement. “The elephant sculptures vary in size, ranging from 1.5 feet to my latest work, which stands at 11.5 feet. The larger the sculpture, the more striking and lifelike it appears,” states Vipin, who has a multitude of orders from Kerala and international locations, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

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