Kaivalya Torpy's Peace-Loving Statue Extraordinaire
A Moment's Peace
Kaivalya Torpy: Sri Chinmoy’s Sculptor Extraordinaire
I stood as one transfixed, hands folded in prayerful obeisance, enthralled with reverential awe at this most magnificent and powerfully moulded sculpture of Sri Chinmoy. I had seen many perfectly moulded ‘Heads’ before, but never had I seen a full-sized Statue of such luminosity, such radiance …, it was so awe-inspiring that it felt very much as if it had come alive. As I stood there in silence, for those few precious seconds, I felt that I had imbibed and was absorbing inwardly, whatever it was that this life-like figure was giving to me. Here in the courtyard of Kaivalya Torpy’s house, Barnes Common, on this pleasant morning in 1996, I experienced the first of what was to be many works of true greatness.
Who is Kaivalya Torpy? What is his interest in Art? Kaivalya was born in India in 1939. Son of an Anglo-Indian Father and an English Mother, the family moved to England in 1951. As to his artistic interest, I will leave him to tell you himself in his own words:
“As a young boy, from the age of 6 or 7 or so, I was always interested in art, but my parents convinced me that there was no future in it. All the time, all the way through school, however, I was very keen on painting. Even in University, I started art clubs for painting, but it was always secondary to my main aim which was to be a Scientist”.
“While at my second university, I met a sculptor there who impressed me very much, and so I started going to lessons to learn how to do moulds, to use clay, mix plaster and so on. After University, I took a teaching job in London. There I taught during the day, and would continue my artistic practice in the evening: printing, sculpture, painting …, and this went on for some time. It was not too long afterwards that I met Bhavani, who was later to become my wife. She encouraged me to continue my art and so I went to Art College, while she taught English so that we could have enough money to support ourselves”.
Art and beauty
As sometimes happens in life, Kaivalya was diverted from his sculpturing by the advent of his two sons, and the need to be the breadwinner of his family. This lasted for many years, until his interest was re-kindled by meditation while being a student of Sri Chinmoy. He tells it thus:
“My first son Devashishu came about a year and a half later, and so I had to leave my art in order to become the main income provider. I packed up my brushes and all my other tools to settle down for the next 25 years or so. Then I met Sri Chinmoy, and became interested in doing a sculptor of his head. In 1989 I started. I was struggling a bit, because I had not done it for many years. One evening, just before midnight, when all the family had gone to sleep, I was working away on the dining table. I worked all through the night, and the next morning this beautiful head emerged. I was astounded. I didn’t know what happened. Anyway, this was my first head, and I brought it to New York to show Sri Chinmoy. He said “Make more!”. I then proceeded to make more Heads, not only of Sri Chinmoy, but of Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Raisa Gorbachev …, and so it proceeded”.
Kaivalya got his big break in 1996. A student of Sri Chinmoy, Narada Michael Walden, asked Sri Chinmoy’s permission to make a full-size Statue of himself-Sri Chinmoy – and so Kaivalya was asked by Sri Chinmoy to do the work. This was his first full-sized attempt of the very Sculpture as mentioned in the first paragraph.
Sri Chinmoy obtained Mahasamadhi - A Yogi’s conscious exit from this world – on the 11th October, 2007. Not long afterwards, the students of Sri Chinmoy in Oslo came to Kaivalya, and asked that he make a full-sized Statue of Sri Chinmoy, to be placed at the Port of Oslo.
When I saw this work at a private studio and again in his back garden some time later, it looked so much larger, so much more elegant and grandiose, and yet I feel that the effect of the first smaller sculpture, almost in its raw form, had a greater effect upon me. Nevertheless, this Statue - as is Kaivalya’s, I believe - is my favourite among all the full sized Sculptures of Sri Chinmoy post his passing. Kaivalya began the work at Christmas 2007. In 2008, he took the finished product to Prague, to be cast in Bronze.
The completed work was then placed at Honnorbryggen, Aker Brygge Port, Oslo, 27th October, 2008. It stands about 2 metres tall (6ft. 6 ins.), majestically and powerfully overlooking the Eternal Peace-Flame. Arms folded in front in prayerful obeisance and seemingly in deep contemplation, Sri Chinmoy‘s Statue has been reported to radiate peace in abundant measure by many tourists and Passers by alike.
Called the Prayer Statue, this was the beginning of full-sized Sculptures, of which Kaivalya is still in the process of making. Since then, some have been erected in places around the world such as in Puerto Rico, Bali, Nepal, Finland, Prague, Australia and one with Sri Chinmoy holding the Peace Torch in Mazatlan, Mexico. More are in the pipeline, and will follow shortly.
“The first full-sized Statue was made in Clay”, said Kaivalya one day, in answer to a question put to him by an interviewer. “First I built a steel structure to support the weight of the clay which is quite heavy, and on top of that I put some polystyrene to take up the bulk of the volume, and on top of that I placed the clay. I then hired a friend to make a mould in silicone rubber, supported by a polyester resin substance which held the rubber in place. When this was all broken up, the clay was taken away, leaving a negative of the original which could be carried anywhere. I took a resin copy to my home in Barnes, and one was transported to Prague to be made in Bronze”. And as to his best experience:
“The very best experience that I had of all the Statues was the very first one which was most astounding. I was very insecure about what it would be like, how it would turn out. So Oslo still remains in my mind as the deepest experience of all the Statues, even though the Nepalese one is in a most beautiful setting. When I was making the first Statue for Narada back in 1996, I had no facilities then, and I was making the clay Statue in my son’s bedroom. Sometimes I would work late into the night and early into the morning”.
So why does Kailvalya do so many Statues of Sri Chinmoy? What is the source of his inspiration? Below we have a most moving account of his experiences with his craft:
“Many, many times while I was working on the clay, I would get this strong vibration, from the Sculptor itself. I even saw the eyes move and the head look down on me. When I was tired at 0300hrs after working on it, working at the feet, working on the dhoti, I would look up, and I would see the eyes moving and looking at me. It gave me such a thrill! It was then that I would realise, that I was not doing the Sculpture, that Sri Chinmoy himself was doing the Sculpture in and through me”.
Kaivalya Torpy being interviewed about sculpturing
“This happened on numerous occasions. I had so much energy and so much power put through me to do the Sculpture, that I feel that it is all based on my capacity and receptivity through meditation. Without meditation, I would not be receptive to this kind of influence, and so my meditation became fundamentally important. I meditate before and while I am doing the Sculpture and the Sculpture becomes a meditation in itself. The whole thing is a tremendous gift to me, and I hope that it is to everyone else also.”
How else did he get his strength, what was the source of that indomitable will that kept him going way into the night? Perhaps the answer lies in the paragraph quoted here:
“Of course Sri Chinmoy’s passing was a great shock to me, but even though I don’t have any more access to his numerous telephone calls, scolding me, encouraging me, berating me or saying nice things about my Sculpture, I still feel his presence very strongly. I am always looking at every photograph I get of Sri Chinmoy, and they remain a constant source of inspiration to me. I am more thrilled now than ever before, so each Statue is a constant inspiration and a meditation”.
So what kind of tools does Kaivalya use, and what is the vision of this resourceful, assiduous and devoted Soul for future manifestations of Sri Chinmoy’s work? Here is his response:
“I generally use bronze, white polyester resin, plaster slightly off white, and I might try clay fired in the kiln. That will be a new thing for me in the future. My boon is to complete 27 Heads, and go on to an even bigger project. One possibility which is a long way in my imagination is to make a Kamakura size figure of Sri Chinmoy in stainless steel somewhere on the Earth. That’s my big, big hope for the future”.
To conclude, I would like to point out that Kaivalya’s dedicated and devoted wife, Bhavani, was also a dauntless soldier on behalf of the Supreme. This admirable devotee of the Supreme, accompanied by her two children – Devashishu and Sahadeva - were a tremendous source of inspiration and support in Kaivalya’s life and work. They encouraged, helped, suggested and remained staunch supporters as well as beacons of promise to Kaivalya, for the manifestation of God’s transcendental Sculpture vision here on Earth.
Manatita March, 2011.