Deep within the green wooded hills of Wicklow, Ireland there lies an attraction that has always perked my curiosity. Even the name Victor’s Way Indian Sculpture Park was enough to suggest an attraction not of the usual ilk. So with summer 2018 around us, and strangely for Ireland, summer it was indeed, we visited.
Wicklow is for me, as for a lot of those who call Dublin home, the perfect place to escape urban life, and the restrictions of the city. Within thirty minutes drive you find yourself surrounded by peaks that deceive about their height. Those mountains (mountain being a generous word, but mountains they are indeed called), are the perfect location for anyone seeking a little adventure, with enumerate hiking trails scattered the county, and the beast that is the Wicklow Way, all 127km of it, cutting through much of the scenic landscape. This is one I’ve yet to set my sights on.
As soon as the greys and concrete of the city disappear into view to be replaced by the iconic Irish sight of green fields and hills that run down to the sea, I am in my happy place. All the pressures of life are exfoliated. And yet for all the times I’ve wandered this way, the sculpture park did not fall into my agenda. Till July 2018, and another drive in those mountains, that is. After a lunch in the neighbouring town of Roundwood, that was a little on the side of too heavy, we ditched our plans to go hiking. Not to return to the city without endeavour, finally Victor would have his way.
VICTOR’S WAY INDIAN SCULPTURE PARK
Located near the beauty spot of the Guinness Lake (known for its ownership by the Guinness family, not for its black appearance) Victor’s Way Indian sculpture park is a privately owned enterprise. It sits in a valley on 20 acres, with a backdrop of the Great Sugar Loaf mountain, which is one of those aforementioned deceiving peaks. The park is the accumulation of 25 years work for its owner. Judging by the conversation we had, he has great time for the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism, and has spent much time in India.
But neither the terrain nor the local wildlife is in focus. The parks raison d’etre is to take the visitor on a contemplation of life. This is done via a series of black granite sculptures, of which there are 7 major sculptures and 37 minor. The major sculptures here represent seven developmental stages of life. The statues were designed in nearby Roundwood before being completed in Mahabalipuram in Southern India. The largest concentration of statues of Ganesh outside of India are found here at Victors Way. So after parting with €5 to enter the park, what can you expect?
HOW VICTOR WOULD HAVE YOU VISIT
It is suggested to enter alone, without kids or animals. This is a park for adults, who are looking for contemplation. There are several locations within that encourage forest bathing. Forest Bathing, you ask? No you shouldn’t bring a towel. Forest bathing is immersing yourself in the holistic ambiance of the forest. It is a regeneration of the mind, body, and spirit, using the surroundings of the parks woods. We didn’t engage in forest bathing but certainly felt the benefit of our stroll between the trees that day.
The entry to the Victor’s Way is an unusual opening, with two bosom ladies on either side. It is known as Victoria’s Gate and the opening represents the birth canal. Yes the birth canal in other words through which we come through and into this world. It’s the first journey we ever make in life, and at this point our world becomes so much bigger. Chances are if you are reading this you’ve spent a lot of time making it smaller. The birth canal here represents being born again and entering into the park, with all the worries of the world left behind on the other side.
GANESH AT VICTOR’S WAY
Emerging in a wide open field it’s now that we set eyes on the many Ganesh. Most here are playing musical instruments, while one sits reading a copy of “Visual Basic”, familiarizing himself with modern computers. Ganesh is playful amongst the gods and is known to bring good fortune, while helping his followers to perfect happiness. He is seen as therefore as being modern and cool. There are come neat touches on the statues with small animals found on all. One Ganesh can be seen playing an uilean pipe (elbow played pipes from Ireland, similar to the bag pipes) and wearing a tweed cap, and has become known as Paddyganesh. The full group took the sculptor seven years to complete, and all stand two to three metres tall.
The Cobra seat here is in fact known as a wisdom seat, where anyone is free to sit. The emptiness of the seat suggests openness and limitlessness and while seated here you can create and awaken to any reality. Cobras of course nowadays are perceived as scary bringers of death, but in Egyptian time they symbolised the feminine principles of wisdom, fertility, healing and chaos. Thus from this comes an unlimited creative potential, and the thinking behind the wisdom seat.
The first sculpture of the six stages of life is awakening. It is the moment of birth as the blind infant enters the world. The infant emerges in innocence, awe, fear and unknowing and in conclusion its blind state symbolises this. The rotten claw is the past, the hold that once was held on infant. It is in summary about to be released from its clutches.
Separation is symbolic of the struggle for both mother and child. It is both painful and joyous for both, as after nine months being as one, they must seek a life somewhat separate. For me this was one of the more disturbing sculptures, the mother’s face is etched with agony, as she looks to stop the child from nursing. It’s some startling imagery that’s sure. The animal or instinctive side of the mother is seen pulling and holding the child close, while the human side pushes him away, knowing he must now seek independence.
The representation is actually Lord Krishna as a toddler sucking milk of the demon Putna, who was sent by his maternal uncle Kansha to kill him. The demon came disguised as a beautiful woman, and tried feeding him poisonous milk to kill him. Krishna sucked out all the milk, and Putna was left screaming and writhing in agony.
But the prize for most disturbing sculpture at Victors Way must go to Split Man. It is however a wonderful piece of art in my book. I’m a little in the dark about the full extent of its meaning, but here goes. The split man represents humans at an age around thirty, and represents the mental state of the dysfunctional. He is unable or willing to dedicate his life to one goal, one which may bring him happiness, and as a result descends into unhappiness and depression. This split soul is metaphorical here as Split Man in agony therefore rips himself in two. His face tells his agonising story. Astonishing imagery.
THE FASTING BUDDHA – DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
This rather interesting Buddha is a replica of the 1st century Bodhisattva, produced in Pakistan and which is now sitting in the Lahore Museum. The Buddha is unusual in that it is un-Buddha like, with many Roman influences. The robes, beard and look for instance are Roman. The fasting Buddha is a continuation of the Split Man, where the choices continue to eat him up inside. He gets to the darkest point, and after that seeks spiritual help. It comes in the teachings of Buddha, through deep meditation, and finally enlightenment.
THE FERRYMANS END AT VICTORS WAY
The Ferryman lies submerged in algae covered waters, reaching towards the land. His role of bringing souls from death to life is obsolete and he remains there reaching for the shore. However the land remains unreachable and eventually he will die where he stands. The ferryman symbolises the individual who has lost touch with reality, and is therefore reaching for the unattainable. It is in essence about a mid-life crisis when what has come before seems worthless and a new direction is sought. Only when a new meaningfulness is achieved will that shore be reached. I can relate to this as I’m on my third midlife crisis.
The gardens leave the forest behind and emerge at a lake side. These are Victors Way gardens most picturesque and peaceful areas, with the skies above reflected in the gentle calming waters. A lovely boat lay marooned in the middle of one lake while in the other Lord Shiva takes centre place. Shiva is one of the main Hindi Gods, and represents the maturing adult. He is driven to live life to the fullest, to above all make the most of every minute, knowing that life is in decline. Whatever the message the sight of the sculpture sitting in the water is an impressive one, throwing off beautiful reflections in the sunlight.
The finger is an icon for the basic thrust of life, to create. If we don’t create it postulates that we will be unhappy. To create is to become. That’s why etched on the fingernail are the words “Create or Die”. It’s meaning transcends more than just procreation to every aspects of life, above all it is the need to create, and therefore reduce our sameness to everyone else. Creativity begins in each of our fingers. I concur I’m here typing this blog with my fingers, looking to better myself creatively.
Leaving the lakes behind we arrive back to the other side of the open field, and a number of sculptures. The first up is Eve. Eve here is not represented as in the bible, where temptation got the better, but rather as referenced by ancient Hebrew texts. There she is life bringing, wise, loving and bettering herself through the acquiring of knowledge. In the texts Eve is the mother of life, and Adam was a lowly field worker, with the only role being to provide for the far smarter and more creative Eve. Needless to say many readers will agree with that. Feminism was alive and well in ancient times. The sculpture is again a semi-nude.
NIRVANA MAN AND OTHERS AT VICTOR’S WAY
Nirvana Man is a sculpture who has attained inner peace and happiness and has reached Nirvana. He has attained his goal and been self realised. He just looks happy, chilling there. It’s the ideal way to end a tour of the park, after a voyage of torment through the other sculptures. We have seen the experiences that life can bring, but not where can it end up? Is there something to be read into the fact, that most of the tormented statues are men, before we finally end up with Eve, and the conclusion of how women will provide the wisdom and creativity to be the dominant sex.
At this point we find the Nirvana Man, happy with his lot and without a care in the world. Is this the intended way of the world? Or did I just walk around Victors Way park the wrong way? Irregardless it was a fantastic park to traverse, and a wonderful insight into deep philosophical thinking.
And the Victor’s way sculpture garden is a place not to be missed by everyone
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