Monthly Archives: June 2016

Decorative in Indian Art : Kirtimukha images

 The word kiritimukha means ‘’face of glory’’  or ‘’glorious face’’ in Sanskrit . Hindu temples use the kirtimukha over the lintel arch of the garbagriha or inner sanctum; on the ramparts or on the vimana.

Kirtimukha is a monstrous disembodied head with a fierce face, protruding eyeballs,narrow forehead with two horns, ears of a lion,thick moustache,bulging cheeks,sharp fangs,rows of big teeth,wide open mouth and a protruding tongue. This monster was created from the third eye of Lord Shiva according to the Skandapurana to destroy the Daitya king, Jalandhara. The monster roared like thunder when intensely hungry and Lord Shiva asked him to eat his own body when he approached him. The monster followed the instructions and only his face was left. This impressed Lord Shiva and he gave the name Kirtimukha  to it.

Kirtimukha started being used as a decorative motif in temples. It began getting a place on the lintels of the gates of inner sanctum, at the corners of pillars or on top of vimana or temple towers.

They are also seen as part of iconography of Hindu deities. In parts of Western India they are called grasamukha and east of India they are referred to as rahumukha. In southeast Asia it is called Kala.

Similar motifs are found in Scythian, Hellenic and Chinese cultures. The main functions of a kirtimukha  is to ward off evil forces.

Some important kirtimukha representations in  art can be found  across south  India.  Western Chalukyan Temples in Karnataka have the kirtimukha with strings and foliage emerging from its mouth.image001.jpg

Pic by Dineshkannambadi at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kirtimukha images at the ornate and richly decorated Kasivisveswara temple at Lakkundi in Gadag district of present day Karnataka , built in the 11th century by Western Chalukya dynasty, in Dravidian style.


Pic by Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kirtimukha image at the Amruteshwara temple in Annigeri in Dharwad district of present day Karnataka. Annigeri is known for being the birthplace of Kannada poet Adikavi Pampa.The temple is made of potstone in Kalyani Chalukyan style, built in 11th century. 76 pillars support the roof and mythological figures dominate the walls.



Pic by Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Kiritimukha at the Siddheswara temple at Haveri, built in 12th century in Dravidian style, has many loose sculptures of Hindu deities in it. The temple faces west unlike other Chalukyan temples. It is believed that the temple might initially have been a Vaishnavite temple but it is currently dedicated to Lord Shiva. The image of Surya(Sun God) exists below the kirtimukha.


Pic by Dineshkannambadi at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kirtimukha image at the Mahadeva temple at Itagi in Koppal district of present day Karnataka, built in early 12th century by a commander of Vikramaditya VI,Western Chalukya ruler, named Mahadeva Dandanayaka. The temple built of green schist is dedicated to Shiva with beautiful sculptures and carvings on its walls, pillars and tower.


References :

  1. Suresh, K. M/Temples of Karnataka,Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan,2003.
  2. Foekema, Gerard/Architecture decorated with architecture : later medieval temples of Karnataka 1000-1300 A.D,new Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal,2003


Posted by : Soma Ghosh



Decorative in Indian art : Shalabhanjika images

The word shalabhanjika in Sanskrit means breaking of a branch of a shala tree  (botanically, Shorea robusta) by a woman. The image is usually of a woman in sculpture standing near the tree and having stylised feminine features, holding a branch. The word madanika or shilabalika is also used.

The Shalabhanjikas have been depicted in Indian sculpture in various poses. She can be seen grooming herself, playing a musical instrument or dancing. She is seen wearing jewellery and her feminine features are very distinct  and sometimes exaggerated. Her hairdos are elaborate  and sometimes in plaits.

Initially it was believed that a young maiden on coming in contact with a tree could cause it to bloom by kicking the trunk and breaking  off a branch. The name of the ritual was  dohada.

As time passed the shalabhanjika came to be used as a decorative element in Indian sculpture. They started being used near the area of pradakshinapatha (circumambulatory path)of a temple leading to the inner sanctum, the garbagriha. Their figures were also used as brackets in temples and stupas. Shalabhanjikas represent the eternal  procreative forces of nature and are considered auspicious.

The shala tree is a symbol of Lord Vishnu. The image of tree and woman is found in Buddhist, Jain and Hindu art. According to some belief systems the woman at the foot of the tree refers to a goddess relating to fertility. The shalabhanjika  is usually depicted in a tribhanga pose in which the body bends at the neck, waist and knee. Queen Maya of sakya kingdom in the Himalayas, Buddha’s mother is believed to have grasped a branch of a Ashoka tree when she gave birth to him at a garden in Lumbini(in present day Nepal).

Some noteworthy Shalabhanjika depictions in sculpture of India :

The Great Stupa at Sanchi, built between 3rd century B. C. and 12th century A.D. contains the relics of Lord Buddha.   The stupa has four large thoranas or gateways in the four cardinal directions. Devotees entered through  these gateways and went around the stupa. The thorana  has sandstone beams held by bracket figures.  Shalabhanjikas can be seen as bracket figures on the gateways. The Shalabhanjika from the eastern thorana is depicted below.

She serves as a fertility symbol and considered auspicious for the site where the stupa is built. She has a bare torso with a stringed necklace between her breasts and a girdle holds her lower garment in place across broad hips. Her hair is tied in plaits and she wears anklets and  bracelets.


Shalabhanjika, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

By Vu2sga – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Hoysala temples at Belur built in 12th and 13th centuries depict Shalabhanjikas in different poses.  Built on star shaped platforms these temples have high domed towers with many shrines in the temple complex. Temples were important social centres in the past. The Hoysala temples housed courts of justice and were centres for dance and music too. The outside of the temples were covered with friezes of sculpture. The lower friezes include animals and plants. And episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The figures of Gods and Goddesses are seen along the upper walls. The sculptures are made from chloritic schist stone, which are grey-green in colour. The Shalabhanjikas or madanikas or nymphs are at the Chennakesava temple as bracket sculptures, with 38  on the outside and four on pillars inside totalling to 42 in different activities and poses. The maidens depicted here are  wearing heavy jewellery around their neck which fall over their moon-shaped breasts. Ear-ornaments, bracelets,armlets,anklets and head jewellery complete the picture. Some attendants are also seen in the sculpture. 



Shalabhanjika or shilabalika, Belur, Karnataka

By G41rn8 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,



Shalabhanjika (as a huntress) or shilabalika, Belur, Karnataka

By Nithin bolar k – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

An image at Rajarani temple from the 11th century in Odisha depicts a shalabhanjika in tribhanga pose.Her face has a happy smiling expression and she wears jewellery like a mekhala(girdle), bangles , armlets, anklets etc.The temple has deul and jagamohana as in most Odishan temples and built in Kalingan pancharatha style. Other sculptures in the temple include the marriage of Lord Shiva, Shiva and Parvati dancing and nayikas. On its uparajangha there are some erotic sculptures too.


Shalabhanjika, Rajarani temple, Bhubaneshwar

Von Benjamín Preciado – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

References :

M.L.Varadpande/Woman in Indian sculpture,Abhinav Publications:New Delhi,2006.

In praise of Hoysala art, Marg, Vol XXXI, No: 1, Marg Publications : Mumbai.


Posted by : Soma Ghosh

Bygone splendour : a history of the Kakatiyas

The Kakatiyas ruled over Telugu country or Andhradesa for two centuries before the advent of Muslim rule in south India.Warangal or Orugallu was their capital literally meaning ,”one stone”. They ruled between 1150 A.D to 1323 A.D. Initially the Kakatiyas were military generals of the Rashtrakutas ruling some parts of Western Andhradesa in 9th century.They emerged as independent rulers only from 1163 A.D. Much of the Kakatiya history has been gleaned from epigraphic sources;copper-plates and lithic records. Nrittavalli, a treatise on dance styles of the period written by Jaya-senapati, the general and minister of Ganapatideva is also an important document.

The name Kakatiya seems to have its origin in the Goddess Kakati or Kakatamma, a village-goddess form of Durga worshipped by the early Kaktiyas.Some sources refer to Kakati as a place from where the founding ruler Venna ruled, while some say that Kakati stood for a Jaina deity.The Kaktiyas are descended from the family of Durjaya and its founding ruler was Venna. Venna was folllowed by Gunda I and Gunda II.   Gunda III followed Gunda II and participated in the war against Chalukya Bhima I, the king of Vengi and died a heroic death. His son Erra followed him with the rulership of Koravi region of the Warangal district of present day Telangana. Betiya and his son Gunda IV succeeded Erra. Gunda IV also referred to as Kakartya Gondyana was a loyal subordinate to Rashtrakuta king Krishna III and supported Dananarva to capture the Vengi throne from Ammaraja II . Gunda IV was instrumental in getting the Mangallu grant issued by Dananarva in 956 A.D. He continued with his principality in the Koravi region.The Rashtrakutas collapsed in 972 this point of time the Chalukyas of Kalyana ruled over the western and southern parts of Andhradesa and the Kakatiyas became cheiftains to them during the reign of Someswara I. Garuda Beta or Beta I was the subordinate and lived upto 1052 A.D. His son Prola I is supposed to have built  a tank Kesari Samudra, 50 km from Warangal and was a great warrior.He accompanied Vikramaditya VI, the son of Someswara I in campaigns against Konkan, Kerala, Pandya rulers.the victories gained led Vikramaditya to reward Prola I with Anumakonda region. He however died in 1075 A.D.

His young son Beta II or Bottu succeeded him and with help from his minister and wife of Viriyala chief Erranripa, Kamavasani he got the rulership of Sabbinadu. He gave full support to Vikramaditya VI and earned the title Vikram chakri.After his death in 1090 A.D., he was succeeded by his son ,but there seems to be a confusion between his father’s last date and his ascension.

Duggaraja was the son of Beta II and succeeded him. Prola II, brother of Duggaraja succeeded him who defeated Medaraja and conquered Polavasadesa.By 1139 a.D Chalukyan power had disintegrated due to internal tensions.Prola II asserted independence.Rudradeva or Prataparudra I succeeded Prola II. He is remembered for his military exploits.After death of Vikramaditya II, Prola II overthrew feudatories of the Western Chalukyas and  expanded his territory. He captured Chalukya emperor Jaila III and later released him. The Kakatiyas ruled as independent kings and Prola II died when he invaded Vengi, capital of the Chalukya kings and lost in a battle with three feudatory chiefs of the Eastern Chalukyas.

Rudradeva(1150-1196), son of Prola II succeeded him. And carried out successful campaigns against Taila(name similar to Chalukyan ruler but actually someone else), Domma, Meda and Bhima He ventured into the coastal Andhra region and brought Kurnool district under him.He was defeated by the Yadavas during an attack on Devagiri along with his nephew Ganapatideva who was taken prisoner by the Yadavas. Rudradeva is believed to have written a treatise “Nitisara” on politics. He founded the city of Orugallu and the Sri Rudreswara temple was built by him. His brother Mahadeva(1196-1199) succeeded him who ruled for three years. He was killed in a battle with the Yadavas. The other invasions on the Kakatiya kingdom was by Nagati and Kulottunga III of the Cholas. Rudra, the Kakatiya commander repulsed the attacks. Later the Yadavas released Ganapatideva who claimed and regained his throne. However Ganapatideva Maharaja was the greatest ruler of the dynasty(1199-1261 A.D). He ruled for 63 years. During his rule he expanded his kingdom and encouraged trade and improved the condition of farmers, thus improving agriculture.The areas under his control when under the petty chiefs had discouraged trade by imposing heavy duties on export and import. Ganapatideva streamlined the system and offered concessions to foreign traders. He built a magnificent fortress with mud walls at Warangal.

His daughter Rudramadevi succeeded him. She was  the first woman ruler in South Indian history. She used to wear male attire and conduct her royal duties. In fact her father gave her the name Rudradeva Maharaja. She had the title of Raya-gaja-kesari. She married Virbhadra, an eastern Chalukya prince. She succeeded the throne when her father died in 1261. During her tenure invasions continued. The kings of Orissa wrested the Godavari valley and the Vengi country. The Kakatiyas resisted the invasion of Mahadeva, the Yadava king. The eastern Ganga king Bhanudeva I in 1274 advanced upto Daksaramam on the Godavari but the Kakatiyas defeated him. Rani Rudramadevi faced some internal troubles too. Ambadeva, Kakatiya feudatory with headquarter at Valluripattna allied with the Pandyas and annexed Kurnool and Cuddapah. He restored at Kurnool Manuma-Gandagopala who had been removed by Ganapatideva. Later in 1287 A.D. along with Prataparudra, her grandson she defeated Ambadeva.Adidam Mallu commanded an attack on Manuma-Gandagopala who was killed. His successor in Nellore Raja Gandagopala who joined the Pandyas was also defeated.In 1294 the Kakatiyas attacked  the Yadavas and captured the Raichur doab. She lost her life along with her general Mallikarjuna Nayak in the battlefields. She had married Chalukya Virabhadra and had three daughters Mummadamma, Rudramma and Ruyamma. Rani Rudramadevi was succeeded by her grandson Prataparudra who was the son of Mummadamma and Mahadeva. Prataparudra(1289-1323 A.D.) was the last ruler of the dynasty.He managed to defeat the Kayasthas,Manumaganda-gopala,Pandyas and the Yadavas.the Kakatiya kingdom expanded under his rule upto Kanchi and till the southern part of Orissa. His reign was marked by repeated Muslim invasions which started in 1303. However the first one failed. In 1309 Malik Kafur invaded Warangal and forced Prataparudra to pay a huge  indemnity. Another invasion took place which was led by Khusrav Khan. These two invasions happened during Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s rule. In A.D 1321-1322 Ghiyasuddin sent his son Ulugh Khan(later called Mohd. bin Tughlaq) with a large army to Warangal. However the seige of the fort lasted for six months and Ulugh Khan went away to Devagiri. However he came back in 1323 and after a seige of 5 months Prataparudra surrendered and died as a captive on being taken to Delhi in the same year. Thus ended the Kakatiya rule over Telugu country. Mohd bin Tughlaq extended his hold over the kingdom from Godavari to Nellore upto Cudappah.

The Kakatiyas are remembered not only for military pursuits and achievements but also for their architectural edifices and splendorous temples.The Warangal fort with its impressive thoranas  and  two walls was mainly built during the reign of Ganapatideva Maharaja who wanted to build a cosmic pattern fortress. It was completed by his daughter Rani Rudramadevi. The fort had 45 towers and pillars, probably a third wall spread over a radius of 19 km. The remains of the  swayambhu temple are at the centre with four pathways leading to it with lofty gateways or thoranams called keerthithoranams which are still visible today. The architecture has evolved from the later Chalukyan style but are representative of  Kakatiya architecture. The other famous temples at Hanamkonda and Palampet at  a distance of 12 and 65 kilometres respectively are the Veyi Stambha gudi( 1000 pillared temple) and Ramappa temple.image001

Warangal Fort remains, Warangal

Pic : Isha Vatsa

The thoranams were an important part of the temple architecture of the Kakatiyas which lend the enclosed temple additional grandeur. The plan of any temple depends on its spatial arrangement. The keerthithoranas are present at four cardinal points of the temple. These thoranas resemble the ones at Aihole, Karnataka. The thorana is large, massive and has double pillars on each side and the extreme ends of the lintels are decorated with hamsas with makaras at the centre. Overall the thorana is highly decorated structure with flower designs and geometric motifs and is very imposing to the onlooker gazing upon it.


Keerthithoranam, Warangal Fort, Warangal

Pic : Isha Vatsa

Kakatiya architecture has other pillars termed nandisthamba, nagastambha, garudasthamba and dipastambha. The great Swayambhu temple located in the centre has elephants, horses, hamsas and gajavalas on its adisthana (on which the temple stands). Honeysuckle motifs adorn the padmajagati and kapota layers which are components of the Kakatiyan temple namely Upapitha, adhisthana,padmavarga and vimana. A workshop maintained by the rulers existed in Warangal which employed sculptors  and temple builders bought their work. All over Telangana their work can be found in ceilings, pillars, doorjambs, friezes and lintels.


Kakatiya sculpture,Warangal

Pic : Isha Vatsa


Ramappa temple, Palampet

Pic : Isha Vatsa

References :

The art and architecture of the Kakatiyas by B. Satyanarayana Singh, Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, New Delhi, 1999.

Temples of Telingana by M. Radhakrishna Sarma, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi,1972.

Concise history of Ancient India by A. K Majumdar,Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi 1977

Posted by : Soma Ghosh



Bygone splendour : a history of King Kharavela of Kalinga

The Kalinga region (modern day Odisha)was freed from Mauryan influence after Asoka’s death and the inscription on the Hathi Gumpha represents  King Kharavela as a great scion of the Cheti race who was a Jaina by birth. He is connected with the Mahameghavahana dynasty and third king in the royal family of Kalinga.  Maharaja Vakradeva was Kharavela’s father who was the lord of Kalinga. Various historians have assigned a date of 4th century B.C to 1st century A.D.

Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves which are near Bhubaneswar in Odisha were made during the rule of King Kharavela for Jain monks and are of archaeological and historical importance.  There are a total of 18 caves.

The  Hathigumpha (Gumpha means cave)is one of the caves and the inscription on it mentions the prince spending fifteen years learning the arts of correspondence,currency, laws and understood different areas of knowledge. He became yuvaraja at the age of sixteen and became king at twenty five. As per the inscription he undertook public works in his first year. From the second year he began military conquests. In his second year he sent a huge army to Satavahana territory and disturbed the peace of the city of the Musikas. In his fourth year as king ,he occupied a capital of a prince called Vidyadhara and defeated the Rastrikas and Bhojakas of Berar. In his eight year Kharavela attacked and destroyed Gorathagiri, a hill fortress in the Barabar Hills near Gaya and sacked the city of Rajagriha or Rajgir. In his eleventh year King Kharavela destroyed the city of Prathuda, the capital of a king in Masulipatnam and also defeated Bahasatimita, the king of Magadha. He also defeated a Pandya king. In his thirteenth year, along with his queen Sindhuja he held a Jaina congregation and presented gifts to Jaina monks.


Udayagiri caves

By Balajijagadesh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,



By LRBurdak at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Hathigumpha inscription

By Windrider24584 at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,


Rani Gumpha, pic by Chaitanya Awasthi

The first cave is called Rani Gumpha. It is believed that the queen of Kesari king  Lalatendu lived in it. The other caves are the Bajaghara gumpha,Chota hathi,Alakapuri,Jaya-Vijaya,Panasa,Thakurani,Patalapuri,Swargapuri,Manchapuri, Ganesa,Jambeswar, Bagha,Sarpa,Hathi (already mentioned),Dhanaghar,Haridasa,Jagannatha and Rasui Gumpha.

An impressive cave ,Rani Gumpha is a two storeyed monastery with an open south eastern side. Each storey has three wings with a larger central wing.The lower floor has seven entrances in the central wing and the upper floor has nine columns in all and two pilasters. The central wing’s upper portion has frieze depicting victory march of a king. The connecting area between the right and left wings have friezes with a variety of sculptures including trees, animals and women playing instruments. The central wing has four cells having side pilasters. The pilasters extend to arches which depict royal scenes. The top of the arch has srivatsa symbol,nandipala, lotus etc.image009

Pic : Chaitanya Awasthi


Pic : Chaitanya Awasthi

The space between the arches is a long frieze divided into nine cells. The first cell has flying figure with a tray of flowers. The second cell has a herd of elephants and a crowd in  combat. The third cell has a man and woman in combat. The fourth cell has a royal hunting scene probably from the Shakuntala story. The rest of the cells are not so clear. The last cell again has a flying figure. The right wing of the Rani Gumpha is a compartment with two plain doors without pilasters and mouldings; the left wing has two rooms,one leading into the other.


Pic : Chaitanya Awasthi


Concise history of ancient India, Vol I,A.K Majumdar,Munshiram Manoharlal,1977

Mohapatra, R. P, Udayagiri and Khandagiri, D. K Publications, Delhi,1981

Posted by : Soma Ghosh



Cosmic in Indian art : Shiva as Nataraja

“..Shiva chooses the evening for his dance, when it is dark but the darkness is lit up by his own effulgence, the moon on his crest, the stars around, the flame in his hand and the powerful rays shooting forth from the gems on the hoods of snakes he wears his ornaments” says C. Sivaramamurti.

Shiva is depicted dancing in a circle of flames, lifting his left leg and balancing over a demon or dwarf, muyalaka who symbolises ignorance. His dance represents both the destruction and the creation of the universe and reveals the cycle of death , birth and rebirth.

Shiva is considered the Lord of Dance and has many epithets like nrityasila,nrityapriya,nityanritya,nartana and sarvasadhaka. The dance aspect of Shiva gets prominence in his name NATARAJA or Narteswara. Shiva dances eternally and is the embodiment of dance. The significance of the Dance of Shiva has been understood in many ways. It is understood as a dance of bliss,omnipotence,immanence,time and eternity, onmniscience etc.


Image of Nataraja at Thanjavur Palace, Tamil Nadu

By Mullookkaaran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Dance of bliss is Anandatandava. Shiva is the Supreme dancer and assures the highest bliss. The dance of omnipotence is a warrior’s dance after the destruction of the Tripuras, a dance of victory, a military triumph.


Image of Nataraja at  Cave No 19, Kailasa, Ellora, Maharashtra

By No machine-readable author provided. QuartierLatin1968 assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The dance of immanence is Shiva dancing as astamurthi symbolising his presence everywhere. The ashtamurti aspect of Shiva includes water,sacrificer,sun and moon, sky,earth and air and is of great use for sustenance of the universe, visual forms seen by all. The Ganga that dances in his jatas is his liquid form, his flying garments are his airy aspect. Shiva in this form has the sun, moon and fire as his eye, his breadth is air, his body is the earth, his ear holds the sky. He assumes the eight forms in order to uphold and maintain the universe as its creator, protector and destroyer. Shiva’s dance is of a whirlwind, of the flames, quake of the earth,dance of light, dance of waves etc.

Dance of time and eternity is Shiva as Kalanataka who kicks death and dances on the prostrate body of death or Yama. Dance of Omniscience is Shiva dancing with a veena as Dakshinamurthy, Nataraja and Vinadhara, he is the Lord of Knowledge, dance and music. The drum of Nataraja is believed to have revealed fourteen sutras to Panini which led to creation of Ashtadhyayi and identification of correct lingual usage. Siva is the poet of the Vedas as Dakshinamurti, an also a beater of the drum,teacher of music with Brahma and Vishnu who are also Natyacharyas.

“He is not only the architect of the universe, he is himself the author of the theory of this mode of construction and his is not an effort limited to a short time schedule to bring into existence something that has not been there. He is eternally active as there is no creation, no destruction, but only transformation and transmutation for which his omniscience, omnipotence and immanence and over-powering will make him the supreme Ishvara...the dance of Shiva is a symbol of this eternal dance. His eternal creation is an eternal cycle of creation,protection,destruction and deliverance”..says C. Sivaramamurti.


References :

Siva in art, thought and literature, C. Sivaramamurti, Publications Division, 1994.


Posted by : Soma Ghosh

Prayerful splendour : Ramappa temple at Warangal

The Kakatiyas ruled over the Telugu country or Andhradesa with Warangal or Orugollu meaning “one stone” as their capital. They ruled between 11th and 14th centuries ,1052 to 1323 A. D. and built a fort, temples and created amazing sculptures. At Palampet , a village in the Mulug taluq of Warangal district exists a lake,green hills and a temple consecrated to Rudreswara known as Ramappa temple situated by the side of Ramappa Lake;it is possible that the sculptor’s name was Ramappa. Built in 1213 by a general of the Kakatiyas, Recherla Rudra ; as is mentioned on the north east pillar inscription .image001

Pic : Isha Vatsa

The temple has a main temple and  a nandi manatapa. The temple is built of light brick.  Each wall has a triple storeyed niche with ornamentation.

The other structures include two subsidiary shrines, north and south of the main temple, a dharmashala situated at its southwest. There are two minor temples southwest and north west of the main temple. Smaller shrines are present to the west and the western and eastern end of the bund of the lake.

The Kakatiya architects had consulted the Silpa and Agama texts. The Ramappa temple is of a cruciform plan with garbagriha, antarala on the western side.The east, north and south share porticos. The temple stands on a upapitha with space of ten feet around it which forms the pradakshinapatha. The upapitha has horizontal moldings.The adhisthana and pabhanga are also molded. The pabhanga has elephants and other motifs. The figure brackets which emerge from the outer pillars are alasa kanyas and gaja vyalas. These figure brackets spring from outer pillars and appear as supports to the roof projections.


Pic : Isha Vatsa

The temple is five feet higher than the upapitha and to enter the temple one has to climb steps. The pillars are arranged in such a way that the ceiling is divided into compartments and each is carved with rich designs. The central pillars are also richly decorated and one can find puranic episodes here. The Rangamantapa where musicians used to perform contains ornate pillars with scenes from Bhagavata including Tripura samharam, Gopika Vastrapaharanam etc. The dance postures in the temple inspired Jayapa Senani to compose Nritya Ratnavali.


Pic : Isha Vatsa

Decorative gateways lead to the antarala and garbagriha where the linga stands on a black basalt stone pedestal. The subsidiary shrines on the north stand on upapithas and can be reached by steps. The south shrine has a square hall with garbagriha which has no roof. The hall has pillars in the middle and the ceiling has beautiful carvings. Episodes from Ramayana are carved on the pillars.

The dharmasala is at the South west of the main shrine. Various other shrines have been built in the vicinity; a temple of Shiva with mantapa, antarala and garbagriha with parapets having beautiful sculptures and doorways with jali design. Another temple towards northwest has an open pillared hall, an antarala, a garbagriha and an open mantapa mostly in ruins. West of the main temple another ruined shrine in pyramidal shape facing north, At western end of the bund of the lake lies a temple which has a portico leading to  a main hall and three garbagrihas with antaralas to the north, south and west. At the eastern end of the bund is a temple standing on a upapitha with flower and animal carvings. There is a hall and a garbagriha at the eastern end.

The famous traveller Marco Polo has referred to the achievements of the Kakatiyas.image006

Pic : Isha Vatsa

References :

The art and architecture of the Kakatiyas by B. Satyanarayana Singh, Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 1999.

Temples of Telingana by M. Radhakrishna Sarma, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi,1972.

The Kakatiyas by Dr. P. V Parabrahma Sastry, Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1978.

Posted by : Soma Ghosh



Descent of Ganga : images in art

The river Ganga has been personified as a Goddess and is worshipped by Hindus from all over India. She is depicted as a beautiful woman in art. Bathing in the Ganges cleanses us of all sins and she is considered holy and the water very pure. There are many legends surrounding Ganga. Ganga is mentioned in the Rigveda. The Bhagavata purana tells us the story of the birth of the Ganges. Lord Vishnu in one of his incarnations is Vamana. When Lord Vishnu as Vamana extends his feet to measure the universe, his big toe inadvertently pierces the end of the universe.  Through this hole pure water entered as the River Ganga which finally descended on earth after the request of Bhagiratha to Brahma, but held captive in the locks of Lord Shiva, in order to prevent destruction  of the earth by sheer force of Ganga. She was released from the head of Shiva and flows on the land.

A relief at Mahabalipuram depicts the descent of Ganga. It is a part of the  group of monuments at Mahabalipuram. An early sculpture of the 7th century, a legacy of the Pallava dynasty attributed to Narsimhavarman I (630 -668 A D.). The relief on stone faces east is skillfully carved. There is  a large perpendicular fissure which is in between two boulders. There are over 100 figures on the relief including Gods, Goddesses, humans, half humans, ganas, animals etc. This  great cosmic event of Ganga descending on earth is captured here. Its seems as if  everyone is watching this event. Mythical figures ganas, Kinnaras, Nagas are also present. Lord Shiva is seen near the Kinnaras. Bhagiratha is doing penance on one leg. Ganga is seen in an anthromorphic form of human and serpent. Nagas too can be seen swimming . the elephants both male and female and smaller ones too are prominent in the relief.


By Ssriram mt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


By en:Karl Siegfried Döhring (1879 – 1941) (Karl Döhring, Indische Kunst, Berlin 1925) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Another legend maintains that a king named Sagara performed the ritual Ashwamedha yagna and Lord Indra who is the king of the heavens got extremely jealous and stole the horse and left it at sage Kapil hermitage. King sagar had 60,000 sons and sent them in search of the horse. Kapil got terribly angry when he opened his eyes after meditation and burnt the 60,000 sons of King Sagara to death. The souls of the sons wandered as spirits. Anshuman, the grandson of King sagara pleaded with the sage. He asked him to bring the sacred Ganga down from the heavens. Dilip, who was Anshuman’s son prayed to Lord Brahma but failed. His son Bhagiratha managed to appease Brahma who then ordered Ganga to descend to earth. She however felt insulted and vowed to crush earth with her force. Bhagiratha then prayed to Lord Shiva. Shiva trapped her in his matted locks  further sanctifying her and finally let her out as five streams namely Bhagirathi, Jahnvi, Bhilangana, Mandakini, Rishiganga, Saraswati and Alakananda. Following this Bhagirathi leads her to his ancestors to purify their souls and thus release them.


Sculpture of Ganga, Ellora

By Chinmaya Panda (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The figurines of Ganga and Yamuna are present at the entrance of Rameswara, the cave no: 21 of the Ellora caves.  Goddess Ganga’s left hand rests on the head of an attendant. Ganga and Yamuna represent the moon and the sun. Ellora is located 28 km from Aurangabad in the present day Maharastra. The caves were carved out of the Charanandri Hills between 5th and 10th centuries by the Rashtrakuta and Yadava dynasties. Out of the 34 caves 17 are Hindu, 12 Buddhist and 5 Jaina Caves.

The Goddess Ganga stands on her mount, the makara or crocodile, with a kumbha/pot full of water. Her lady attendant is holding an umbrella over her. This image is from the Gupta period made in terracotta found in Uttar Pradesh, Ahichhatra, now kept in the National Museum, New Delhi.


“Teracotta made Ganga of Gupta era 01 at National Museum, New Delhi” by Nomu420 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –,_New_Delhi.jpg#/media/File:Teracotta_made_Ganga_of_Gupta_era_01_at_National_Museum,_New_Delhi.jpg

The other legend surrounding Ganga is the one relating to her being referred to as Jahnvi. When Ganga came to earth she disturbed the penance of Sage Jahnu. He got angry and drank all the waters of Ganga. The Gods then prayed for her release which pleased him and thus she came to be known as Jahnavi, daughter of Jahnu.

An excellent symbolic representation can be seen in the famous fort of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.The fort at Gwalior has a long history. It stands at 300 feet above the plain lands and it is believed to have been King Suraj Sen of the Kacchhappa dynasty who was cured of leprosy by being directed to a pond by Sage Gwalip after whom the town is named. Inside the fort’s courtyards one can see the kumbha  on top of the first tier of the pillar.


Courtyard, Gwalior Fort

Pic : Soma Ghosh


चित्र:Kalighat pictures Indian gods f.17.jpg

Goddess Ganga, 19th-20th century, Kalighat painting, Kolkata.

By Unknown – The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, CC BY 4.0,

References :

Ganga and Yamuna : river Goddesses and their symbolism in Indian temples/Heinrich von Stietencron, Permanent Black, Ranikhet,2010.


Posted by : Soma Ghosh