Monthly Archives: September 2016

Flags in history : ancient and medieval India

Flag is a symbol, an object of significance and faith, with an aura around it, a sanctified, sentimental representation of a dynasty ,an idea or clan or a nation in modern times.

The history of the flag can be traced to  early times where ‘totems’ were prevalent which were used by tribesmen, which was a symbol, device or a badge for representation. These totems were carved into wood or stone which later evolved into standards and flags called ‘dhwaja’. In India the practice of totems, mostly animal and plants, still continues among tribes like the santhals, mundas, bhils etc., to represent a collective clan.

The Indus valley civilisation  was a Bronze Age civilisation extending in Afghanistan, Pakistan and North-west India(3300-1300 B.C.). It was totemic, as seen by the symbol of the unicorn on their seals.


Unicorn or ekasringa seals from the Indus valley civilisation.

By Mukerjee –, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Vedic age(1500-500 B.C) during which the Vedas were composed was the age of Indo-Aryans who settled in North India upto the Gangetic plain.

There is evidence of totemism in the Rigveda which gives knowledge about the Aryans.; as also in the Indian epics; the Ramayana and Mahabharata.The dhwaja made of light material, evolved as a portable  visible totem carrying a crowning motif during battle to enthuse the warriors. The dhwaja was an object of worship in a temple as dhwaja stambha. The dhwaja was a symbol of faith which led to erecting dhwaja stambhas in the temples. They were pillars erected in front of a temple. Shiva temples have the trisul or trident, Buddhist stambhas have Buddhist symbols like the wheel or lions etc, the Jaina stambhas could have a chaumukha or four fold Tirthankaras.The Ashokan pillars too might have evolved out of the dhwaja stambhas.

The description of flags and banners is present in the Mahabharata as per the hero or character. For example Arjuna has a kapidhvaja or a flag with Hanuman or a monkey on it. Ashwatthama has a simhangulam or the figure of the resplendent  tail of a lion. The God Skanda displays a Mayura dhwaja while fighting demons. Lord Shiva carried a brishabha dhwaja while fighting tripurasuras. Indradhwaja or Indra’s standard was shaped like a stambha or pillar made to be given to warriors seeking victory in war.


Krishna advising Arjuna in the Mahabharata., the dhwaja can be seen.

By His Holiness Bhaktiratna Sadhu Swami Gaurangapada – originally posted to Flickr as Lord Parthasarthi, CC BY 2.0,

Karna’s flag is hastikaksaya, golden and adorned with festoons and garlands flying in the air. Jayadrutha’s flag had the varaha or boar symbol and and was white in colour. Duryodhana’s flag had the serpent set with gold and gems. Bhisma’s flag had a taladhwaja, ie with a palm tree.Dronacharya’s flag had a kamandal covered with deer skin. The Ramayana mentions the dhwaja having the emblem of a Kovidara or parijata tree. Reference to flags have been also made in Kalpataru, Kriyasara and Pratishthasara  sangrahana and in Kadamabari written by Banabhatta.

The Puranic and Agamic texts reveal the importance of a dhwaja. The garuda dhwaja, tala dhwaja and makara dhwaja has been a Brahmanic tradition as recorded in the Besnagar pillar inscription of the second century B.C.

The Buddhists built  dhwaja stambhas at their stupas. Sanchi, Bharhut and Amravati has carvings to prove the same.Standard bearers were called Dhwajins and depicted in Sanchi and Bharhut art.


A prince on a horse  holding a royal standard,Bharhut,100 BC. Indian Museum, Kolkata.

By G41rn8 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Jaina too erected dhwajas at their place of worship.The symbols dhammachakra and simha or lion were used. 

 In the fourth century BC. Indian armies carried a standard. The Gupta rulers chose the Garuda emblem for their dhwaja as they were followers of Vishnu, Garuda being the vehicle of Vishnu.The dhwaja with the emblem or crest was later incorporated with a cloth or drapery for better and improved view. It was in use during the Gupta rule. The dhwaja thus was very significant and was a royal symbol and a point of rally during battle.

Thus we see that the totem evolved into a standard and finally into a dhwaja. The term ketu or the emblem was used separately but many times appears synonymously in the epics. The royal seal or lanchana too carried the same symbol as the dhwaja. The staff or the instrument to raise the dhwaja is called yasti and was made of the wood of tala,bamsa,bakula,kadamba or nila , palasa, champaka etc.

 The Maurya empire founded in 322 B.C. by Chandragupta Maurya which originated in Magadha with its capital in Pataliputra (present day Bihar)  was the largest empire in the world at that time. The Mauryan army used dhwajas and patakas as can be gleaned from the Arthasastra of Kautilya. Different divisions had different flags. Patakas were most probably festoons. The dhwajas added to the beauty of the war chariots.

In a war the capture of the enemy flag in the battlefield was a great deed. Many symbols were used in dhwajas. They included birds like the garuda(eagle), animals like the monkey(kapi) Varaha(boar, Bull (vrishabha) hastin (elephant)  hamsa(swan)  naga(serpent),mayura(peacock),makara(crocodile),kukkuta(cock) ashwa(horse). The tala(palm tree),kovidara tree,kusa grass,padma or lotus, nala(lotus stalk) agni(fire) megha(cloud),chandra(moon) and sacred objects like vedika(altar),mrudnaga(drum),kapala(skull) sruva(ladle),juhu(wooden ladle) kalasa(vessel),veda(holy book), sankha(conch),sringa(horn), Triratna in Buddhism were also used as dhwaja emblems. The chakra(wheel),dhanus(bow),bhindipala(spear),khatranga(club), sara(arrow), khadag(sword), vajra(thunderbolt) etc. were also used.

  The early Tamil rulers too had their own flags with their emblems on the flags. The fish, bow and tiger were all used. The Cholas were the longest ruling dynasty in the history of South India and ruled upto 13th century A.D from second half of the 9th century.  The Hoysalas used the tiger emblem.The Pallavas used the bull standard and flag; Chalukyas and Vijayanagara rulers used the Boar or Varaha flag. The Vijayanagara empire had been established in 1336 by Harihara and his brother Bukka Raya of the Sangama dynasty. The empire lost to the Deccan Sultanates in 1565. Its capital city was Vijayanagara  near present day Hampi in Karnataka.


Flag of the Chola dynasty, South India.

By Vatasura – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Mysore Sultanate in Southern India was founded in 1399 ruled by the Wodeyar family, reached its zenith under the de-facto ruler Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the latter half of the 18th century.


Flag of the Mysore Sultanate at the entrance of Bangalore fort.

By Hunter, James (d. 1792 – Domain,

The Delhi Sultanate which ruled from north India  for 320 years comprising of the Mamluk, Khilji,Tughlaq, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties, had it’s own flag.

The Mughals followed the Delhi Sultanate, established in 1526 by Emperor Babur and extended over large parts of Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan; with Babur followed by Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. The last emperor was Bahadur Shah Zafar and the empire was formally taken over by the British in 1857.


Flag of the Delhi Sultanate as per the Catalan Atlas.

By History of Persia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

 In medieval  India the dhwaja came to consist of flag with emblem and the pole. The Rajputs used the sun symbol in their flags. The Rajputs were prominent from 6th century A.D to mid 20th century and the rulers dominated many regions of central and northern India and some eastern areas of present day Pakistan.


A Rajput flag.

CC BY-SA 3.0,


By Unknown – Website says taken from Maurice’s Indian Antiquities (1800 AD), Public Domain,


Flag of the Mughal Empire.

By Orange Tuesday (talk) – Own work based on Alam The Flag of The Mughal, Public Domain,


The siege of Kandahar in 1631 during Emperor Shah Jahan’s rule, painting from the Padshanama,1636.

By Payag – Padshahnama, Public Domain,


Emperor Aurangzeb commanding his army, flags clearly seen, painting, India

By Unknown –, Public Domain,


An elephant with a mahout and a standard-bearer carrying a green standard with a gold sun. Images from the Mughal emperor’s  Bahadur Shah Zafar’s ceremonial procession on the occasion of Id, painting, 1840.

By Khan, Mazhar Ali (possibly, Artist) –, Public Domain,

The Qutub Shahis ruled over the kingdom of Golconda in the Deccan which originated from the disintegration of the Bahmani empire in the early 16th century.


Qutub Shahi flag.

By Kaygtr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Vijayanagara empire was established in 1336 by Harihara and his brother Bukka Raya of the Sangama dynasty. The empire lost to the Deccan Sultanates in 1565. Its capital city was Vijayanagara, near present day Hampi in Karnataka.


Vijayanagara emblem.

By Kurubahalumatha [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Vijayanagara flag.

By Vydya.areyur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Marathas belong to present day Maharashtra and were initially soldiers in the armies of the Deccan Sultanates and later Shivaji, who by middle of 1660 A. D. had established an independent kingdom.The Marathas had two banners Bhagavazenda and Jaripataka, a golden standard.


Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber receiving Shivaji Maharaj a day before concluding the Treaty of Purandar,1665,painting, India.

By Arjun Singh Kulkarni –, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Flag of the Marathas

By DarkEvil – DarkEvil., Public Domain,

The Sikh empire rose under the capable leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the area of Punjab. The empire existed from 1799 to 1849. It started with the capture of Lahore from its Afghan rulers.


A military procession of Hari Singh Nalwa (1791–1837), one of the greatest generals of the Sikh Empire; lead by two horsemen carrying battle standards,19th century, paint on paper .

By Unknown 19th century Punjabi painter –, Public Domain,


Flag of the Sikh empire

By Charles Singh – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Kingdom of Travancore, a prosperous princely state was ruled by the Travancore royal family from Padmanabhapuram and later Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala upto 1949.


Travancore flag

By Xufanc – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

References :

  • Dikshitar,K/War in ancient India, New Delhi:Cosmo Publications,1999.
  • Thapliyal, U. P/ Military flags of India from the earliest times,Delhi : B. R. Publishing Corporation,2011.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


© author

Wheels in art : some chariot images


Chariots have been an important aspect of warfare and have been used from very remote times. The Rigveda cites chariots and so does the Atharvaveda. Initially the fighter and charioteer used to be the same. Later the Brahmana texts mention the rathakaras ie. the chariot-keepers. The great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana mention charioteers accompanying the kings during combat. The most well known charioteer was Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Kurukshetra war of the Mahabharata. Charioteers needed  certain skills and were referred to by various names like the sarathi,rathin, suta etc. His duty was to manage and lead a chariot during war and obey the warrior on the chariot. He needed amazing skill in being able to advance quickly, turning and wheeling quickly and making circles.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra mentions a special officer to supervise the chariots and train the warriors. Chariots were also drawn by ox,mule and asses in case horses were not available. Chariots were of different types. Chariots which were used during war, chariots for training, chariots in daily life for conveyance etc. Chariots could be two-wheeled,four wheeled and eight wheeled. Chariots had their banners, flag-pole with dhwaja or ketu having symbols of animals, trees, flowers etc. The chariots had umbrellas and fans too. The use of chariots declined by the 7th century A.D as evident from the literary sources; not mentioning the chariot any more.

Some chariot depictions from Indian and Thai art are showcased ; the Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, temple built by the majestic Cholas in Tamil Nadu, the grand Surya Deul built by a Eastern Ganga dynasty king at Konark, Odisha, paintings on paper from Rajasthan,mural from Bangkok etc.

The Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh was originally commissioned by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. and more structures were added to it over time. The stupa is a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.The stupa has four toranas. Scenes from Lord  Buddha’s life and Jataka tales are carved on the toranas and the stupa complex.


Carvings on the west pillar (chariot can be seen) of the North torana or gateway at Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh, India.

By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.

Subhadra is a character from Mahabharata who is the sister of Lord Krishna and Balarama. She was suggested as bride to Duryadhona by Balarama but Krishna wanted her to choose Arjuna. Being unsure that she would choose Arjuna, Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to kidnap her. Balarama though annoyed initially , later agrees and the marriage is conducted, as per the legend.


Subhadra, half sister of Lord Krishna driving away in a chariot with Arjuna,lithograph, India.

By Original uploader was Sridhar1000 at te.wikipedia – Transferred from te.wikipedia; transfer was stated to be made by User:Fatbuu., Public Domain,

The Kurukshetra war is a part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, between  two groups who are cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas over agame of dice, for the throne of Hastinapura. They belonged to the Kuru clan. The war is said  to have lasted for eighteen days. The Mahabharata is dated to probably  around 3000 BC. The use of the chariot is evident from the art works created about the war. Lord Krishna was the charioteer to Arjuna; the Bhagavadgita being the advice given to him on the battlefield.


Painting depicting the Kurukshetra war from the Mahabharata. Arjuna who is one of the Pandavas is in the chariot behind Krishna facing Karna, commander of the Kaurava army, painting from Kashmir or  Himachal Pradesh, India.

By Artist/maker unknown, India, Himachal Pradesh or Jammu and Kashmir –, Public Domain,


Bundi or Kota opaque watercolour and gold on paper painting, depicting the battle scene between Arjuna and Karna from the Mahabharata, 18th century, Rajasthan, India.

By Indian, Rajasthani, about 1740 –, Public Domain,

Dronacharya or Guru Drona was teacher to the Kauravas and Pandavas; son of sage Bharadwaja who trained them in advanced military arts. His favourite pupil was Arjuna, who was most dedicated and talented; to him he taught the use of special astras or weapons.


Illustration from a book ,Dronacharya riding in a chariot, scene from the Mahabharata, India.

By Ramanarayanadatta Sastri –, Public Domain,


Illustration from a manuscript of the Kurukshetra war from the Mahabharata, probably 18th century, India.

Public Domain,


Gods look down upon the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas, painting,16th century, India.

By Unknown –, Public Domain,

The Ramayana, a great epic of India written by Sage Valmiki which narrates the life of Lord Rama. The epic is divided into seven books called kandas. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakhman, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are central to the story. There are versions of Ramayana in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and also Buddhist and Jaina adaptations.


Hanuman , scene from the Ramakien(Thai Ramayana) depicted on a mural at Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, 1800, Thailand, Bangkok.

By Jpatokal – Own work, Public Domain,

The Rigvedic Gods Surya and Agni ride in chariots. Chariots have been depicted and documented not only in literature but alos on stupas; example as in Sanchi stupa in Madhya Pradesh. Chariots used by the Magadha king Ajatashatru had blades extending horizontally from each end of the axle during 475 B.C . Chariots were called ratha in India and can be seen in paintings and temples across India.

As mentioned ratha or chariots were of different types; the sangramik ratha for wars,deva ratha for the Gods, the Karni ratha for queens, the Vainayik ratha for training, the pushya ratha for royal processions and the kreeda ratha for races and competitions.

The temple at Konark; the sun temple or Surya Deul was built by the Eastern Ganga dynasty by King Narasimhadeva I in the thirteenth century. The entire temple complex is in the shape of a chariot  of the sun God Surya, having 24 carved wheels, being pulled by seven horses. The temple is known for its exquisite carvings.


Sun temple at Konark, in the form of a chariot, Odisha, India

By Anshika42 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


One of the wheels of the Sun temple, Konark, Odisha

By Asitmonty, CC0,

The Cholas have built great temples like the ones at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda, Cholapuram and Darasuram between the 10th and 12th centuries. Darasuram near Kumbakonam at Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu has the Airavateswarara temple built by Rajaraja Chola II. As per legend Indra’s elephant Airavata worshipped Lord Shiva at this temple. Yama is also said to  have worshipped the deity Airavateswarar who cured him of a curse of a sage. The temple is rich in art; the main mandapa is called Raja Gambira as the elephant draws the chariot. Other beautiful carvings include a  ceiling carving of Shiva and Parvathi inside an open lotus and dance postures of Bharatanatyam.


An exquisite chariot carved onto the mandapa of Airavateswarar temple,Darasuram, 12th century, Tamil Nadu, India.

By User:Ravichandar84, CC BY 3.0,


References :



Posted by : Soma Ghosh






Cosmic in Asian art : mandala images from the East

Mandalas exist in many eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. A mandala resembles a circle or a geometric pattern, which is a spiritual symbol representing the universe. It symbolises the cosmos metaphysically and is considered  as the microcosm of the universe. Mandalas are of different types., though its basic form is in shape of a square with four gates containing one or more circles. The meaning is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’ and has now become a generic term depicting a cosmic diagram that represents and reminds us of our connection to the infinite, the microcosm to the macrocosm. A mandala is an integrated structure around a centre. Building a structure around a centre is a common theme in architecture. Mandalas depict radial balance. Mandalas are used for the purpose of meditation and  focussing attention, especially in Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism.

The mandala pattern or design is used in many cultures and religious traditions. Hindu mandalas are described in the Tantric and Agama texts. A mandala is the format on which the mantra is chanted to invoke the deity, the mandala becoming the deity itself.


Vishnu Mandala, painting on cloth, Nepal

By Jayateja (, died N/A) – LACMA[1], Public Domain,


Mandala as Sriyantra, Shiva and Shakti with a coiled serpent and the ten mahavidyas, Madhubani painting, India

By toyin adepoju – the_birth_of_ten_mahavidyas_with_shiva_parvati_dk47.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Buddhist Vajrayana monks create sand mandalas with the sand made from crushed semi-precious stones. After the ritual the mandala colours are all mixed and put in jars or into flowing water, to bring attention to the temporariness of life on earth. Tibetans believe a mandala has a teacher, a message, an audience, a site and a time.


Sand mandala,Tibet.

By Mary Mueller – Tibetan Sand Mandala, CC BY 2.0,

In the medicine Buddhist mandala, as per the Atlas of Tibetan medicine, Lord Buddha has been depicted as the Medicine Buddha or Menla residing at the centre of the mandala. Surrounding him are a number of gods, goddesses,rishis,protectors of medicine, healing herbs, mountains with medicinal plants, minerals and medicinal hot springs.


Medicine Buddha mandala with Goddess Prajnaparamita in the centre,19th century, Bhutan.

By Anonymous – Rubin Museum of Art, Public Domain,

The Five Buddha mandala represents various aspects of enlightenment; for example; the Five wisdom Buddhas has Vairochana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambha, Amitabha and Amoghasiddi. A mandala can represent the entire universe with Mount Meru at the centre, surrounded by the oceans and continents. In mandalas the outer ring of fire depicts wisdom, the second ring has vajras representing enlightenment. Lotus petals in mandalas signify purity.

Thangka painting with five dhyani buddhas (including the background), late 13th century,Tibet.

By Unknown – Honolulu Museum of Art, Public Domain,

In Japan, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism uses the mandalas for initiating monks and other rituals using the garbadhatu or womb realm mandala and the vajradhatu or the diamond realm mandala.


Garbhadhatu mandala, Japan.

By Unknown, Public Domain,


Vajradhatu mandala, Shingon school, Japan.

Public Domain,

Shadakshari is the form of Avalokiteshwara ,(a bodhisattva, a compassionate being who looks down on all beings and has postponed  own buddhahood or enlightenment,also known as padmapani), of whom the Dalai Lama is an incarnation. Shadakshari Lokeshvara is believed to live in a paradise called Potolaka or Potala.


Mandala of the Bodhisattva Shadakshari Lokeshvara ,17th-18th century, Tibet.

By Image:, Public Domain,


Painted Mandala, 19th century, Bhutan.

By Unknown – Seula Gonpa, Punakha, Bhutan, Public Domain,

Jainsim is another important religion from the east where mandalas are used. As per Jainism, every soul is potentially divine and jinas are beings who have attained enlightenment. There were 24 jinas who were the tirthankaras, the first being Adinatha and the 24th being Lord Mahavira who lived in the 6th century; who is frequently depicted in the Jaina mandalas.



Painting of Lord Mahavira,1900 A.D,Rajasthan.

By Jules Jain – Photograph of Art taken by Jules Jain, Public Domain,


Painting of Samavasarana or assembly of a tirthankara,1800 A.D. Rajasthan.

By Unknown – Painting, Public Domain,


Samavasarana of Lord Mahavira, 19th century, Mysore.

By Anishshah19 – 19th Century art, Public Domain,

Mandalas depict a beautiful amalgamation of religion and art. In recent times also mandalas are constantly being created by children and adults alike. They are being used for meditation and as a form of art therapy. Rangoli designs made at the entrance and courtyards during festivals in  homes across India, also resemble mandalas.


A modern mandala representing the summer solstice.

By RaulFalco78 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Pookalam(rangoli of flowers), Kerala, India.

By Gopakumar V R – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


References :

  • Bowker,John/ Oxford Dictionary of world religions;New York: Oxford University Press,1997.
  • Lowry,John/ Tibetan art;London:HMSO,1973


Posted by : Soma Ghosh


Kakatiya art: madanikas at Ramappa temple

The Kakatiyas ruled over the area called Andhra Desa or Telugu country with Warangal or Orugollu in South India, meaning ‘one stone’ as their capital. The dynasty ruled between 11th and 14th centuries ,1052 to 1323 A. D. They built a fort, temples and created amazing sculptures. At Palampet , a village in the Mulug taluq of Warangal district in present day Telangana, in south of India,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 .The temple has a main temple and  a nandi manatapa. The temple is built of light brick.  Each wall has a triple storied 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 for building the structure.

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 madanikas or alasa kanyas and gaja vyalas. These figure brackets spring from outer pillars , appear as supports to the roof projections and have become well-known.image003.png

Ramappa Temple, Palampet

By <a href=”//;action=edit&amp;redlink=1″ class=”new” title=”User:Jayadeep.r (page does not exist)”>Jayadeep Rajan</a> – <span class=”int-own-work” lang=”en”>Own work</span>, <a href=”; title=”Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0″>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, <a href=”″></a&gt;

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 or sabhamandapa 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.

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 madanikas as the bracket figures at the temple, over the outer pillars of the sabhamandapa supporting the cornices at Ramappa temple, are superb examples of Kakatiya art. They display grace and movement and are maidens who have been called shalabhanjikas, alasa kanyas etc. in many contexts in literature and as depictions in sculpture. The word alasa kanya roughly translates as ‘indolent maiden’!

They have different moods and can be alasa,torana,mugdha,manini,dalamalika,padmagandha,darpana, vinyasa,ketaki-bharana,matrumurti,chamara,gunthana,nartaki,sukasarika,nupura-padika or mrudanga-mardini. The madanikas at the temple are in different  postures and depict delicate hand gestures.


Brackets with madanika figures at Ramappa Temple, Palampet

By Adityamadhav83 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Nagini holds a snake  with another snake hanging over her shoulder. She stands over a serpent with two flying dwarf human figures are on either side.

The dala-malika is wearing high heeled shoes, probably to guard against thorns as she moves through a forest.

The mrudanga- mardini is a beautiful drummer seen in abhanga posture,with two miniature drummers to form an orchestra.

Manini is a shy  woman and is aware of her feminine sensuality. A monkey is seen pulling at her garment.


Nagini and dala-malika, Ramappa Temple, Palampet

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


Mrudanga-mardini, Ramappa temple, Palampet

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


Dala-malika, Ramappa temple, Palampet

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

The jewellery in the Ramappa sculptures are a very interesting study in itself. The madanikas wear a variety of jewels from head to toe. The drummer is seen wearing an ornament on her forehead called cheruchukka. A cheruchukka is worn at the start of the hair parting the simanta and connected to a string of pearls. Another hair ornament is the mutyala jalli, a string of pearls attached to a disc at the hair parting and taken to both sides up to reach the ear ornaments.

The huntress is wearing tatankas, haras, keyuras and manjiras. The ear ornament is disc shaped the kanakakamala,  a circular ear ring with a lotus pattern, usually set with rubies.

The manini has big kundalas with gems studded in the inner tier. Almost all the madanikas are wearing finger rings on all fingers of the hand.

The mekhala is worn by the madanikas; one of them has a waist girdle with three valayas, each having many strands of beads each having a  gem as the centrepiece.

Above the anklet the khadiyas are worn. The nartakis are wearing the one which is a tiered ring with beaded fillet. The hamsakas are worn over the feet. 

Most of the madanikas are wearing a short garment below the navel  up to the mid-thigh and the beaded bands on the thighs help in holding the garment to the body. The nivibandha or kativastra hangs down between the legs. This is also decorated with beads or pearls.  On the upper thigh of the nartakis on each side, are seen a beaded garment folded in the form of a trident or trisula. The manini is seen wearing a piece of cloth with horizontal plain folds around her waist, which the monkey is pulling. The piece of cloth resembling a saree, worn by the dala-malika has flower designs in rows.

The madanikas are seen wearing haras or necklaces and big garlands or kanthikaskeyuras and kankanas on their hands. The hair ornaments are mostly having a single string with small beads with or without a pendant, hanging from the hair parting, the simanta.


Nartaki, Ramappa Temple,Palampet

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


Manini,Ramappa Temple, Palampet

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


Dancer(nartaki)and Huntress, Ramappa temple, Palampet

By <a href=”//;action=edit&amp;redlink=1″ class=”new” title=”User:Varshabhargavi (page does not exist)”>Varshabhargavi</a> – <span class=”int-own-work” lang=”en”>Own work</span>, <a href=”; title=”Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0″>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, <a href=”″></a&gt;


Nartaki, Ramappa Temple, Palampet

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


References :

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.

Dress and jewellery of women, Satavahanas to Kakatiya by C. S.Uma Maheswari,Madras : New Era Publications,1995.

The Andhra culture during the Kakatiyan times by Dr.V. Anila Kumari,Delhi : Eastern Book Linkers,1997.

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


Posted by : Soma Ghosh