Terracotta art of Bengal : fauna depictions on temples

 

         Man is as much a part of the earth as is the nature around him. The best of nature exists as rocks, trees and animals. Some animals have played a big role in man’s life. He has captured them in art in sculpture,painting and even on coins as symbolic depictions. Fauna is a term used to represent animals in general. Various representations of fauna can be seen in different works of art, mythological story depictions and rock shelters from prehistoric times. Mughal emperors have left behind hundreds of animal and bird depictions in miniature paintings for posterity. The terracotta temples of Bengal have many animal depictions shown in interaction with humans in different capacities. Showcased are some fauna images from the temples. The animals include horses, oxen, elephants and tigers in combat too ! Dogs are seen on some illustrative panels along with the overall scene or procession depiction.

      The Jor-Bangla temple at Bishnupur, was built in 1655 A.D by King Raghunath Singha Dev. It is richly ornamented with terracotta carvings. The roof has the classic chala style of Bengal architecture. The carvings show animals in the panels and borders.

Jor Bangla Temple 3 Bishnupur.JPG

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

By Amartyabag – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522463

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur 4.JPG

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

By Amartyabag – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522468

  The Shyamrai temple also at Bishnupur is an architectural gem classified as a pancharatna built by King Raghunath Singha in 1643. It is a brick temple, massive in scale and has superb ornamentation. The temple stands on a square plinth with a char-chala roof surmounted by ratnas at each corner. The chala type of construction has been derived from the thatched bamboo framework  roof design of huts of rural Bengal. The figurines at the temple are advanced and portray scenes from the epics. Depicted below is ratha or chariot in terracotta wherein horses can be seen. The main figure is surrounded by a geometric and floral motif.

         Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

By Amartyabag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

       Kantanagar at Dinajpur, Bangladesh (previously part of undivided Bengal) is home to  the Kantajiu temple from the 18th century. Kanta refers to Lord Krishna. Started by Maharaja Pran nath in 1704, this 50 feet high three storeyed brick temple rests on a platform and was completed by Raja Ram Nath in 1722 A.D. Originally the temple had nine spires but an earthquake destroyed them in 1897. Thus it was a navaratna.  The terracotta work at  outer walls of the temple with  scenes from the epics,floara, fauna and geometrical motifs. Animals like horses and elephants are  part of the portraiture. They can be seen with riders on them as part of the overall depiction and are wearing jewellery and bells. The detailing is very clear and reflects the superior craftsmanship of the terracotta artists.

Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh (12).JPG

Kantaji Temple, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.

By Shahnoor Habib Munmun – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8827772

                                  Terracotta work, Kantanagar temple.

By Md. Sarwar Ul Islam Fakir – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51808834

   The Lalji temple at Kalna, Bardhaman is a panchabhinsati ratna because of the 25 spires on its roof. It has exquisite terracotta panels on its outer walls and is built of brick like so many other temples of Bengal.  This temple was built in 1739 and has char-chala mandap in front. The temple also has some beautiful terracotta panels. The terracotta panels show lions and elephants in combat, horses drawing chariots or carrying their riders who are in combat ! Dogs are also depicted.

 

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 1.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 11.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951638

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 9.jpg

Terracotta panel, Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950995

WLM@WB-Terracotta Panel 21 of Lalji Temple in Kalna.jpg

Terracotta panel, Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51958006

         Animal depictions at other temples like Gopalji temple,Kalna and Rameswar temple,Kalna depict oxen pulling carts, horses with riders, tigers and elephants in combat mode. The figures convey a sense of movement and energy and refelct the innate skill of the craftsman of that time. Terracotta is used to this day to carve and sculpt animals  which are iconic craft items in status and are loved by  people.  The terracotta  horse is used as a symbolic sacrifice for fulfillment of wishes to appease the village God Dharmathakur in Bankura district of Bengal.

WLM@WB-Terracotta Panel 03 of Gopalji Temple in Kalna.jpg

Terracotta panel, Gopalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51782991

Rameswar Temple - Kalna - Terracotta Panel - Front Left Pillar - 1.jpg

Rameswar Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51788907

Terracotta Panel - Gopalji Temple - Kalna 2016-09-25 6480.jpg

  Terracotta panel, Gopalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51956495

Terracotta Panel - Gopalji Temple - Kalna 2016-09-25 6479.jpg

 

Terracotta panel, Gopalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51956493

 

References :

  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Indian terracotta art/Ganguly,O.C, Bombay : rupa and Co,1959.
  • wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s