Monthly Archives: December 2019

Kaliyamardana – a story from the Bhagavata Purana

          Lord Krishna is a much loved deity in Hinduism. His childhood as Balakrishna, youth as a cowherd; later revered as the mentor and charioteer of Pandava Arjuna in the Indian epic Mahabharata who advises him on the battlefield in which he has to fight his own cousins. His actions, words and feats including his Rasaleela at Brindavan with his beloved Radha and other has been captured in art, poetry and narratives. Find the story behind a celebrated feat of Lord Krishna – the Kaliyamardana in which he slays a multiple hooded serpent of astounding strength who is tormenting people and been depicted in many artworks found all over India and outside India.

    The details of the story is found in the Bhagavata Purana, one of Hinduism’s 18 great Puranas.

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Krishna dancing on the head of Kaliya, Mughal School, India, 1590-1595 A.D, illustration from the Harivamsa, an appendix of Razmnama, Balarama and people watch from the riverbank.

        The story is very interesting and takes us to the banks of the Yamuna flowing through Brindavan in the north of India. Lord Krishna as a young lad who also lived nearby, played here along with his cowherd friends. The tenth canto of Chapter 16 describes an amazing feat of a young Krishna of subduing a serpent called Kaliya and the episode is referred to as Kaliyanaga-mardana. The depictions in art range from narrations in miniature paintings, stone sculpture, metal works and book illustrations.

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Episode of Kaliyamardana, page from a dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series, late 18th century, Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A

     Kaliya the serpent was originally from Ramanakadwipa and driven away from there because he was mighty afraid of Garuda the enemy of snakes. Garuda had been cursed by Sage Saubhari that if he ever came to Brindavan he would meet his end there. So Kaliya made Brindavan his home and lived there with his family. The giant serpent was residing in the river Yamuna and scared people away and nobody could go near to the site where he lived. He was also spilling deadly venom into the Yamuna which was frothing and bubbling over. One day Krishna and his cowherd friends were playing a game of ball. While playing the ball fell near the spot where Kaliya resided. Krishna’s friends urged him not to go after the ball. But Krishna jumped into the river and on seeing Krishna, Kaliya curled around his legs. Krishna’s mother Yashoda was very frightened of the serpent and asked Krishna to just come home. However Krishna stomped on his tail and warned Kaliya not to trouble anybody. Kaliya was a very strong serpent and pulled Krishna into the river. People gathered on the bank. Kaliya has got Krishna ensnared in its coils. However Krishna expanded himself forcing Kaliya to release him. After he was thus released, Krishna started dancing on the head of Kaliya which released the poison of the snake. Krishna took the weight of the whole universe and started beating him with his feet. Kaliya started to die and began vomiting blood. Kaliya’s wives came and begged Krishna to spare his life. Kaliya too  surrendered and promised not to harass anybody again. Krishna did a final  dance on his head and asked him to go back to Ramanakadwipa and assured him that Garuda would not trouble him again.

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Kaliyadamardana, Krishna ensnared, Brooklyn Museum, U S A, painting, created between 1750 and 1780 A.D.

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Image, Dharmshala, Khatu Mode, Mumbai.

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Kaliya’s wives praying to Krishna to release their subdued husband serpent Kaliya, Kangra, Pahari painting, 1785-90 A.D, National Museum, New Delhi.

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Carving of Lord Krishna subduing Kaliya, Sri Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu, Karnataka, 13th century.

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Krishna subdues serpent Kaliya, – lintel over the main door of the outer East gopura,  Prasat Muang Tam, Thailand, late 10th century.

    Krishna rose from the river while dancing on Kaliya’s head. People too on seeing Krishna danced on his head and Kaliya was finally pushed into Patala where  he stays to this day as it is believed.

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Book illustration, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914), Nivedita, Sister, Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish,  University of Toronto Digital Collection.

 

 

References

  • wikipedia.org
  • Memories of Childhood tales
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

Rani-ki-vav – sculptural marvels in a step-well

           A astounding marvel in architecture of a step-well along with embellishments of 500 principal and 1000 other minor sculptural creations are waiting to amaze visitors at Patan in Gujarat, India. Built in the 11th century on the bank of the river Saraswati by Rani Udaymati, wife of Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. Hence it is called Rani ki vav or the Queen’s step-well.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The step-well has seven levels of stairs with the panels embellished with sculptures. The themes are mostly religious or mythological. Udayamati was the daughter of Navavaraha Khangera and commissioned the step-well in memory of her husband Bhima I who ruled between 1022 and 1064 A.D. The step-well is well preserved because it was flooded by the Saraswati river and had got silted. This entire creation took 20 years to be made.

 

Ornamental pillars, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         Art historians Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited the site when it was totally in mud. They thought it was ahuge pit. However in the 1940s the excavations carried out under the Baroda State revealed the stepwell. In 1980s the Archaeological Survey of India took it further by more excavation and in 2014 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The entrance is located in the East while the well is located at the Westernmost end and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. There is a compartmentalised stepped corridor with multi-storeyed pillared pavillions. The walls, pillars, columns, brackets and beams are all ornamented and embellished with carvings and scroll work, The niches too demand attention by their ornamentation with figures. There are 212 pillars in the step-well.

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Lord Rama, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Sculptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          The sculptures depict Gods, Goddesses, celestial beings, men, women, priests, birds and animals. Lord Vishnu image is the maximum form depicted here as ‘Seshasayi’ and ‘Viswaroopa’ and also as ‘Dasavatara’. Hindu deities Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Gods Ganesha, Kubera, Surya, Indra and Hayagriva are also depicted here. One finds Uma-Maheshwara, Lakhsmi-Nararayana, Ardhnarishwara, Chamunda, Mahisasuramardini, the Saptammatrikas and the images of Navagraha or nine planets as well. This step-well brings out the sanctity of water as a life giving force. This step-well is a form of subterranean water architecture and is like an inverted temple, a water management system symbolising the technological height of the step-well tradition in India.

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Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Mahisasuramardini, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

There are also celestial beings like Apsaras and celestial dancers and a Naga princess. also common men and women doing their daily activities, women holding children. Every sculpture seems sublime and infused with a special quality. The expressions have beauty and balance to mesmerize the onlooker. The jewellery and hairstyles depicted are also unique and can be a study on its own !

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Apsara , Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scroll designs and lattice patterns, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Varaha avatar, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          It is a fine and exquisite stepwell, classified as a Nanda type. It  is 65 m long, 20 m wide and 28 m deep. The fourth level is deepest and leads to a rectangular well. However at present the ground water levels have changed following the Saraswati river’s relocation.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

 

References :

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author