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Silver Filigree art : images from Karimnagar

      The thought of silver or argentum as it is called in Latin, reminds us of stars, the lining in a cloud, lightning in the sky and snow on mountains and tree tops. Beautiful jewellery, decorative objects and utility items are made from this amazing metal which is soft. lustrous, both malleable and ductile making it highly suitable for use in craft. Silver has technological applications in photography and in the medical world too. Silver is an investment too and figures in the bullion market. Filigree work using silver has been there in Europe, Persia and Central Asia. Ancient Greeks and Romans too were fascinated with this metal and created works of art. Silver is a metal with positivity and hope, augmenting a good future…..every cloud has a silver lining !

  An exquisite silver craft which is over 200 years old from the area of Karimnagar in Telangana State in South India is the silver art of filigree. It is believed to have its origins in Elagandala village , around 10-11 kilometres from Karimnagar city. Elgandala, which is situated on the banks of river Manair, was popularly known in earlier times as Bahudhanyapuram, Tellakandula and Veligandula and later came to be called Elgandal. The history of the place is traced to the Old Stone Age and much later ruled by the Mauryas and Satavahanas. Kotilingala in Karimnagar district was the first capital of the Satavahanas. Later to that, the region was ruled by five dynasties; the Kakatiyas, Bahmanis, Qutub Shahis, Mughals and Asaf Jahis. During the  VIth Nizam, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan’s reign (1869-1911), the district headquarters was shifted from Elgandal fort to the present Karimnagar town in 1905. During the Nizam rule, the name Karimnagar was named for a village by an Elgandal Qiladar, Syed Karimuddin. Inscriptions of the Kakatiyas have been found in the region.

Elgandala Fort in Karimnagar

Teen-minar, Elgandal fort, Karimnagar, Telangana.

         The craft was introduced and  practised by a well-travelled goldsmith Kadarla Ramayya and his family at Elgandala and it was a well guarded technique, in the 19th century. It is called Venditeega pani in the local language, Telugu. It was patronised by royalty and wealthy businessmen; Muslims used to give silver articles as part of dowry, so its demand was always there. After Indian Independence in 1947 the craft faced a setback but by 1956, the co-operative movement helped revive the amazing craft of filigree. The two co-operatives were Tarakashan and Zagaram Osmania which merged as one in 1953 as Tarakashan Society.   The type of articles made using this technique include trays, pandans or betel boxes, attardans or scent holders, purses,jewel boxes, glass holders, jewellery like earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings and pendants, figures of popular deities, handbags, photo-frames, spice containers, lamp stands, baskets, rose-water sprinklers among many others.  The designs are intricate and cause awe and a sense of wonder.  

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Silver filigree bowl, Karimnagar,Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

  The trellis-like work or jaali  as it is called, is made of thin silver wire. The designs include fauna, geometric and floral designs with creepers in delicate exquisite workmanship. The equipment is that as used by a goldsmith or silversmith’s tools. In modern times, a wire drawing machine is also used. Pure silver blocks are made into thin wires and wrapped around a charkha and flattened, later fashioned into the required design. The Government of India had accorded the Geographical Indicator or GI status to this craft of silverwork which augurs well for the future of the artisans and the art. The silver items make excellent gifts for all festive occasions. The craft is sold online, at retail outlets and emporia. Exhibitions are held at urban centres to encourage and promote this art.

                                           Silver tray with , Karimnagar silver filigree.

Image source : http://sifka.org/

              An ornate palanquin model in silver filigree, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

 

Silver tray, filigree work, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

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Filigree box, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Pic sourced from https://www.christies.comFiligree Work Silver Cuff (Ajustable)

                               Silver filigree cuff from Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : Jaypore.com

 

References :

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

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Udumbaras : images of some Hindu temple steps

 

          The temples of India have different types of architecture as has been classified in the Nagara and Dravidian temples. Though most ancient, medieval temples and some modern temples leave the visitor awestruck when they visit the temple, the steps which lead to the main deity in the temple are also a matter of great interest. They are strong usually and can bear the weight of the devotees who sometimes come in hundreds. 

         Dasavatara Temple at Deogarh in one of earliest surviving Nagara style Hindu temple made from stone-masonry. It has a square plan. Like all major pre-12th century Hindu temples has multiple entrance, with stairs shown in the middle of all four sides. The middle square has a shrine with oldest known square lithic shikhara in North India. The foot stairs are mentioned in the floor-plans too.  The sculpture on them is not mentioned though, but can be seen on visiting the site or in images.

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Dasavatara temple, Deogarh, 6th century.

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Plan, Dasavatara temple, Deogarh, 6th century.

      The Airavateswara temple at Darasuram near Kumbakonam in the state of Tamil Nadu is from the 12th century and was built by Rajaraja Chola II. The image sculpted on the side of the udumbara or foot stairs at the temple depicts a bull-elephant in the same image !  Floral decoration and garland motif is also seen carved on the stone, also a dancer and her attendant between two small pillars in a niche.

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Airaveteswara temple, Darasuram, Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu.

    The Brihadeeshvara temple, also called Rajarajesvaram or Peruvudaiyar Koyil, is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.  It is one of the largest South Indian temples and an exemplary example of  Dravidian architecture. It is called as Dakshina Meru and was built by Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD. The grand foot stairs lead to the deity and is ornately built. The trunk of the elephant is part of the stairs as can be seen in the image below.

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Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

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Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

 

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Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

 

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Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

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Murugan Temple inside the Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century temple at Konark about 35 kilometres northeast of Puri on the coastline of Odisha, India. The temple is attributed to King Narasingadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. There are carvings and designs seen in front of the stairs on way to the temple.

 

 

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Plan, The Sun temple, Konarak, Odisha showing the stairs to the temple.

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The Sun temple, Konarak, Odisha.

 

    The Lakshmana Temple is a 10th-century temple built by King Yashovarman of the Chandela dynasty, located in Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India. it is dedicated to Vaikuntha Vishnu; an aspect of Vishnu. The steps to the temple are having structures on it sides, which add grandeur to the overall design. 

Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho

Lakhsmana temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.

 

References:

  • wikipedia.org
  • Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

Paintings of the Devi : power and glory

Durga is an important deity from the Hindu pantheon. She is revered as a destroyer of evil. She is  a Goddess or a devi. The word devi in Sanskrit means divine or heavenly and a shining presence. The concept of devi first appeared in the Vedas in 200 B.C. but gained focus in Puranic literature with texts like the Devi Mahatmya. Goddess Durga reigns supreme and is the divine feminine as Devi in Hinduism and a divine mother as Mata.

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Durga slaying the demon, Nurpur painting, Himachal Pradesh, early 18th century.

The legend of Durga appears as an avatar of Parvati, who is angry, ferocious and has eight to ten arms, holding weapons and skulls, riding a lion or tiger. She is a warrior goddess  who kills Mahisasura whom the male Gods were unable to control. Durga is a unified form of all Gods. She is one who saves a devotee from durgati or misfortune. Her mythology is described in the Devi Mahatmya, a part of the Markandeya Purana from the 4th to 6th century.

The nine manifestations of Durga or Navadurga are worshipped during Navaratri in the month of Ashwin of the Hindu calendar; Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta,Skandamata,Katyayani,Kaalratri,Mahagauri and Siddhidaatri. Durga is associated with two mountain ranges, the Himalayas in the north and the VIndhyas in central India. She is Paravati in the Himalayas; daughter of the mountains. Durga images have been found in Afghanistan(ancient Gandhara) and also in Tibet.

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Scene from the Devimahatmyam, painting, 17th century.

The Shiva Purana says Lord Shiva invoked Durga from his left half to create and together both created Shivaloka. As per the Devi Mahatmya ,Mahisasura, son of demon Rambha unleashed terror on earth and defeated the Gods. The Gods then approached Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Together they created a woman on whom they bestowed weapons and she was Durga. Durga as Mahisasuramardini is one of the manifestations of the Divine mother whose primary aim is to combat demons who threaten the cosmos. She has many arms and each has a different weapon. She rides on a lion and defeats the buffalo demon Mahisasura who has been given a boon that no-one can defeat  him except a woman. The demon’s entire army was challenged by Durga. Mahisasura attacked Durga as a buffalo-demon whom Durga kills with a trisula (trident) after a fierce battle.

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Durga after victory over Mahisasura, the demon, opaque watercolor embellished with applied gold and lacquer strips, 19th century. Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A

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Durga slaying demons, Kashmir, early 19th century.

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Durga slaying the demon, Kalighat painting, 19th century.

 

 ”Sarva mangala mangalye shive sarvaartha saadhike Sharanye trayambake Gauri Narayani namosthute ”

”To auspiciousness of all auspiciousness Shiva -to the Good sarvarrtha saadhike – to the accomplisher of all objectives sharanye – to the Source of Refuge tryambake – to the mother of the three worlds. Gauri – to the Goddess who is Rays of Light Naaraayani – Exposer of consciousness Namostute- We bow to you again and again. We worship you”.

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

References and images :

  • Mahisasuramardini by Sanjaya Kumar Mahapatra, Agam Kala Prakashan, 2014.
  • Goddess Durga : the power and the glory, Marg Publications, Mumbai,2009.
  • wikipedia.org
  • speakingtree.in
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Srirangam : sculptural grandeur and glory

 

       Tiruchirpalli or Trichy; Trichinoply as it was called before, is a city in Tamil Nadu state in southern India. The Kaveri or Cauvery delta begins 16 kilometres  west of the city where the Kaveri river splits into two, forming the island of Srirangam, which is now incorporated into the Tiruchirappalli City. Here is the famous Sriranganathaswamy temple popularly called Srirangam temple. It is a temple of Lord Vishnu as Sriranganathaswamy. The Atharva veda says :

Vishnu is the Almighty Lord,

In whose three wide-extended paces

All worlds and creatures have their habitation:

Vishnu strode through all the worlds

And all the worlds gathered

As grains of dust under His feet!

    It is the world’s largest functioning temple with 50 shrines, 21 towers and 39 pavillions. The temple complex covers  156 acres with seven prakaras or enclosures. Srirangam is a temple town on an island on the Kaveri river. At one time the entire population of Srirangam lived within the walls of this temple.

Ranganathaswamy temple tiruchirappalli.jpgGopurams, Srirangam temple complex, Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

  The gopurams of the temple articulate the axial path, the highest is  at the outermost prakara and the lowest is at the innermost. The Rajagopuram of the temple is the southern one which is 239 feet high, having been plated in gold. The Rajagopuram was stated to be built by Vijayanagara king Achyuta Deva Raya but it was completed by the Ahobila Matha in 1987. The diagram below shows  structures in the temple complex; the gopurams, the mandapas, various shrines among others.

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Layout of the temple complex, image.

Aerial photograph of Srirangam Island between Kaveri and Kollidam rivers.

   The main temple has been built based on Agama texts and is dedicated to Sri Ranganathaswamy. It is a Vaishnavite temple and has many legends associated with it.It is in the inner courtyard. There is 6 meter deity of Sri Ranganathar reclining on Adisesha with five hoods in the sanctum which is entered from the south gateway. The doorway has the dwarapalas or guards Jaya and Vijaya. The mukhamandapa is also called Gayatri mandapa leading to the round sanctum surrounded by a raised square, encircling pillars and an inner square. The other images are of Lord Vishnu on Sesha, Lord Ganesha, Lord Narasimha in Yogasana and Goddess Durga.  The 50 shriens include Lord Vishnu temples, Goddess Lakshmi temple, shrines of various Vaishnave scholars. The temple structures have rich sculptural detail. The temple’s vimana  is embellished with sculptures, and has carved pilasters with fluted shafts, double capitals and lotus brackets. The temple complex has many mandapas, frescoes, inscriptions on its walls, tanks and granaries. The inscriptions are over 800, from 9th century to 16th century of the times of the Nayaks, Pandyas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagara rulers, are in different languages like Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Oriya and relate mostly to temple grants and gifts, rulers, nobles and temple management.  Many of the temple structures have been renovated, rebuilt over time, though the temple was looted by different rulers.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (84) (37513353141).jpgPilasters and carvings, Srirangam.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (85) (37482143952).jpg                                                 Bracket figures, Srirangam temple.

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Sculpture, Srirangam temple.

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Yoga Narsimha, Srirangam temple.

Among the mandapas  the 1000 pillar mandapa is a theatre like structure built during the Vijayanagara period made out of granite.

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1000 pillar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Warriors on horses, 1000 pillar mandapa, sculpture, Srirangam temple.

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Dancer and musicians, sculpture, Hall of 1000 pillars.

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Elephant being led by his mahout, sculpture, Srirangam.

      During the Vijayanagara rule the temple complex developed under Sri Krishnadeva Raya. The temple structures include the Sesharayar mandapa and the Venugopala temple which have amazing sculptural work. The Sesharayar mandapa was built during the Nayaka rule. The Garuda mandapa was also made during the Nayaka rule. It has a free standing seated Garuda. Kili mandapa is next to the main shrine, made during the 17th century. The Ranga vilasa mandapa is a large community hall with murals and narratives from mythology and the epic Ramayana. The temple has many wooden monuments like the Garuda vahana, Simha vahana, Hanumantha vahana among others.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Motif, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Fencing, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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With the pot of nectar, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Damsel, sculpture, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Woman warrior, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sage Agastya, sculpture, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

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Lord Krishna or Venugopala, Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

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Sculptures, Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

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Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

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Salabhanjika sculpture, Venugopala shrine.

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Woman playing musical instrument, Venugopala shrine.

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Mithuna or loving couple, sculpture, Venugopala shrine.

 

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Woman applying vermillion, sculpture,Venugopala shrine.

 

References :

  • http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in
  • wikipedia.org
  • https://poetrypoem.com
  • Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

Bidar : a journey in time

           Bidar,  a region in Deccan, India, the old Viduranagara of Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. In ancient times it was under the Mauryan rule in 3rd century B.C; Bidar saw many rulers after that; the Satavahanas, Chalukyas of Kalyani, Rashtrakutas, Kalachuris, rulers from Devagiri and the Kakatiyas of Warangal. The Sultanate rulers controlled the region of the Deccan and Bidar came under the same when Ulugh Khan (who later became Mohammad bin-Tughlaq) annexed many parts of the Deccan. He might have built a small but strong fort in 1322. Around the mid 14th century, the Sultanate rulers’ Deccan chiefs rebelled and new rulers; the Bahamanis took over the region.

Bahmani Sultanate

     Bidar is majorly associated with the Bahmanis and the Baridis. They ruled from Bidar at different points of time. The Bahmani dynasty was established in 1347. Its first Sultan had made Gulbarga his capital. Later during the rule of Ahmad Shah, Bidar became the capital. The old fort got a total makeover and palaces, mosques, gardens and a great madrasa was built. The madrasa was established by Mahmud Gawan, prime minister in 1466;  an important figure in Bidar’s history. The Bahmani kingdom disintegrated into 5 kingdoms and the Barid Shahi was one of them. The Barid Shahis ruled the region upto 1619 when the Bijapur Sultans captured Bidar. In 1656 Aurangzeb took it from the Adil Shahis of Bijapur; thus it came under the Mughals. In 1724 it became part of the Asaf Jahi kingdom of the Nizam. The Indian Union was formed after independence from  British rule and now it is in Karnataka state of India.

  A journey through Bidar is a walk through history, a rediscovering of the times when the fort might have buzzed with activity. When the Sultans ruled Bidar, of the times when cannons were used, poetry in Persian was written, few sultans being poets themselves. The Fort with the Tarkash Mahal, the Takht Mahal, the Rangeen Mahal and Mahmud Gawan’s madrasa. Remains are still there. Of enchanting blue-green mosaic tile work, of inscriptions and mother-of-pearl inlays. The beautiful architecture with arches, the gardens, the calligraphy, the stucco, the arabesque designs and the Barid Shahi necropolis with tombs. The rulers supported and encouraged the craft of Bidri; silver, bronze or gold work on a metal alloy of zinc, lead and copper. The scholars at the Sultan Ali Barid Shah’s courts brought the 12th century Persian mystic-poet Fariduddin’s (Attar) work to Bidar.

’All things are but masks at God’s beck and call,

They are symbols that instruct us that God is all’’

                                                                               …..Attar

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Bidriware

    The monuments at Bidar have been standing as a testament to the times of the Sultans reflecting opulence in architecture and design. The Bidar Fort on the edge of the plateau shows Persian influence  which has seven gates ( in addition to the main gate) and 37 bastions. The Mandu darwaza, Kalmadgi darwaza, Delhi darwaza, Kayani darwaza, Carnatic darwaza; two gates have no names. The bastions are massive round, ocatgonal or square in shape. The fort complex had many palaces and the mosque. On the southern side the city was built for the general public.

Sultan Ali Barid Shah I

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Entrance gate, Bidar Fort.

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Bastion, Bidar Fort complex, Bidar.  

    On entering the fort complex there are lawn-gardens and cisterns; the Lal Bagh has an ornate cistern with a fountain.

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Cistern with fountain, Bidar Fort complex, Bidar.

   The city of Bidar has a unique water supply system called karez or qanat. A water harnessing technique orginally from Persian and brought to the Decccan by the Bahmani Sultans. It consists of network of undeground canals with vertical shafts at different points.  It taps into the ground water and transports through the canals ending in a pool for public access and the garrison which had been inside the fort. The system has 21 vertical shafts and extends to 2 kilometres. The fort has a triple moat.

Gagan Mahal : Originally built by the Bahmani kings and additions made by the Barid Shahi Sultans, it has two courts used by guards. The main building was used by the Sultan and his harem.

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Gagan Mahal, Bidar Fort.

Solah Khamba Masjid :  a mosque with sixteen pillars or solah sutoon ki masjid was built under Sultan Ahmad Shah ali Bahmani’s son Prince Muhammad’s viceregal period. Also called zenana masjid having columns, arches and domes. Adjoining the Lal Bagh the building has a long front of 310 feet from the north to the south. The dome above a central hall, has windows of ornate jaali work around.

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Solah Khamba Masjid, Bidar Fort.

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Bidar Fort view.

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Ornate stucco, Bidar Fort.

Rangeen Mahal : meaning coloured palace; it has coloured tile work and wood carvings. Also mother-of-pearl inlay on black stone. There is also ornate stucco and stone carvings.The access to the palace is by a flight of steps and after passing through few rooms the palace interior can be reached.

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Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Calligraphy as fresco work, Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Mother-of-pearl inlay work, Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Ceiling design, Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Stucco work, Bidar Fort.

Tarkash Mahal : …….this palace was built for the Turkish queen of the Sultan, originally begun being built by the Bahmani kings, the upper parts are of the Baridi period, built by the Barid Shahis who had large harems.

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Tarkash Mahal , Bidar Fort.

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Arched niches, Bidar Fort.

Takht Mahal :  This was the Royal Throne palace built by Ahmad Shah Bhamani where the Sultan resided and coronations took place. It has coloured tiles ans tone carvings. There are two royal pavillions and a large hall behind which was the Sultan’s chamber. This building was previously called Dar-ul-Imara or Government House.

Takht Mahal.jpg

Takht Mahal,  Bidar Fort.

Bidar - Fort (4279001235).jpg

Bidar - Fort (4279001633).jpg

Audience hall of Kings.JPG

Diwani-i-aam or audience hall, Bidar Fort.

  Mahmud Gawan Madrasa:  Built by the vazir or prime minister  Mahmud Gawan in late 15th century. He had set up a University, a centre of learningt with alibrary of 3000 manuscripts.The architecture is very similar to the Madarasa of Khardgird near Masshed, Iran.

Complete view of Mahumad Gawan.JPG

Mahmud Gawan Madrasa, Bidar.

 

Tomb of Ali Barid Shah.jpg

Tomb of Sultan Ali Barid, Bidar.

 

Calligraphy @ Tomb of Ali Barid.jpg

Calligraphy in Tomb of Ali Barid Shah, Bidar.

Tomb of Khan Jahan, Barid Shahi Garden, Bidar.JPG

 

Tomb of Khan Jahan, brother of Amir I, second Barid Shahi Sultan, Barid Shahi Garden, Bidar.

Barid (19).jpg

 

Tomb of Sultan Qasim Barid, Bidar.

Chaukhandi bidar.jpg

Bahmani tombs at Ashtur, Bidar.

Tomb of Sultan Ahmed Shah Al Wali.jpg

Tomb of Sultan Ahmad Shah Wali Bahmani, Bidar.

Barid Shahi Tombs, Bidar.JPG

Chaukhandi, tomb of Hazrat Khalil-Ullah, Bidar.

Barid (12).jpg

Tombs at sunset, Bidar.

        Bidar is home to many more monuments; the chaubara, a tall cylindrical tower of 71 feet, used as a watch tower, a winding staircase leading to the top from where the plateau can be seen. Also the Diwan-i-aam, the tomb of Sultan Humayun, the Kali Masjid, the tombs of Hazrat Abu-’l-Faid, Hazrat Makhdoom Qadiri,Hazrat Sayyid-us-Sadat, the Takht-i-Kirmani, the Dulhan Darwaza, the Talghat Darwaza, mosques adjoining few monuments, the Farh Bagh and the Habshi Kot.

 

References :

  1. Bidar : its history and its monuments/Yazdani, Ghulam, London: Oxford University Press, 1947.
  2. Wikipedia.org
  3. https://blogvirasatehind.com/2016/09/30/tile-work-at-bidar-a-touch-of-persia/
  4. Images from Wiki commons

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

Delight in design : floral motifs in Bidri craft

    Man is very much a part of nature and what he sees around him influences him deeply. This is more true for artists and craftsmen who are always inspired to create what they have visualised in their imagination. Flora and fauna abounds on this planet and have found their way into artworks. Vegetal and animal motifs are commonly seen in plastic arts, textiles and metalcrafts. We see surreal forms and stylised varieties of flowers, creepers, trees and animals. The designs create a magic of their own and hint at a greater reality beyond space and time.

 Introduction : the beginnings of Bidri

     The art of inlaying one metal on the other to make objects of art and utility is a very old one. It was used for making metal images of the Buddha with copper and silver inlay work in the 6th and 7th centuries, during the Gupta rule in India. The bronzes of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh from 7th to 10th century and the Jaina bronzes of Eastern India, Central India and Deccan from 6th to 10th century  had  inlay work.  The origin of Bidri craft is  a bit of a mystery; the craft is believed to have been born in Persia. In Safavid Persia (750 -1258A.D) rulers and rich merchants used copper inlaid objects. Later gold ans silver was used and the art practised in many Central Islamic lands. The craft was brought to India by a nobleman. Khaja Moinuddin Chishti and his followers to Ajmer in Rajasthan. Much later a craftsman by name Abdullah-bin-Khaiser migrated to Bijapur in the Deccan and taught the craft to local artists. Bidar became a province of the Bahmani kingdom when it established its rule in South India. Sultan Alauddin II Bahamani (1434 -1457 A.D) of Bidar was gifted metal objects during his coronation and he was much impressed. He gave the craft the name Bidari or Bidri. He invited the craftsmen to settle at Bidar itself. They were provided with facilities and comforts so that they could carry on their craft. Thus with royal patronage the craft flourished under the Bahmanis and the later Baridis who ruled from Bidar. It travelled to other centres  from 1770 A.D, of which Lucknow, Purnea and Murshidabad are noteworthy.

Bidar Fort view, Bidar, Karnataka.

 By Tirumala Nalla – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51144313

  Techniques of Bidri making : creativity and skill set

     The karigars or craftsmen used metals in a very imaginative way. The alloy was made out of copper, zinc and lead. The mixture of zinc and copper in of the ratio 16:1. Copper is added to make zinc take the polish better. On this silver or gold was used to make the design by inlaying in different ways. The techniques have Persian terms; tarkashi which means inlay of wire, taihnishan; inlay of sheet, zarnishan; low relief, zarbulund; high relief and aftabi; cut out designs in overlaid metal sheet. The beauty is created through contrast of the silver against a dark background. Silver is white , shiny after polish and malleable and ductile making it suitable for using during  crafting.  The process involved in the production of a Bidri item of art involves casting, polishing, engraving, inlaying and blackening the alloy. Designs are drawn with a fine point and pure silver is hammered into the pattern. The final polish is achieved with sand paper, charcoal and coconut oil. A way of blackening the Bidri object was by using a type of clay found at Bidar fort. A combination of techniques are used to make the final object. The craft is likened to Damascene work or koftgiri  where gold or silver is encrusted on iron objects.

Designs on Bidri : vegetal and floral  inspirations

    The early Bidriware had beautiful Persian motifs. Designs of Middle Eastern origin and Egyptian floral designs were also incorporated. The ashrafi ki booti and teenpatti ki booti patterns are well known. Also kairi or mango, star patterns, vine creepers, poppy plant with flowers, mahi-pusht or fish scale pattern.

Bidar Fort garden, pool has an ornate pattern, Bidar, Karnataka.

By Santosh3397 – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36533037

 There are some awesome specimens of Bidriware now housed in different places across the world. The objects made include huqqa (hubble bubble)  bases, afatabas or ewers, huqqa  mouthpieces, mir-e-farsh or floor-weights, shamadan or candelabras, chilam or firecups,trays, goblets, pandan or  betel boxes, ittardan or perfume boxes, gulabpash or rose water sprinklers, basins, plates and spittoons. More recently there is jewellery, ashtrays, walking sticks, paperweights and USB covers. The craft has gone through ups and downs but rulers across time have always encouraged and revived the craft. It thrives with exports, retailers and online sales. The workshops are now at Hyderabad and Bidar.

   The skilled craftsmen have used Persian motifs on the alloy; local idioms like the lotus and swastika are found too. French influence is seen from the 18th century. Egyptian design also embellished the objects. Thus not only a combination of techniques but also design happened during the journey of the craft. However the main inspiration for designs on Bidriware are flowers and vegetal patterns like the creepers and leaves.

    A beautiful poem by Ernestine Northover captures the essence of the flower in nature and its effects.

Oh, Flower

‘’Oh, flower, open wide your fragrant maze,

Curl back your petals, and greet the sun,

Look up and drink in its glorious rays,

Which will enhance your beauty, just begun.

Oh, flower, with colours of pure rich fire,

You will always radiate a warmth in me,

And your artistry ignites such desire,

That with truth you could be no parody.

Oh, flower, when raindrops touch your face,

And wild winds dictate your waving head,

Your stance will always sustain your grace,

And resplendence be found in your blossoms spread.’’

Woman with flowers, painting, Safavid Persia/Iran, 1575 AD, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington D.C,U.S.A

By Unknown / Smithsonian Institution [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

           Ceiling design, Rangeen Mahal, 16th century, BIdar Fort, Bidar,Karnataka.

Source : https://www.flickr.com/photos/aloshbennett/4347383785

        The images showcased highlight the different patterns and the brilliant effect on the ware created painstakingly by the Bidri artist and craftsman. In many places a combination of motifs can be seen which enhance the final effect.

  Vine creeper -A farsh-i-huqqa or huqqa base from 18th century depicts vine creepers all over the body of the object to create a brilliant effect.

   Huqqa base, tarkashi and tehnishan technique, Bidar, 18th century.

 Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Grape vine, image.

 By Lori (Flickr: That’ll need to age a bit yet…) [CC BY-SA 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

   Poppy plant and flower : the huqqa bases shown below depict a stylised poppy plant against a dark background. The poppy flower motif has been put to prolific use in Bidricraft.

 

Huqqa base, Bidar or Hyderabad, 18th century.

 Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 Poppy flowers,images.

 

       In the image below the technique has been reversed. The dark base is made to stand out and the pattern is etched on the sliver sheet. The huqqa base has stylised poppy flowers with circular decorative scrolls towards the top and bottom.

 

 Huqqa base, aftabi and taihnishan technique, Bidar or Hyderabad, 19th Century.

            Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Huqqa base, gold work on alloy, Bidar, Mughal period, Dallas Museum of Art, U. S. A,17th century.

 By Daderot – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68723894

 

Huqqa base, Bidar, Karnataka, late 17th century.

By Unknown – Marie-Lan Nguyen (2006), ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕರಿಗೆ ಸೇರಿದ್ದು, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=828340

Pandan or betel-box,  tarkashi technique, stylised poppy and leaf patterns in circles on top, Bidar or Hyderabad,1800.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cypress tree and flowers : the cypress motif is used in some huqqa bases. The flowers and the tree are depicted in stylised forms. The cypress is group of ceratin kind of trees or plants with similar characters. The plant has been often mentioned in poetry too.

 

Huqqa base, Bidar, between circa 1600 and circa 1800.

By © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20355115

                                                                          Cypress tree.

 By pellaea (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Cypress flowers.

 

 

 

 Huqqa base, Bidar, Karnataka, 18th century.

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00glossarydata/terms/bidri/bidri.html

 Lotus in a pond : The sight of a lotus in a pond is one of nature’s most beautiful sights.             The Bidri artists have captured this in their creations. A salver below depicts the lotus motif; blooming lotuses, lotus buds and lotuses floating on a pond. The border also made of lotuses enhances the beauty of the artwok as does the waterbody depicted as wavy lines.

 

         Salver, Bidri ware, tarkashi and taihnishan technique, Bidar, 17th century.

 

                                                                  Lotus flower, image.

 

Lotus flowers and buds in a pond, image.

 Combination of star and flowers : The salver below depicts a starry concentric pattern with poppy design in the inner circle with alternating leaf motifs.

Salver, Bidri ware (tarkashi and tehnishan techniques),Bidar,17th century.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Concentric star pattten.

Huqqa with irises, late 17th century, MET Museum, USA. 

By This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57856153

Iris flower, image.

Plate, Bidar, 17th century.

 By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17606820

Aftaba or ewer, Met Museum, New York, 18th century.

By This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61138268

Ugaldan or spittoon, tarkashi and tehnishan techniques, Hyderabad, 1850.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  Bidriware cup and lid, Bidar, Karantaka, 1850, V&A Museum, U.K

By VAwebteam at English Wikipedia – http://images.vam.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Home.html, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8500029

     The earliest Bidriware of the 16th centuries are not available, mostly 17th century onwards one gets to study the various types. Over time the ware has changed according to the demands of the people. After the huqqa base, ugladans, sailabchis and aftabas one can see ashtrays, salvers and trays and now small decorative gift itms, jewellery, vases and boxes of different sizes. The craft has seen many ups and downs during its journey but due to the constant efforts of its revival and support by the rulers right from the beginning it still lives ! At present workshops are there at Bidar and Hyderabad. The magic of the objects created seem to be timeless. Only the forms on which the designs have been made have changed and adapted to changing times. Long live Bidri !

Bidriware, various floral motifs, 21st century.

 By Shivapriya Sulgante [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Bidriware, different stylised motifs, 21st century.

 By Manjunath Doddamani Gajendragad at en.wikipedia – Source and Author : Manjunath Doddamani, Gajendragad / Hubli, Karnataka(North), India., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17256729

Bidri craftsman, cypress leaf motif on USB,  21st century.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/bidri-art-form-gets-modern-twist/article6292645.ece, August 2014

Kairi (mango) shaped Bidri dibba, 21st century.

Source :  Jaypore.com.

Mango, image.

 

 

References :

  1. Narayan Sen, Catalogue on Damascene and Bidri Art, Indian Museum Calcutta, 1983.
  2. Krishna Lal, Catalogue, National Museum Collection Bidri Ware, National Museum of India, New Delhi, 1990.
  3. Jagdish Mittal, Bidriware and Damascene work in Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, JKMMIA, Hyderabad, 2011.
  4. http://granthaalayah.com/Articles/Vol4Iss3/19_IJRG16_B03_27.pdf
  5. org
  6. Census of India 1961 :Vol II – Andhra Pradesh, Delhi : Manager of   Publications,1967.
  7. Sultans of Deccan India : Opulence and fantasy/Navina Najaf Hyder andMarika Sardar, New York : Met Museum, 2015.

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

 

©author

Kangra painting : timeless echo from the hills

 

     The valleys and hills of the Lower Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, India is beautiful and inspiring. Nature’s beauty echoes here in greenery and cool scenery. The Pahari school of Indian painting flourished here during the 18th and 19th centuries. Of the different schools, the Kangra style is very famous and well known. The erstwhile Kangra princely state is majorly responsible for the development and flowering of the style. Sometimes Pahari school is used synonymously with the Kangra style though there are many variations ! Kangra painting has its  This style uses a lot of green and other refreshing colours.  The painters used colours from minerals and vegetal sources. The distinctive feature of this school is its emphasis on naturalistic images, greenery, flora and fauna.  The paintings are full of the shringara rasa (beauty and eroticism),the sense of lyricism is very evident in the paintings and soothes the eye and heart of the viewer. The love between Lord Krishna and Radha as described in Gita-Govinda, episodes from Lord Krishna’s life : Bhagavata Purana, the Nala Damayanti story, Barahmasa of Keshav Das have been the themes. The Sat Sai of Bihari Lal depicted Radha-Krishna in an architectural setting. Nayak-nayika bheda is also a theme of these paintings. One can recognise  a Kangra painting by some unique characteristics. Excellent greenery in different shades and vegetal forms like trees, creepers are all seen. There is an amazing attention paid to detail. Women are depicted as soft and beautiful, with sharp beautiful facial features. Night scenes with thunder and lightning are also found. The paintings have a sense of serenity found among the hilly valleys and greenery. Naturalism is at its peak in Kangra paintings.

       The origin of Kangra painting happened in the state of  Guler in the Himalayan valley during 18th century under Raja Dalip Singh who ruled 1695 to 1741 A.D. He gave shelter to Kashmiri artists at his court who were trained in Mughal style. The style was immortalised by the works of the sons of Pandit Seu, the celebrated Nainsukh( 1710-1778) and his older brother Manuku. who worked actively 1725 to 1760 at Guler. The style evolved to include Mughal elements and new local idioms. The early Kangra paintings were mostly portraits made during the reign of Ghamand Chand( ruled 1761-1774 A.D) made mostly by Gaudhu, son of Nainsukh.

    Kangra painting grew under Maharaja Sansar Chand (1775 to 1823). He occupied the Kangra Fort in 1786 and was a powerful king. Being an ardent devote of Lord Krishna, he patronised the artists who painted Radha-Krishna and the portraits of their masters. The Kangra style originated at Guler but later evolved its own freshness and character by depicting Shiva-Parvati, Radha-Krishna among other themes. Nainsukh’s sons were part of the atelier of Sansar Chand; Kama,Gaundhu,Nikka and Ranjha. They worked at Guler, Basohli, Chamba among others. Maharaja Sansar Chand annexed part of Chamba teritory in 1794 by defeating Raja Raj Singh. He defeated the Rajas of Sirmur, Mandi and Suket; the Raja of Guler, Prakash Chand became his vassal. In course of time however the enemies of Sansar Chand instigated the Gorkhas to attack Kangra who laid siege to the fort in 1805. The artists abandoned Kangra and his atelier was disturbed forever. He could not retain his fort and territories and had to shift to Tira-Sujanpur where he tried to revive the art. and some artworks were created. However the previous energy seemed to have got diluted and Sansar Chand  became a legend and patron of one of India’s iconic art forms. Kangra had been under the Mughals till 1786 and under the Sikhs from 1810-1846. At Nurpur, paintings were mostly done during the rule of Prithvi Singh (1735-89) and Bir Singh (1785-1846). Thus the principal centre of Pahari (of the hiils) painting was the Kangra valley; under the patronage of the rulers of Guler, Kangra and Kings of Nurpur. Later the artists migrated to Mandi, Suket, Kulu, Tehri Garhwal, Basohli and Chamba and Bilaspur.

A scene as described in the Gita Govinda by Jayadeva:

kaliya-visha-dhara-bhañjana
jana-rañjana e
yadukula-nalina-dinesha
jaya jaya deva hare 

O Deva! O Hari! You pulverize the pride of the venomous snake, Kaliya. You fill the hearts of your dearest ones with endless joy. You are the sun that makes the lotus of the Yadu dynasty bloom. May you be triumphant! May you be triumphant!

Kaliya's wifes and Krishna. Kangra c.1785-90. Painting of India.JPG

Kaliya’s wives and Krishna, painting, Kangra, c.1785-90.

By Ismoon (talk) 22:02, 24 February 2012 (UTC) – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18487484

     Another scene as described in the Gita Govinda by Jayadeva:

meghair meduram ambaram vana-bhuvah shyämäs tamäla-drumair:
naktam bhéru rayaàm tvam eva tad imam, rädhe gåham präpaya |
ittham nanda-nideshataha calitayoù praty-adhva-kuïja-drumaà
rädhä-mädhavayor jayanti yamunä-küle rahaù-kelaya: 

The sky is thick with clouds; the forest area is dark with the tamala trees; the night frightens him (Krishna); Oh Radha! you take him home; This is the command from Nanda.  But, Radha and Madhava stray to the tree on the banks of river Yamuna, and their secret love sport prevails.

Krishna with flute.jpg

                                 Krishna with flute, painting, circa 1790 and 1800.

By Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Gallery – Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Gallery[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2439033

Marriage of Parvati and Shiva, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, First half of 19th century.tiff

                    Marriage of Parvati and Shiva, painting, first half of 19th century.

By Firedrop – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27694651

Radha celebrating Holi, c1788.jpg

Radha celebrating Holi, painting, c.1788.

By Anonymous – Victoria Albert Museum [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4175518

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the Hermitage of Bharadvaja Page from a dispersed Ramayana (Story of King Rama), ca. 1780.jpg

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the hermitage of Bharadvaja,page from a dispersed Ramayana, 1780.

By Kangra workshop – Page from a dispersed Ramayana (Story of King Rama),http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1976.15, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17104952

Rama Returns in Victory to Ayodhya, Pahari, Kangra, Fitzwilliam Museum.jpg

               Rama returning to Ayodhya, Pahari, Kangra, painted between circa 1780                                                                           and  circa 1790.

By Anonymous – The Fitzwilliam Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60015055

File:Damayanti Looks in the Mirror, Folio from a Nala-Damayanti LACMA M.83.105.6.jpg

Damayanti looks in the mirror, folio from a Nala-Damayanti, Kangra, circa 1790

File:Krishna Talks to Radha's Maidservant, Folio from a Satsai (Seven Hundred Verses) of Bihari Lal LACMA AC1999.127.5.jpg
Lord  Krishna talks to Radha’s maid, folio from a Sat-sai  of Bihari Lal, Kangra, circa 1825.

 

 

References :

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author