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Terracotta art of Bengal : jewellery depictions

       Jewellery has always occupied an important place in the social and cultural life of India. Initially men and women used natural material for beautification of the body like leaves  and flowers followed by beads using other type of material. In course of time, metals like gold  was  used to make ornaments which continues to this day.

  The figure of the bronze dancing girl found at Mohenjodaro, one of the Indus valley sites depicts her wearing necklaces and a number of bangles. Gold, silver and ivory, copper, bone, shell and terracotta have all been used to make ornaments. Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro yielded variety of beads  which were strung together and worn as armlets, bracelets, necklaces and girdles.

Vedic texts make enough references to jewellery and its use to decorate the body. The Ramayana and Mahabharata, India’s great epics describe jewellery elaborately. When Sita daughter of King Janaka gets married to Lord Rama, she is bedecked with ear ornaments, nose ornament, chandrahaar , bracelets, anklets with bells etc. her head ornament the chudamani is believed to have been given to her father by Kubera, the God of wealth himself. Lord Rama wears pearls on his crown, and as ear-rings and around his neck. Yudhistira loses a rare pearl during his gambling game with the Kauravas in the Mahabharata.

  Buddhist and Jaina literature mention ornaments. The Jataka tales mention jewellery including those worn by elephants and horses. The Kalpasutras, Jaina texts describe different ornaments.

   In ancient India, following the Indus valley times and the Vedic era, the ascendancy of the Mauryan dynasty unified the Indian subcontinent. Trade routes opened and rare and new gems came to India. The Arthshastra written in 3rd century B.C by Kautilya describes jewellery types. Jewellery was worn both by men and women. The yakshi from Didargunj, Patna wears a headband, a pendant, girdle on her waist and anklets. Terracotta figures from this age also depict jewellery. Bharhut, Sanchi, Bodhgaya and Amaravati are attributed to the Sunga and Satavahana phase of Indian history. Their art reveals a variety of ornaments used on head,ears,neck,arms,waist and feet. Motifs were drawn from nature or religion. Short necklaces were called Kanthi and in case it had a large pearl as  a centre-piece it was called sirshak. A necklace having alternate gold and pearl beads was called ApavartikaRatnavali was a necklace having many gems, pearls and gold beads. Shankhavalayaswere made of conch, ratnavalayas set with precious stones, jalavalayas were bracelets with perforations. Mekhala,Kanchi,rasana and sarasana were different type of girdles. Various names have been assigned to anklets such as manjira tulakoti, nupura, padangada,hamsaka and palipada and kinkini for the ones with bells. Trade was prevalent between South India and Rome at the beginning of Christian era and the gold which came in was converted into jewellery. Jewellery of Satavahanas is described inGathasaptasati written in Prakrit by a ruler. A circular jewel was placed in the centre of the usnisha(turban), kirita(a crown with jewels) was worn too. Women wore the chudamani and the makarika(crocodile shaped jewel) was also very popular. Ear kundalas were in vogue. The phalakahara consisting of gold slabs as very popular among necklaces.

      The jewellery of Taxila and adjoining townships of Sirkap and Sirsukh have revealed a blend of Indian, Greek, Persian and Greco-Roman in design and form. This is because the city was built and destroyed many times between 500 BC to 500 A.D. by invaders like the Greeks, Mauryas of Magadha, the Bactrian Greeks, the Sakas, the Parthians, the Kushanas and the Huns.

 The Sungas replaced the Mauryan dynasty. Bharhut sculptures are seen wearing a variety of ornaments. Ear-rings were termed Karnika or kundala if they were ring shaped. A single string of beads was called ekavali. Armlets were very much in use. Bracelets were also worn, girdles were worn by women. Hair ornaments kept hair in place. Sakas, Parthian and later the Kushanas followed the Sunga rule. This had an impact on the society of ancient India as they came from Central Asia and influenced indigenous art and craft of India.

 

File:Chandraketugarth, epoca sunga, dea della fecondità, II-I sec. ac. 02.JPG

Fertility deity. Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh.

I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

       Kanishka, a Kushana ruler patronised art and his rule was from Bactria to Magadha and Kashmir to Saurastra. Gandhara was an important centre with Roman influence and the other was Mathura which was purely Indian. Jewellery has been excavated  from Taxila which include gold, copper, bronze pendants, bracelets, bangles and armlets. Kushan  jewellery is evident in the Gandhara and Mathura sculptures. The railing pillars at Mathura depict Yakshi with nupura(anklets), mekhala(girdles), hara(necklace), valaya(bracelets), bangles, ear-rings and finger-rings. The excavations at Chandraketugarh in West Bengal of the Sunga era too have revealed many fertility goddesses, mother and child figures etc. The figures have adorned bodies with elaborate coiffure and jewellery.

SungaWithChild.jpg

Mother and child, Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal.

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1062813

File:Plaque of a Yakshi (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century BCE, terracotta, HAA I.JPG

Plaque of a Yakshi(female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century BCE, terracotta, Honolulu Academy of Arts,U.S.A.

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

      The late medieval temples of Bengal have many figures of both men and women, flora and animals. the jewellery is noteworthy. The animals like the horses and elephants are seen wearing jewellery too ! Adornment seems to have been away of life.  The Bankura horse also wears jewellery like the Chandmala on its forehead.

    Figurines over the wall of jor bangla temple.jpg

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Dyutiman86 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59899298

References :

  • H.Clifford Smith/The art of Jewellery; New Delhi :Bharatiya Kala Prakashan,
  • M.L.Nigam/Indian jewellery;New Delhi : Roli Books, 1999.
  • Jamila Brijbhushan/Masterpieces of Indian jewellery; Bombay : D. B Taraporewala and Sons,1983.
  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Bengal temples/Dutta, Bimal Kumar , New Delhi : Mushiram Manoharlal,1975.
  • wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

somaghosh1133@gmail.com

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Terracotta art of Bengal : music and dance depictions

       The music of India is highly developed and a sophisticated product of an ancient culture. Lord Shiva’s mystic dance symbolises the rhythmic motion in the universe. Music is sound in rhythm. Goddess Saraswati is represented as the goddess of art and learning and is seen sitting on a white lotus with a veena in one hand and playing it with another, a book in the third hand and a necklace of pearls in the fourth hand. Sage Bharata is believed to have taught the arts to apsaras, the heavenly dancers. Narada muni who wanders both on earth and heaven playing his veena taught the art to men. In Indra’s heaven, Gandharvas are the singers , apsaras are the dancers, and the centaur-like beings the Kinnaras play musical instruments. Gandharva veda means the art of music.

      A very wide variety of musical instruments were used in Vedic times, both percussion and stringed. The ordinary drum was the dundhubi. Adambara, bhumi dundhubi were others. Aghati was a cymbal which accompanied dancing. The kandaveena was a kind of lute, karkari, another kind of lute, vana , a lute of 100 strings and the veena. The veena is suitable to all types of Indian music. Indian stringed instruments include the veena, an instrument which consists of a large bowl, hollowed out of one piece of wood. The flat top of this bowl is one foot in diameter. A bridge is placed on the bowl and near it are anumber of small sound holes. The veena is played using finger nails or using a plectrum. Sitar, dilruba,esraj,ektara are other stringed instruments. Sarangi, surbahar are also stringed instruments. Kinnari is a primitive Indian instrument supposed to have been invented by Kinnara , one of the musicians in Indra’s heaven. It has representation in sculpture and paintings. It has 2-3 strings, sound is not very strong.

    Sculptures of many musical instruments exist on old cave temples and Buddhist stupas.  Amaravati  and Sanchi depict many such sculptures.  Music and dance have been depicted in the terracotta sculptures in the late medieval temples of Bengal as well. Showcased below are two temples; the Madan-mohana temple  at Bishnupur and the Hangseswari  temple complex at Hooghly, both in West Bengal.

    The Madana-mohana temple built by Maharaja Durjana Singh Deva is a ekratna, having a single spire on a plinth with a portico in the centre. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna as the name suggests. There are two magnificent pillars at the entrance with ornate terracotta sculptures. The pillars  depict scenes from the Ramayana and scenes from Lord Krishna’s life from his cowherd days. One can find musician and dancer depictions here. The dancers are in different poses and the musicians are seen playing instruments.  Floral designs are seen between the human sculptures as rows adding a sense of  balance.The scenes are full of vitality, joy and convey a celebration of life !

File:A temple in India, Madana-Mohana Temple, Bishnupur.jpg

Madana-Mohana Temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Abhijit Kar Gupta (Flickr: Madana-Mohana Temple, Bishnupur – I) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Musicians and dancers, Madana-mohana Temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kgabhi/8386174380/

    The Hangseswari temple at Hooghly has a very interesting history and architecture. The area of Bansberia next to the River Ganges, in Hooghly district was gifted to a zamindar Rameshwar Ray by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb along with the title of  Raja in 1673. He settled down there along with his family. His kin continued to stay there.  The area came to be known as  the Royal Estate. The temple  was started to be built by Raja Nrisinhadeb Ray from late 18th century  and completed by his wife Rani Shankari  in 1814 and dedicated to a form of Goddess Kali, Hangseswari.  The deities of both Shiva and Shakti are present. The temple has thirteen spires and five stories which represent the ida, pingala, Bajraksha, Sushumna and chitrini of the human body parts according to Tantric texts. The king had studied the system of kundalini during his stay at Varanasi and decided to build a temple according to the concept. Marble was brought from Chunar near Varanasi for use in the temple. The spires represent blooming lotus buds; a metallic idol of the  Sun-God is inscribed on the top of the central spire. The inner structure of the building follow the design of the human anatomy.  The temple complex also has the Ananta-Basudeba temple and the Swanbhaba Kali temple, built by Raja Nrisinhadeb Ray in 1788. Both are terracotta temples and have exquisite sculptures on them.

Hanseswari Mandir - East View - Bansberia Royal Estate - Hooghly - 2013-05-19 7547.JPG

Hangseswari temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Dancers, Rasmancha, Hangseshwari temple, Hooghly,West Bengal.
Source : wikivisually.com/wiki/Hangseshwari_temple
Ananta Basudeba Temple1.JPG
Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
By Amartyabag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Part of the entrance wall.JPG
Carvings, Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
By Kinkiniroy2012 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21683542
 
Terracotta Panel, Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
 
Terracotta Panel, Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.

References :

  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Bengal temples/Dutta, Bimal Kumar , New Delhi : Mushiram Manoharlal,1975.
  • wikipedia.org
  • journeymart.com
  • chitolekha.com

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

somaghosh1133@gmail.com

Terracotta art of Bengal : depictions from the Ramayana

    The temples of Bengal (undivided) are well known for the intricate terracotta work and carvings. The themes depicted are many. Among them the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are also seen at many places. Scenes and characters from the epics are sculpted.

         Showcased below is a a terracotta creation from a temple at Surul, a village in Birbhum, West Bengal  adjacent to Visva-Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Depicted below are scenes from the epic Ramayana. The battle between Lord Rama and Ravana at Lanka has been sculpted above the arch.

File:Surul 2.JPG

Terracotta carving of Ramayana, Surul , Birbhum, West Bengal.

Pic source : wikitravel.org

      The Ramayana was composed by Sage Valmiki (5th century B.C to 1st century B.C , ie. more than 2500 years ago. It is the story of Lord Rama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu of Hinduism. It has over 24,000 verses spanning 5 chapters and is the longest epic poem of Hinduism. Rama is the prince of Ayodhya , eldest son of King Dasaratha. Rama is to succeed him but King Dasaratha’s second wife Kaikeyi wants her son Bharata to be on the throne. She schemes against Rama and sends him along with his wife Sita into exile for 14 years. During this time Sita is kidnapped by demon king Ravana of Lanka. However with the help of his brother Lakhsmana , who accompanies him on his exile and the monkey general Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, Sita is rescued after a fierce battle. After the exile they come back to Ayodhya and Lord Rama is crowned king. They have two sons Lava and Kusha. However Sita is accused of being unfaithful and asked to prove her chastity. She prays to Mother Earth and vanishes for ever but is immortalised; as per the epic. Ramayana is very popular and  Rama and Sita are thought of as  ideals and their victory is taken as the victory of good over evil. There are many sub-stories which teach valuable moral lessons. The great epic has been depicted in art since ancient times. There are miniature paintings, sculpture, modern paintings, translations in many languages, versions in other Asian countries, songs, films and television serials about the epic, given its timelessness and popularity.  Thus the terracotta  temples in Bengal (undivided) are no exception and could not escape the magic of this epic story.

 

Sage Valmiki, painting, unknown artist.

By …, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1058109

File:Print Ramayana - Pages 49 and 50.jpg

Scene of the battle at Lanka between Rama with his forces and Ravana, print, British Library, London.

      See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

         The Kanta Nagar temple at Dinajpur in Bangladesh was built by Maharaja Pran Nath, started in 1704 and completed by his son Maharaja Ramnath by 1722. It is a magnificent edifice with fine terracotta carvings. The epics are depicted on the temple, some characters can be seen on the pillars too !

Dinajpur KantanagarMondir 11Oct12 IMG 3579.jpg

Kantanagar temple, Dinajpur,Bangladesh.

By Kazi Rashed Abdallah – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51935398

Detailing of terracotta on the Kantanagar temple's wall 02.jpg

Detailing of terracotta, Kantanagar temple,Bangladesh.

By Tanhaaa7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51471853

Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh (20).JPG

Terracotta, Kantajiu temple, Kantanagar, Bangladesh.

By Shahnoor Habib Munmun (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Kan-terra-cota-19.jpg

Kantanji’s Temple, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.

By Omar Shehab (omarshehab) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2595736

      The Radhabinod temple at Jayadev Kenduli, a village in Birbhum district of West Bengal depicts scenes from the  epic Ramayana. It is a navaratna temple, one having nine spires. Jaydev Kenduli was believed to be the birthplace of Jayadeva, the composer of Gita-Govinda from the 12th century, a classic Sanskrit work on Radha-Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavan. The gopis were the other cowherd girls who loved Lord Krishna. The land of Birbhum has been known as the land of red mud.

 The Radhabinod temple was built by Maharaja Kirtichand of Bardhaman in the 17th century.  The Ramayana scenes at the temple depicts the battle between the demons and the monkey army or vanar-sena.

Radhabinod Temple at Jaydev Kenduli, Birbhum,West Bengal.

By Chandan Guha – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6080659

Ramayana scene at Radhabinod temple, Jaydev Kenduli, Birbhum, West Bengal.

By Chandan Guha – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6080705

 

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

 

somaghosh1133@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : some flora depictions

 

     Nature has always inspired man and his creations. He has embellished them by things he has seen around him. Flora like flowers,trees,foliage,fruits,lotuses,creepers,honeysuckles and fauna like elephants,horses,camels,bulls,birds like swans,parrots have all been depicted in scenes and decoration on religious shrines, temples and other monuments across India, over centuries.  Sculpture depictions on religious monuments using flora and fauna was as per the relevance of the subject and artistic convention of the time and region. In Buddhist art the bodhi tree, the jambu tree ,the sala and the asoka tree are very significant as they are part of Lord Buddha’s life. He was born in a sala grove under an asoka tree, mostly meditated under jambu trees and attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree. Trees, flowers et al. were used decoratively to enhance the sculptural composition for  a more splendid effect. Palm trees, kalpavrikhshas, some fruit trees like sita-phal (custard apple), coconut,mango and banana have all been used as motifs. Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling divine tree)with rectangular fruits is found at Aihole and another one at Ellora datable to 10th century. Floral depictions use the roundel  frequently in sculptural art which has a common motif . The roundel could have another decorative motif within. A naga is depicted inside the roundel on ceiling sculpture of 8th century Alampur temples in Telangana in South India. Lotus is the national flower of India and is the most popular motif. It is associated with poornaghata or pot of plenty. Plenty includes health, wealth and a long life. Lotus represents abundance, purity and fullness of life. Sculptors used various motifs from nature to decorate pillars,ceilings,borders,facades and pilasters.The creeper,honeysuckle,scrolls have all been used as motifs.

     The terracotta temples at Bengal have also used the floral motif to heighten the impact and decoration of the plaques and sculptures. Floral medallions and designs surround many creations and themes. Floral borders depict the mastery of the craftsman, as one can see from the examples below which serve as illustrations. Islamic influence on the designs can be felt at some places.

   The depictions below are of a twin temple at Baidyapur, Bardhaman district of West Bengal. Probably built around 1550 by Shubhananda Pal, the temple is a classic example of rekha deul architecture The temples are connected by a corridor. This type of temple is called a jora-deul. The floral motifs are prominent and striking; sculpted  centuries ago !

Twin temples, Baidyapur, Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51806013

Floral motifs at twin temples at Baidyapur, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51789270

Vegetal designs at twin temples at Baidyapur, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51789275

         The Lalji temple has 25 spires and is a Panchavimshati-Ratna. It was built by Braja Kishori Devi, the wife of Maharaja Jagat Ram in 1739. Built of bricks, and the walls are covered with terracotta figures. The panels depict ornate floral designs. One can also see the seamless motifs in vegetal patterns.

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner 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=51950563

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 7.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=51950067

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 13.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=51951738

The Shyamrai temple is a pancharatna temple built in 1643 by Raja Raghunath Singha. The temple has an ocatgonal central shikhara  and the remaining four are square in shape. Lord Krishna’s life is depicted on the ornate carvings. Each side of the temple has three arches. The seamless designs and the floral patterns are awe-inspiring to the onlooker.

 

Shyamrai temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Jonoikobangali (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Motifs at 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

Motifs on pillar, 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

Jor Bangla Temple (arches) Arnab Dutta 2011.JPG

Floral medallions, below arches at Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,Bankura, West Bengal.

By Jonoikobangali – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14932883

 

 

 

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

 

somaghosh1133@gmail.com

Bankura horse : icon of terracotta art of Bengal

 

         A horse is an animal who represents energy and movement, known to man for ages. The horse is a companion and a useful animal for various purposes and has been used extensively to drive chariots, carts and as the Cavalry Force along with its rider in battles of yore. Swift and reliable, the horse is revered and there have been many famous horses known to have even saved their riders life. Such is their loyalty.   In Bankura district of West Bengal the horse is depicted as an art object with some ornamentation.  This Bankura horse has become an iconic symbol of Bengal art . The Government of India uses it in its logo for All india Handicrafts. Such is the magic of the horse depiction. It is found at many homes across India and abroadin drawing rooms and gardens. The presence of the Bankura horse immediately livens the space. Made of terracotta or burnt clay, the horse is either mud-brown or black in colour. Elephants are also made by the craftsmen or karigar, but the horse has got more prominence and popularity. The Bankura horse is produced mostly  in the Panchmura village of Bankura district. The other places where the kumbhakars or  potters make this horse along with other depictions like the elephant are Rajagram,Sonamukhi and Hamirpur. Also at Biboda,Kamaridha,Bishnupur,Jaikrishnapur,Nakaijuri and Keyaboti. The popularity of the icon has led to its being made in metal and wood.

File:Horse clipart.svg

 

Horse, animal known for its swiftness and energy, graphic depiction, 21st century.

By warszawianka [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

          The history of the Bankura horse is interesting. It was initially used at village rituals as a symbolic sacrifice. This is done to appease village Gods and Goddesses for fulfillment of wishes. The horses stand tall and erect with lively long ears. They wear the Chandmala on the forehead. The horses made for worship are usually not hollow but solid.  Dharmathakur who is also believed to be a form of Hindu God Surya rides on a seven-horse chariot.

Surya.png.jpg

 

Lord Surya, painting by Raja Ravi Varma, 19th century.

By Raja Ravi Varma – http://barodaart.com/oleographs-mythological.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42516128

      The brick and terracotta temples of Bengal built during the 17th and 18th century depict animals, birds and humans along with floral and geometric patterns as part of the temples as plaques or medallions and also as narratives on the walls of the temples, of  the epics, the Puranas, Radha-Krishna and everyday scenes reflect the expertise of the artists and the refined taste of the patrons.

     The horses are made by the use of a tool called the ucha, a semi circular piece of bamboo. Balya is a stone tool, used for beating, also pitna, a wooden beater. Bamboo Chiari is used for decorating the figures.The potters wheel and kiln are also used. The parts of the horse or elephant are made separately on the wheel and later joined to from the horse. The ears and tails are made in moulds and fixed on the body on grooves. The figures are kept to dry a bit in the sun, then kept inside to dry fully and again heated outside and then the figures are coloured with natural colours. The pigments are mixed with water and applied. The colours are fixed in the kiln.

File:Bishnupur Terracotta Horse 3.JPG

Bankura horses and elephants,terracotta,21st century.

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

File:Artist, maker unknown, Bengali - Kantha (Embroidered Quilt) - Google Art Project.jpg

Kantha embroidery on quilt with a horse depiction, 19th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, Bengali – Artist/Maker (Bengali) Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

References :

  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • wikipedia.org
  • webindia123.com

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

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somaghosh1133@gmail.com

 

 

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

         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

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : magnificent Radha-Krishna images

       Many themes are portrayed in the terracotta plaques, or on the walls and facades of the temples of Bengal. The images of Radha-Krishna dominate many of the temples. The images are in monochrome format but manage to convey the much-loved presence of Lord Krishna with his flute, along with Radha or the other gopis. Such is the skill of the artist- craftsman or karigar. This technique has been perfected in a region where instead of granite or sandstone,  clay and laterite were available and used for building and sculpting on the walls of the temples.  The geological profile of Bengal is that of a fertile alluvial soil and laterite tracts in many districts covering Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, Midnapur and Malda.  Laterite has also been used during construction of Bengal temples. Episodes from the epics, the Puranas and everyday life including erotica has been depicted in some temples. Showcased are some Radha-Krishna images in terracotta which are both exquisite  in detail and awe-inspiring.

    The Ras-chakra depicts the Ras-lila.  Raslila is a celebratory dance done in the form of a ras-mandala  or ras-chakra by gopis along with Lord Krishna  Gopis are cowherd maidens who are smitten with Lord Krishna, Radha being the main among them.The Raslilais described in the Bhagavata-purana and Jayadeva’s Gita -Govinda. The word lila means play or act, whereas ras refers to emotion or essenceflavour/mood etc. It is difficult to find an exact synonym in the English language; raslila is a dance of  divine love.  It is believed that one night, on hearing Krishna playing on his flute, all gopis of Vrindavan left their homes and joined him in a dance in the forest or grove where they danced through the night. Lord Krishna manifested himself in multiple form and each gopi believed that he was dancing with her. A unique circle is formed in the raslila called the ras-mandala. The Bhakti tradition followers believe that the earthly romantic love  between human beings is a dilute form and the intense love for Krishna felt by the gopis is like the soul searching for the ultimate , the God divine in the spiritual realm. The gopis are believed to be shadows of Lord Krishna’s own form. A splendorous Raslila depiction  is seen at Shyamrai Temple at Bishnupur in Bankura district. Ornate floral medallions are seen around the depiction.

Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur 8.JPG

Ras-lila depiction, terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18523365

The Ras-lila is a popular theme and has been depicted in the media of paintings too. Below is shown a Ras-lila depiction in painting from the Jaipur school from the 19th century.

Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila, Jaipur, 19th century.jpg

Radha-Krishna and gopis in Ras-lila, Jaipur, 19th century.

By Anonymous – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/130.1986/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4179978

     The Brindaban Chandra’s Math at Kalna has Radha-Krishna sulptures in terracotta with ornate floral patterns around the main figure to give an impression of symmetry. After the floral pattern, one can see medallions in different shapes to add to the overall effect.

Group of temples known as Brindaban Chandra's Math

Brindaban Chandra’s math, Ambika-Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Partha70007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21712965

BRINDAVANCHANDRA'S MATH 01, Ambika-Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.jpg

Radha-Krisha sculptures, Brindaban Chandra’s math, Ambika-Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sucheta Nag – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62097825

    The Brindaban Chandra Math from Guptipara, Hooghly has a complex of temples made from brick of the 18th and 19th century.

Guptipara - Temple Complex Brindaban Chandra's Math

Temple Complex, Brindaban Chandra’s Math,Guptipara, Hooghly, West Bengal.

Von Gautam Tarafder – Eigenes Werk, CC-BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51496851

A Radha-Krishna depiction with floral decoration around can be seen below. Radha seems to be lost in the soulful music being played by Lord Krishna on his divine flute.

Terracota work at Brindaban Chandra's Math.jpg

Brindaban Chandra’s Math, Guptipara, Hooghly, West Bengal.

By Partha70007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21712964

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 9.jpg

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=51950483

Pratapeshwar temple,Kalna,West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu \ পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5694032

 

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