Category Archives: Ancient Indian history

Happy Diwali – Lord Rama comes home

         Diwali is celebrated with great excitement and festivity in India. The day marks the return of Lord Rama to his capital Ayodhya with his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, the leader of his vanarasena or monkey army after his win in battle over Ravana, the lord of Lanka.After the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, Ravana was ultimately killed by Rama and Vibhishana, his brother was made the king of Lanka. It is recalled that the city was lit with thousands of lamps on his return.

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Every year this day is commemorated across India. This is as mentioned in the epic Ramayana, the part of the story from Uttarakanda, the final chapter in the epic tale by Sage Valmiki. Lord Rama comes back in his Pushpakvimana to be coronated as king to Ayodhya. Presented here are some amazing depictions of the return of Rama and his coronation which led to his rule of thousand years also called Ramarajya, a glorious rule.

 

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Lord Rama starting to return to Ayodhya, Kangra miniature, late 18th century, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, U K.

       The Pushpakvimana has been described as a self-moving painted car, which was large with two storeys and few chambers in it, also with flags and colourful banners, and gave a melodious sound as it made its way across the sky.

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Shri Ramachandra or Lord Rama seen on Pushpakvimana with his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and others, print, Modern Litho Works, Bombay , early 20th century.

The Uttarakanda narrates that Lord Rama reached the kingdom of Ayodhya along with Lakshmana, Sita, Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhishana and the host of monkeys.  After he reaches his kingdom, his brother Bharata who has waited from him to come back restores the kingdom to his elder brother. After that the preparations for the actual coronation begin;  royal barbers are called and Lord Rama and Lakshmana are bathed, shorn of their matted locks and dressed in splendid robes; Dasharatha’s queens deck Sita with  jewellery  and the priests give orders for the coronation to take place.

 

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Return of Lord Rama, miniature painting, Sahib Din, 17th century, British Library, London, U.K.

”Making use of Ravana’s flying chariot, the exiles have left Lanka and flown swiftly northwards, the directional imperative now being from right to left. Reunited with Bharata and Shatrughna, who have kept Rama’s kingdom for him during the fourteen years of exile, they enter Ayodhya in triumph. They drive through the bazaars with their festive hangings to the palace where they are received by their mothers. Even Kaikeyi is forgiven. The monkey king Sugriva, his minister Hanuman and the other chief monkeys have assumed human form. Rama’s coronation begins his auspicious reign, a truly golden age for mankind – Ram-raj , Rama’s rule”…The British Library.

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Return of Lord Rama in a pushpaka vimana and preparations for his coronation, miniature painting,  Mewar, Rajasthan, 17th century.

      The Uttarakanda further narrates that Lord Rama as king was visited by many sages from far and near,they came from east and west and north and south, led by Sage Agastya, and Lord Rama venerated them and provided them with seats of sacrificial grass and gold-embroidered deer-skin. Then the sages praised him as he had won the battle and also slain  Ravana, the sons of Ravana, and had delivered men and gods from fear.

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Lord Rama’s as King of Ayodhya, artwork, 1940s.

'Woman Holding Fireworks', India, 19th century, Honolulu Museum of Art, 3269.1.JPG

Woman holding sparklers, India, 19th century, Honolulu Museum of Art, U S A.

 

References:

  • vyasaonline.com
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons, freepik.com (lamps image)

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

Decorative book covers : some Indian images

         Books have always been an important part of human culture used to  communicate, inform and entertain. There are different types of books, some printed and some in manuscript form. The decorative element in book covers and book binding has been important in bindings of yore. Combining beauty and strength has been a historical practice.  One  of the definitions of book binding states it as a term applied to any process for making a book by fastening together printed or un-printed sheets of paper and providing them in this compact form with a suitable covering. Book covers can be made of paper, cloth or leather. Around 100 B.C in India religious sutras were bound together which were written on palm leaf  which were numbered, had a hole and a twine passing through them. From then on book-binding travelled a long way, with the introduction of the codex, leather tooling, wood covers giving way to pasteboards, dust jackets, cloth covers, case bindings, gild bindings, glass bindings and ornate bindings using ivory.  In India, writing was done on stone, metal, shells and earthenware.  Also wooden board,  birch-bark palm-leaves, cotton cloths and paper was used. Engraving, embossing, painting and scratching methods were used for writing. Showcased are some book bindings from the Indian subcontinent.

      This pair of wooden covers protected the palm-leaf folios of a Buddhist sacred text. One cover has the nine Buddhist goddesses, each holding a staff surmounted by the wish-fulfilling jewel or chintamani, while the other cover has the five transcendental Buddhas flanked by four bodhisattvas. Painted on the interior, the iconography offers a protective field to the holy text within, in this case likely the Perfection of Wisdom text, the Ashtasathasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra.

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Wooden cover of manuscripts, Met Museum, New York , Public Domain image.

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Palm leaf manuscript, Bhagavat Gita, Grantha script, 18th century, Public Domain image.

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The middle figure is “an Indian scribe” who is writing on palm leaves, engraving from F. J. Bertuch’s ‘Bilderbuch fur Kinder’, Weimar, 1790-1830, Public domain image.

      The book cover is of lacquer binding with central floral design of an illustrated and illuminated copy of the collection of poems or divan by Shams al-Din Muḥammad Hafiz al Shirazi (flourished during 13th century AH / 14th century,  produced in India, most probably Kashmir, in the 19th century.

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Book cover, Divan of Shiraz, Kashmir, 19th century.

Source : Walters Art Museum, Public domain image.

     The image below depicts a binding from most probably the 13th century AH/19th century. The binding is composed of lacquer and is decorated with a floral design covering the whole surface of the boards.

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Book binding, 19th century, India.

Walters Art Museum [Public domain or Public domain]

File:Palm Leaf Manuscript and Wooden Covers with Symbols of Sixteen Pilgrimage Sites LACMA M.91.300.3a-c (3 of 3).jpg

File:Palm Leaf Manuscript and Wooden Covers with Symbols of Sixteen Pilgrimage Sites LACMA M.91.300.3a-c (2 of 3).jpg

Wooden Covers of palm leaf manuscript and with symbols of sixteen pilgrimage sites, Sri Lanka,19th century, LACMA, U S A , Public Domain images.

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Seen above is the end board of a Sinhalese palm-leaf manuscripts transcribed in 1874. This example is of a lac-worked Kandyan book cover comprising the traditional motifs of a string knot at either end with a single vine scroll between the punched holes and a flower around each hole with a diamond chip motif  border, Sri Lanka, 19th century, Wellcome images, Public domain image.

 

References :

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

Saptamatrikas in art : some depictions

      The concept of the Saptamatrikas or Seven mothers have existed since the Indus valley civilisation. Seals have been found with seven feminine deities. The seven mothers find mention in the Rigveda, the Puranas and the Mahabahrata.

         By the fifth century they came to be called as Tantric Goddesses. The Mahabharata describes them as dark in colour and staying in ”peripheral areas” and that they are associated with Skanda or Kumara, son of Lord Shiva. They later came to be associated with the sect of Lord Shiva himself. Their sculptural representation in the 1st to 3rd century happened in stone. During the Gupta period(3rd to 6th century C E) folk images of the matrikas were made. Later rulers made Skanda as their model and the foster mothers became”court goddesses”. Many dynasties devoted rock-cut sculptures to the matrikas. Like at Parhari in Madhya Pradesh. Temples of the Western Ganga dynasty (350-1000 A.D) and sculptures of the Gurjara-Prtiharas (8th to 10th century A.D) and Chandella dynasty (8th to 12th century), Chalukya dynasty (11th to 13th century A.D). Initially the matrikas were considered dangerous but later took on a protective role. They are mostly depicted in lalitasana posture.

       According to a legend the matrikas were created to assist Lord Shiva in a battle agianst Andhakasura as per the Isaanasivagurudeva paddhati. The matrikas are the powers of the associated devas. In Shaktism they are believed to have assisted the Devi in her fight against demons like Raktabija.  The saptamatrikas are Brahmani,Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Varahi, Chamunda and Indrani.

Statues of Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Camunda, National Museum, New Delhi.jpg

Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32743578

Brahmani : She is four-headed and has yellowish complexion with vahana or vehicle of a hamsa/swan. She represents the power of associated deva Brahma. She holds a rosary or noose and kamandalu (water pot) or lotus stalk or a book.She is also shown seated on a lotus with the hamsa on her banner. She wears various ornaments and is distinguished by her basket-shaped crown called karandamakuta

Vaishnavi : From Vishnu; is described as seated on Garudaand having four or six arms. She is depicted holding Shankha (conch), chakra (Discus), mace and lotus and bow and sword or her two arms are in varada mudra (Blessing hand gesture) and abhaya mudra (“No-fear” hand gesture). Like Vishnu, she is heavily adorned with ornaments like necklaces, anklets, earrings, bangles wearing a cylindrical crown called kiritamukuta.

Maheshwari : From Shiva; Maheshvari is depicted seated on Nandi (the bull) and has four or six hands. The fair complexioned, Trinetra (three eyed) goddess holds a trishula (trident), damaru (drum), Akshamala (A garland of beads), panapatra (drinking vessel) or axe or an antelope or a kapala (skull-bowl) or a serpent and is adorned with serpent bracelets, the crescent moon and jatamakuta, a crown formed of piled, matted hair.

Kaumari : From Skanda or Kumara;the god of war. Kaumari rides a peacock and has four or twelve arms. She holds a spear, axe, a shakti (power) or Tanka (silver coins) and bow. She is sometimes depicted six-headed like Kumara and wears the cylindrical crown. In Tamil Nadu, Karumari Amman is a favored deity.

 

Varahi : From Varaha; the boar-headed form of Vishnu or Yama – the god of death, has a boar head on a human body and rides a ram or a buffalo. She holds a danda (rod of punishment) or plough, goad, a vajra or a sword, and a panapatra. She wears a crown karaṇḍa mukuṭa with other ornaments.

Chamunda Chamundi and Charchika is the power of Devi (Chandi). She is very often identified with Kali and is similar in her appearance and habit. The identification with Kali is explicit in Devi Mahatmya. The black coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls (Mundamala) and holding a damaru (drum), trishula (trident), sword and pānapātra (drinking-vessel). Riding a jackal or standing on a corpse of a man (shava or preta), she is described as having three eyes, a terrifying face and a sunken belly.

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Chamunda, sculpture.

By Daderot – Self-photographed, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11384120

Indrani : From Indra; the Lord of the heaven. Seated on a charging elephant, Aindri, is depicted dark-skinned, with two or four or six arms. She is depicted as having two or three or like Indra, a thousand eyes. She is armed with the vajra(thunderbolt), goad, noose and lotus stalk. Adorned with variety of ornaments, she wears the kiritamakuta.

     Another eighth Matrika is Narsimhi or NarasimhikaPrathyangira, and Atharvana Bhadrakaali, is the power of Narasimha (lion-man form of Vishnu). She is a woman-lion goddess who throws the stars into disarray by shaking her lion mane. Ashtamatrika is revered in Nepal.

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Saptamatrika panel, National Museum, New Delhi.

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

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Matrikas Temple, Aihole, Karnataka.

By Benjamín Preciado Centro de Estudios de Asia y África de El Colegio de México (Trabajo de Campo 1977) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Vaishnavi and Varahi fighting asuras (demons),folio from a Devimahatmya,Sirohi, Rajasthan, 1675-1700.

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

Ellora Caves, Matrikas (15170218669).jpg

Saptamatrika, Ellora (Cave 21),Maharashtra.

By Leon Yaakov from Tel Aviv, ISRAEL – Ellora Caves, May 2012, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37357560

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Mantra ratnakara decipting Matrikas, Wood and multi-layered paper,Nepal.

By NA – Freer Gallery [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2804473

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Saptamatrika, Nepal, 11th century.

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12403566

Terracota statue of Saptmatrikas from Maurya Period, National Museum, New Delhi.jpg

Saptmatrikas,terracotta, Maurya period, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32740370

The Seven Mother Goddesses (Matrikas) Flanked by Shiva (left) and Ganesha (right).jpg

Saptamatrikas flanked by Shiva on the left and Ganesha on the right, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, U.S.A, 9th century.

By Ms Sarah Welch – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44761691

Goddess Durga leads the eight Matrikas in battle against demon Raktabija. Folio, Devi Mahatmya, Nepal, 18th century.

By Unknown Nepali – Source: LACMA[1]. Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. Original uploader was Redtigerxyz at en.wikipedia Transfer was stated to be made by User:Giggy. 2007-07-11 (original upload date), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3351664

 

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Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

Panchatantra in art : some depictions

           Panchatantra literally means five treatises. It is an ancient collection of animal fables. The animals have human virtues and vices. The original text is believed to be in Sanskrit prose and verse.  It has been dated to 300 B.C  and attributed to Vishnusharma, an octagenarian Brahmin who is mentioned in the prelude of the text of many translations that are available. Some sources mention Vasubhaga as the creator of the inter-related animal fables. The illustrations depicted below show some fables from the sub books of the Panchatantra.

Panchatantra manuscript, The Birds Try to Beat Down the Ocean, watercolor on paper, Rajasthan, India, 18th century. 

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/results.html?searchTxt=panchatantra, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61455723

        The Panchatantra has been widely translated into as many as 50 languages across the world. Most European versions of the text are derivative works of the 12th-century Hebrew version of Panchatantra by Rabbi Joel. In 550 A.D it was translated into Pahlavi by Burzoa. In 750 A.D an Arabic translation Kalila wa Dimnah was done by Abdullah Ibn-al-Muqaffa. In the 12th century a Persian translation by Rudaki was titled  Kalileh-o-Damneh. In the 15th century Anwar-i-suhayli in Persian by Kashefi was done which was known as The fables of Bidpai in European languages. It was translated into English by Arthur Ryder in 1925.

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Panchatantra manuscript, The elephants trample the hares, watercolour,18th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/results.html?searchTxt=panchatantra, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61455729

     The Panchatantra is for the learning of niti or appropriate moral conduct by three ignorant princes. The Panchatantra consists of five parts, each having a main story. Each story contains sub-stories. The titles of the sub-books are Mitrabheda, Mitralabha, Kakolukiyam, Labdhapranasam and Apariksitakaram.

Mitrabheda is the story of Damanaka who is an unemployed minister in a lion’s kingdom. Along with Karataka he conspires and breaks up aalaiances of the king. The book has over 30 fables.  Mitralabha is a collection of the adventures of a crow, a mouse, a turtle and a deer. This book focuses on the importance of friendship and alliances. It has ten fables.

8th century Panchatantra reliefs at Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal Hindu monuments Karnataka.jpg

Panchatantra reliefs, Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka, 8th century.

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

     Kakolukiyam is  a treatise which focuses on war and peace. It points out that a battle of wits is more powerful than a battle of swords. it has 18 fables. Labdhapranasam is a compilation of ancient fables full of moral teachings. It is a guide on what not to do. It has 13 fables in the translation by Arthur Ryder.  Apariksitakaram  is acollection of moral filled fables. The characters are human beings. It has 12 fables in the translation into English by Arthur  Ryder. The stories are titled The loss of friends, The lion and the carpenter, The unteachable monkey, The monkey and the crocodile among many others in the five sub books.

8th century Panchatantra legends panels at Virupaksha Shaivism temple, Pattadakal Hindu monuments Karnataka 2.jpg

Panchatantra panel, Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka, 8th century .

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

 ‘Panchatantra’ relief ,Mendut temple, Central Java, Indonesia.

By Original uploader was BesselDekker at nl.wikipedia – Transferred from nl.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Shreevatsa using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5836212

A page from the 18th-century Panchatantra manuscript, Rajasthan India.jpg

Panchatantra manuscript, Rajasthan,18th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

References:

 

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

Art history of Bengal : early terracottas

   Terracotta or baked clay has been used as a medium to create objects of beauty and utility and votive objects for rituals since ancient times. Clay is available in abundance in the Gangetic valley. The history of using clay goes back to 2nd century B.C.  Excavations at Pandu Rajar Dhibi, Chandraketugarh and other sites have revealed interesting figures made from terracotta. There have been evidences of the art from the Mauryan period from the excavations at Chandraketugarh, Tamluk and Bangarh. The figures are of folk origin made by hand using applique technique; the mother goddess and animal figures continue to be made and used for rituals in rural Bengal, having an ageless quality about them.

     Different types of figures have been found relating to the pre-Mauryan times. Beak-headed mother goddesses with pin-holes and large breasts, fertility goddesses with wide hips, wearing girdles with pin holes. Bull front with fan shaped shaped hump too has been found. During the Mauryan times, the torsos were modelled by hand, faces were moulded, dress and ornament were made separately and fixed. The women were portrayed with full breasts, heavy hips and resembling a fertility goddess. Different historical evidence as gleaned from the Indian epics and archaeological findings are indicative of Aryan settlements in North and south Bengal. but the Aryan culture took centuries to gel with the indigenous culture of Bengal. The excavations undertaken all over Bengal revealed that the maximum objects were made out of terracotta which tell us the story of Bengal from yore. Bengal temples find mention in the travelogue of Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang, Gupta period inscriptions and the illustrations of Buddhist manuscripts.

Male figure, Chandraketugarh, India, 2nd-1st century BC, terracotta - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01682.JPG

Male figure, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 2nd-1st century BC, Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

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

   Terracotta has been a material abundantly found during excavations and clay seems to have been a popular medium used by common folk to express themselves. Clay objects from 1st-2nd millennium B.C have been found at Pandu Rajar Dhibi. Excavations at Tamluk, Bangarh and Chandraketugarh  have resulted in terracottas which include male figures, fertility goddesses and yaksha/yakshi figures. the women figures are depicted wearing elaborate head-dress,knob-earrings,heavy bangles and neck-pieces. the dress and drapery have been done on these figures using applique technique. The terracotta art found at the ancient sites also reveal nagas, naginis, apasaras and kinnaras. The other art objects are toys, animals, birds, erotic motifs, narrative plaques and pottery with designs. Gupta period terracottas have been found at Birbhum district of West Bengal.

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Sunga fecondity deity or fertility goddess, Chandraketugarh, Sunga 2nd-1st century BCE. Musée Guimet,Paris. 

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Winged female deity, Chandraketugarh, India, 2nd-1st century BC, terracotta, view 1 - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01683.JPG

Winged female deity in terracotta , Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 2nd-1st century B.C, , Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

By Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45206173

 

    Yakshas and Yakshis resemble human figures but cannot be clearly identified as divine beings or ordinary mortals. They are associated with emblems, animals, birds and mounts.  During the Mauryan and Sunga period their images were frequently made and have been found at various sites. Kubera, the leader of the yakshas has been depicted too. Yakshis outnumber yakshas and are seen with hairpins, common in both West Bengal and North India. They wear heavy jewellery like ear kundalas, sirastraka, necklace and bangles.

Yaksha (Chandraketugarh).jpg

Terracotta yaksha, Sunga dynasty, 1st century BC, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

By Shakti – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14898695

          Toys  and animal figures in terracotta were made for children. Clay carts were most common usually the two or four wheeled chariot type cart. The animal depicted would be a ram or horse. Plaques depicting Jataka tales have been found at Chandraketugarh. Amorous couple have been found at Tamluk and Chandraketugrah.

Boy Feeding a Parrot LACMA M.85.35.1.jpg

Boy feeding a parrot, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 1st century B.C,  LACMA, USA.

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

File:Rattle in the shape of Kubera, India, West Bengal, Chandraketugarh, c. 200 BCE, terracotta, HAA.JPG

Rattle in the shape of Kubera,terracotta, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 200 B.C,  Honolulu Academy of Arts. U.S.A.

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

 

Terracotta plaque of a yakshi (female nature spirit),  Bengal, 3rd-2nd century B.C, Honolulu Academy of the Arts, U.S.A.

By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17609527

 

References :

 

 

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

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. Head dress and fashion of hair dressing is evident form figures found at Pandu Rajar Dhibi in west Bengal. They are seen wearing a conical helmet like hairdo; and also a fan shaped one! The mauryan hairstyles depict neatly combed hair and hairdos with bi-cornate arrangement. Decorative hairpins are seen on Sunga-Kushana figures. along with jewelled bands. used to tie the braid. These head ornaments are though to be the prototype of the kiritamakuta. Forehead ornaments like tikli can be seen on women. The tikli can be seen having radiating beaded strings. Kundalas or ear ornaments were worn by both men and women. Over-sized ear studs with floral motifs have been depicted too. The neckpieces are a study in itself. Women wore neck collars like the hasuli or a choker.  The necklaces are the haras. Long beaded necklaces are seen on the figures, some reaching the navel. The valayas or bracelets were worn by both men and women. They were heavy and the keyura or armlet also used to be worn. Girdles were worn at the waist either single or of more than one string made up of discs spaced by beads.

SungaMasculine.jpg

Sunga masculine figure, Sunga 2nd-1st century B.C, Chandraketugarh,  Musée Guimet,Paris.

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=1062807SungaWithChild.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

    Yaksha and yakshis, who were semi -divine beings and resemble human figures, were associated with emblems,animals, birds and mounts. The Yakshis which have been discovered at the archaeological sites of Mauryan and Sunga period outnumber the yakshas (male). Seen with hairpins, these yakshis were common both in Bengal and North India. They are seen wearing ear kundalas, sirastraka, necklace and heavy bangles.

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 B.C, 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

 

 

Nayikas in art : some glimpses from miniatures

 

          The Nayika occupies a very important place in Indian art and literature. She is seen in different moods. A translation of the word nayika is heroine. The depictions in art have captured her description in different hues and settings. The Kangra nayika is fluid in movement surrounded by nature. The elements of nature are captured in strong colours. The nayika could also be forlorn, sitting in a forest with the background in slightly softer shades. There is a  nayika in every woman. Bharata first captured the various nayikas , eight in number or the ashta nayika in his Natyashastra. Human feelings of eagerness, anger,separation, dejection etc. are all expressed through these paintings. The Nayika goes through different moods in her lifetime as per the situation prevailing then. Various poets and authors have described the feelings through their works in literature. Kalidasa has captured the anguish of separation of his nayika Shakuntala in his work Abhijnanashakuntalam in Sanskrit.  

     A nayika”s beauty is very much a part of the shringara rasa which includes the amorous , the erotic, the decorative, song and dance. The heroine forms the  central character in many works of Indian literature. Through the work one can experience her different moods and emotions, her challenges, her failures and her victories. The description of her beauty and character also make interesting reading and understanding of the social environment of a given era. A nayika brings out the best in a poet or dramatist, by lending her presence by illusory, historical or real presence.

Proshita-patika nayika, painting, early 19th century.

By Unknown – http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/labs/splitsecond/painting.php?id=15, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17106519

       Bharatmuni composed the Sanskrit treatise Natyashastra ( between 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, with others adding to the main work) on dance and the performing arts,  in which he has classified eight types of nayikas  called ashtanayikas. This theme has been well used in painting, sculpture, dance  and drama. Bharatamuni has focussed on the nayikas as she can appear in a given drama again depending on the plot. He has envisaged women as the root cause of happiness.

 

Swadhinabhartruka nayika, Kalighat painting, 19th/20th century.

By The original uploader was ENVI1 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Redtigerxyz using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11806481

  The Natyasastra  describes eight types of nayikas. Though the term can encompass many types of nayikas in many facets and contexts, the various states of the nayika in love are depicted in drama. Bharatmuni has described many kinds of nayikas depending on other factors like social status, nature and also on how she is treated by the king as being part of the royal harem during ancient times. The different nayikas are the    Vasakashajja,Virohotkanthita,Svadhina-bhartruka,Kalahanatarita,Khandita, Vipralabdha, Proshitabhartruka and Abhisarika.

    Vasakashajja means one who is dressed up for union. She  is depicted below in a painting readying her shajja or bed with flowers. She is full of longing and is in a state of waiting for her lover.

Vaskashajja nayika, painting,late 17th century.

By Unknown – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, X623.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10966883

      One who is distressed by separation is virohikanthita or  Utka,  a nayika who is pining for her lover who has failed to meet her or come home due to preoccupation. She is utterly disappointed.

File:Utka Nayika. A lady awaits her lover in the forest. 1775-1780. Kangra, British Museum, London.jpg

Utka nayika, painting.Kangra,late 18th century.

By Anonymous (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    A nayika is a svadhinabhatruka if she is one who is having her husband in subjugation. She controls her husband who is subjugated because of her intense love for him. He listens to her, applies mahawar on her feet, vermillion on her forehead. Radha has been portrayed as such in Geeta Govinda. Such a nayika  is  happy, proud and feels fortunate.

     Kalahanatarita is a nayika who is separated or angry with her lover due to quarrel. Sometimes she is separated due to her arrogance. In this state her lover is usually shown pleading with her, or leaving her house dejected. She might also be shown refusing his advances. She may also be depicted refusing a wine-cup that he is offering to her. The nayika is however repentant without him.

   Khandita is a nayika who is enraged with her lover because he has not come to her and probably spent his time with another woman and she is angry with him. In this state she is depicted as offended and rebuking her lover.

Vipralabhda is a nayika  who is a deceived heroine is a vipralabdha, one who has waited for her lover, she is usually depicted throwing away her jewellery and adornments. She is disappointed and her heart is full of discontent.

    Proshita-bhartruka is a nayika  who has a travelling husband and who does not come back on the scheduled day. She is depicted seated alone or surrounded by her maids and refusing to be consoled. She does not bother to dress up or apply any make-up or comb her hair.

    Abhisarika is the nayika who moves, setting aside her modesty to meet her lover secretly. She is shown facing dangers on her way like snakes and animals in the forest, thunder-storms etc. She is shown depicted as starting from the door of her house, in a hurry to reach her destination. She is drunk with the emotion that she feels and just wants to meet her lover who is waiting for her.

Abhisarika nayika,painting, Garhwal, 18th century.

By Mola Ram (MFA [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Vipralabdha Nayika. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum, London.jpg

Vipralabdha nayika.,painting, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum, London.

By Anonymous (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

References :

  • Nayika bheda in Kathak/Jyotishi, Chetana,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,2009.
  • shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

© author