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Art history

Ganjifa : playing cards from medieval times

       Playing games is an important part of many world cultures including India. Children play naturally and devise games of their own. Adult games have been devised using creative skills and artistic expression.  The word ”ganj” means treasure or treasury which went on to refer to granary in Persian. The term represents playing cards and card games in India, Nepal, Iran, Turkey and few Arabian countries. Card playing was and still is popular in India and many other countries. Ganjifa cards were circular or rectangular, and traditionally hand-painted by artisans. The earliest references are to the Mamluk cards from Egypt, first mentioned in Annals of Egypt and Syria by Yousuf ibn-Taghribirdi, an Egyptian historian born into the Turkish Mamluk elite of Cairo in the 15th century. The Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey has a set of Mamluk playing cards datable to 1500s. The set consists of four suits of 13 cards each; cups,swords, coins and polo sticks including one Malik or king, a Naib and Thani Naib – Governor and Vice- Governor. These actually depict the officers at the court of a Mamluk Sultan or Amir; the cup-bearer, the commander of the palace guard, the exchequer and the polo-master or jukandar.  Mamluk, Italian, Persian and Indian cards might have a common origin; the exact source is not clear. it might have originated in the West or the East. The pack of cards is sometimes believed to have its origins in the four sided chaturanga, a dice game and a precursor of chess. King Shah Abbas II of Persia had banned the game (1642-67).

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Mamluk playing cards  or kanjifah, from left to right: 6 of coins, 10 of polo sticks, 3 of cups and 7 of swords, 16th century.

     The earliest playing cards known in India were most probably introduced by early Muslim rulers. The game became popular at the Mughal court during the 16th and 17th century, and lavish sets were made, from materials such as precious stone-inlaid ivory or tortoise shell ; darbar-kalam, by court artists. The game later spread to the general public, and less expensive sets; bazaar-kalam by other artists would be made from materials such as wood, palm leaf, stiffened cloth or pasteboard.

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In the royal palace of Sawantwadi, skilled craftsmen hand painting Ganjifa cards, Maharashtra, maybe early 20th century.

     Mughal Ganjifa was similar to the Safavid game in terms of suits and ranks. In the 17th century ”Dashavatara” ganjifa was created to appeal to the Hindu populace. The main development of  the game of Ganjjfa happened in India. The Indian cards depict variety and the number of suits can vary from 8 to 10, 12 or 20. Ganjifa cards have coloured backgrounds, with each suit having a different colour. The compositions on many Ganjifa cards resemble small miniature paintings. Different types are found, the designs, number of suits, and physical size of the cards can vary considerably. With the exception of Mamluk kanjifah and the Chads of Mysore, each suit contains ten pip cards and two court cards, the king and the vizier or minister. The backs of the cards are typically a uniform colour, without patterning. Card players expect a constancy in design in packs. The Rajasthani cards show a Mughal influence, Mysore and Cuddapah depict Nayak styles and the cards from Odisha have folk patterns. It is called dashabatar taas in Bishnupur, West Bengal. The painters of the cards are called chitrakars. 

 

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 A king handing a ”Royal Document” to his minister, King of the Barat or Document suit, playing card from a Mughal Ganjifa set, Rajasthan, India, LACMA, U S A,19th century.

       Playing cards are put in painted boxes which are made of light wood and have different subjects painted on them ranging from flowers, women, mythological themes and animal figures. However, slowly by the end of the 20th century printed cards became popular. The modern printed packs made the older hand painted cards obsolete and so also the games associated with them.

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Ganjifa box with ornate designs, 19th century. Image source : Michael BackmanLtd, U.K.

File:Five Galloping Elephants, Number Six of the Gajpati (Lord of Elephants) Suit, Playing Card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.10.jpg

Five galloping elephants, Number six of the Gajpati or Lord of Elephants suit, playing card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set, Rajasthan, India, 19th century, LACMA, U S A.  

File:Krishna Preparing to Decapitate King Kamsa, King of the Krishna Suit, Playing Card from a Dashavatara (Ten Avatars) Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.3.jpg

Lord Krishna preparing to decapitate King Kamsa, King of the Krishna suit, playing card from a Dashavatara ganjifa set, Sawantwadi,  Maharashtra, mid-18th century, LACMA, U S A.

File:Enthroned and Crowned Buddha Holding Lotuses, King of the Buddha Suit, Playing Card from a Dashavatara (Ten Avatars) Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.1.jpg

Enthroned and crowned Buddha holding Lotuses, King of the Buddha suit, playing card from a Dashavatara ganjifa set, Rajasthan, India, 19th century,  LACMA, U S A.

       There are many variants of Ganjifa. The Mughal Ganjifa, the Dashavatara Ganjifa, the Ramayan Ganjifa, the Rashi Ganjifa, The ashtamalla Ganjifa, the Naqsh Ganjifa, the Mysore Chad Ganjifa. Ahli Shirazi wrote Rubaiyat-e-ganjifa’ for each of the 96 cards in a eight suit pack. The game is mentioned in Ain-i- Akbari, the record of Emperor Akbar’s reign. In fact there was a variety of Ganjifa called Akbar’s Ganjifa.

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Mughal ganjifa playing cards, early 19th century,  Wovensouls Textiles and Arts Gallery.

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Playing cards made with the traditional pattachitra technique from Puri, Odisha, India.

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A king in an elephant-drawn carriage, King of the Ghulam or Slave or Servant  suit, playing card from a Mughal ganjifa set, 19th century, LACMA, U S A.

File:A Woman with Seven Documents, Number Seven of the Barat (Document) Suit, Playing Card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.6.jpg

A woman with Seven Documents, number seven of the Barat or Document suit, playing card from a Mughal ganjifa set, Rajasthan,  19th century, LACMA, U S A.

 

References :

  • Ganjifa: the playing cards of India/Leyden, Rudolf Von, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1980
  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

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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

Temples at Melkote : abode of legends

       Melkote or Melukote is in the Mandya district of Karnataka, about 50 km from Mysuru in Karnataka, in South India. Another name for Melkote is Thirunarayanapuram. The town is on hills Yadugiri, Yaadavagiri and Yaidushiladeepa. The temples are ancient and  the area was under the Vijayanagara rulers. The Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple and another temple Yoga Narasimha temple is on the hilltop. Srivaishnavaite saint Sri Ramanujacharya stayed here for 14 years in 12th century. The Cheluvanarayanswamy temple is a square temple dedicated to Cheluvanarayana or Thirunarayana.  The presiding deity has many legends surrounding it. it is believed that Lord Rama and generations of kings and Lord Krishna and generations of kings have worshipped the deity.  This image which was lost was recovered by Sri Ramanujacharya who worshipped in the shrine. The temple has a collection of jewels which are brought out from Govt. custody during the Vairamudi festival every year.

       The  Cheluvanaryanswamy temple is richly endowed, having the patronage of the Rajas of Mysore. In 1614, King Raja Wodeyar I (ruled 1578–1617), who first acquired Srirangapatnam and accepted the Srivaishnava priest as his guru, handed over to the temple and to the Brahmins at Melkote, the estate granted to him by Vijayanagara Emperor Venkatapati Raya. While that estate was lost when Zamindari was abolished in the 1950s, the temple still possesses many properties and valuables, in particular an extremely valuable collection of jewels. On one of the pillars of navaranga of the Cheluva Narayanaswami temple is a bas-relief about one and a half feet high, of Raja Wodeyar, standing with folded hands, with his name inscribed on the base. He was said to have been a great devotee of the presiding deity and a frequent visitor to the temple. A gold crown set with precious jewels was presented by him to the temple. This crown is known as the Raja-mudi (royal crown), a play on the name of Raja Wodeyar, the donor. According to legend, King Raja Wodeyar was last observed entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord on the day of his death, and was seen no more afterwards. From the inscriptions on some of the gold jewels and on gold and silver vessels in the temple it is learnt that they were presents from Krishnaraja Wadiyar III and his queens. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also presented to the temple a crown set with precious jewels. It is known after him as Krishnaraja-mudi. The Vairamudi, the diamond crown, is older than  Raja-mudi and the Krishnaraja-mudi. However, it is not known who presented it to the temple.Tipu Sultan had donated elephants to the temple.

         The Yoga Narasimhaswamy temple on top of the hill is dedicated to Lord Yoga Narsimha. As per legend the image was installed by Prahlada himself. There is large pond at the temple. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III of Mysore presented a gold crown to Lord Yoga Narasimha. The images depicted show the beautiful  sculpted gateway and sculptures at the temples on the vimana and  pillars.

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Yoga Narasimha temple, Melkote.

By Philanthropist 1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13254334

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Carved lions, Melkote.

By Sbblr0803 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia CommonsFile:Melukote- Gateway.JPG

Gateway, Rayagopura, Cheluvanarayanswamy temple, Melkote.

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

 

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Sculpture, Melkote.

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

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Yoga Narasimha Temple, Melkote.

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

File:Close up view of the decorated vimana of Sri Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, Melkote.jpg

Vimana, Chevulanarayanaswamy temple, Melkote.

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

File:Ornate pillars in a mantapa in the Cheluvarayaswamy temple at Melukote.jpg

Carved pillars, Cheluvanarayana temple, Melkote.

Dineshkannambadi at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Temple tank, Cheluvanarayaswamy temple, Melkote.

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

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Pillar, Cheluvanarayana temple, Melkote.

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

 

References :

  • The Narayanswami temple at Melkote/ Vasantha, R, Mysore : Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, 1991.
  • wikipedia.org

 

 

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

 

 

Terracotta temples of Bengal : grandeur revisited at Kalna

     The area of Bardhaman in Bengal has been named after the 24th Jain tirthankara Mahavira Vardhamana. The area was called Bardhamanbhukti around 700 B.C, a part of Rarh.  One of the 16 janapadas of ancient India, the Magadhan dynasty, the Mauryas, the Kushanas, the Guptas have ruled it. The Gauda, the Pala, the Senas have ruled  before the Khilji powers.  Bardhaman was a paragana during Mughal period. Emperor Jahangir took the wife of Sher Afghan as his consort, the jagirdar of Bardhaman who was killed  near Bardhaman in 1606;  Meher-un-nissa, who later became Nur Jahan.  In  seventeeth century Raja Krishnaram Rai was made the zamindar of Bardhaman by Emperor Aurangzeb. The Rai family was the governing family of the area. Kirti Chandra Rai expanded his region and defeated the Raja of Bishnupur. Chitrasen followed and was given the title of Raja by the Mughals in 1740. He was succeeded by Tilakchand Rai when the British acquired Bardhaman and many other areas of Bengal.

  Against the backdrop of many a political  scene and happening, the town of Ambika Kalna or Kalna there have been lot temple building activity and construction of monuments like the Rajbari. Kalna is on the western bank of the Bhagirathi river.

  Kalna is home to many temples.  The Naba-Kailasha temple , Bijoy Vaidyanath Temple, Giri Gobardhan Temple,Gopalji Temple,Jaleswar Temple, Krishna Chandraji Temple Lalji Temple, Pancharatna Temple, Pratapeswar Siva Temple in Rajbari complex, Rameswar Temple, Ratneswar Temple and Rupeswar Temple.  A few temples are highlighted with the structures and carvings in terracotta reflecting the refined art technique of the time.

 

 

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Rajbari complex,Ambika Kalna, Bardhaman,West Bengal.

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

  The Naba Kailash temple was built by Maharaja Teja Chandra Bahadur in 1809 ad these atchala brick Temples are made out of auspicious numerical combination in two concentric Circles and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The outer circumference contains 74 temples and inner circumference has 34 temples. The temples represent beads in a rosary symbolically. the outer  circle’s shrines have the linga made of black stone, and the inner circle’s shrines have the linga made from white marble. All the lingas can be seen from the centre of the temple complex.

 

Naba Kailash temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51920155

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Naba Kailash temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Manojit Pati – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28070367

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Inner Circle Entrance, Naba Kailash, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51952698

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     The Krishna Chandra Mandir was built in 1752 by Maharani Laxmi Kumari Devi. It has 25 spires. Epics are depicted on the walls of this beautiful temple.

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Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Schwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51810228

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Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51953945

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Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Schwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951562

Terracota Panel in Krishnachandra temple WLM2016 DSC 5371.jpg

Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951981

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.

Lalji temple,Kalna,Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu / পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5702479

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 11.jpg

Lalji temple, Kalna, west Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950563

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 2.jpg

Lalji temple, Kalna, west Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950707

Lalji Temple depicting terracotta sculpture, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu / পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5702521

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Rameswar Temple, Kalna,Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51805016

Terrakotta Panel-Rameswar Temple WLM2016-5178.jpg

Rameswar Temple, Kalna,Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51806016

Rupeswar Temple. Kalna. Burdwan.jpg

Rupeshwar temple,Kalna,West Bengal.

By Ajit Kumar Majhi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51566183

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Art of Harappan civilisation : some glimpses

     The Harappan civilisation existed predominantly in areas in present day Punjab in Pakistan. It is one of the oldest known civilisations. There was a bronze age city in a place near the village of Harappa and is an archaeological site in modern times. It was an urban culture, and flourished in the basins of the Indus river. Harappan civilisation is interchangeably used with the term Indus valley civilisation. Harappa was the first site to be excavated. The river Indus flows through present day Pakistan.

File:Ancient Harappa Civilisation.jpg

Ancient Harappa.

By Shefali11011 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

     More and more cities are being discovered and excavated of the Harappan civilisation. The area which the Indus valley civilisation covered was Western India, north-eastern parts of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan. The early Harappan age lasted from 3300 to 2600 B.C. the mature period was between 2600 to 1900 B.C. and the late age was from 1900 to 1300 B.C.

Indus Valley civilisation , main sites.

By The original uploader was Nataraja at French Wikipedia – Michel Danino, téléchargé par Nataraja 20 jan 2004 à 16:13 (CET)Originally from fr.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1744041

  The art of Harappan times were very impressive. The average person living in a city was either a trader or craftsman/artisan. Their art is evident on seals, pottery and beads. Also bronze vessels, gold jewellery and terracotta figures. The arts included working with agate, shell etc. Bronze casting was done too. Human and animal figures were depicted. Some were half of one animal and half of another.

   There seems  to have been a high degree of planning and civic planning as is evident from the ruins of Harappa. The common building material was baked brick. The cities of Harappa comprised not just of private houses but granaries, public wells and baths. Shops of metalsmiths, ivory workers and craftsmen existed at Lothal, a port city. Mohen-jodaro was an important site among the Indus Valley sites. There was a Great bath at Mohenjodaro, maybe used for a ritual purpose.

A well and probably bathing place at Harappa.

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

       The advanced structure of the cities suggest an equivalent advance in the sculptural techniques. Many seals and terracotta sculptures have been found. A common subject is a  female – often called Mother goddess. Often a small child is seen with her. The dancing girl and bearded man who is most likely a priest are well known. the bearded man is made of limestone, maybe the figure is of a Mesopotmanian given the facial features and hair type. His garment over his shoulder is a type seen in Mesopotamanian art.

Statue of an Indus priest or king found in Mohenjodaro, 1927

Priest or bearded man, Mohenjadaro.

By Mamoon Mengal – world66.com, CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1257115

   Another well preserved figure is of a bronze statue of a female. She has been projected nude with elongated limbs. She has been thought of as a dancer, because of the posture of her limbs. She is wearing jewellery; a necklace and bangles.

File:Dancing girl. Mohenjodaro.jpg

Dancing girl, Mohenjodaro.

By Ismoon (talk) 12:06, 20 February 2012 (UTC) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Harrappan artefacts 10.JPG

              Bowl from Harappa, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30787092

 

 

     The terracottas found at Harappan sites are not very exquisite and were most probably a popular art. the women depicted have wide hips,pellet like breasts, tube like limbs and wear jewellery. Many bulls have been found at Harappan sites. The bull was representative of fertility and wealth. Many seals have been found at Harappan sites. The seals are made of stearite and coated with an alkali which was then fired. Most seals had animal or humans and a script or writing on them. The script was pictographic. The animals included elephants,rhinoceros, and the unicorn  with one horn; the ekashringa.

W8nafs aic000005ap.jpg

Three different seals from early river valley civilizations

By MrABlair23 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11058028

Harappa seals nm india 01.JPG

Seals of Harappa, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30791882

   Seals with a male figure a proto-Shiva depicted seated with the soles of the feet together and legs on each side with arms away from the body and thumbs resting on the knees have been found. This figure has been termed a yogin.  The figure has either a horn or a head-dress. There are many speculations about this figure. The figure might be abull-man or a ruler/king.  The Hindu God Shiva is associated with the Bull, hence this figure is taken to be a prototype of Lord Shiva. There are animal figures around the central figure; this has been linked to Lord Shiva’s Pasupati aspect. The peepal  tree leaf motif has been used as a motif on pottery and seals.

                                                                     Pasupati seal.

                                                      Source of pic : wikipedia.org.

File:Female figure, possibly a fertility goddess, Indus Valley Tradition, Harappan Phase, c. 2500-1900 BC - Royal Ontario Museum - DSC09701.JPG

                 Exhibit in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

By Daderot (Daderot) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for harappan civilization

Female figurine. Terracotta. 2700-2000., Harappa , at National Museum, New Delhi.

By Ismoon (talk) 21:50, 21 February 2012 (UTC) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

WLA brooklynmuseum Harappa Miniature Votive Images.jpg

Miniature Votive Images or Toy Models, ca. 2500, Harappa.

By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “one_click_beyond” – Uploaded from the Wikipedia Loves Art photo pool on Flickr, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8747555

References :

  • The art of ancient india/Huttington,Susan L.,New York : Weather Hill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author