Category Archives: asian art

The Barahmasa : depictions in Indian miniature paintings

         The twelve months or Barahmasa correspond to the length of a year which is a span of time. During these months various seasons happen in nature. Human activities change and so does the scenery with its various elements, the sky, birds, water bodies, animals and vegetation. The various months are Chaitra (March-April). starting in the spring season.  The following months are Vaishakha(April-May), Jyestha (May-June, Asadha (June-July), Sravana(July-August), Bhadon (August-September), Ashvin (September-October), Kartikka (October-November), Margasirsa (November-December), Pausa(December-January), Magha ( January-February) and Phalguna (February-March).

    The folio from a Hindu calendar, Vikram Samvat is seen below. The left column shows the ten avatars of Vishnu, the center-right column shows the twelve signs of the Hindu zodiac. Top middle panel shows Ganesha with two consorts. The second panel shows Krishna with two consorts. The seasons are well recognized and has been depicted in all forms in India’s art and literature and it’s overall cultural landscape. Poetry, painting and sculpture have awesome portrayals and descriptions of the seasons. Seasons in India are part of her ethos and life. Festivals are also celebrated in connections with seasons.  The Barahmasa is a genre of poetry, a concept to which there have been many contributions. Indian paintings have been closely associated with literature. Many important literary works right from ancient times have been depicted  in art and sculpture. The Jataka tales have been depicted in many Buddhist sites of India.

  .     

Hindu calendar/almanac corresponding to Western years 1871-1872, Rajasthan. 

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

              Coming to the subject at hand, this theme has been depicted mostly from late medieval period.  An Indian treatise Chitrasutra composed by Vishnudhrmaottara, sometime during the interval of the Kushana and Gupta times has a set of guidelines on how the seasons are to be depicted in art. Painters have followed the guidelines in ancient and medieval India.

   The Barahmasa was popular in Hindi literature during 13th to 16th centuries and also was a part of Sufi poetry. However, Barahmasa in miniature paintings were mostly done or executed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The paintings had writings in Devanagari on top or behind the painting. Many royal courts had their own painters and ateliers. This theme has not found much favour with Mughal miniatures and Deccani painting though nature by itself has been a subject of composition in these schools. Many animal and bird portraitures have been made in the Mughal paintings; the Deccani schools depict clouds, ponds and lotuses.

        The Rajasthani painting evolved in the courts of Rajputana. They were done in the mniature format. and also on walls of havelis(mansions), palaces and inner chambers of forts. The pigmetns were derived from minerals,plants, conches and precious stones too ! Gold and silver were used at places. The paintings depicted avrious themes from the social viewpoint, also stories form the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nature was depicted too’; these paintings were representative of a rulers legacy. The Rajasthani school has many sub-schools. like Jaipur,Bikaner, Bundi, Kota, Mewar. Alwar and Jodhpur. The style of painting has been influenced by Persian, European, Mughal and Chinese art of painting.The paintings are rich, mostly due to the arid desert landscape, dry hills and less vegetation.

     The Barahmasa theme has been depicted in Chamba, Garhwal, Guler, Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur schools from among the Pahari school. The Pahari schools developed in the hilly regions of North India during 17th to 19th century. From Jammu to Almora and Garhwal,Himachal Pradesh. the range is wide,varied and very interesting. Basohli school is from Jammu which is known for its bold colours. Kangra is famous for its Radha-Krishna depictions and its lyrical quality.; being greatly inspired by Jayadeva’s Geeta-govinda. Central India has the Malwa, Datia and Bundelkhand schools.

     The Chitrasutra as already mentioned has given guidelines for the seasons and they seem to be followed by artists across India. Summer is indicated by the sun in the sky, spring with its seasonal trees in bloom, humming bees,cuckoo depictions and men and women going around happily ! Further, summer depicts fatigue experienced by men,animals, dry pools,birds hiding in trees,lions and  tigers resting in their mountainous hideouts. The rainy season has its dark, laden clouds and streaks of lightning in the sky. Autumn has trees full of fruits,corn ripe in the fields, pools full of swans and lotuses. The winter has its dew and fog, the earth is a bit bare and misty. Crows and elephants are joyous.  There is snowfall in some places.

    Depicted below are some Barahmasa paintings from different schools. The month of Chaitra is depicted with the seasonal trees in bloom and men and women joyous and in conversation. Birds and sarus cranes are seen in the background and where the lotuses are abounding in the pool nearby.

1 The month of Chaitra. Barahmasa series. March-April. 1675-1700 (circa) Bundi. British Museum.jpg

Chaitra (March-April), Barahmasa, Bundi, 1675-1700 A.D, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762741

       The month of Jyeshtha is hot and humid, people are seen using hand fans reclining under shades and birds are hiding in the trees. The sun is scorching the earth and there is bright light around. Tree ahve shed their leaves due to the heat. The animals are resting in shade or retreating to the forest.

2 Jestha (may-june). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Jyestha (May-June). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800s, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762750

 Jyestha (May-June), Folio from a Barahmasa,  Uniara, Rajasthan, 1775, LACMA- public domain image.

      The Asadha month is the pre-monsoon month and clouds are seen to start arriving in the sky with sporadic rain. In Shravan the sky gets laden with rain bearing clouds and the opens with lightning and thunder ! Peacocks are happiest during this time and dance to full glory with their splendorous tail spread out. Nature all around is green and verdant. Pangs of separation are felt more strongly in this season. Forlorn heroines are eager to meet their beloved !

 Ashadha (June-July), Folio from a Barahmasa, Kota, 1700-1725.

LACMA- public domain image.

File:4 Sravana (july-august). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Sravana (July-August), Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British  Museum,U.K.

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

Bhadon (August-September), Folio from a Barahmasa ,LACMA ,U.S.A

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50398299@N08/16260026998/ image by Ashley Van Haeften

          The painting below shows a forlorn heroine trying to go out to meet her beloved and her sakhi or friend refraining her as the sky is full of menacing clouds during the month of Bhadon.

'Virahini' (Lovesick Heroine), India, c. 1740, Honolulu Museum of Art, 10689.1.JPG

Virahini (lovesick heroine), Bhadon (August-September)1740, Barahmasa,  Honolulu Museum of Art,U.S.A.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29363548

Bhadon (August-September), Barahmasa, Malwa, 1640-1650, LACMA- public domain image.
Bhadon (August-September). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6 Asoja (september-october). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

 Ashvin or Asoja, (September-October). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 7 Kartikka (october-november). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg
  Kartikka,(October-November). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8 Margasira (november-december) Barahmasa series..jpg
Margasirsa or Agrahayana,(November-December) Barahmasa series,1800, Rajasthan. British Museum, London,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
         The month of Pausa is depicted with people warming their hands over fire and  sleeping under blankets to face the biting cold. Shawls are worn around the head and shoulders. People seem to be suffering from fever and are making visits to the vaidya or doctor for treatment.
Pausa, (December-January). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
References :
  • Barahmasa/Dwivedi,V.P, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1980.
  • wikipedia.org
Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author
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Architecture of Bengal : piety and variety

          The history of urbanisation of Bengal seems to have started since the 1st millennium B.C ; after the decline of Indus valley civilisation. Ancient Bengal was a centre for trade and urban networking, with contacts up to Persia. The archaeological sites like Chandraketugarh, Mahasthangarh and Mainamati, the Bateshwar ruins all are evidence of a highly organised urban set-up. Architectural remains of early Bengal remain scarce, stupa fragments have been found  at some archaeological sites. The Pala architecture is remembered for its constructon of viharas and stupas. The Somapura Mahavihara is an iconic monument built by the Palas (now in Bangladesh).

View of the central shrine

Somapura Mahavihara, Paharpur, Bangladesh.

By Masum-al-hasan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51184053

           The mode of building in rural Bengal is the paddy roofed thatched traditional chala type of huts. Temples have drawn inspiration from this and amazing number of temples have been constructed in different districts of undivided Bengal with many interesting variations. What follows in the rest of this write up is the variety and piety of these structures, many of which are still available for us to see !

Village in a clearing at Sundarbans showing thatched huts, drawing, Frederic Peter Layard, January 1839.

By British Library – British Library, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11175234

   In early times wood and bamboo were used as building material. After that bricks were used. The land of Bengal has alluvial soil and stone is not much available. Hence brick is used for building. the architectural parts were made of stone and wood, black basalt, sandstone , granite and black marble. Initially lime or mud was used for the floor concrete. Later mortar was used and lime was used as a plaster. the accounts of travellers Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang mention temples of stone and brick in ancient Bengal. The Ramcharita of Sandhya Kar mentions Bangarh as an important temple city. But most of these temples have not survived to this day and have destroyed either due to climate or by invaders.

         The main types of temples in Bengal are many and varied yet a basic similarity is detectable, a beautiful architectural signature !

      Firstly the Bhadra type : roof is of horizontal tiers which diminish gradually and are topped with a amalaka sila. The Rekha type has a sukanasa shikhara or tower which is curvilinear and topped by a amalaka sila carrying a kalasa or pot of plenty. A hybrid of these exists which is bhadra with a stupa as acrown. Another variety has a shikhara as a crown. The Sarvatobhadra is a square temple with four entrance points on four sides. Usually five storeys and sixteen corners, spires and turrets are parts of the temple. The hut or chala type of temple have sloping roofs. The ratha type is arranged in tiers of bent cornices, corners with miniature curvilinear towers and topped by a large sized shikhara. The Bhadra type of temples can be studied by the image of Nandi pavillion at Ekateswara at Bankura district, with two receding tiers. the evolution of this type is exemplified at Jangibadi in Dhaka with a amalaka sila crowning the structure. Further on, it can have  kalasa as already mentioned, as in Mandoli, Kumarpur. The Rekha deul or temple are slimmer, taller, curvilinear and built on a square platform. with a amalaka sila or kalasa crowning the structure. Gothic architecture has influenced the design of these temples. The hut or chala type of temples has sometimes been called ‘cottage architecture’ of Bengal which resembles the thatched roof. There are many such temples across Bengal. The terracotta temples when classified based on their number of spires or superstructures are a type of chala or ratna respectively. The single hut are the ek-chalas, the double huts  type are called the do-chalas. The others include triple huts, the teen-chalas, twin huts the Jor-mandirs or temples, the twin double hut type and the grouped hut type.

           Twin hut type or Jor-Bangla are temples where two do-chala hut type temples are joined. The twin temples of Bimanagar, Nadia and Bishnupur, Bankura are of this type and decorated with ornate carvings. The hut type also influenced the Sultanate architecture of Bengal.

Jor-Bangla Temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kgabhi/8415024198/

 

 The Rasamancha at Bishnupur is different and does not conform  to the styles mentioned. It has a circumbulatory passage on all sides. It has a square chamber with arched openings and has a pyramidal roof. It stands on a five-foot high platform. The innermost gallery has 5 arched openings on each side, the 2nd has eight and the last has four arched openings. The outer arches have four do-chala roofs with one smaller four chala at the corners for decoration.

Bishnupur Rashmancha.jpg

Rashmancha, Bishnupur ,West Bengal.

By Chiranjibmazumdar1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37129790

    The temples across Bengal are mostly on platforms up to 6 feet in height. The main temple has a sanctum, with a  covered verandah in front mostly with three arches with pillars. On top of the temple there are spires.  The Kalighat temple at Kolkata is a char-chala or having four sloping roofs.  The Ratha typre of temple is exemplified by the temple at Kantanagar (presently at Bangladesh) at Dinajpur. The ratha type combines the hut and shikhara design. These temples stood on platforms with bent cornices and three arched openings on each side. A long spire is in the centre surrounded by 4,8,12,16 or 24 spires. The Hangeswari temple at Hooghly is a 13 spired ratha temple, south facing having 12 arches with ornate terracotta design. 25 spired ratna temples or panchabhimsati ratna are seen at Krishna Chandra temple at Kalna, Bardhaman. The Ananda Bhairabi temple at Sukharia, Hooghly built in 1813 has three storeys and 25 towers. At some places separate rathas were made. One example is at the Radha Gobindo temple at Bishnupur in Bankura district.

Madan-Mohan-Temple-of-Vishnupur.jpg

Ek-ratna, the Madan-Mohan Temple of Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal.

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

 

Raghunathjee Temple with Shiva as deity at Ghurisha.jpg

Char-chala, Raghunathjee Temple, Ghurisha.

By Amitabha Gupta – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41750396

       Palpara temple in Nadia is a char-chala,one of the earliest forms of temple architecture in Bengal , built in the 17th century by Gandharba Roy, also called Math mandir and Kali Mandir. The char chala structure stands on a raised plinth and  is made of brick facing south . and is around 21 metres tall. The decorated arched entrance is flanked by brick pillars on either side. The area above the arched entrance once contained intricately carved terracotta panels.  Some scenes from the Ramayana, geometric and floral patterns and the lotus motif still remain. Later the char-chala was modified into the at-chala, which consists of a char-chala upon a char-chala, and is a most common type of temple architecture in Bengal.

 

              Palpara Temple - Nadia 2011-10-05 050416.JPG

Char-chala, Palpara Temple, Nadia,West Bengal.

By Biswarup Ganguly – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16882959

Shyam Rai Temple, Bankura.JPG

Pancha ratna, Shyam Rai Temple, Bankura,West Bengal.

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

       The temples of Bengal and their exquisite architecture has influenced the temples of Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Java and Nepal. The sculpture at the temple vide the terracotta art was the art of the common people. 17th century onward to the 18th century was a period of expression both for the artists, craft-persons and the patrons alike. The patrons were the rulers, landlords and wealthy merchants. There was a lot of temple building at Bardhaman, Birbhum, Bankura, Nadia, Hooghly and Murshidabad. The depictions on the temples are condensed and full of vitality. There are panels of processions, soldiers, horsemen,elephants with their riders, deities, geometrical motifs, floral motifs, miniature temple are shown above the other. Scenes from the epics, social scenes,, Europeans, love scenes too can be seen at different places.  The 19th century saw some flat roofed temples being built. Temple building of this type went on up to  the middle of the 19th century. It declined under Western influence.

National Heritage.JPG

At-chalas, 26 Siva Temples in Khardah beside Ganga, Barrackpore,West Bengal.

By Aryan paswan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21324358

Bhukailash Shiv Temple 06.jpg

At-chala, Bhukailash Shiv Temple, Khidirpur, Kolkata.

By Kinjal bose 78 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Dakshineswar Temple view from outside the temple gate (cropped) .JPG

Nava-ratna,  the Dakshineswar Temple, Near Kolkata,West Bengal.

Von Dakshineswar Temple view from outside the temple gates.JPG: Dhruba08derivative work: Vinkje83 – Diese Datei wurde von diesem Werk abgeleitetDakshineswar Temple view from outside the temple gates.JPG:, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19348092

Radhashyam Temple - Bishnupur.jpg

Ek-ratna, Lalji Temple in the city of Bishnupur, West Bengal.

By Amartya Bag – http://www.flickr.com/photos/26529222@N02/4374679207/Uploaded by MrPanyGoff, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19800539

 

 

Ek ratna, Ananta Basudeba 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.

Kalna Lalji Temple.jpg

Panchavimsati Ratna, Lalji Temple,, Kalna,Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sudiptorana – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21745887

     The word deul is actually a nomenclature given to a temple style of Orissa, North India and Deccan between 6th and 10th centuries. The temples of Bengal are termed as the Rekha deul, having  a square sanctum, curvilinear shikhara or tower, vertical ridges or projections on the walls.

Kalna Pratapeswar Temple by Piyal Kundu.jpg

Rekha deul, Pratapeswar Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu (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

 

 

Deul (Temple of Ichai Ghosh).jpg

Rekha deul, temple of Ichai Ghosh, Bardhaman,west Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36800791

Deul at Banda, Purulia WLM2016-0207.jpg

Rekha deul, Banda, Purulia,West Bengal.

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

Mothurar Deol Faridpur.jpg

Rekha deul, Mothurar Deul, Faridpur (in Bangladesh).

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

 

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
  • aishee.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : boats and ships

              The terracotta temples of late medieval Bengal have many themes depicted on its walls, facades and pillars. There are scenes from everyday life too. There are processions of warriors, rows of elephants, zamindars and nobles on palanquins. Among the splendid images one can find ornate boats and ships. What do these boats represent ? Obviously they are going somewhere and carrying some people across. The two types depicted  are river boats and sailing ships as has been studied and reported after arduous researches by scholars.

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur 3.JPG

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur.

By Amartyabag – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522469

 

Calcutta - 3 oarsmen pulling long, narrow passenger boat LCCN2004707779.jpg

Passenger boat, Calcutta, image,1895.

William Henry Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

WLM@WB-Terracotta Panel 02 of Lalji Temple in Kalna.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna,Bardhaman temple, West Bengal.

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

      The topography of Bengal and the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra traverse the region with many tributaries and branches, Thus a transport system emerged using different boats for navigation on the rivers and its canals. These boats then got captured on terracotta depictions by the craftsmen or karigars. The boats have many interesting features.  Some passenger boats have the prow with the structure of the head of  the crocodile,elephant and peacock. Some boats have dragon-heads. The boats are seen steered with quarter oars. The ship depictions were not as authentic as the boats, it was only to give an impression. The sailors were projected wearing hats and armed with muskets like the European as seen by the Indians of that time.

Terracotta Panel, Ananta-Basudev temple, Bansberia Royal Estate, Hooghly, West Bengal.

By Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28094537

References :

  • Bengal temples/Dutta, Bimal Kumar , New Delhi : Mushiram Manoharlal,1975.
  • Boats and Ships in Bengal Terracotta Arts, Jean Deloche, Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient  Année 1991  Volume 78  Numéro 1 . 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

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

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : some Durga images

     The art of Bengal is synonymous with Terracotta . The powerful Durga worshipped as Mahisasuramardini during the Durga Puja every year has been rendered in this medium across the temples of Bengal. She is a most revered Goddess who protects her devotees from evil forces, both internal and external.

      Durga is an important deity from the Hindu pantheon. She is revered as a destroyer of evil. She is  a Goddess or a devi. The word devi in Sanskrit means divine or heavenly and a shining presence. The concept of devi first appeared in the Vedas in 200 B.C. but gained focus in Puranic literature with texts like the Devi Mahatmya. Goddess Durga reigns supreme and is the divine feminine as Devi in Hinduism and a divine mother as Mata. The legend of Durga appears as an avatar of Parvati, who is angry, ferocious and has eight to ten arms, holding weapons and skulls, riding a lion or tiger. She is a warrior goddess  who kills Mahisasura whom the male Gods were unable to control. Durga is a unified form of all Gods.She is one who saves a devotee from durgati or misfortune. Her mythology is described in the Devi Mahatmya, a part of the Markandeya Purana, from the 4th to 6th century.

   The images of Goddess Durga in terracotta are seen in the Bishweshwar temple at Sribati in Katwa, Bardhaman, Girigovardhan temple, Krishnachandraji temple at Kalna Bardhaman, Pratapeshwar temple also at Kalna in Bardhaman, Brindaban Chandra Math, Kalna, Ramachandra Temple at Guptipara, Hooghly, Rajarajeshwar temple at Kotulpur, Hooghly, Radhagovindjiu temple at Antpur, Hooghly, among others. Some terracotta images from the temples of Bengal are showcased for illustration.

    The Krishnachandraji temple at Kalna was constructed in 1751-55 AD.  It is a magnificent brick panchabimsati-ratna temple with an elongated chala type verandah in front having three arches as the entrances. The temple has beautiful terracotta plaques.  Goddess Durga is depicted at the temple flanked by her children.

Krishnachandraji 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=5732938

Terracota Panel in Krishnachandra temple WLM2016 DSC 5371.jpg

Krishnachandraji temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

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

      The construction of the Radhagovindjiu Temple at Antpur was completed in 1786 AD. It has exquisite terracotta carvings with Puranic stories. The 100 feet temple was built by Krishna Ram Mitra, the diwan of the Bardhaman Raj. Besides the Radha-Krishna images which are predominant,  the temple has the sculpture of Goddess Durga flanked by her children is noteworthy.

Radhagovindjiu Temple, Antpur, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3343649

Radha-govindjiu temple, Antpur,  Hooghly. 

By Piyal Kundu – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3347037

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 4.jpg

Goddess Durga, Terracottta 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=51949876

 

Terracota Panel on Pratapeswartemple DSC 5494.jpg

Goddess Durga, Pratapeshwar temple, Kalna, Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951996

Goddess Durga as Mahisasuramardini, idol at Durga Puja, 21st century.

By AKS.9955 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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

 

 

Temple of Gop : an ancient marvel in Western India

       The Gop temple is one of the oldest stone temples of Gujarat in Western India. It was built in late 6th or early 7th century. Located in the Jamnagar district it has Gandhara architecture with a square shrine. Surrounded by double courtyards it has a unique shikhara. It is on  the bank of Vartu river, south-west of Gop Hill of Barda Hills. The art is a blend of Gandhara and north Indian Gupta art styles, including Kushana influence.

Old temple, general view from the north-west, Gop, Gujarat.jpg

Gop temple, north west view, image,1874.

By Burgess, James, 1874 – http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/photocoll/o/largeimage62882.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44074068

Inscription on the left jamb of the door of temple at Gop, Gujarat.png

Inscription,Gop temple,Gujarat.

By James Burgess – Report on the Antiquities of Kutch & Kathiawar: Being the Result of the Second Season’s Operations of the Archaeological Survey of Western India, 1874-1875 p.187, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50922647

 

     The walls of the temple do not have any carvings, the shrine faces east like many temples in India. The shikhara is like a pyramid. The temple rests on a jagati  with a projection on the east but is otherwise square. There are three dormer windows called chandrasala which are on the slopes of the shikhara.  This temple was built by the Maitraka dynasty which was ruling Saurastra during the time. The Maitrakas came to power after the fall of the Guptas and are believed to have built over one hundred temples in the region.The Maitrakas ruled for over 250 years and are known to have given many grants for the construction of religious buildings. Their capital was Valabhi, an ancient sea port linking India with Persia and EuropeThe Chinese traveller Hsuen -Tsang  visited Valabhi in 640 A.D, the ancient capital of the Maitrakas.

      Large heavy blocks of stone have been used for the construction of the temple. There might have been steps to take the devotee to the entrance of the temple. The temple has been built without any cementing material. It is made of coursed ashlar which are 8 inches deep and jointed. The shikhara is made of six courses with one slab covering the apex with an amalaka on it. The dormer arches or chaitya windows of the shikhara in two tiers had sculptures of gods and a figure of Ganesha is still  seen on the temple’s west side. The holes which might have supported beams to hold the roof of the first inner courtyard can be seen clearly. The courtyards served as pradakshinapatha or circum-ambulatory path for the devotees. The yellow stone deities inside of the shrine are  Lord Rama with a high square mukuta or crown and Lakshmana with a lower  crown, believed  locally by people in the area.

File:Gop Gupta-Tempel 1999.JPG

Gop temple, image,1999.

By Arnold Betten (eigenes Foto (Dia)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

Chalukyan art : some monuments at Aihole

     The Gupta dynasty and its successors had declined by the end of the 6th century and several changes took place in the Deccan and Southern India. By the time the Vakatakas had collapsed the early Kaluchuris dynasty established itself  around 520 A.D and flourished till 600 A.D.  The Kaluchuris are noted for Pasupata Saivism, a religious  movement in the Deccan and South Asia. They excavated the Jogeswari caves,Mandapeshwara,Elephanta and the Dhumar Lena at Ellora. They were overtaken by the Western Chalukyas of Karnataka. The Kadambas of Banavasi ruled in South Karnataka and were also overtaken by the Western Chalukyas, who were Dravidian and ruled from Badami (ancient Vatapi) and called Badami Chalukyas. Their ruler Pulakesin I fortified the area of Badami in 543 A.D.  Pulakesin II was its most notable ruler. He defeated Harsha on the banks of the Narmada. He expanded the kingdom to the northern limits of the Pallava kingdom. However in  642 A.D Pallava king Narasimhavarman occupied Badami for some time. Pulakesin died fighting. However the Chalukyas regained power under Vikramaditya I. Later Vijayaditya (696-733) ruled for 37 years and built many temples. Vikramaditya II ruled 733 – 744 A.D and was victorious over Pallava king Nandivarman II. He was a kind ruler, made temples at Kanchipuram too. Thus this early Chalukyan dynasty ruled most of the Deccan for 200 years; from mid 6th century to mid 8th century.  They were overthrown by the Rashtrakutas.This dynasty is remembered for it rock-cutting sculpture and later structural temples. The rock cut tradition is found at Aihole and Badami in Karnataka.

Chalukyan art of ancient India reaches a classical zenith at the group of monuments at Aihole in the present state of Karnataka in southern India.  An amazing example of rock cut temple architecture built by the Chalukyas datable to 550 A.D. is the Ravana Pahadi. These Chalukyas were ware called the Early Western Chalukyas by historians. The Deccan became an interface between the upper north and south below in the Indian peninsula. The Ravan Pahadi cave has a simple facade with two dwarapalas  and dwarves. The cave has a central mantapa (hall) with shrines by its sides. At the back end is a linga within a sanctuary. The mantapa is at a lower level than the shrines and sanctuary. The cave walls and ceiling including the corners of the main mandapa or hall have superb sculptures. A multi armed representation of Lord Shiva as Nataraja along with the saptamatrikas . Legend has it that the saptamtrikas were created during his battle with Andhakasura. The figures are slim and their garments have striations which are incised on stone. The cave has a figure of Durga as Mahisasuramardini  depicting her with her with one left hand and folded leg crushing the bull. She holds her weapons including the trident or trisula which is very prominent.

Ravana Pahadi cave,6th century,Aihole,Karnataka.

By Manjunath Doddamani Gajendragad at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55299150

Mantapa , Ravana Pahadi cave temple,6th century, Aihoḷe,Karnataka.

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19877895

 

Raval Phadi (Brahmanical Cave) - Image 2.JPG

Linga,Ravana Pahadi ,6th century,Aihole, Karnataka.

By Nagraj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21380047

Relief work1 in the Ravana phadi cave temple in Aihole.jpg

Nataraja, Ravana Pahadi cave temple, 6th century,Aihole,Karnataka.

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19877893

Relief work2 in the Ravana phadi cave temple in Aihole.jpg

Mahisasuramardini, Ravana pahadi Cave temple, 6th century,Aihole, Karnataka.

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19877894

      Durga temple at Aihole has an apsidal and oblong plan and is part of a fort or durg, hence its name Durga. It was built during the late 7th and early 8th centuries by the Early Western Chalukyas. There is a circumbulatory passage around the temple having pillars,some with sculptures.. There is an entrance area, a mandapa or hall and an inner shrine. The inner shrine has a narrow circumambulatory path.  The temple has a small porch approached by two staircases. The inner wall of the temple has many sculptures.; Durga as Mahisasuramardini having eight arms. A shikhara is present on the temple’s east-side over the shrine. The temple might have been dedicated to Lord Vishnu as many of his avatars  are carved on the temple like Varaha and  Narasimha.

Durga temple, 6th century,Aihole,Karnataka.

CC0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37733925

Durga Temple Aihole. Vishnu.jpg

Lord Vishnu,Durga temple, Aihole,Karnataka.

By Ismoon (talk) 21:12, 5 June 2013 (UTC) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26505253

Kaali Matha.jpg

Durga, 6th century,Aihole, Karnataka.

By Naveenkumarsnayak – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51445322

Aihole 3.JPG

Durga temple,6th century,Karnataka.

By Nithin bolar k – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27944703

Aihole si05-1462.jpg

Celestial couple,ceiling, Durga Temple,6th century, Aihole,Karnataka.

By G41rn8 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40069651

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author