Category Archives: asian art

Vijayanagara art : glimpses from Tadipatri

         The term Tadipatri means palm-leaf. It is a place in the Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, south of India. Tadipatri is famous for its awesome Vijayanagara temples with their style of art and architecture. Tadipatri came into prominence during Vijayanagara period. It was flourishing village during Chalukyas of Kalyani period. Vijayanagara kingdom was founded in 1336 A.D by brothers Harihara and Bukka when they declared independence from the Delhi Sultanatate. Tadipatri was developed by Nandela Viraraghavaraju. During the rule of Devaraya II Pemmasani chiefs emerged. The earliest member was Pemmasani Thimmanayudu who might have joined Vijayanagara service during Virupaksha period of 1460-85. His three sons were Ramalinganayudu, Yera Thimmanayudu and Chinna Thimmanayudu. The Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple was built by Ramalinganayudu, a shrine of Lord Shiva on the bank of the River Penna, between 1490 and 1509, after he succeeded his father in governance of Yadikisima. He was a notable chief under Krishnadevaraya (1509-29).

       The temple is built of granite, richly carved with the superstructures in brick and stucco. Schist stone has been used like the Hoysala temples.  Schist has been used in the gateways. The temple complexes at Tadipatri are well developed having  a main shrine and a devi shrine each with an open rangamandapa. The main shrines in this temple complex are of Ramalingeswara, Parvati and Lord Rama. The other smaller shrines of Chandesa and Virabhadra are to the north and south of the Ramalingeswara shrine.  Closed  mandapa with porches in cardinal direction is seen in the Ramalingeswara temple. The temple complex has a prakara   with gopurams to the south, west and north. There is a mandapa  having the navagrahas in the north-east and at the south west corner, there is a kalyanamandapa.


Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 


Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 


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Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple complex, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

       The main shrine stands on adishthana , has a mukhamndapa with porches on south and north sides, antarala and the garbagriha. The temple has rich sculpture in the niches, pillars and walls. The images of Lord Shiva include Kevalamurti in the gopura.  Also images as Sukhasanamurti, Dakshinamurti, Uma-maheswaramurti,Vrsabharudamurti, Natarja,Ardhanarimurti and Bhiksatanamurti. Chandeswara is seen in a small shrine north to the main Ramalingeswara temple. The gopuras depict Parvati seen in sambhaga  adorned with jewellery; the kiritamakuta,chandrakundala, kuchabandha,girdle and purnoruka.  Lord Ganesha is seen in diffrent forms of Sthanakamurti and Nrityamurti  or Dancing Ganesha. He is also  seen as Yanakamurti or the riding form. He is seen as asanamurti or in a seated form.

Temple view, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Andhra Pradesh.

    The Ramalingeswara temple has images of Kumara or Lord Murugan (Kartikeya) riding a peacock, standing or in seated position. Goddess Durga is seen depicted in the Gopura in various forms. Lord Brahma, Goddess Saraswati , Surya are also depicted. The saptamatrikas  Brahmi,Vaisnavi,Indrani, Chamunda, Maheswari,Kaumaari and Varahi are seen in the open mandapa. 

    Lord Vishnu is seen seated on adisesa in the Ramalingeswara temple. Lord Vishnu riding on Garuda is depicted at the north gopura of the temple. Goddess Lakshmi is is depicted on the north gopura of the the Ramalingeswara temple. There is a shrine dedicated to the 12th century reformer, Ramanuja. A tall figure in the southern gopura of a noble is of the builder with a tall conical cap and short waist cloth.

Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

          The temples at Tadipatri have upapithas. The wall pattern shows bays and recesses. Doorjambs have two or three  jambs, the broad jamb has salabhanjika sculpture. Ceilings are like a grid with coffers with lotus medallions or a  dome having three tiers and a big pendentive. Bas reliefs are mostly found at Tadipatrit temples. In the niches smaller deity figures have been placed.

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Carvings on ceiling, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

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Carvings, North gopura, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

           Hoysala artistic  influence is seen in the sculpture;  similar motifs, kirtimukhas, floriate arches etc. There is resemblance in the jewellery depictions too.  Facial features have similar prominent eyeballs and high eyebrows. The art at Tadipatri bears resemblance to the Chennakesava temple at Pushpagiri. The temple depicts contemporary life depicting wrestlers, warriors, shepherds,hunting scenes, monkeys and horses.


Carving of salabhanjika, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 


References :

  • Temples of Vijayanagara/Jayaprada, V, Delhi : Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 1998.


All Image attributions




Posted by :

Soma Ghosh





Vijayanagara art : glimpses from Lepakshi

        The word Lepakshi means painted eye.  The temple at Lepakshi, a village, 15 km from Hindupur in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in south India is an excellent example of Vijayanagara art. Initially there was considerable influence of Hoysala and Kakatiya idioms , the style developed its own uniqueness by mid-15th century. The main centres to study, reflect upon and admire their art and architecture are at Hampi, Lepakshi,Tadipatri, Melkote, Kolar, Bellary, Chikballapur and Chamarajnagar.

    The area of Lepakshi is part of the Mysore plateau and is flat, made  up of granite rocks. The rocka are seen in clusters and the area is surrounded by hills. This area was under the Mauryas in 3rd century B.C., later on the Satavahanas, then the Chutu kings… Chalukyas of Badami, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas of Kalyani and by the end of the 13th century when the Delhi Sultanate tried to control the whole of Deccan, they appointed two brothers Harihara and Bukka, sons of Sangama to control the political situation at Kampile. However they declared their independence and founded Vijayanagara a new city on the southern bank of Tungabhadra opposite Anegondi. They brought many adjoining areas under their territory. They made afort at Penukonda and made it their second capital. Lepakshi bacame part of their empire.

      The art and architecture of a powerful empire in south  Indian history is well lauded since  the style resonates with beauty and freshness. There are some gigantic sculptures inside the temple complexes which include mandapas with pillars which are aging richly carved. Themes from the epics and Puranic stories are depicted too. Musicians, dancers flora, fauna, contemporary society have been carved or painted. Sculpting was a hereditary art and well patronised by the rulers. They formed the panchala  or five types of categories of craftsmen.

       The Lepakshi temple is synonymous with the Veeabhadra temple complex. the temple is situated on Kurma-saila (resembling a tortoise back). The temples are the Papanaseswara and Raghunatha shrines. It is unclear about when this complex was started. The brothers Virupanna and Virana took keen interest under ruler Achyutaraya to develop the edifice into an outstanding example of Vijayanagara art.

Veerbhadhra Temple Gopuram.JPG

Lepakshi temple shikharas, Lepakshi.

By Mahesh Telkar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Virabhadra temple complex view from mandapa side.JPG

Mandapa pillars, Temple complex, Lepakshi, Anantapur,Andhra Pradesh.

By Vinu raj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

        The temple complex was developed over a period of time (1100 A.D to 1800 A.D), made of granite. The structures are at three levels of the hillock, each one having an enclosure or prakara.  The Papanaseswara shrine is the earliest one in the complex. Initially there were two shrines Veerabhadra and Papanaseswara, sharing a common platform with a mandapa around it. The Raghunatha shrine was added later was added to the western side of the prakara. The Veerabhadra shrine has its entrance to the north; the inner prakara in 432 square metres mainly developed between 1350 to 1600 A.D. several shrines, mandapas were added.

     The temple complex is an amazing planet of sculptures. The high relief sculptures are large and mostly depict Gods and Goddesses and the pillars of the mandapas.  The low relief sculptures are done on walls, door frames and smaller compartments; demi gods, fauna, flora among others.

        Lord Shiva in different forms like Sadashiva,Dakshinamurti, Nataraja, Bhiksatanamurti, Kalyanasundaramurti,Devisahitamurti, Bhairava, Gajantakamurti, Andhakasura samharamurti, Veerabhadra is depicted in different places like pillars.


Siva Parvathi Kalyanam. Lepakshi.

Pponnada at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Nagalinga, Lepakshi temple, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

By Narasimha Prakash (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

         Lord Ganesha is depicted at various places. He is in Lalitasana at the back of the Veerabhadra shrine, a large monolithic sculpture. Goddess Durga figures have also been carved at various places. She is seen as Mahisasuramardini,Uma and Bhadrakali.File:Lord Ganesha on rear side of the Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi.jpg

Lord Ganesha, Lepakshi temple complex, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

By Bikashrd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       Lord Vishnu has been depicted as Narasimha,Kondandarama,Vamana, Kurma and Sri Krishna as Kaliyamardana and Balakrishna. Lord Hanuman has been carved at many places. garuda is found at different points,Goddess Lakhsmi,Gajalakhsmi is also seen.    Lord Brahma,Dattatreya,Surya,Chandra,Indra,agni,Yama,Varuna,Vayu,Kubera,Ishana, dikpalasGoddess Saraswati, the saptamatrikas have all been depicted. Among the demi-gods, the ganas,rishis,pitris,dwarapalas,apsaras,gandharvas,kinnaras,nagas have been carved. In addition devotees, ascetics,warriors, musicians and acharyas (teachers) too find a place in the temple carvings. Also common people like shepherds, priests, wrestlers, potters et al. Some stories from the Puranas have been carved as well. The decorative motifs include geometric designs, kalasa,chakra,conch,sivalinga and nandi.  The bull at some distance is an amazing monolithic sculpture, Basavanna.

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Nandi or Basavanna, Lepakshi temple, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

By రహ్మానుద్దీన్ (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       Architectural motifs like mandapas,shikharas, chaitya window are all depicted. Floral motifs like trees, creepers are seen. Flowers are also seen as decoration. Fauna or animals are shown as vahanas or in natural poses. Vyalas are also seen which are imaginery creatures, bit grotesque or fierce looking like simha-vyala,gaja-vyala and nara-vyala. The temple complex has simha-vyala and a few hamsa vyalas.

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Carvings, Lepakshi temple, Andhra Pradesh.

By Bikashrd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Carvings, Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

By Perched (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Carved pillars at Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

By Jitzpop (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Carved pillars at Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi,Andhra Pradesh.

rajaraman sundaram [CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Saptamatrika, Lepakshi temple, Andhra Pradesh.

By రహ్మానుద్దీన్ (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Open-air-kalyana-mantapam, Lepakshi temple complex.

By Pponnada at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Celestial Seductress , Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi.jpg

Celestial dancer, Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

By Bikashrd – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


References :

  • Lepakshi temple : a cultural and archeological study/Rao, D. Hanumantha,Delhi : Bharatiya Kala Prakashan,2004.



Posted by :


Soma Ghosh





Art of Kerala : magnificent murals

     Kerala is at the southern end of the Indian peninsula.  It is a part of the Western Ghats of India. Verdant with copious rainfall it is home to many trees, spice plantations, an amazing amount of flora and its well-known backwaters in the south.  Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country has a very interesting history of mural making. Believed to have started in the 7th and 8th century; majorly influenced by Pallava art. The oldest Kerala style murals have been found at a rock cut temple of Thirunandikara, now in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu which was probably made in the 9th or 10th century. There is some doubt about mural making in between 10th and 13th centuries but from the 14th to 16th century many were made and continue to this day after continuing  revival efforts.

    The content of the murals are mostly religious and mythological depicting legends. Flora and  fauna also figure in the wall paintings. Magnificent murals are found all over Kerala. Murals have been made at palaces, termples, churches and also some other spaces. The Kanthaloor temple, Thiruvananthapuram, The Mattancherry palace, Cochin, Vaddakumnathan temple, Thrissur to mention a few. Murals have been made at churches at Alappuzha, Thiruvella, Angamly and Akkaparambu. Some temple murals   are highlighted here.  Also some depictions from Kalyana bhavanam or marriage halls.

Ananthasayanam, mural, 21st century, by artist Sastrasarman Prasad, Sree Karthyayani Temple,  Kunnamkulam, Thrissur,Kerala.

By Mural paintings (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Mattancheri palace was built by the Portuguese in 1555. It is commonly called Dutch palace since 1663 after the Dutch made additions and renovations to it. there are shrines in the palace compound. Next to the palace is the Cochin synagogue built in 1567. On the west of the palace are murals painted in 1000 square feet in four chambers and two low ceilinged rooms from the 17th to mid 19th century. The depictions are from the Ramayana and some Krishna-lila scenes. The eastern chambers have Lord Shiva and Vishnu depictions. The scenes are dominated by browns,golds and red browns with touches of jewel-like green. There are many paintings which include Lord Vishnu as Anantasayana, Lord Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan, Lord Shiva with Parvati on Kailasa, Krishna with gopis, marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Also Lord Shiva with Vishnu as Mohini.

File:Mattancherry Palace DSC 0899.JPGMattancherri Palace, Cochin,Kerala.

By Ranjith Siji (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Mattancherry palace murals.jpg

Mural, Lord Shiva with Mohini, Parvati looking away in anger, Mattancheri palace, Cochin, Kerala.

By Mark Hills (originally posted to Flickr as mattancherry palace) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Padmanabhapuram palace is located 40 kilometres from thiruvananthapuram, now in Tamil Nadu though historically a part of Kerala. This palace was a royal site, a centre for contact between the ruler Maharaja with visitors from abroad and for discussions with his advisors.  The murals at the palace are from the 17th and 18th centuries mostly found on the upper floor of the 4 storey tower, in a sacred bedroom devoted to Lord Vishnu. Deities and tales from the Puranas  are depicted on all four walls. The colours are light with uses of pastel shades and white as well. an are of 900 square feet is painted with murals. Lord Shiva resting with Parvati, Lord Krishna playing on his flute with gopis around him; are also depicted in the palace.

     The Krishnapuram palace, built in the early 18th century at Kayamkulam is located north of Kollam (Quilon) and has a mural of Gajendramoksham of 154 square feet made around 1725-40.  There is also an image of Ganesha. At some places European influences can be seen.

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Krishnapuram palace, Kayamkulam, Kerala.

By Appusviews at Malayalam Wikipedia – Transferred from ml.wikipedia to Commons by Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Gajendramoksham, Krishnapuram Palace, Kayamkulam, Alappuzha, Kerala. 

By Essarpee1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    The magnificent art of mural painting is well depicted in many temples across Kerala. The Vaddakumnathan temple at Thrissur, the Chemmanthita Siva temple, Thrissur, Kudamaloor, Kannur, Thodeekkalam, Kannur, the Sreevallabha temple, Thiruvalla the Mahadeva Siva temple, Ettamanoor, Pallikarup Mahavishnu temple, Mannarkad, Palakkad, the Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Guruvayur temple, Guruvayur, Vaikom temple, Kottayam,  among many others.

           The Sreevallabha temple at Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta is dedicated to Lord Sree Vallabham  and is very old. It is built on the banks of the Manimala river. The temple has fine stone-wooden carvings and grand architecture. There are  superb murals paintings in the  sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of Matsya avatara, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Sudarshana, Parashurama, Venugopala, Lord Krishna, Kaaliyamardana episode,  Balarama, Dakshinamurty, Purusha sukta, Lord Rama, Lakshmi, Ganapati,  Kalki avatara.

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Sreevallabha Temple, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

By Ssriram mt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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Garuda, mural, Sreevallabha temple, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

By Dvellakat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

   The Vaikom Mahadeva temple in Kottayam is an elliptical plan temple founded in the 11th or 12th century. The murals here are dedicated to the story of Lord Shiva. The paintings are bright and the colours are intense. At the Mahadeva temple at Ettamanur in Kottayam is an awesome panel of Lord Shiva as Nataraja  on the inner wall of the gopura, 12 feet by 8 feet in size from the 16th century ! Lord Shiva is seen trampling the demon apasmara.

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Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       The Thodeekkalam Shiva temple at Kannur is believed to be 2000 years old ! It is having much admired murals which depict stories of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Also the rural life from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The two-storied temple associated with the Pazhassi royal family of Kottayam, has 150 murals  painted over an area of 700 square feet  on the walls of the garba-griha or sanctum sanctorum. The splendorous murals are painted with naturally sourced pigments and red, saffron-yellow, green, white, blue, black, golden yellow hues dominate the panels.

Mural painting of Ganesha, Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, Kannur,Kerala.

By Vijayakumarblathur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Mural painting, Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, Kannur, Kerala. 

By Vijayakumarblathur (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       The Pundareekapuram temple near Thalayolaparambhu in Kottayam has Lord Vishnu as the main deity on his Garuda along with Bhoodevi. The murals of this temple were made most probably in later 18th century. The themes include Mahisasuramardini, Krishnalila, Sri Rama-pattabhishekam among others. The murals are bold and striking with accurate lines. Many images of Nagaraja along with Garuda are found in the temple.



Pundareekapuram temple.jpg

Pundareekapuram temple, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Pundareekapuram temple  mural, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kalyana-bhavanam mural painting, Achikanam, Kasargod, Kerala.

By Vijayanrajapuram – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

File:Murals in Palakkad Junction railway station.jpg

 Mural at Olavakhode Railway Station, Palakkad, Kerala.

 By Prof tpms (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


References :

  • Temple arts of Kerala/Bernier,Ronald M, New Delhi : S Chand & Company Ltd, 1982.
  •  Murals of Kerala/Shashibhushan,M.G, Tvm : Department of Public Relations. (article)


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh







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,

       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,

 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 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,

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.
Posted by

Soma Ghosh


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,

           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,

   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.


 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,

    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.


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

By AsisKumar Sanyal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, 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,

       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,

Shyam Rai Temple, Bankura.JPG

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

By Dr. Indranil Banerjee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, 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,

Bhukailash Shiv Temple 06.jpg

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

By Kinjal bose 78 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, 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,

Radhashyam Temple - Bishnupur.jpg

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

By Amartya Bag – by MrPanyGoff, CC BY-SA 2.0,



Ek ratna, Ananta Basudeba Temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.

By Amartyabag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kalna Lalji Temple.jpg

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

By Sudiptorana – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

     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 ( or GFDL (, 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,

Deul at Banda, Purulia WLM2016-0207.jpg

Rekha deul, Banda, Purulia,West Bengal.

By Amitabha Gupta (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mothurar Deol Faridpur.jpg

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

By Imranforestry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, 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.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh



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,


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 (, 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,

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 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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

    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 (, CC BY 3.0 (, GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Dancers, Rasmancha, Hangseshwari temple, Hooghly,West Bengal.
Source :
Ananta Basudeba Temple1.JPG
Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
By Amartyabag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, 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,
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.



Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author