Category Archives: asian art

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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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]

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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

Tree of life : images from Golconda textiles

           The art of Kalamkari  originated in Machilipatnam, Pallakolu and other places along the Coromandel coast during the 17th century.  It originated as a religious tapestry and later became a secular craft under Muslim rule. The kingdom of Golconda in the Deccan, India was a trading centre for diamonds, gems and textiles. The word Kalamkari or working with the pen evolved when the Golconda Sultans called the craftsmen as ‘kalamkars‘. ‘Kalamkari‘ thus literally means, art work done using a pen. The craft continues to this day with many families devoted to this art. Natural substances from plants, trees and seeds are used in the art and called painted using resist and mordant technique. Depicted are some images using this technique, of the tree of life, a unique and universal concept.
    The tree of life is a concept mainly from mythology, a sacred belief connecting all forms of creation. it is depicted in various cultures and traditions of the world. The tree of life is thought of as related to the eternal, a destroyer of sorrow, health, fertility, wisdom and calmness. In the Hindu faith it is the wish fulfilling Kalpavriksha which grants every wish. In Christianity the tree is the source of eternal life. The tree of life is the tree of immortality in Islamic faith. The concept spans across cultures. It is asymbol of connectivity, having roots with the soil; the leaves and branches reaching to the sky, receiving the sun and air. The tree of life represents continuity as it grows from a seed and creates a fruit with seeds, which again gives birth to the new. The tree of life is a symbol of rebirth, the leaves fall in autumn or hibernate in winter and in spring the new leaves appear like being born again.
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Tree of life,  Tent Hanging or Curtain, late 17th century, Golconda, LACMA, U. S. A.
      Charles Darwin proposed a tree of life which is symbolic of the source of all living things. In Chinese mythology,a dragon and phoenix are depicted in the tree of life. The dragon represents immortality. The Bodhi tree is the wisdom tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. This tree is seen as one where once can seek refuge from worldly desires. the Celtic tree symbolises the forces of nature joining together to maintain balance in the universe. Many animals are are also seen in the tree of life depictions. Birds too are seen on the branches. sometimes the underworld is shown with a water-monster. All forms of life are connected and humans should live in harmony with the world. Everyone has a right to exist and grow as we are children of the Universe.

                The block-printed and dyed textile from the Coromandel coast depicted below consists of a tree of life within ovoid medallions, flanked by cobras and peacocks, the border is of a continuous floral garland. Originally this technique of painted resist and mordant happened under the rule of the Golconda kingdom (1512-1687). However the practice continued in the following centuries with ups and downs, but continues to this day though the designs have changed over the years. The technique was called Kalamkari which is still prevalent.

A PALAMPORE COROMANDEL COAST, SOUTH INDIA, SECOND QUARTER 19TH CENTURY The block-printed and dyed decoration consisting of a central tree within ovoid medallions, flanked by cobras and peacocks, the border a continuous floral garland, small inventory or shipping stamp to a corner 116 ½ x 91in. (296 x 231cm.

Palampore, painted resist and mordant, dyed textile, Coromandel coast, 19th century.

Image sourced from Christie’s.com

       Palampores were a regular feature of the 18th-century chintz trade to Europe, where they were used as wall hangings and bed-covers and table-cloths. The embroidered palampore below was chain stitched in silk on cotton to create a painted effect. The craftsmen have worked out white silk stitches within the flowers to simulate the tiny white  patterns that appear on painted textiles. Instead of shown as emerging from the usual hilly mound, this tree grows out of an interpretation of a Chinese scholar’s rock, highlighting the overlapping of Chinese, Indian, and European motifs in 18th-century exotic textiles from the East.

* Palampore Cotton embroidered with silk mid-18th century (Coromandel Coast), for the European market Embroidered Palampore was chain stitched in silk on cotton to imitate a painted palampore with remarkable precision. The embroiderers even used white silk stitches within the flowers to simulate the tiny white reserve patterns that appear on painted examples.

Palampore, embroidered textile, cotton with silk, Coromandel coast, mid-18th century, Met Museum, U S A

        Palmapores depicting the tree of life show a central flower-and-fruit-bearing serpentine tree emerging from a hillock with stylized peaks or rocks. In addition to those produced for the Dutch and English markets, a class of smaller palampores was made expressly for the intra-Asian trade. This painted version depicted below was originally sourced to Sri Lanka, maybe produced for the European communities in Batavia and Colombo.


Palampore, Cotton (painted resist and mordant, dyed), India (Coromandel Coast), for the Sri Lankan market

Palampore, painted resist and mordant, dyed textile, Coromandel coast, early 18th century, Met Museum, U S A.
The textile piece below is a tree of life depicting the mound, peacocks and flowering tree. The border is an ornate double floral scroll. Done using the Kalamkari technique it is an exquisite work.

Olive-Multicolor Cotton Hand Painted Kalamkari Wall Hanging 46in x 32.5in
Tree of life, Kalamkari hanging, 21st century.

Image : Jaypore.com



References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • wootandhammy.com
  • spiritualray.com
  • old-earth.com
Posted by:
Soma Ghosh
Ⓒauthor

Silver Filigree art : images from Karimnagar

      The thought of silver or argentum as it is called in Latin, reminds us of stars, the lining in a cloud, lightning in the sky and snow on mountains and tree tops. Beautiful jewellery, decorative objects and utility items are made from this amazing metal which is soft. lustrous, both malleable and ductile making it highly suitable for use in craft. Silver has technological applications in photography and in the medical world too. Silver is an investment too and figures in the bullion market. Filigree work using silver has been there in Europe, Persia and Central Asia. Ancient Greeks and Romans too were fascinated with this metal and created works of art. Silver is a metal with positivity and hope, augmenting a good future…..every cloud has a silver lining !

  An exquisite silver craft which is over 200 years old from the area of Karimnagar in Telangana State in South India is the silver art of filigree. It is believed to have its origins in Elagandala village , around 10-11 kilometres from Karimnagar city. Elgandala, which is situated on the banks of river Manair, was popularly known in earlier times as Bahudhanyapuram, Tellakandula and Veligandula and later came to be called Elgandal. The history of the place is traced to the Old Stone Age and much later ruled by the Mauryas and Satavahanas. Kotilingala in Karimnagar district was the first capital of the Satavahanas. Later to that, the region was ruled by five dynasties; the Kakatiyas, Bahmanis, Qutub Shahis, Mughals and Asaf Jahis. During the  VIth Nizam, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan’s reign (1869-1911), the district headquarters was shifted from Elgandal fort to the present Karimnagar town in 1905. During the Nizam rule, the name Karimnagar was named for a village by an Elgandal Qiladar, Syed Karimuddin. Inscriptions of the Kakatiyas have been found in the region.

Elgandala Fort in Karimnagar

Teen-minar, Elgandal fort, Karimnagar, Telangana.

         The craft was introduced and  practised by a well-travelled goldsmith Kadarla Ramayya and his family at Elgandala and it was a well guarded technique, in the 19th century. It is called Venditeega pani in the local language, Telugu. It was patronised by royalty and wealthy businessmen; Muslims used to give silver articles as part of dowry, so its demand was always there. After Indian Independence in 1947 the craft faced a setback but by 1956, the co-operative movement helped revive the amazing craft of filigree. The two co-operatives were Tarakashan and Zagaram Osmania which merged as one in 1953 as Tarakashan Society.   The type of articles made using this technique include trays, pandans or betel boxes, attardans or scent holders, purses,jewel boxes, glass holders, jewellery like earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings and pendants, figures of popular deities, handbags, photo-frames, spice containers, lamp stands, baskets, rose-water sprinklers among many others.  The designs are intricate and cause awe and a sense of wonder.  

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Silver filigree bowl, Karimnagar,Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

  The trellis-like work or jaali  as it is called, is made of thin silver wire. The designs include fauna, geometric and floral designs with creepers in delicate exquisite workmanship. The equipment is that as used by a goldsmith or silversmith’s tools. In modern times, a wire drawing machine is also used. Pure silver blocks are made into thin wires and wrapped around a charkha and flattened, later fashioned into the required design. The Government of India had accorded the Geographical Indicator or GI status to this craft of silverwork which augurs well for the future of the artisans and the art. The silver items make excellent gifts for all festive occasions. The craft is sold online, at retail outlets and emporia. Exhibitions are held at urban centres to encourage and promote this art.

                                           Silver tray with , Karimnagar silver filigree.

Image source : http://sifka.org/

              An ornate palanquin model in silver filigree, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

 

Silver tray, filigree work, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

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Filigree box, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Pic sourced from https://www.christies.comFiligree Work Silver Cuff (Ajustable)

                               Silver filigree cuff from Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : Jaypore.com

 

References :

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

Paintings of the Devi : power and glory

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.

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Durga slaying the demon, Nurpur painting, Himachal Pradesh, early 18th century.

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 nine manifestations of Durga or Navadurga are worshipped during Navaratri in the month of Ashwin of the Hindu calendar; Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta,Skandamata,Katyayani,Kaalratri,Mahagauri and Siddhidaatri. Durga is associated with two mountain ranges, the Himalayas in the north and the VIndhyas in central India. She is Paravati in the Himalayas; daughter of the mountains. Durga images have been found in Afghanistan(ancient Gandhara) and also in Tibet.

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Scene from the Devimahatmyam, painting, 17th century.

The Shiva Purana says Lord Shiva invoked Durga from his left half to create and together both created Shivaloka. As per the Devi Mahatmya ,Mahisasura, son of demon Rambha unleashed terror on earth and defeated the Gods. The Gods then approached Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Together they created a woman on whom they bestowed weapons and she was Durga. Durga as Mahisasuramardini is one of the manifestations of the Divine mother whose primary aim is to combat demons who threaten the cosmos. She has many arms and each has a different weapon. She rides on a lion and defeats the buffalo demon Mahisasura who has been given a boon that no-one can defeat  him except a woman. The demon’s entire army was challenged by Durga. Mahisasura attacked Durga as a buffalo-demon whom Durga kills with a trisula (trident) after a fierce battle.

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Durga after victory over Mahisasura, the demon, opaque watercolor embellished with applied gold and lacquer strips, 19th century. Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A

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Durga slaying demons, Kashmir, early 19th century.

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Durga slaying the demon, Kalighat painting, 19th century.

 

 ”Sarva mangala mangalye shive sarvaartha saadhike Sharanye trayambake Gauri Narayani namosthute ”

”To auspiciousness of all auspiciousness Shiva -to the Good sarvarrtha saadhike – to the accomplisher of all objectives sharanye – to the Source of Refuge tryambake – to the mother of the three worlds. Gauri – to the Goddess who is Rays of Light Naaraayani – Exposer of consciousness Namostute- We bow to you again and again. We worship you”.

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

References and images :

  • Mahisasuramardini by Sanjaya Kumar Mahapatra, Agam Kala Prakashan, 2014.
  • Goddess Durga : the power and the glory, Marg Publications, Mumbai,2009.
  • wikipedia.org
  • speakingtree.in
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Srirangam : sculptural grandeur and glory

 

       Tiruchirpalli or Trichy; Trichinoply as it was called before, is a city in Tamil Nadu state in southern India. The Kaveri or Cauvery delta begins 16 kilometres  west of the city where the Kaveri river splits into two, forming the island of Srirangam, which is now incorporated into the Tiruchirappalli City. Here is the famous Sriranganathaswamy temple popularly called Srirangam temple. It is a temple of Lord Vishnu as Sriranganathaswamy. The Atharva veda says :

Vishnu is the Almighty Lord,

In whose three wide-extended paces

All worlds and creatures have their habitation:

Vishnu strode through all the worlds

And all the worlds gathered

As grains of dust under His feet!

    It is the world’s largest functioning temple with 50 shrines, 21 towers and 39 pavillions. The temple complex covers  156 acres with seven prakaras or enclosures. Srirangam is a temple town on an island on the Kaveri river. At one time the entire population of Srirangam lived within the walls of this temple.

Ranganathaswamy temple tiruchirappalli.jpgGopurams, Srirangam temple complex, Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

  The gopurams of the temple articulate the axial path, the highest is  at the outermost prakara and the lowest is at the innermost. The Rajagopuram of the temple is the southern one which is 239 feet high, having been plated in gold. The Rajagopuram was stated to be built by Vijayanagara king Achyuta Deva Raya but it was completed by the Ahobila Matha in 1987. The diagram below shows  structures in the temple complex; the gopurams, the mandapas, various shrines among others.

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Layout of the temple complex, image.

Aerial photograph of Srirangam Island between Kaveri and Kollidam rivers.

   The main temple has been built based on Agama texts and is dedicated to Sri Ranganathaswamy. It is a Vaishnavite temple and has many legends associated with it.It is in the inner courtyard. There is 6 meter deity of Sri Ranganathar reclining on Adisesha with five hoods in the sanctum which is entered from the south gateway. The doorway has the dwarapalas or guards Jaya and Vijaya. The mukhamandapa is also called Gayatri mandapa leading to the round sanctum surrounded by a raised square, encircling pillars and an inner square. The other images are of Lord Vishnu on Sesha, Lord Ganesha, Lord Narasimha in Yogasana and Goddess Durga.  The 50 shriens include Lord Vishnu temples, Goddess Lakshmi temple, shrines of various Vaishnave scholars. The temple structures have rich sculptural detail. The temple’s vimana  is embellished with sculptures, and has carved pilasters with fluted shafts, double capitals and lotus brackets. The temple complex has many mandapas, frescoes, inscriptions on its walls, tanks and granaries. The inscriptions are over 800, from 9th century to 16th century of the times of the Nayaks, Pandyas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagara rulers, are in different languages like Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Oriya and relate mostly to temple grants and gifts, rulers, nobles and temple management.  Many of the temple structures have been renovated, rebuilt over time, though the temple was looted by different rulers.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (84) (37513353141).jpgPilasters and carvings, Srirangam.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (85) (37482143952).jpg                                                 Bracket figures, Srirangam temple.

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Sculpture, Srirangam temple.

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Yoga Narsimha, Srirangam temple.

Among the mandapas  the 1000 pillar mandapa is a theatre like structure built during the Vijayanagara period made out of granite.

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1000 pillar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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Warriors on horses, 1000 pillar mandapa, sculpture, Srirangam temple.

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Dancer and musicians, sculpture, Hall of 1000 pillars.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (154) (37255438750).jpg

Elephant being led by his mahout, sculpture, Srirangam.

      During the Vijayanagara rule the temple complex developed under Sri Krishnadeva Raya. The temple structures include the Sesharayar mandapa and the Venugopala temple which have amazing sculptural work. The Sesharayar mandapa was built during the Nayaka rule. The Garuda mandapa was also made during the Nayaka rule. It has a free standing seated Garuda. Kili mandapa is next to the main shrine, made during the 17th century. The Ranga vilasa mandapa is a large community hall with murals and narratives from mythology and the epic Ramayana. The temple has many wooden monuments like the Garuda vahana, Simha vahana, Hanumantha vahana among others.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (199) (37463830806).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (198) (36842806663).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (208) (37480838632).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (209) (37463770456).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (210) (37511909081).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (213) (36842693473).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (214) (37463731826).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (215) (37480768992).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (220) (37511844021).jpg

Motif, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

SriRangam-fencing.jpg

Fencing, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

SriRangam-finelady.jpg

Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

SriRangam-mokini-amutham.jpg

With the pot of nectar, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (227) (37463615306).jpg

Damsel, sculpture, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

Sesha Mandapa, Vijayanagar period, 16th century, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (228) (37511787801).jpg

Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

SriRangam-tiger-hunter.jpg

Woman warrior, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

Srirangam1362010 025.jpg

Sage Agastya, sculpture, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

Srirangam1362010 053.jpg

Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam si0564.jpg

Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (51) (36802205014).jpg

Lord Krishna or Venugopala, Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (46) (37481391062).jpg

Sculptures, Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (50) (37464247216).jpg

Venugopala shrine, Srirangam temple complex.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (55) (37512294621).jpg

Salabhanjika sculpture, Venugopala shrine.

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam si0563.jpg

Woman playing musical instrument, Venugopala shrine.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (62) (37464073226).jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mithuna or loving couple, sculpture, Venugopala shrine.

 

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappali (59) (23660014378).jpg

Woman applying vermillion, sculpture,Venugopala shrine.

 

References :

  • http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in
  • wikipedia.org
  • https://poetrypoem.com
  • Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

Delight in design : floral motifs in Bidri craft

    Man is very much a part of nature and what he sees around him influences him deeply. This is more true for artists and craftsmen who are always inspired to create what they have visualised in their imagination. Flora and fauna abounds on this planet and have found their way into artworks. Vegetal and animal motifs are commonly seen in plastic arts, textiles and metalcrafts. We see surreal forms and stylised varieties of flowers, creepers, trees and animals. The designs create a magic of their own and hint at a greater reality beyond space and time.

 Introduction : the beginnings of Bidri

     The art of inlaying one metal on the other to make objects of art and utility is a very old one. It was used for making metal images of the Buddha with copper and silver inlay work in the 6th and 7th centuries, during the Gupta rule in India. The bronzes of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh from 7th to 10th century and the Jaina bronzes of Eastern India, Central India and Deccan from 6th to 10th century  had  inlay work.  The origin of Bidri craft is  a bit of a mystery; the craft is believed to have been born in Persia. In Safavid Persia (750 -1258A.D) rulers and rich merchants used copper inlaid objects. Later gold ans silver was used and the art practised in many Central Islamic lands. The craft was brought to India by a nobleman. Khaja Moinuddin Chishti and his followers to Ajmer in Rajasthan. Much later a craftsman by name Abdullah-bin-Khaiser migrated to Bijapur in the Deccan and taught the craft to local artists. Bidar became a province of the Bahmani kingdom when it established its rule in South India. Sultan Alauddin II Bahamani (1434 -1457 A.D) of Bidar was gifted metal objects during his coronation and he was much impressed. He gave the craft the name Bidari or Bidri. He invited the craftsmen to settle at Bidar itself. They were provided with facilities and comforts so that they could carry on their craft. Thus with royal patronage the craft flourished under the Bahmanis and the later Baridis who ruled from Bidar. It travelled to other centres  from 1770 A.D, of which Lucknow, Purnea and Murshidabad are noteworthy.

Bidar Fort view, Bidar, Karnataka.

 By Tirumala Nalla – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51144313

  Techniques of Bidri making : creativity and skill set

     The karigars or craftsmen used metals in a very imaginative way. The alloy was made out of copper, zinc and lead. The mixture of zinc and copper in of the ratio 16:1. Copper is added to make zinc take the polish better. On this silver or gold was used to make the design by inlaying in different ways. The techniques have Persian terms; tarkashi which means inlay of wire, taihnishan; inlay of sheet, zarnishan; low relief, zarbulund; high relief and aftabi; cut out designs in overlaid metal sheet. The beauty is created through contrast of the silver against a dark background. Silver is white , shiny after polish and malleable and ductile making it suitable for using during  crafting.  The process involved in the production of a Bidri item of art involves casting, polishing, engraving, inlaying and blackening the alloy. Designs are drawn with a fine point and pure silver is hammered into the pattern. The final polish is achieved with sand paper, charcoal and coconut oil. A way of blackening the Bidri object was by using a type of clay found at Bidar fort. A combination of techniques are used to make the final object. The craft is likened to Damascene work or koftgiri  where gold or silver is encrusted on iron objects.

Designs on Bidri : vegetal and floral  inspirations

    The early Bidriware had beautiful Persian motifs. Designs of Middle Eastern origin and Egyptian floral designs were also incorporated. The ashrafi ki booti and teenpatti ki booti patterns are well known. Also kairi or mango, star patterns, vine creepers, poppy plant with flowers, mahi-pusht or fish scale pattern.

Bidar Fort garden, pool has an ornate pattern, Bidar, Karnataka.

By Santosh3397 – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36533037

 There are some awesome specimens of Bidriware now housed in different places across the world. The objects made include huqqa (hubble bubble)  bases, afatabas or ewers, huqqa  mouthpieces, mir-e-farsh or floor-weights, shamadan or candelabras, chilam or firecups,trays, goblets, pandan or  betel boxes, ittardan or perfume boxes, gulabpash or rose water sprinklers, basins, plates and spittoons. More recently there is jewellery, ashtrays, walking sticks, paperweights and USB covers. The craft has gone through ups and downs but rulers across time have always encouraged and revived the craft. It thrives with exports, retailers and online sales. The workshops are now at Hyderabad and Bidar.

   The skilled craftsmen have used Persian motifs on the alloy; local idioms like the lotus and swastika are found too. French influence is seen from the 18th century. Egyptian design also embellished the objects. Thus not only a combination of techniques but also design happened during the journey of the craft. However the main inspiration for designs on Bidriware are flowers and vegetal patterns like the creepers and leaves.

    A beautiful poem by Ernestine Northover captures the essence of the flower in nature and its effects.

Oh, Flower

‘’Oh, flower, open wide your fragrant maze,

Curl back your petals, and greet the sun,

Look up and drink in its glorious rays,

Which will enhance your beauty, just begun.

Oh, flower, with colours of pure rich fire,

You will always radiate a warmth in me,

And your artistry ignites such desire,

That with truth you could be no parody.

Oh, flower, when raindrops touch your face,

And wild winds dictate your waving head,

Your stance will always sustain your grace,

And resplendence be found in your blossoms spread.’’

Woman with flowers, painting, Safavid Persia/Iran, 1575 AD, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington D.C,U.S.A

By Unknown / Smithsonian Institution [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

           Ceiling design, Rangeen Mahal, 16th century, BIdar Fort, Bidar,Karnataka.

Source : https://www.flickr.com/photos/aloshbennett/4347383785

        The images showcased highlight the different patterns and the brilliant effect on the ware created painstakingly by the Bidri artist and craftsman. In many places a combination of motifs can be seen which enhance the final effect.

  Vine creeper -A farsh-i-huqqa or huqqa base from 18th century depicts vine creepers all over the body of the object to create a brilliant effect.

   Huqqa base, tarkashi and tehnishan technique, Bidar, 18th century.

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

Grape vine, image.

 By Lori (Flickr: That’ll need to age a bit yet…) [CC BY-SA 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

   Poppy plant and flower : the huqqa bases shown below depict a stylised poppy plant against a dark background. The poppy flower motif has been put to prolific use in Bidricraft.

 

Huqqa base, Bidar or Hyderabad, 18th century.

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

 

 Poppy flowers,images.

 

       In the image below the technique has been reversed. The dark base is made to stand out and the pattern is etched on the sliver sheet. The huqqa base has stylised poppy flowers with circular decorative scrolls towards the top and bottom.

 

 Huqqa base, aftabi and taihnishan technique, Bidar or Hyderabad, 19th Century.

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

 

Huqqa base, gold work on alloy, Bidar, Mughal period, Dallas Museum of Art, U. S. A,17th century.

 By Daderot – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68723894

 

Huqqa base, Bidar, Karnataka, late 17th century.

By Unknown – Marie-Lan Nguyen (2006), ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕರಿಗೆ ಸೇರಿದ್ದು, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=828340

Pandan or betel-box,  tarkashi technique, stylised poppy and leaf patterns in circles on top, Bidar or Hyderabad,1800.

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

Cypress tree and flowers : the cypress motif is used in some huqqa bases. The flowers and the tree are depicted in stylised forms. The cypress is group of ceratin kind of trees or plants with similar characters. The plant has been often mentioned in poetry too.

 

Huqqa base, Bidar, between circa 1600 and circa 1800.

By © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20355115

                                                                          Cypress tree.

 By pellaea (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Cypress flowers.

 

 

 

 Huqqa base, Bidar, Karnataka, 18th century.

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00glossarydata/terms/bidri/bidri.html

 Lotus in a pond : The sight of a lotus in a pond is one of nature’s most beautiful sights.             The Bidri artists have captured this in their creations. A salver below depicts the lotus motif; blooming lotuses, lotus buds and lotuses floating on a pond. The border also made of lotuses enhances the beauty of the artwok as does the waterbody depicted as wavy lines.

 

         Salver, Bidri ware, tarkashi and taihnishan technique, Bidar, 17th century.

 

                                                                  Lotus flower, image.

 

Lotus flowers and buds in a pond, image.

 Combination of star and flowers : The salver below depicts a starry concentric pattern with poppy design in the inner circle with alternating leaf motifs.

Salver, Bidri ware (tarkashi and tehnishan techniques),Bidar,17th century.

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

Concentric star pattten.

Huqqa with irises, late 17th century, MET Museum, USA. 

By This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57856153

Iris flower, image.

Plate, Bidar, 17th century.

 By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17606820

Aftaba or ewer, Met Museum, New York, 18th century.

By This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61138268

Ugaldan or spittoon, tarkashi and tehnishan techniques, Hyderabad, 1850.

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

  Bidriware cup and lid, Bidar, Karantaka, 1850, V&A Museum, U.K

By VAwebteam at English Wikipedia – http://images.vam.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Home.html, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8500029

     The earliest Bidriware of the 16th centuries are not available, mostly 17th century onwards one gets to study the various types. Over time the ware has changed according to the demands of the people. After the huqqa base, ugladans, sailabchis and aftabas one can see ashtrays, salvers and trays and now small decorative gift itms, jewellery, vases and boxes of different sizes. The craft has seen many ups and downs during its journey but due to the constant efforts of its revival and support by the rulers right from the beginning it still lives ! At present workshops are there at Bidar and Hyderabad. The magic of the objects created seem to be timeless. Only the forms on which the designs have been made have changed and adapted to changing times. Long live Bidri !

Bidriware, various floral motifs, 21st century.

 By Shivapriya Sulgante [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Bidriware, different stylised motifs, 21st century.

 By Manjunath Doddamani Gajendragad at en.wikipedia – Source and Author : Manjunath Doddamani, Gajendragad / Hubli, Karnataka(North), India., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17256729

Bidri craftsman, cypress leaf motif on USB,  21st century.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/bidri-art-form-gets-modern-twist/article6292645.ece, August 2014

Kairi (mango) shaped Bidri dibba, 21st century.

Source :  Jaypore.com.

Mango, image.

 

 

References :

  1. Narayan Sen, Catalogue on Damascene and Bidri Art, Indian Museum Calcutta, 1983.
  2. Krishna Lal, Catalogue, National Museum Collection Bidri Ware, National Museum of India, New Delhi, 1990.
  3. Jagdish Mittal, Bidriware and Damascene work in Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, JKMMIA, Hyderabad, 2011.
  4. http://granthaalayah.com/Articles/Vol4Iss3/19_IJRG16_B03_27.pdf
  5. org
  6. Census of India 1961 :Vol II – Andhra Pradesh, Delhi : Manager of   Publications,1967.
  7. Sultans of Deccan India : Opulence and fantasy/Navina Najaf Hyder andMarika Sardar, New York : Met Museum, 2015.

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

 

©author