Category Archives: Bishnupur

Terracotta art of Bengal : music and dance depictions

       The music of India is highly developed and a sophisticated product of an ancient culture. Lord Shiva’s mystic dance symbolises the rhythmic motion in the universe. Music is sound in rhythm. Goddess Saraswati is represented as the goddess of art and learning and is seen sitting on a white lotus with a veena in one hand and playing it with another, a book in the third hand and a necklace of pearls in the fourth hand. Sage Bharata is believed to have taught the arts to apsaras, the heavenly dancers. Narada muni who wanders both on earth and heaven playing his veena taught the art to men. In Indra’s heaven, Gandharvas are the singers , apsaras are the dancers, and the centaur-like beings the Kinnaras play musical instruments. Gandharva veda means the art of music.

      A very wide variety of musical instruments were used in Vedic times, both percussion and stringed. The ordinary drum was the dundhubi. Adambara, bhumi dundhubi were others. Aghati was a cymbal which accompanied dancing. The kandaveena was a kind of lute, karkari, another kind of lute, vana , a lute of 100 strings and the veena. The veena is suitable to all types of Indian music. Indian stringed instruments include the veena, an instrument which consists of a large bowl, hollowed out of one piece of wood. The flat top of this bowl is one foot in diameter. A bridge is placed on the bowl and near it are anumber of small sound holes. The veena is played using finger nails or using a plectrum. Sitar, dilruba,esraj,ektara are other stringed instruments. Sarangi, surbahar are also stringed instruments. Kinnari is a primitive Indian instrument supposed to have been invented by Kinnara , one of the musicians in Indra’s heaven. It has representation in sculpture and paintings. It has 2-3 strings, sound is not very strong.

    Sculptures of many musical instruments exist on old cave temples and Buddhist stupas.  Amaravati  and Sanchi depict many such sculptures.  Music and dance have been depicted in the terracotta sculptures in the late medieval temples of Bengal as well. Showcased below are two temples; the Madan-mohana temple  at Bishnupur and the Hangseswari  temple complex at Hooghly, both in West Bengal.

    The Madana-mohana temple built by Maharaja Durjana Singh Deva is a ekratna, having a single spire on a plinth with a portico in the centre. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna as the name suggests. There are two magnificent pillars at the entrance with ornate terracotta sculptures. The pillars  depict scenes from the Ramayana and scenes from Lord Krishna’s life from his cowherd days. One can find musician and dancer depictions here. The dancers are in different poses and the musicians are seen playing instruments.  Floral designs are seen between the human sculptures as rows adding a sense of  balance.The scenes are full of vitality, joy and convey a celebration of life !

File:A temple in India, Madana-Mohana Temple, Bishnupur.jpg

Madana-Mohana Temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Abhijit Kar Gupta (Flickr: Madana-Mohana Temple, Bishnupur – I) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kgabhi/8386174380/

    The Hangseswari temple at Hooghly has a very interesting history and architecture. The area of Bansberia next to the River Ganges, in Hooghly district was gifted to a zamindar Rameshwar Ray by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb along with the title of  Raja in 1673. He settled down there along with his family. His kin continued to stay there.  The area came to be known as  the Royal Estate. The temple  was started to be built by Raja Nrisinhadeb Ray from late 18th century  and completed by his wife Rani Shankari  in 1814 and dedicated to a form of Goddess Kali, Hangseswari.  The deities of both Shiva and Shakti are present. The temple has thirteen spires and five stories which represent the ida, pingala, Bajraksha, Sushumna and chitrini of the human body parts according to Tantric texts. The king had studied the system of kundalini during his stay at Varanasi and decided to build a temple according to the concept. Marble was brought from Chunar near Varanasi for use in the temple. The spires represent blooming lotus buds; a metallic idol of the  Sun-God is inscribed on the top of the central spire. The inner structure of the building follow the design of the human anatomy.  The temple complex also has the Ananta-Basudeba temple and the Swanbhaba Kali temple, built by Raja Nrisinhadeb Ray in 1788. Both are terracotta temples and have exquisite sculptures on them.

Hanseswari Mandir - East View - Bansberia Royal Estate - Hooghly - 2013-05-19 7547.JPG

Hangseswari temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Dancers, Rasmancha, Hangseshwari temple, Hooghly,West Bengal.
Source : wikivisually.com/wiki/Hangseshwari_temple
Ananta Basudeba Temple1.JPG
Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
By Amartyabag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Part of the entrance wall.JPG
Carvings, Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
By Kinkiniroy2012 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21683542
 
Terracotta Panel, Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.
 
Terracotta Panel, Ananta-Basudeb temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.

References :

  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Bengal temples/Dutta, Bimal Kumar , New Delhi : Mushiram Manoharlal,1975.
  • wikipedia.org
  • journeymart.com
  • chitolekha.com

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

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Terracotta art of Bengal : splendorous images from Bishnupur

       The powerful Gupta empire had broken up by the 6th century. The area of Bengal got divided into different small kingdoms.  Vanga, Samatala anf Harikela in the east. In the west the Gauda kings made their capital at Karnasuvarna(near  present day Murshidabad) Though Shashanka, a vassal of the Guptas unified Gaur,Vanga and Samatala and tried for regional power with Harshvardhana after killing off his elder brother Rajyavardhana, he could not sustain for long. The Gauda power ended in Bengal with Shashanka’s death. From 7th century Malla kings ruled  West of Bengal  and parts of present day Jharkhand and were called the Rajas of  Bishnupur. The word Malla means wrestler and the kingdom was called Mallabhum.  Their main legacy are the awesome terracotta temples. From the 7th century till the 19th century, the Bankura district of present day West Bengal is known by the history of these Rajas.  The Palas were another great dynasty to rule Bengal and Bihar, who were patrons of Buddhism. Dharmapala (710-810 A.D) is its most celebrated emperor. The Palas established universities at Nalanda and Vikramshila. However the Chola and Chalukyan invasions ended their rule in the 11th century. The other dynasties to rule ancient Bengal were the Chandra and the Sena dynasty of southern origin. The Devas, another Hindu dynasty like the Senas, ruled after the collapse of the Sena dynasty.

   Coming to the subject at hand, it is reiterated that the temples were mainly the contribution of the Malla dynasty with Bishnupur as their capital. Some images are depicted to simply wonder at the stucco work, the architecture in mainly brick and the terracotta sculpture. The Bankura horse has become synonymous with Bengal. It is made of terracotta. Terracotta is burnt clay. Bengal artists have perfected this art medium and even today jewellery and plaques are produced.

   The temples were made from brick and covered with terracotta tiles which had scenes from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata and also everyday life. The temples were built by different Rajas of Bishnupur.  The dynasty was founded by Adi Malla and followed by Jay Malla. Upto the 48th ruler they were independent of foreign powers. Bir Hambir, the 49th ruler was a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Akbar in 16th-17th century and paid an annual amount to the Muslim viceroys of Bengal. He was followed by Raghunath Singha, the title of Singha being given to him by the Nawab of Murshidabad. He made Bishnupur a beautiful  city of palaces and temples. Most of the terracotta temples’ presiding deity is Lord Krishna or Radha-Krishna, the names being indicative. The temple with a single spire are called ekratna, five are called pancharatna.

  Rasmancha was the earliest temple, built by Raja Bir Hambir in the 17th century, surrounded by a passage/corridor with hut shaped turrets. The temple has a pyramid shaped shikhara.

Bishnupur Ras Mancha.jpg

Rasmancha,Bishnupur.

Rangan Datta Wiki – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৪.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51658366

Inside Rashmancha.png

Corridor around Rasmancha, Bishnupur, West Bengal.

Somdeep Gangulee – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28704137

 

    The Shyamrai temple is a pancharatna temple built in 1643 by Raja Raghunath Singha. The temple has an ocatgonal central shikhara  and the remaining four are square in shape. Lord Krishna’s life is depicted on the ornate carvings. Each side of the temple has three arches.

Shyam Ray Temple in Bishnupur.jpg

Shyamrai temple,Bishnupur, Bankura  West Bengal.

Jonoikobangali – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14941834

Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur 8.JPG

Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18523365

File:Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur.JPG

Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

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

 

The Jor Mandir complex has three temples built by Raja Krishna Singha in 1726. 

Jor Mandir, Terracotta temple at Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

Rangan Datta Wiki – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৪.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51658364

Works in the pancharatna temple.jpg

Carvings on temple,Bishnupur,West Bengal.

By Dyutiman86 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59899301

The Jor Bangla temple was built by Raja Raghunath Singha Dev II in 1655. The temple is admired for its intricate terracotta carvings.

Jor Bangla Temple 2 Bishnupur.JPG

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522459

Jor Bangla Temple Arches Bishnupur.JPG

Temple arches, Jor Bangla, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522461

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur 2.JPG

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522466

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur.JPG

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522464

The Kalachand temple was built in 1656 by Raja Raghunath Singha using laterite.  Laterite is rich in iron and aluminium and the soil type can be used to make brick. Kalachand temple is an ekaratna temple.

Kalachand Temple (side view 2) Arnab Dutta 2011.JPG

Kalachand Temple, Bishnupur, Bankura District, West Bengal.

Jonoikobangali – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14929614

       Raghunath Singha was followed by Bir Singha Dev. He made many lakes and the temple of Lalji in 1658 A.D. His queen built the Murali Mohan temple in 1665. His son followed after him as ruler who built the Madan Mohan temple in 1694.

    The Lalji temple was built by Raja Bir Singha as an ekratna in 1658 dedicated to Radha-Krishna, on a square plinth with stucco decorations.

Lalji Temple Up Close.jpg

Lalji temple,Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Agniva Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21054944

Radha Madhab Temple.jpg

Murali-mohan temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

SuparnaRoyChowdhury – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৪.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51117741

The Madan-mohan temple was built in 1694 by Raja Durjana Singh Dev. It is an ekratna temple. The carvings on the temple walls have scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.

 

Madanmohan Temple.jpg

Madan Mohan Mandir (1694 AD), Bishnupur, Bankura , West Bengal.

SuparnaRoyChowdhury – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৪.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51117740

The Radha-gobindo temple was built in 1729 by  Krishna Singha as an ekratna  temple using laterite.

 

Stone Rath at Radha-Gobinda Temple Arnab Dutta 2011.JPG

Radha-Gobindo temple rath,Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Jonoikobangali – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14933167 

        Gopal Singh Dev ruled during 1730-45, a very pious ruler. Later Chaitanya Singha Dev ruled who was again very pious. He escaped to Kolkata with the idol of Madan Gopal when his cousin Damodar Singh  tried to gain power.

    The Radha-Madhab temple was built in 1737 by the daughter-in-law of Raja Gopal Singha, Churamoni Devi as an ​​ekratna style with brick having  floral and stucco designs.

 

            The Radha-shyam temple was built in 1758 by Raja Chaitanya Singha as an ekratna temple. It has a dome shaped shikhara  and has Puranic stories and floral designs in stucco on the temple walls.

Radhashyam Temple Entry Arch Bishnupur.JPG

Radha-shyam temple entry arch, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522507

Stucco work on Radhashyam Temple, Bishnupur 2.JPG

Stucco work on Radha-shyam temple,Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522512

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • Indian terracotta art/Ganguly,O.C, Bombay : rupa and Co,1959.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

© author