Category Archives: Flora

The Acanthus leaf : images from art and architecture

      The word ”Acanthus” recalls to mind the Corinthian columns from Greece. The leaf is a perennial, with thick, spiny leaves with serrated edges.  There are several varieties of  the acanthus plant. Though it is surmised that the motif of this leaf originated from the palmette design, it still fascinates. Acanthus depicts long and enduring life. The acanthus plant grows in and around  the Mediterranean. Check out the story of this unique leaf and its journey  in different media used in the human realm !

Image result for acanthus leaf design

Diagram, acanthus leaf.

Buddhist Capital from Gandhara, 4th century A.D

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says : Acanthus, in architecture and decorative arts, is a stylized ornamental motif based on a characteristic Mediterranean plant with jagged leaves, Acanthus spinosus. It was first used by the Greeks in the 5th century BC on temple roof ornaments, on wall friezes, and on the capital of the Corinthian column. One of the best examples of its use in the Corinthian order is the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. Later the Romans used the motif in their Composite order, in which the capital of the column is a three-dimensional combination of spirals resembling rams’ horns and full-bodied acanthus leaves. The acanthus leaf has been a popular motif in carved furniture decoration since the Renaissance.

Image result for acanthus leafGrece athenes olympion det.jpg

Acanthus leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital detail,temple of Olympian Zeus, 6th century,Athens, Greece. 

Temple of Olympian Zeus Athens Greece 8.jpg

Acanthus leaf design seen on the capitals, temple of Olympian Zeus, 6th century, Athens, Greece. 

A poem reads thus –

 The Corinthian of Greece and acanthus leaves-
The temple of Athens where the golden bell rings.
Its a tumble of tune a song for the yore-
The musical swells, as symphony soar.
The bride of Apollo does walk down the aisle, in virgin white lace-
by power of means she maneuvers with grace.
And Apollo himself wrote a passaged vow to wealthiest wealth of love that forever bows.
Without her, he says, the nights have no moon,
the stars will fall out of place,
neither courtesy of colors in midst noon nor there is such a beautiful face.
Apollo’s Bride, Cassandra, blushed with fury lust-
And by the ring she took his hand,
her lover Apollo took it by grand.
And together forever they treasured their land
Under Greece’s dome by the Corinithia of Acanthus leaves- ..
The bells continuously sing Golden bells’ ring
of what rumbles and bring
The definition of lovely things.

                                            ………………………..by Brittany Martin.

 Acanatha is a minor character in Greek mythology whose metamorphosis was the origin of the Acanthus plant. The tale goes that Acantha was a nymph loved by the god Apollo. Acantha, however, rebuffed Apollo’s advances and scratched his face. As a result, Apollo transformed her into the Acanthus, a plant with spiny leaves. The acanthus leaf has inspired  art and architecture right from the 5th century in Greece and Rome as mentioned. The leaf has inspired designs for wall papers, wood work as railings, on watches, as decoration on book illustrations. The 4th and 5th century art at Gandhara had a lot of Greek influence and the Buddhist capital below depicts the acanthus leaf used for ornamentation. The design is used as a modern tattoo too !Image result for acanthus leaf design

Illustration, Acanthus Capital.

File:Fragment of Frieze with Acanthus Leaves Encircling Fruit and Flowers MET sf10-175-96s1.jpg

Fragment of frieze with acanthus leaves, Islamic art, 6th century.

Byzantine architecture too has celebrated the acanthus leaf motif. The leaves cover large surfaces. Also seen in the letters of Illustrated manuscripts including the borders. Many Roman buildings have captured the beauty of this leaf as foliage designs. Islamic art has also used this awesome motif.

Illuminated Book of Hours with acanthus leaf as ornamental border, 1406–09 A.D

File:Rosewater sprinkler, Mughal dynasty, c. 1700, India, silver and gilt silver - Freer Gallery of Art - DSC05183.JPG

Mughal rose water sprinkler, acanthus motif design, 1700 A.D

Detail from the facade of the Cathedral in Syracuse, Italy, 18th century. 

File:Morris Acanthus Velveteen 1876.jpg

Acanthus block-printed cotton velveteen designed by William Morris, 19th century.

                                     Image result for acanthus motifs

Cushion cover, acanthus design, 21st century. (Image from Amazon.com)

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : some flora depictions

 

     Nature has always inspired man and his creations. He has embellished them by things he has seen around him. Flora like flowers,trees,foliage,fruits,lotuses,creepers,honeysuckles and fauna like elephants,horses,camels,bulls,birds like swans,parrots have all been depicted in scenes and decoration on religious shrines, temples and other monuments across India, over centuries.  Sculpture depictions on religious monuments using flora and fauna was as per the relevance of the subject and artistic convention of the time and region. In Buddhist art the bodhi tree, the jambu tree ,the sala and the asoka tree are very significant as they are part of Lord Buddha’s life. He was born in a sala grove under an asoka tree, mostly meditated under jambu trees and attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree. Trees, flowers et al. were used decoratively to enhance the sculptural composition for  a more splendid effect. Palm trees, kalpavrikhshas, some fruit trees like sita-phal (custard apple), coconut,mango and banana have all been used as motifs. Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling divine tree)with rectangular fruits is found at Aihole and another one at Ellora datable to 10th century. Floral depictions use the roundel  frequently in sculptural art which has a common motif . The roundel could have another decorative motif within. A naga is depicted inside the roundel on ceiling sculpture of 8th century Alampur temples in Telangana in South India. Lotus is the national flower of India and is the most popular motif. It is associated with poornaghata or pot of plenty. Plenty includes health, wealth and a long life. Lotus represents abundance, purity and fullness of life. Sculptors used various motifs from nature to decorate pillars,ceilings,borders,facades and pilasters.The creeper,honeysuckle,scrolls have all been used as motifs.

     The terracotta temples at Bengal have also used the floral motif to heighten the impact and decoration of the plaques and sculptures. Floral medallions and designs surround many creations and themes. Floral borders depict the mastery of the craftsman, as one can see from the examples below which serve as illustrations. Islamic influence on the designs can be felt at some places.

   The depictions below are of a twin temple at Baidyapur, Bardhaman district of West Bengal. Probably built around 1550 by Shubhananda Pal, the temple is a classic example of rekha deul architecture The temples are connected by a corridor. This type of temple is called a jora-deul. The floral motifs are prominent and striking; sculpted  centuries ago !

Twin temples, Baidyapur, Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51806013

Floral motifs at twin temples at Baidyapur, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51789270

Vegetal designs at twin temples at Baidyapur, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51789275

         The Lalji temple has 25 spires and is a Panchavimshati-Ratna. It was built by Braja Kishori Devi, the wife of Maharaja Jagat Ram in 1739. Built of bricks, and the walls are covered with terracotta figures. The panels depict ornate floral designs. One can also see the seamless motifs in vegetal patterns.

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Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

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

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 7.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950067

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Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951738

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. The seamless designs and the floral patterns are awe-inspiring to the onlooker.

 

Shyamrai temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

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

Motifs at Shyamrai Temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

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

Motifs on pillar, Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

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

Jor Bangla Temple (arches) Arnab Dutta 2011.JPG

Floral medallions, below arches at Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,Bankura, West Bengal.

By Jonoikobangali – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14932883

Terracotta Lotus Medallion - South Wall - Palpara Temple - Nadia 2013-10-20 3700.JPG

Terracotta Lotus Medallion, Palpara Temple,Nadia,West Bengal. 

By Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35082415

 

 

References :

  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Indian terracotta art/Ganguly,O.C, Bombay : rupa and Co,1959.
  • wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Kalpavriksha or tree of life : depictions from Asia

 

 The concept of the tree of life, wish fulfilling tree  exists in many cultures. In India the word used is kalpataru or kalpavrikhsha.  Also known as Kalpadruma, it  is a divine tree in Hinduism. It has been mentioned in Sanskrit  literature like Manasara, part of Shilpashastra  and Jain cosmology.  Some depictions in art are mentioned  herein from Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka in India and Java in Indonesia.

    The birth of the kalpavriksha happened during the samudramanthan or churning of the ocean as per Hindu mythology. Along with the tree, the wish fulfilling cow kamadhenu was also born. Lord Indra is supposed to have taken them to heaven, devaloka, along with him and planted it there.  As per mythology  there are five kalpavrikshas; mandana, parijata, santana, kalpavrikhsa and harichandana. All these are believed to grant different wishes to the  devas or gods and out of jealousy the asuras or demons waged wars with them. Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati gave away their daughter Aranyani to a Kalpavriskha for safekeeping when the demon Andhakasura waged war, with a request to bring her up as Vanadevi, or protector of forests. Another daughter Ashokasundari was created from a Kalpavriksha to be a companion to Parvati during period of loneliness.

     The banyan tree or nyagrodha is called kalpataru; the coconut tree whose every part is utilised by human beings for various purposes,the ashwatha (fig) tree, believed to be sacred, mahua tree, shami tree or jaant  of Rajasthan which stays green always and checks soil erosion is also referred to as kalapataru. A variety of palm is considered as kalpataru in Tamil Nadu in India. The Baobab or Parijata  tree is called kalpavriksh in Uttar Pradesh, believed to have been brought by Arjuna, one of the main Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata.    

      The Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, India has many depictions of the bodhi tree which is shown as being worshipped for its association with Lord Buddha. The bodhi tree is an akshaya vata, eternal, life giving tree. Originally commissioned by King Ashoka in 3rd century B.C many structures were added to the stupa complex by other dynasties. Scenes from Lord  Buddha’s life are sculpted on the toranas (gateways) and other structures in and around the stupa.

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

Photographed at the Sanchi Hill, Raisen district of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India.

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

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

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

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

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

      A Hindu temple at Java in Indonesia Candi Prambanan from the 9th century is dedicated to the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The temple has pointed architecture with a large complex of many individual shrines. The epics Ramayana and Bhagavata-purana are depicted along the inner balustrade walls of the main shrines. The kalpataru is depicted on the lower outer wall niches.

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Kalpataru guarded by Kinnara and Kinnari, mythical beings at Candi Prambanan, Java, Indonesia.

By Gunawan Kartapranata (Own work originally uploaded in english wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Kalpataru and Kinnara, Siva Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (043 Kalpataru and Kinnara, Siva Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and peacocks, Vishnu Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java,Indonesia.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (124 Kalpataru and Peacocks, Visnu Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

image013.png

Kalpataru and lions, Nandi Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java,Indonesia.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (129 Kalpataru and Lions, Nandi Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and monkeys, Brahma Temple,Candi Prambanan , Java, Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (085 Kaplataru and Monkeys, Brahma Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

     In Jainism too the kalpavrikshas are wish fulfilling trees. There are ten such trees who grant different wishes. The madyanga trees provides delicious drinks, the Bhojananga provides great food, yotiranga gives light, dopanga gives indoor light  The others  include pananga, turiyanga, bhusananga, vatthanga, alayanga, diviyanga who provide music, ornaments, mansions, utensils etc.

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Kalpataru, wall painting, Jain Basadi, Moodbidri, Karnataka,India

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

Ranakpur temple - Kalpavriksha leaf carving

Kalapavriksha  carving in marble, Jain temple at Ranakpur, Rajasthan, India.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pbarry ( Photo taken by Patrick Barry)

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author

Flora in Indian art : depictions in sculpture

Nature has always inspired man and his creations.He has embellished them by things he has seen around him. Flora like flowers,trees,foliage,fruits,lotuses,creepers,honeysuckles and fauna like elephants,horses,camels,bulls,birds like swans,parrots have all been depicted in scenes and decoration on religious shrines, temples and other monuments across India, over centuries. In Buddhist art the bodhi tree, the jambu tree ,the sala and the asoka tree are very significant as they are part of Lord Buddha’s life. He was born in a sala grove under an asoka tree, mostly meditated under jambu trees and attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree.

Sculpture depictions on religious monuments using flora and fauna was as per the relevance of the subject and artistic convention of the time and region. Trees, flowers et al. were used decoratively to enhance the sculptural composition for  a more splendid effect. Palm trees, kalpavrikhshas, some fruit trees like sita-phal(custard apple), coconut,mango and banana have all been used as motifs. Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling divine tree)with rectangular fruits is found at Aihole and another one at Ellora datable to 10th century. Floral depictions use the roundel  frequently in sculptural art which has a common motif .

The roundel could have another decorative motif within. A naga is depicted inside the roundel on ceiling sculpture of 8th century Alampur temples in Telangana.

Lotus is the national flower of India and is the most popular motif. It is associated with poornaghata or pot of plenty. Plenty includes health, wealth and a long life. Lotus represents abundance, purity and fullness of life.

Sculptors used various motifs from nature to decorate pillars,ceilings,borders,facades and pilasters.The creeper,honeysuckle,scrolls have all been used as motifs.

The Great Stupa at Sanchi, in the Raisen district of present day Madhya Pradesh was built in 3rd century B.C, contains the relics of Lord Buddha.  It was initially commissioned by Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty. It has a hemispherical brick structure for the relics and four elaborately carved toranas. Floral motifs have been  used to decorate the stupa at various places.image001.jpg

Sculpture at The Great Stupa, Sanchi Madhya Pradesh

By Travel Miles With Smiles – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49650399image003.jpg

Sculpture at the Great Stupa,Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

By Travel Miles With Smiles – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49650395

The Chennakesava temple built by Somanatha Dandanayaka, a commander under Hoysala king, Narasimha III. Built on stellate platform or jagati, it is a trikuta ie. having three shrines dedicated to Kesava, Janardhana and Venugopala, various forms of Lord Vishnu of the Hindu trinity. The shrines are connected to a hall or mantapa by vestibules which have their own towers called Sukanasi. The ceiling of the mantapa is supported by pillars and is ornately decorated with multi-petalled lotuses, banana bud motifs along with snake like knots.

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Ceiling of  mantapa at Chennakesava temple,Somnathpura, Karnataka

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33451919

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Ceiling of  mantapa at Chennakesava temple,Somnathpura, Karnataka

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33451922

The Amrutheswara temple at Karikere in Chikmagalur district of present day Karnataka was built in 1196 A.D by Amruteswara Dandanayaka, a commander under Hoysala king Veera Ballala II. The temple is a single shrine with a closed mantapa connecting to a larger mantapa. Pillars support the ceiling which has inner ceiling structures in floral designs.  The mantapa walls have decorations inspired by foliage patterns.

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Decorations at Amrutheshwara temple, Karikere,Karnataka

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30037813

The Rani Rupavati mosque at Mirzapur at Ahmedabad in present day Gujarat  was built between 1420 and 1440 A.D during the reign of Ahmed Shah I ,by Mahmud Begada who married Rupavati. The mosque is an amalgam of Islamic and Hindu styles of architecture with a high central arch with three imposing domes connected by a flat roof.Intricately carved foliage and creeper inspired designs can be seen on  minarets at the mosque.

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Decorative detail on a minaret at Rani Rupavati’s mosque, Gujarat

By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31055604

The Adhai din ka jhonpda is a mosque in Ajmer city in present day Rajasthan built between 1192-1199 A.D under orders of Mohammad Ghori, by Qutub-uddin-Aibak ;futher beautified by Iltutmish in 1213 A.D. The structure has amazing Indo-Islamic architecture and shows both Hindu and Jain features. It was built on the remains of a Jaina Sanskrit institution after the original building was partially destroyed. The orders were to build the mosque in two and a half days hence its name. Only a brick screen could be completed in that much time. Another opinion holds the name is to signify the temporariness of human life on earth. The word jhonpda started being used when fakirs gathered there to observe annual death anniversary of their saint-masters.

Designed by Abu Bakr of Herat, the structure has 10 domes and of the total 344 pillars, 70 remain. Arabesque floral and foliate patterns are seen in geometric symmetry in window details, gates,niches and minarets.image013.jpg

Window at Adhai din ka jhonpda, Ajmer, Rajasthan

By Varun Shiv Kapur from New Delhi, India – Window detail, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43682893

The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperors and the political centre of the Mughal government. It was constructed by Shahjahan in 1648 in red sandstone, hence its name Lal qila or Red Fort. Among its many structures, Diwan-i-aam is the public audience Hall which the emperor used for address and for state functions. Its columns and arches show amazing craftsmanship. Floral patterns are used profusely to create a brilliant effect with the jaali .

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Jaali decoration at the Diwan-i-aam at Red Fort, Delhi

By Royroydeb – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31826723

 

References :

Suresh, K.M./Temples of Karnataka; Delhi :Agam Kala Prakashan,2003.

Srivastava,A. L./Life in Sanchi sculpture;New Delhi : Abhinav Publications,1983.

Ansari,Amir/A complete book on Mughal architecture history;New Delhi : Cyber Tech Publications,2010.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in

 

Posted by : Soma Ghosh