Category Archives: sculpture of india

Mathura art : varied images from ancient India

       Mathura is a bustling city in Uttar Pradesh in present day India. The region has a long history of human occupation. Great art has been created there under different patronages by different dynasties who ruled the area from ancient times. This genre of art which grew around the town of Mathura, an important city in central northern India since Mauryan times and which has been differently known as Madhura, Madhupuri, Madhuban and Mathula. It is believed that the demon Madhu is the founder of the city. His son lost it to Shatrughna, brother of Lord Rama. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna and has been a centre for art, religion and literature. It is debated that the first image of Lord Buddha was created here. Lord Buddha visited Mathura twice. and Buddhism flourished here.

File:Standing Buddha, Mathura, India, 1-99 AD, sikri sandstone - Fitchburg Art Museum - DSC08847.JPG

Standing Buddha, Mathura, India, 1st century AD, Sikri sandstone – Fitchburg Art Museum, U.S.A

         Around 70 B.C the Indo-Greeks occupied this area for a century, while the Sunga dynasty stayed eastward of Mathura. The art which developed around the region started with sculptures of the yakshas,yakshis; earthly divine beings dating to 2nd-1st century B.C during the Mauryan rule. These sculptures showed Greek influence. The Indo-Scythian rule happened under the northern satraps under Rajuvula who had taken over from the Mitra dynasty which had come to power around 70 B.C. The Rajuvula dynasty recorded their events  on the Mathura lion capital. The capital has two lions and the Buddhist triratna symbol at the centre within a flame palmette, which is again Hellenistic in character. The art of Mathura is a blend of Indian art of Bharhut and Sanchi and Gandhara art with the use of Hellenistic motifs. The images of yakshas, yakshis, nagas, Bodhisattvas and Lord Buddha, several forms of Tirthankaras and the Hindu pantheon of Gods and Goddesses have contributed to this art school. Pre-Mauryan burnt clay or terracotta figurines from 4th century B.C have been found of the Mother Goddess. One can find amorous couples from the 2nd to 1st century.

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The Mathura lion capital,  British Museum, London.

During Mauryan times folk art representations like huge yakshas, yakshis, Kubera figures have been found, though not very refined in form.The Sunga period sculptures were not very refined too with a lack of emotion on the face, heavy ornamentation, flat features, fluffy one-sided turban with a crest are seen. Basement stones, pillars, gateways with both secular and religious themes are found. The worship of the Buddha are denoted by sacred symbols only.

File:Roundel with the head of a nobleman, India, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, c. 1st-2nd century CE, pink sandstone, HAA.JPG
Roundel with the head of a nobleman, Mathura, 1st-2nd century A.D, pink sandstone, Honolulu Academy of Arts,U.S.A

Emperor Kaniska I of the Kushana dynasty issued the first known representation of Lord Buddha on a coin. He also depicted Maitreyi Buddha and Shakyamuni Buddha. Mathura art incorporated many Hellenistic elements like curly hair, folded garment, covering of only one shoulder given India’s climate Gandhara influence on the art is also seen especially in the Bacchanalian scenes, statue of Heracles strangling the lion. From the Kusana period focus was on stone sculpting, during 1st century to 3rd century wherein the range grew and artists mingled with foreigners  and all religions flourished together. Lord Buddha is the human form was generated in stone during the Kushana empire; drapery was seen having folds, the women had beautiful expressions on their faces. The Jataka stories were also being depicted during the time.

File:Indian Museum Sculpture - Sibi Jataka, 2c, Mathura (9220825920).jpg

Sibi Jataka, 2nd century, Mathura, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

The art of Mathura has seen many upheavals along with political currents. Many objects and sculptures have been found in and around the region with archaeologists like Alexander Cunningham and F.S Growse recovering many during excavations. The Chinese traveller Fa-Hien, came to Mathura in 4th century A.D and mentions twenty monasteries along both sides of the river  Yamuna. They are now seen in the form of mounds; Kankali Tila, Saptarsi Tila, Jail Tila  among others.

The Bodhisattva Maitreya, 2nd century,

Bodhisattva, 2nd century, Mathura, Musee Guimet, Paris.

The Hindu art at Mathura started to develop from the 1st century to 2nd century B.C. The Hindu deities were well represented. Also explicit and stylised images of women. Yaksha worship was an ancient cult and an inscribed one has been found at Parkham village of Mathura. The Gupta rule between 325 AD to about 600 A.D saw the finest sculptures produced with transparent drapery, love and beauty got depicted, light ornaments, straight nose, curved eyebrows and thick lips were seen. From the 7th century, a general decline happened with the art of Mathura.

 

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Vishnu statue from Mathura, 5th century, Gupta period.,Uttar Pradesh State Museum, Lucknow.

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Manibhadra, ”yaksha” from Parkham, 3rd to 2nd century, Mathura.

File:'Frieze with Worshippers' from Mathura, c. 150 CE, Norton Simon Museum.JPG

Frieze with Worshippers from Mathura, Uttar Predesh, India, c. 150 A.D, sandstone, Norton Simon Museum, California, U.S.A

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Lord Vishnu with ayudhapurushas, Mathura.
File:Architectural fragment with owl and palm design, Mathura, Northern India, 2nd century AD, sandstone - San Diego Museum of Art - DSC06348.JPG
Owl depicted in an exhibit, Mathura art, San Diego Museum of Art, California, USA. 
File:Head of a Buddha statue, India, Mathura, Gupta period, 4th-5th century AD, sandstone - Linden-Museum - Stuttgart, Germany - DSC03810.jpg
Sculpture, Gupta period, 4th to 5th century A.D, Mathura art, Linden-Museum, Germany.
File:Bhutesvara Yakshis Mathura reliefs 2nd century CE front.jpg
Bhutesvara yakshis, Mathura, 2nd century A.D, Indian Museum, Kolkata.
References :
  • Masterpieces of Mathura Museum/Jitendra Kumar, New Delhi : Sundeep Prakashan, 2002.
  • wikipedia.org
  • Images from Wikimedia Commons
Posted by :
Soma Ghosh
©author
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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.

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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.

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Fencing, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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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.

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Woman warrior, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sage Agastya, sculpture, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Peacock in art : images from sculpture

       The peacock is a charming, graceful bird. It has magnificent tail feathers and a curved blue neck. The tail feathers can be opened up into a resplendent display when the bird dances. It is one of nature’s most splendorous sights. The peacock is the National Bird of India. it is a popular art motif in India since yore. In Sanskrit the bird is called mayura and In Hindi, mor.  Zoologically the bird’s name is Pava cristatus and it  is from the family of pheasants, quails, partridges and snowcocks.The peacock has a fan-shaped pretty crest which adds to its beauty. A peacock’s forelimbs are modified into wings and two hindlimbs are for general mobility. The male has the ornamental tail feathers called train  consisting of upto 150 feathers !

Related image

A peacock feather.

      The female is called peahen and is smaller in size.  It is a plain brown bird without the train. Fully white peacocks too are there but are bit rare. The peacock rejoices on seeing the clouds and is often called meghananda. Found mostly in South Asia and Far Eastern Asia. Peacocks have been depicted in India since Harappan times. The peacock is India’s favourite bird in the Rigveda. The peacock was a favourite among the Indus Valley people, peacock has been depicted in folk literature too! Peacock was the totem of the Mauryan rulers, a word derived from mor or mayura.  and has been found on  stones used for the palace of Chandragupta Maurya. The peacock is an important component in the Jataka tales.

   Peacock is found at the railings of the Bharhut Stupa dating to 1st century B.C, now seen at the Indian Museum, Kolkata. the northern gateway of the Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, from 2nd-1st century B.C depicts peacocks in pairs with their long tails. There are many sculptural depictions of the peacock across India across centuries.

File:017 Maya on Lotus, Couple on Horse, and Peacock (33772351266).jpg

Peacock motif, Great Stupa, Sanchi, 2nd to 1st B.C, Madhya Pradesh.

By Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand (017 Maya on Lotus, Couple on Horse, and Peacock) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

   The peacock is associated with Lord Kartikeya or Murugan as his vehicle or vahana. Lord Murugan is the Commander-in-chief of the Gods in Hinduism. He vanquishes Tarakasura. To achieve this Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) gave his son, the peacock to him. Lord Shiva gave him a locket and  Indra gave him a string of pearls. The other gods gave him different powers. Agni gave him a shula  or spear, Brihaspati gave him a danda or club, Ganga gave him a kamandala (pot for water).

Kartikeya depicted on his peacock in upper left, on a Nataraja relief on Temple 1; Ganesha in upper right corner, Parvati in lower left and a musician is in lower right, Jageshwar Temples, Uttarakhand, 7th-12th century .

By Nitin Sharma – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28550582

File:6th - 8th century Hucchimalli Gudi Temple in Rekhanagara style, Kartikeya on peacock, Aihole Hindu monuments Karnataka.jpg

Kartikeya on peacock, Hucchimalligudi, 8th century, Aihole, Karnataka.

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

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Abhaneri temple, 7th/8th century, Rajasthan.

By Arpita Roy08 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

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Kolaramma temple, Kolar, 11th century,Karnataka.

By Shailesh.patil [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

File:12th-century Kama Artha Dharma Moksha relief at Shaivism Hindu temple Hoysaleswara arts Halebidu Karnataka India 5, lower panel shows musicians and dancing peacocks.jpg

Lower panel of relief depicts musicians and dancing peacocks, 12th-century, Hoysaleswara temple, Halebidu, Karnataka.

 

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

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Jaisalmer Palace and Fort, 12th century, Rajasthan.

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

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Chennakesava temple, Somnathapura, 13th century, Karnataka.

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Le temple de Chennakesava (Somanathapura, Inde)) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Friezes in Lakshminarasimha temple at Javagal.JPG

Lakhsminarasimha temple, Javagal,13th century, Karnataka.

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

 

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Achyutaraya temple,Hampi, 16th century, Karnataka.

By Vu2sga [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

 

References :

  • Peacock in Indian art,thought and literature/Krishna Lal, New Delhi : Abhinav Publications, 2006.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

@author

 

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….on.to 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.

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Lepakshi temple shikharas, Lepakshi.

By Mahesh Telkar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20994747

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

By Vinu raj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21136957

        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.

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Siva Parvathi Kalyanam. Lepakshi.

Pponnada at English Wikipedia [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

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Nagalinga, Lepakshi temple, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

By Narasimha Prakash (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, 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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, 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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, 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.

File:Carvings of Vijayanagar period , Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi.jpg

Carvings, Lepakshi temple, Andhra Pradesh.

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

File:Veerabhadra Temple 3.JPG

Carvings, Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

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

File:Carved pillars at Veerabhadra temple, Lepakashi.jpg

Carved pillars at Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

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

Image result for lepakshi temple

Carved pillars at Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi,Andhra Pradesh.

rajaraman sundaram [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Sapta matruka, lepakshi.JPG

Saptamatrika, Lepakshi temple, Andhra Pradesh.

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

Open-air-kalyana-mantapam.jpg

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

By Pponnada at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32718242

Celestial Seductress , Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi.jpg

Celestial dancer, Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

By Bikashrd – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51736272

 

References :

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

 

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

 

Architecture of Bengal : piety and variety

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

View of the central shrine

Somapura Mahavihara, Paharpur, Bangladesh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bishnupur Rashmancha.jpg

Rashmancha, Bishnupur ,West Bengal.

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

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

Madan-Mohan-Temple-of-Vishnupur.jpg

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

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

 

Raghunathjee Temple with Shiva as deity at Ghurisha.jpg

Char-chala, Raghunathjee Temple, Ghurisha.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Heritage.JPG

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

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

Bhukailash Shiv Temple 06.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Radhashyam Temple - Bishnupur.jpg

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

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

 

 

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

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

Kalna Lalji Temple.jpg

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

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

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

Kalna Pratapeswar Temple by Piyal Kundu.jpg

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

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

 

 

Deul (Temple of Ichai Ghosh).jpg

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

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

Deul at Banda, Purulia WLM2016-0207.jpg

Rekha deul, Banda, Purulia,West Bengal.

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

Mothurar Deol Faridpur.jpg

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

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

 

References :

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

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

Art history of Bengal : early terracottas

   Terracotta or baked clay has been used as a medium to create objects of beauty and utility and votive objects for rituals since ancient times. Clay is available in abundance in the Gangetic valley. The history of using clay goes back to 2nd century B.C.  Excavations at Pandu Rajar Dhibi, Chandraketugarh and other sites have revealed interesting figures made from terracotta. There have been evidences of the art from the Mauryan period from the excavations at Chandraketugarh, Tamluk and Bangarh. The figures are of folk origin made by hand using applique technique; the mother goddess and animal figures continue to be made and used for rituals in rural Bengal, having an ageless quality about them.

     Different types of figures have been found relating to the pre-Mauryan times. Beak-headed mother goddesses with pin-holes and large breasts, fertility goddesses with wide hips, wearing girdles with pin holes. Bull front with fan shaped shaped hump too has been found. During the Mauryan times, the torsos were modelled by hand, faces were moulded, dress and ornament were made separately and fixed. The women were portrayed with full breasts, heavy hips and resembling a fertility goddess. Different historical evidence as gleaned from the Indian epics and archaeological findings are indicative of Aryan settlements in North and south Bengal. but the Aryan culture took centuries to gel with the indigenous culture of Bengal. The excavations undertaken all over Bengal revealed that the maximum objects were made out of terracotta which tell us the story of Bengal from yore. Bengal temples find mention in the travelogue of Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang, Gupta period inscriptions and the illustrations of Buddhist manuscripts.

Male figure, Chandraketugarh, India, 2nd-1st century BC, terracotta - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01682.JPG

Male figure, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 2nd-1st century BC, Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

   Terracotta has been a material abundantly found during excavations and clay seems to have been a popular medium used by common folk to express themselves. Clay objects from 1st-2nd millennium B.C have been found at Pandu Rajar Dhibi. Excavations at Tamluk, Bangarh and Chandraketugarh  have resulted in terracottas which include male figures, fertility goddesses and yaksha/yakshi figures. the women figures are depicted wearing elaborate head-dress,knob-earrings,heavy bangles and neck-pieces. the dress and drapery have been done on these figures using applique technique. The terracotta art found at the ancient sites also reveal nagas, naginis, apasaras and kinnaras. The other art objects are toys, animals, birds, erotic motifs, narrative plaques and pottery with designs. Gupta period terracottas have been found at Birbhum district of West Bengal.

SungaFecondity2.jpg

Sunga fecondity deity or fertility goddess, Chandraketugarh, Sunga 2nd-1st century BCE. Musée Guimet,Paris. 

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Winged female deity, Chandraketugarh, India, 2nd-1st century BC, terracotta, view 1 - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01683.JPG

Winged female deity in terracotta , Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 2nd-1st century B.C, , Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

By Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45206173

 

    Yakshas and Yakshis resemble human figures but cannot be clearly identified as divine beings or ordinary mortals. They are associated with emblems, animals, birds and mounts.  During the Mauryan and Sunga period their images were frequently made and have been found at various sites. Kubera, the leader of the yakshas has been depicted too. Yakshis outnumber yakshas and are seen with hairpins, common in both West Bengal and North India. They wear heavy jewellery like ear kundalas, sirastraka, necklace and bangles.

Yaksha (Chandraketugarh).jpg

Terracotta yaksha, Sunga dynasty, 1st century BC, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

By Shakti – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14898695

          Toys  and animal figures in terracotta were made for children. Clay carts were most common usually the two or four wheeled chariot type cart. The animal depicted would be a ram or horse. Plaques depicting Jataka tales have been found at Chandraketugarh. Amorous couple have been found at Tamluk and Chandraketugrah.

Boy Feeding a Parrot LACMA M.85.35.1.jpg

Boy feeding a parrot, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 1st century B.C,  LACMA, USA.

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

File:Rattle in the shape of Kubera, India, West Bengal, Chandraketugarh, c. 200 BCE, terracotta, HAA.JPG

Rattle in the shape of Kubera,terracotta, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 200 B.C,  Honolulu Academy of Arts. U.S.A.

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Terracotta plaque of a yakshi (female nature spirit),  Bengal, 3rd-2nd century B.C, Honolulu Academy of the Arts, U.S.A.

By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17609527

 

References :

 

 

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : boats and ships

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

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur 3.JPG

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur.

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

 

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

Passenger boat, Calcutta, image,1895.

William Henry Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

Lalji Temple, Kalna,Bardhaman temple, West Bengal.

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

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

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

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

References :

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

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author