Category Archives: sculpture of india

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

Shyam Rai Temple, Bankura.JPG

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

 

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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

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : jewellery depictions

       Jewellery has always occupied an important place in the social and cultural life of India. Initially men and women used natural material for beautification of the body like leaves  and flowers followed by beads using other type of material. In course of time, metals like gold  was  used to make ornaments which continues to this day.

  The figure of the bronze dancing girl found at Mohenjodaro, one of the Indus valley sites depicts her wearing necklaces and a number of bangles. Gold, silver and ivory, copper, bone, shell and terracotta have all been used to make ornaments. Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro yielded variety of beads  which were strung together and worn as armlets, bracelets, necklaces and girdles.

Vedic texts make enough references to jewellery and its use to decorate the body. The Ramayana and Mahabharata, India’s great epics describe jewellery elaborately. When Sita daughter of King Janaka gets married to Lord Rama, she is bedecked with ear ornaments, nose ornament, chandrahaar , bracelets, anklets with bells etc. her head ornament the chudamani is believed to have been given to her father by Kubera, the God of wealth himself. Lord Rama wears pearls on his crown, and as ear-rings and around his neck. Yudhistira loses a rare pearl during his gambling game with the Kauravas in the Mahabharata.

  Buddhist and Jaina literature mention ornaments. The Jataka tales mention jewellery including those worn by elephants and horses. The Kalpasutras, Jaina texts describe different ornaments.

   In ancient India, following the Indus valley times and the Vedic era, the ascendancy of the Mauryan dynasty unified the Indian subcontinent. Trade routes opened and rare and new gems came to India. The Arthshastra written in 3rd century B.C by Kautilya describes jewellery types. Jewellery was worn both by men and women. The yakshi from Didargunj, Patna wears a headband, a pendant, girdle on her waist and anklets. Terracotta figures from this age also depict jewellery. Bharhut, Sanchi, Bodhgaya and Amaravati are attributed to the Sunga and Satavahana phase of Indian history. Their art reveals a variety of ornaments used on head,ears,neck,arms,waist and feet. Motifs were drawn from nature or religion. Short necklaces were called Kanthi and in case it had a large pearl as  a centre-piece it was called sirshak. A necklace having alternate gold and pearl beads was called ApavartikaRatnavali was a necklace having many gems, pearls and gold beads. Shankhavalayaswere made of conch, ratnavalayas set with precious stones, jalavalayas were bracelets with perforations. Mekhala,Kanchi,rasana and sarasana were different type of girdles. Various names have been assigned to anklets such as manjira tulakoti, nupura, padangada,hamsaka and palipada and kinkini for the ones with bells. Trade was prevalent between South India and Rome at the beginning of Christian era and the gold which came in was converted into jewellery. Jewellery of Satavahanas is described inGathasaptasati written in Prakrit by a ruler. A circular jewel was placed in the centre of the usnisha(turban), kirita(a crown with jewels) was worn too. Women wore the chudamani and the makarika(crocodile shaped jewel) was also very popular. Ear kundalas were in vogue. The phalakahara consisting of gold slabs as very popular among necklaces.

      The jewellery of Taxila and adjoining townships of Sirkap and Sirsukh have revealed a blend of Indian, Greek, Persian and Greco-Roman in design and form. This is because the city was built and destroyed many times between 500 BC to 500 A.D. by invaders like the Greeks, Mauryas of Magadha, the Bactrian Greeks, the Sakas, the Parthians, the Kushanas and the Huns.

 The Sungas replaced the Mauryan dynasty. Bharhut sculptures are seen wearing a variety of ornaments. Ear-rings were termed Karnika or kundala if they were ring shaped. A single string of beads was called ekavali. Armlets were very much in use. Bracelets were also worn, girdles were worn by women. Hair ornaments kept hair in place. Sakas, Parthian and later the Kushanas followed the Sunga rule. This had an impact on the society of ancient India as they came from Central Asia and influenced indigenous art and craft of India.

 

File:Chandraketugarth, epoca sunga, dea della fecondità, II-I sec. ac. 02.JPG

Fertility deity. Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh.

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

       Kanishka, a Kushana ruler patronised art and his rule was from Bactria to Magadha and Kashmir to Saurastra. Gandhara was an important centre with Roman influence and the other was Mathura which was purely Indian. Jewellery has been excavated  from Taxila which include gold, copper, bronze pendants, bracelets, bangles and armlets. Kushan  jewellery is evident in the Gandhara and Mathura sculptures. The railing pillars at Mathura depict Yakshi with nupura(anklets), mekhala(girdles), hara(necklace), valaya(bracelets), bangles, ear-rings and finger-rings. The excavations at Chandraketugarh in West Bengal of the Sunga era too have revealed many fertility goddesses, mother and child figures etc. The figures have adorned bodies with elaborate coiffure and jewellery. Head dress and fashion of hair dressing is evident form figures found at Pandu Rajar Dhibi in west Bengal. They are seen wearing a conical helmet like hairdo; and also a fan shaped one! The mauryan hairstyles depict neatly combed hair and hairdos with bi-cornate arrangement. Decorative hairpins are seen on Sunga-Kushana figures. along with jewelled bands. used to tie the braid. These head ornaments are though to be the prototype of the kiritamakuta. Forehead ornaments like tikli can be seen on women. The tikli can be seen having radiating beaded strings. Kundalas or ear ornaments were worn by both men and women. Over-sized ear studs with floral motifs have been depicted too. The neckpieces are a study in itself. Women wore neck collars like the hasuli or a choker.  The necklaces are the haras. Long beaded necklaces are seen on the figures, some reaching the navel. The valayas or bracelets were worn by both men and women. They were heavy and the keyura or armlet also used to be worn. Girdles were worn at the waist either single or of more than one string made up of discs spaced by beads.

SungaMasculine.jpg

Sunga masculine figure, Sunga 2nd-1st century B.C, Chandraketugarh,  Musée Guimet,Paris.

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1062807SungaWithChild.jpg

Mother and child, Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal.

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1062813

    Yaksha and yakshis, who were semi -divine beings and resemble human figures, were associated with emblems,animals, birds and mounts. The Yakshis which have been discovered at the archaeological sites of Mauryan and Sunga period outnumber the yakshas (male). Seen with hairpins, these yakshis were common both in Bengal and North India. They are seen wearing ear kundalas, sirastraka, necklace and heavy bangles.

File:Plaque of a Yakshi (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century BCE, terracotta, HAA I.JPG

Plaque of a Yakshi (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century B.C, terracotta, Honolulu Academy of Arts, U.S.A.

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

      The late medieval temples of Bengal have many figures of both men and women, flora and animals. the jewellery is noteworthy. The animals like the horses and elephants are seen wearing jewellery too ! Adornment seems to have been away of life.  The Bankura horse also wears jewellery like the Chandmala on its forehead.

    Figurines over the wall of jor bangla temple.jpg

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Dyutiman86 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59899298

References :

  • H.Clifford Smith/The art of Jewellery; New Delhi :Bharatiya Kala Prakashan,
  • M.L.Nigam/Indian jewellery;New Delhi : Roli Books, 1999.
  • Jamila Brijbhushan/Masterpieces of Indian jewellery; Bombay : D. B Taraporewala and Sons,1983.
  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Bengal temples/Dutta, Bimal Kumar , New Delhi : Mushiram Manoharlal,1975.
  • wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : depictions from the Ramayana

    The temples of Bengal (undivided) are well known for the intricate terracotta work and carvings. The themes depicted are many. Among them the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are also seen at many places. Scenes and characters from the epics are sculpted.

         Showcased below is a a terracotta creation from a temple at Surul, a village in Birbhum, West Bengal  adjacent to Visva-Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Depicted below are scenes from the epic Ramayana. The battle between Lord Rama and Ravana at Lanka has been sculpted above the arch.

File:Surul 2.JPG

Terracotta carving of Ramayana, Surul , Birbhum, West Bengal.

Pic source : wikitravel.org

      The Ramayana was composed by Sage Valmiki (5th century B.C to 1st century B.C , ie. more than 2500 years ago. It is the story of Lord Rama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu of Hinduism. It has over 24,000 verses spanning 5 chapters and is the longest epic poem of Hinduism. Rama is the prince of Ayodhya , eldest son of King Dasaratha. Rama is to succeed him but King Dasaratha’s second wife Kaikeyi wants her son Bharata to be on the throne. She schemes against Rama and sends him along with his wife Sita into exile for 14 years. During this time Sita is kidnapped by demon king Ravana of Lanka. However with the help of his brother Lakhsmana , who accompanies him on his exile and the monkey general Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, Sita is rescued after a fierce battle. After the exile they come back to Ayodhya and Lord Rama is crowned king. They have two sons Lava and Kusha. However Sita is accused of being unfaithful and asked to prove her chastity. She prays to Mother Earth and vanishes for ever but is immortalised; as per the epic. Ramayana is very popular and  Rama and Sita are thought of as  ideals and their victory is taken as the victory of good over evil. There are many sub-stories which teach valuable moral lessons. The great epic has been depicted in art since ancient times. There are miniature paintings, sculpture, modern paintings, translations in many languages, versions in other Asian countries, songs, films and television serials about the epic, given its timelessness and popularity.  Thus the terracotta  temples in Bengal (undivided) are no exception and could not escape the magic of this epic story.

 

Sage Valmiki, painting, unknown artist.

By …, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1058109

File:Print Ramayana - Pages 49 and 50.jpg

Scene of the battle at Lanka between Rama with his forces and Ravana, print, British Library, London.

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

         The Kanta Nagar temple at Dinajpur in Bangladesh was built by Maharaja Pran Nath, started in 1704 and completed by his son Maharaja Ramnath by 1722. It is a magnificent edifice with fine terracotta carvings. The epics are depicted on the temple, some characters can be seen on the pillars too !

Dinajpur KantanagarMondir 11Oct12 IMG 3579.jpg

Kantanagar temple, Dinajpur,Bangladesh.

By Kazi Rashed Abdallah – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51935398

Detailing of terracotta on the Kantanagar temple's wall 02.jpg

Detailing of terracotta, Kantanagar temple,Bangladesh.

By Tanhaaa7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51471853

Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh (20).JPG

Terracotta, Kantajiu temple, Kantanagar, Bangladesh.

By Shahnoor Habib Munmun (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Kan-terra-cota-19.jpg

Kantanji’s Temple, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.

By Omar Shehab (omarshehab) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2595736

      The Radhabinod temple at Jayadev Kenduli, a village in Birbhum district of West Bengal depicts scenes from the  epic Ramayana. It is a navaratna temple, one having nine spires. Jaydev Kenduli was believed to be the birthplace of Jayadeva, the composer of Gita-Govinda from the 12th century, a classic Sanskrit work on Radha-Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavan. The gopis were the other cowherd girls who loved Lord Krishna. The land of Birbhum has been known as the land of red mud.

 The Radhabinod temple was built by Maharaja Kirtichand of Bardhaman in the 17th century.  The Ramayana scenes at the temple depicts the battle between the demons and the monkey army or vanar-sena.

Radhabinod Temple at Jaydev Kenduli, Birbhum,West Bengal.

By Chandan Guha – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6080659

Ramayana scene at Radhabinod temple, Jaydev Kenduli, Birbhum, West Bengal.

By Chandan Guha – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6080705

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 11.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=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

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 13.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=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

 

 

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