Category Archives: Temples of India

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.

Plan of Srirangam Temple. Burgess,1910.jpg

Layout of the temple complex, image.

Aerial photograph of Srirangam Island between Kaveri and Kollidam rivers.

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

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

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

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Sculpture, Srirangam temple.

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Yoga Narsimha, Srirangam temple.

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

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1000 pillar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

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Dancer and musicians, sculpture, Hall of 1000 pillars.

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

Elephant being led by his mahout, sculpture, Srirangam.

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

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

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

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Sesharayar mandapa, Srirangam temple.

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

Motif, Sesharayar mandapa,  Srirangam.

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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

 

 

 

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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.

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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

File:Le temple de Chennakesava (Somanathapura, Inde) (14281162159).jpg

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

 

File:PeacockAndSnake 01.jpg

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 Tadipatri

         The term Tadipatri means palm-leaf. It is a place in the Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, south of India. Tadipatri is famous for its awesome Vijayanagara temples with their style of art and architecture. Tadipatri came into prominence during Vijayanagara period. It was flourishing village during Chalukyas of Kalyani period. Vijayanagara kingdom was founded in 1336 A.D by brothers Harihara and Bukka when they declared independence from the Delhi Sultanatate. Tadipatri was developed by Nandela Viraraghavaraju. During the rule of Devaraya II Pemmasani chiefs emerged. The earliest member was Pemmasani Thimmanayudu who might have joined Vijayanagara service during Virupaksha period of 1460-85. His three sons were Ramalinganayudu, Yera Thimmanayudu and Chinna Thimmanayudu. The Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple was built by Ramalinganayudu, a shrine of Lord Shiva on the bank of the River Penna, between 1490 and 1509, after he succeeded his father in governance of Yadikisima. He was a notable chief under Krishnadevaraya (1509-29).

       The temple is built of granite, richly carved with the superstructures in brick and stucco. Schist stone has been used like the Hoysala temples.  Schist has been used in the gateways. The temple complexes at Tadipatri are well developed having  a main shrine and a devi shrine each with an open rangamandapa. The main shrines in this temple complex are of Ramalingeswara, Parvati and Lord Rama. The other smaller shrines of Chandesa and Virabhadra are to the north and south of the Ramalingeswara shrine.  Closed  mandapa with porches in cardinal direction is seen in the Ramalingeswara temple. The temple complex has a prakara   with gopurams to the south, west and north. There is a mandapa  having the navagrahas in the north-east and at the south west corner, there is a kalyanamandapa.

 

Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

 

Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

 

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Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple complex, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

       The main shrine stands on adishthana , has a mukhamndapa with porches on south and north sides, antarala and the garbagriha. The temple has rich sculpture in the niches, pillars and walls. The images of Lord Shiva include Kevalamurti in the gopura.  Also images as Sukhasanamurti, Dakshinamurti, Uma-maheswaramurti,Vrsabharudamurti, Natarja,Ardhanarimurti and Bhiksatanamurti. Chandeswara is seen in a small shrine north to the main Ramalingeswara temple. The gopuras depict Parvati seen in sambhaga  adorned with jewellery; the kiritamakuta,chandrakundala, kuchabandha,girdle and purnoruka.  Lord Ganesha is seen in diffrent forms of Sthanakamurti and Nrityamurti  or Dancing Ganesha. He is also  seen as Yanakamurti or the riding form. He is seen as asanamurti or in a seated form.

Temple view, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Andhra Pradesh.

    The Ramalingeswara temple has images of Kumara or Lord Murugan (Kartikeya) riding a peacock, standing or in seated position. Goddess Durga is seen depicted in the Gopura in various forms. Lord Brahma, Goddess Saraswati , Surya are also depicted. The saptamatrikas  Brahmi,Vaisnavi,Indrani, Chamunda, Maheswari,Kaumaari and Varahi are seen in the open mandapa. 

    Lord Vishnu is seen seated on adisesa in the Ramalingeswara temple. Lord Vishnu riding on Garuda is depicted at the north gopura of the temple. Goddess Lakshmi is is depicted on the north gopura of the the Ramalingeswara temple. There is a shrine dedicated to the 12th century reformer, Ramanuja. A tall figure in the southern gopura of a noble is of the builder with a tall conical cap and short waist cloth.

Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

          The temples at Tadipatri have upapithas. The wall pattern shows bays and recesses. Doorjambs have two or three  jambs, the broad jamb has salabhanjika sculpture. Ceilings are like a grid with coffers with lotus medallions or a  dome having three tiers and a big pendentive. Bas reliefs are mostly found at Tadipatrit temples. In the niches smaller deity figures have been placed.

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Carvings on ceiling, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

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Carvings, North gopura, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

Carvings, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

           Hoysala artistic  influence is seen in the sculpture;  similar motifs, kirtimukhas, floriate arches etc. There is resemblance in the jewellery depictions too.  Facial features have similar prominent eyeballs and high eyebrows. The art at Tadipatri bears resemblance to the Chennakesava temple at Pushpagiri. The temple depicts contemporary life depicting wrestlers, warriors, shepherds,hunting scenes, monkeys and horses.

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Carving of salabhanjika, Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. 

 

References :

  • Temples of Vijayanagara/Jayaprada, V, Delhi : Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 1998.
  • wikipedia.org

 

All Image attributions

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

 

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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

 

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 : music and dance depictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hangseswari temple, Hooghly, West Bengal.

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

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

References :

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

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : fauna depictions on temples

 

         Man is as much a part of the earth as is the nature around him. The best of nature exists as rocks, trees and animals. Some animals have played a big role in man’s life. He has captured them in art in sculpture,painting and even on coins as symbolic depictions. Fauna is a term used to represent animals in general. Various representations of fauna can be seen in different works of art, mythological story depictions and rock shelters from prehistoric times. Mughal emperors have left behind hundreds of animal and bird depictions in miniature paintings for posterity. The terracotta temples of Bengal have many animal depictions shown in interaction with humans in different capacities. Showcased are some fauna images from the temples. The animals include horses, oxen, elephants and tigers in combat too ! Dogs are seen on some illustrative panels along with the overall scene or procession depiction.

      The Jor-Bangla temple at Bishnupur, was built in 1655 A.D by King Raghunath Singha Dev. It is richly ornamented with terracotta carvings. The roof has the classic chala style of Bengal architecture. The carvings show animals in the panels and borders.

Jor Bangla Temple 3 Bishnupur.JPG

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

By Amartyabag – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522463

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur 4.JPG

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

By Amartyabag – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18522468

  The Shyamrai temple also at Bishnupur is an architectural gem classified as a pancharatna built by King Raghunath Singha in 1643. It is a brick temple, massive in scale and has superb ornamentation. The temple stands on a square plinth with a char-chala roof surmounted by ratnas at each corner. The chala type of construction has been derived from the thatched bamboo framework  roof design of huts of rural Bengal. The figurines at the temple are advanced and portray scenes from the epics. Depicted below is ratha or chariot in terracotta wherein horses can be seen. The main figure is surrounded by a geometric and floral motif.

         Terracotta work on 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

       Kantanagar at Dinajpur, Bangladesh (previously part of undivided Bengal) is home to  the Kantajiu temple from the 18th century. Kanta refers to Lord Krishna. Started by Maharaja Pran nath in 1704, this 50 feet high three storeyed brick temple rests on a platform and was completed by Raja Ram Nath in 1722 A.D. Originally the temple had nine spires but an earthquake destroyed them in 1897. Thus it was a navaratna.  The terracotta work at  outer walls of the temple with  scenes from the epics,floara, fauna and geometrical motifs. Animals like horses and elephants are  part of the portraiture. They can be seen with riders on them as part of the overall depiction and are wearing jewellery and bells. The detailing is very clear and reflects the superior craftsmanship of the terracotta artists.

Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh (12).JPG

Kantaji Temple, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.

By Shahnoor Habib Munmun – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8827772

                                  Terracotta work, Kantanagar temple.

By Md. Sarwar Ul Islam Fakir – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51808834

   The Lalji temple at Kalna, Bardhaman is a panchabhinsati ratna because of the 25 spires on its roof. It has exquisite terracotta panels on its outer walls and is built of brick like so many other temples of Bengal.  This temple was built in 1739 and has char-chala mandap in front. The temple also has some beautiful terracotta panels. The terracotta panels show lions and elephants in combat, horses drawing chariots or carrying their riders who are in combat ! Dogs are also depicted.

 

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 1.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

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

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer 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=51951638

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 9.jpg

Terracotta panel, Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950995

WLM@WB-Terracotta Panel 21 of Lalji Temple in Kalna.jpg

Terracotta panel, Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51958006

         Animal depictions at other temples like Gopalji temple,Kalna and Rameswar temple,Kalna depict oxen pulling carts, horses with riders, tigers and elephants in combat mode. The figures convey a sense of movement and energy and refelct the innate skill of the craftsman of that time. Terracotta is used to this day to carve and sculpt animals  which are iconic craft items in status and are loved by  people.  The terracotta  horse is used as a symbolic sacrifice for fulfillment of wishes to appease the village God Dharmathakur in Bankura district of Bengal.

WLM@WB-Terracotta Panel 03 of Gopalji Temple in Kalna.jpg

Terracotta panel, Gopalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51782991

Rameswar Temple - Kalna - Terracotta Panel - Front Left Pillar - 1.jpg

Rameswar Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51788907

Terracotta Panel - Gopalji Temple - Kalna 2016-09-25 6480.jpg

  Terracotta panel, Gopalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51956495

Terracotta Panel - Gopalji Temple - Kalna 2016-09-25 6479.jpg

 

Terracotta panel, Gopalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51956493

 

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