Category Archives: Temples of India

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

 

 

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Terracotta art of Bengal : magnificent Radha-Krishna images

       Many themes are portrayed in the terracotta plaques, or on the walls and facades of the temples of Bengal. The images of Radha-Krishna dominate many of the temples. The images are in monochrome format but manage to convey the much-loved presence of Lord Krishna with his flute, along with Radha or the other gopis. Such is the skill of the artist- craftsman or karigar. This technique has been perfected in a region where instead of granite or sandstone,  clay and laterite were available and used for building and sculpting on the walls of the temples.  The geological profile of Bengal is that of a fertile alluvial soil and laterite tracts in many districts covering Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, Midnapur and Malda.  Laterite has also been used during construction of Bengal temples. Episodes from the epics, the Puranas and everyday life including erotica has been depicted in some temples. Showcased are some Radha-Krishna images in terracotta which are both exquisite  in detail and awe-inspiring.

    The Ras-chakra depicts the Ras-lila.  Raslila is a celebratory dance done in the form of a ras-mandala  or ras-chakra by gopis along with Lord Krishna  Gopis are cowherd maidens who are smitten with Lord Krishna, Radha being the main among them.The Raslilais described in the Bhagavata-purana and Jayadeva’s Gita -Govinda. The word lila means play or act, whereas ras refers to emotion or essenceflavour/mood etc. It is difficult to find an exact synonym in the English language; raslila is a dance of  divine love.  It is believed that one night, on hearing Krishna playing on his flute, all gopis of Vrindavan left their homes and joined him in a dance in the forest or grove where they danced through the night. Lord Krishna manifested himself in multiple form and each gopi believed that he was dancing with her. A unique circle is formed in the raslila called the ras-mandala. The Bhakti tradition followers believe that the earthly romantic love  between human beings is a dilute form and the intense love for Krishna felt by the gopis is like the soul searching for the ultimate , the God divine in the spiritual realm. The gopis are believed to be shadows of Lord Krishna’s own form. A splendorous Raslila depiction  is seen at Shyamrai Temple at Bishnupur in Bankura district. Ornate floral medallions are seen around the depiction.

Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur 8.JPG

Ras-lila depiction, 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

The Ras-lila is a popular theme and has been depicted in the media of paintings too. Below is shown a Ras-lila depiction in painting from the Jaipur school from the 19th century.

Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila, Jaipur, 19th century.jpg

Radha-Krishna and gopis in Ras-lila, Jaipur, 19th century.

By Anonymous – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/130.1986/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4179978

     The Brindaban Chandra’s Math at Kalna has Radha-Krishna sulptures in terracotta with ornate floral patterns around the main figure to give an impression of symmetry. After the floral pattern, one can see medallions in different shapes to add to the overall effect.

Group of temples known as Brindaban Chandra's Math

Brindaban Chandra’s math, Ambika-Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Partha70007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21712965

BRINDAVANCHANDRA'S MATH 01, Ambika-Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.jpg

Radha-Krisha sculptures, Brindaban Chandra’s math, Ambika-Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sucheta Nag – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62097825

    The Brindaban Chandra Math from Guptipara, Hooghly has a complex of temples made from brick of the 18th and 19th century.

Guptipara - Temple Complex Brindaban Chandra's Math

Temple Complex, Brindaban Chandra’s Math,Guptipara, Hooghly, West Bengal.

Von Gautam Tarafder – Eigenes Werk, CC-BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51496851

A Radha-Krishna depiction with floral decoration around can be seen below. Radha seems to be lost in the soulful music being played by Lord Krishna on his divine flute.

Terracota work at Brindaban Chandra's Math.jpg

Brindaban Chandra’s Math, Guptipara, Hooghly, West Bengal.

By Partha70007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21712964

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 9.jpg

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=51950483

Pratapeshwar temple,Kalna,West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu \ পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5694032

 

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 Durga images

     The art of Bengal is synonymous with Terracotta . The powerful Durga worshipped as Mahisasuramardini during the Durga Puja every year has been rendered in this medium across the temples of Bengal. She is a most revered Goddess who protects her devotees from evil forces, both internal and external.

      Durga is an important deity from the Hindu pantheon. She is revered as a destroyer of evil. She is  a Goddess or a devi. The word devi in Sanskrit means divine or heavenly and a shining presence. The concept of devi first appeared in the Vedas in 200 B.C. but gained focus in Puranic literature with texts like the Devi Mahatmya. Goddess Durga reigns supreme and is the divine feminine as Devi in Hinduism and a divine mother as Mata. The legend of Durga appears as an avatar of Parvati, who is angry, ferocious and has eight to ten arms, holding weapons and skulls, riding a lion or tiger. She is a warrior goddess  who kills Mahisasura whom the male Gods were unable to control. Durga is a unified form of all Gods.She is one who saves a devotee from durgati or misfortune. Her mythology is described in the Devi Mahatmya, a part of the Markandeya Purana, from the 4th to 6th century.

   The images of Goddess Durga in terracotta are seen in the Bishweshwar temple at Sribati in Katwa, Bardhaman, Girigovardhan temple, Krishnachandraji temple at Kalna Bardhaman, Pratapeshwar temple also at Kalna in Bardhaman, Brindaban Chandra Math, Kalna, Ramachandra Temple at Guptipara, Hooghly, Rajarajeshwar temple at Kotulpur, Hooghly, Radhagovindjiu temple at Antpur, Hooghly, among others. Some terracotta images from the temples of Bengal are showcased for illustration.

    The Krishnachandraji temple at Kalna was constructed in 1751-55 AD.  It is a magnificent brick panchabimsati-ratna temple with an elongated chala type verandah in front having three arches as the entrances. The temple has beautiful terracotta plaques.  Goddess Durga is depicted at the temple flanked by her children.

Krishnachandraji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu / পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5732938

Terracota Panel in Krishnachandra temple WLM2016 DSC 5371.jpg

Krishnachandraji temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951981

      The construction of the Radhagovindjiu Temple at Antpur was completed in 1786 AD. It has exquisite terracotta carvings with Puranic stories. The 100 feet temple was built by Krishna Ram Mitra, the diwan of the Bardhaman Raj. Besides the Radha-Krishna images which are predominant,  the temple has the sculpture of Goddess Durga flanked by her children is noteworthy.

Radhagovindjiu Temple, Antpur, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3343649

Radha-govindjiu temple, Antpur,  Hooghly. 

By Piyal Kundu – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3347037

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 4.jpg

Goddess Durga, Terracottta 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=51949876

 

Terracota Panel on Pratapeswartemple DSC 5494.jpg

Goddess Durga, Pratapeshwar temple, Kalna, Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951996

Goddess Durga as Mahisasuramardini, idol at Durga Puja, 21st century.

By AKS.9955 (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

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Terracotta temples of Bengal : grandeur revisited at Kalna

     The area of Bardhaman in Bengal has been named after the 24th Jain tirthankara Mahavira Vardhamana. The area was called Bardhamanbhukti around 700 B.C, a part of Rarh.  One of the 16 janapadas of ancient India, the Magadhan dynasty, the Mauryas, the Kushanas, the Guptas have ruled it. The Gauda, the Pala, the Senas have ruled  before the Khilji powers.  Bardhaman was a paragana during Mughal period. Emperor Jahangir took the wife of Sher Afghan as his consort, the jagirdar of Bardhaman who was killed  near Bardhaman in 1606;  Meher-un-nissa, who later became Nur Jahan.  In  seventeeth century Raja Krishnaram Rai was made the zamindar of Bardhaman by Emperor Aurangzeb. The Rai family was the governing family of the area. Kirti Chandra Rai expanded his region and defeated the Raja of Bishnupur. Chitrasen followed and was given the title of Raja by the Mughals in 1740. He was succeeded by Tilakchand Rai when the British acquired Bardhaman and many other areas of Bengal.

  Against the backdrop of many a political  scene and happening, the town of Ambika Kalna or Kalna there have been lot temple building activity and construction of monuments like the Rajbari. Kalna is on the western bank of the Bhagirathi river.

  Kalna is home to many temples.  The Naba-Kailasha temple , Bijoy Vaidyanath Temple, Giri Gobardhan Temple,Gopalji Temple,Jaleswar Temple, Krishna Chandraji Temple Lalji Temple, Pancharatna Temple, Pratapeswar Siva Temple in Rajbari complex, Rameswar Temple, Ratneswar Temple and Rupeswar Temple.  A few temples are highlighted with the structures and carvings in terracotta reflecting the refined art technique of the time.

 

 

File:Kalna Temple Complex by Piyal Kundu.jpg

Rajbari complex,Ambika Kalna, Bardhaman,West Bengal.

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

  The Naba Kailash temple was built by Maharaja Teja Chandra Bahadur in 1809 ad these atchala brick Temples are made out of auspicious numerical combination in two concentric Circles and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The outer circumference contains 74 temples and inner circumference has 34 temples. The temples represent beads in a rosary symbolically. the outer  circle’s shrines have the linga made of black stone, and the inner circle’s shrines have the linga made from white marble. All the lingas can be seen from the centre of the temple complex.

 

Naba Kailash temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51920155

108 shiva temples in kalna.JPG

Naba Kailash temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Manojit Pati – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28070367

Inner Circle Entrance - Naba Kailash - Kalna 2016-09-25 6468.jpg

Inner Circle Entrance, Naba Kailash, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By BengaliHindu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51952698

108 Shiva Temple 5.JPG

     The Krishna Chandra Mandir was built in 1752 by Maharani Laxmi Kumari Devi. It has 25 spires. Epics are depicted on the walls of this beautiful temple.

Krishna Chandra Temple WLM2016-5327.jpg

Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Schwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51810228

WLM@WB-Krishna Chandraji Temple in Kalna 02.jpg

Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Indrajit Das – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51953945

Krishnachandratemple DSC 5372.jpg

Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Schwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951562

Terracota Panel in Krishnachandra temple WLM2016 DSC 5371.jpg

Krishna Chandra Mandir, Kalna, West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951981

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.

Lalji temple,Kalna,Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu / পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5702479

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 11.jpg

Lalji temple, Kalna, west Bengal.

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

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 2.jpg

Lalji temple, Kalna, west Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950707

Lalji Temple depicting terracotta sculpture, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Piyal Kundu / পিয়াল কুণ্ডু – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5702521

Rameswar Temple WLM2016 5174.jpg

Rameswar Temple, Kalna,Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51805016

Terrakotta Panel-Rameswar Temple WLM2016-5178.jpg

Rameswar Temple, Kalna,Bardhaman,West Bengal.

By Sujay25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51806016

Rupeswar Temple. Kalna. Burdwan.jpg

Rupeshwar temple,Kalna,West Bengal.

By Ajit Kumar Majhi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51566183

 

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

 

Temple of Gop : an ancient marvel in Western India

       The Gop temple is one of the oldest stone temples of Gujarat in Western India. It was built in late 6th or early 7th century. Located in the Jamnagar district it has Gandhara architecture with a square shrine. Surrounded by double courtyards it has a unique shikhara. It is on  the bank of Vartu river, south-west of Gop Hill of Barda Hills. The art is a blend of Gandhara and north Indian Gupta art styles, including Kushana influence.

Old temple, general view from the north-west, Gop, Gujarat.jpg

Gop temple, north west view, image,1874.

By Burgess, James, 1874 – http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/photocoll/o/largeimage62882.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44074068

Inscription on the left jamb of the door of temple at Gop, Gujarat.png

Inscription,Gop temple,Gujarat.

By James Burgess – Report on the Antiquities of Kutch & Kathiawar: Being the Result of the Second Season’s Operations of the Archaeological Survey of Western India, 1874-1875 p.187, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50922647

 

     The walls of the temple do not have any carvings, the shrine faces east like many temples in India. The shikhara is like a pyramid. The temple rests on a jagati  with a projection on the east but is otherwise square. There are three dormer windows called chandrasala which are on the slopes of the shikhara.  This temple was built by the Maitraka dynasty which was ruling Saurastra during the time. The Maitrakas came to power after the fall of the Guptas and are believed to have built over one hundred temples in the region.The Maitrakas ruled for over 250 years and are known to have given many grants for the construction of religious buildings. Their capital was Valabhi, an ancient sea port linking India with Persia and EuropeThe Chinese traveller Hsuen -Tsang  visited Valabhi in 640 A.D, the ancient capital of the Maitrakas.

      Large heavy blocks of stone have been used for the construction of the temple. There might have been steps to take the devotee to the entrance of the temple. The temple has been built without any cementing material. It is made of coursed ashlar which are 8 inches deep and jointed. The shikhara is made of six courses with one slab covering the apex with an amalaka on it. The dormer arches or chaitya windows of the shikhara in two tiers had sculptures of gods and a figure of Ganesha is still  seen on the temple’s west side. The holes which might have supported beams to hold the roof of the first inner courtyard can be seen clearly. The courtyards served as pradakshinapatha or circum-ambulatory path for the devotees. The yellow stone deities inside of the shrine are  Lord Rama with a high square mukuta or crown and Lakshmana with a lower  crown, believed  locally by people in the area.

File:Gop Gupta-Tempel 1999.JPG

Gop temple, image,1999.

By Arnold Betten (eigenes Foto (Dia)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

Wheels in art : some chariot images

 

Chariots have been an important aspect of warfare and have been used from very remote times. The Rigveda cites chariots and so does the Atharvaveda. Initially the fighter and charioteer used to be the same. Later the Brahmana texts mention the rathakaras ie. the chariot-keepers. The great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana mention charioteers accompanying the kings during combat. The most well known charioteer was Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Kurukshetra war of the Mahabharata. Charioteers needed  certain skills and were referred to by various names like the sarathi,rathin, suta etc. His duty was to manage and lead a chariot during war and obey the warrior on the chariot. He needed amazing skill in being able to advance quickly, turning and wheeling quickly and making circles.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra mentions a special officer to supervise the chariots and train the warriors. Chariots were also drawn by ox,mule and asses in case horses were not available. Chariots were of different types. Chariots which were used during war, chariots for training, chariots in daily life for conveyance etc. Chariots could be two-wheeled,four wheeled and eight wheeled. Chariots had their banners, flag-pole with dhwaja or ketu having symbols of animals, trees, flowers etc. The chariots had umbrellas and fans too. The use of chariots declined by the 7th century A.D as evident from the literary sources; not mentioning the chariot any more.

Some chariot depictions from Indian and Thai art are showcased ; the Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, temple built by the majestic Cholas in Tamil Nadu, the grand Surya Deul built by a Eastern Ganga dynasty king at Konark, Odisha, paintings on paper from Rajasthan,mural from Bangkok etc.

The Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh was originally commissioned by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. and more structures were added to it over time. The stupa is a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.The stupa has four toranas. Scenes from Lord  Buddha’s life and Jataka tales are carved on the toranas and the stupa complex.

image001

Carvings on the west pillar (chariot can be seen) of the North torana or gateway at Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh, India.

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

Subhadra is a character from Mahabharata who is the sister of Lord Krishna and Balarama. She was suggested as bride to Duryadhona by Balarama but Krishna wanted her to choose Arjuna. Being unsure that she would choose Arjuna, Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to kidnap her. Balarama though annoyed initially , later agrees and the marriage is conducted, as per the legend.

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Subhadra, half sister of Lord Krishna driving away in a chariot with Arjuna,lithograph, India.

By Original uploader was Sridhar1000 at te.wikipedia – Transferred from te.wikipedia; transfer was stated to be made by User:Fatbuu., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18636394

The Kurukshetra war is a part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, between  two groups who are cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas over agame of dice, for the throne of Hastinapura. They belonged to the Kuru clan. The war is said  to have lasted for eighteen days. The Mahabharata is dated to probably  around 3000 BC. The use of the chariot is evident from the art works created about the war. Lord Krishna was the charioteer to Arjuna; the Bhagavadgita being the advice given to him on the battlefield.

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Painting depicting the Kurukshetra war from the Mahabharata. Arjuna who is one of the Pandavas is in the chariot behind Krishna facing Karna, commander of the Kaurava army, painting from Kashmir or  Himachal Pradesh, India.

By Artist/maker unknown, India, Himachal Pradesh or Jammu and Kashmir – http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/70158.html, Public Domain,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8020925

image009

Bundi or Kota opaque watercolour and gold on paper painting, depicting the battle scene between Arjuna and Karna from the Mahabharata, 18th century, Rajasthan, India.

By Indian, Rajasthani, about 1740 –

http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/obverse-the-slaying-of-the-demon-pralamba-reverse-the-fight-between-arjuna-and-karna-149742, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18851070

Dronacharya or Guru Drona was teacher to the Kauravas and Pandavas; son of sage Bharadwaja who trained them in advanced military arts. His favourite pupil was Arjuna, who was most dedicated and talented; to him he taught the use of special astras or weapons.

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Illustration from a book ,Dronacharya riding in a chariot, scene from the Mahabharata, India.

By Ramanarayanadatta Sastri – http://archive.org/details/mahabharata04ramauoft, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21170710

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Illustration from a manuscript of the Kurukshetra war from the Mahabharata, probably 18th century, India.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=619546

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Gods look down upon the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas, painting,16th century, India.

By Unknown – http://www.warfare.altervista.org/Moghul/16thC/Arjuna_vs_Kauravas-Bhagavad_Gita-large.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18636412

The Ramayana, a great epic of India written by Sage Valmiki which narrates the life of Lord Rama. The epic is divided into seven books called kandas. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakhman, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are central to the story. There are versions of Ramayana in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and also Buddhist and Jaina adaptations.

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Hanuman , scene from the Ramakien(Thai Ramayana) depicted on a mural at Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, 1800, Thailand, Bangkok.

By Jpatokal – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=662542

The Rigvedic Gods Surya and Agni ride in chariots. Chariots have been depicted and documented not only in literature but alos on stupas; example as in Sanchi stupa in Madhya Pradesh. Chariots used by the Magadha king Ajatashatru had blades extending horizontally from each end of the axle during 475 B.C . Chariots were called ratha in India and can be seen in paintings and temples across India.

As mentioned ratha or chariots were of different types; the sangramik ratha for wars,deva ratha for the Gods, the Karni ratha for queens, the Vainayik ratha for training, the pushya ratha for royal processions and the kreeda ratha for races and competitions.

The temple at Konark; the sun temple or Surya Deul was built by the Eastern Ganga dynasty by King Narasimhadeva I in the thirteenth century. The entire temple complex is in the shape of a chariot  of the sun God Surya, having 24 carved wheels, being pulled by seven horses. The temple is known for its exquisite carvings.

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Sun temple at Konark, in the form of a chariot, Odisha, India

By Anshika42 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21548009

image014

One of the wheels of the Sun temple, Konark, Odisha

By Asitmonty, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31965266

The Cholas have built great temples like the ones at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda, Cholapuram and Darasuram between the 10th and 12th centuries. Darasuram near Kumbakonam at Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu has the Airavateswarara temple built by Rajaraja Chola II. As per legend Indra’s elephant Airavata worshipped Lord Shiva at this temple. Yama is also said to  have worshipped the deity Airavateswarar who cured him of a curse of a sage. The temple is rich in art; the main mandapa is called Raja Gambira as the elephant draws the chariot. Other beautiful carvings include a  ceiling carving of Shiva and Parvathi inside an open lotus and dance postures of Bharatanatyam.

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An exquisite chariot carved onto the mandapa of Airavateswarar temple,Darasuram, 12th century, Tamil Nadu, India.

By User:Ravichandar84, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26052023

 

References :

 

 

Posted by : Soma Ghosh