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Ritusamhara : a garland of seasons

          An epic poem by the celebrated poet of ancient India, Kalidasa from the Gupta era about the six seasons of India. A vivid, sensual and with frankly  erotic undertones, it is a work abounding with the shringara rasa.  This rasa is believed to be the source of all the other rasas; totally nine in number. The shringara rasa includes the feelings of erotic love,song, dance and decoration. Ritu means seasons and samhara means a group or compilation. A better translation of Ritusamhara would be a medley of seasons or a garland of seasonsRitusamhara has been translated into English, Tamil, Marathi etc.

    An early work of Kalidasa; though sometimes its authorship has been challenged. The six seasons portrayed are the grishsma, summer, the varsha or rains, sharat or autumn, hemanta or early winter, shishira or winter and vasanta the spring season. The poet has set lovers ,animals and the separated against the backdrop of nature in different seasons. The sensuality of the work is very raw; the moods captured by the poet in a primal form. Every canto ends with a blessing or benediction !

File:Henri Biva, Looking out onto a lake on a summer day, oil on canvas, 73 x 60.3 cm.jpg

Summer,landscape painting.

By Henri Biva (Christie’s London) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The poet describes the summer season or grishma first. The description is vivid with references to the searing heat and its effect on human beings and animals. The animals are thirsty, the men lacking in longing for their beloved and the separated looking up to the sky. The women are trying to rekindle passion in their lovers by various means.

   ससीकराम्भोधरमत्तकुञ्जरस्तडित्पताकोऽशनिशब्दमर्दलः ।
समागतो राजवदुद्धतद्युतिर्घनागमः कामिजनप्रियः प्रिये ।। २.१ ।।

नितान्तनीलोत्पलपत्त्रकान्तिभिः क्वचित्प्रभिन्नाञ्जनराशिसंनिभैः ।
क्वचित्सगर्भप्रमदास्तनप्रभैः समाचितं व्य्ॐअ घनैः समन्ततः ।। २.२ ।।

तृषाकुलैश्चातकपक्षिणां कुलैः प्रयाचितास्तोयभरावलम्बिनः ।
प्रयान्ति मन्दं बहुधारवर्षिणो बलाहकाः श्रोत्रमनोहरस्वनाः ।। २.३ ।।

बलाहकाश्चाशनिशब्दमर्दलाः सुरेन्द्रचापं दधतस्तडिद्गुणं ।
सुतीक्ष्णधारापतनोग्रसायकैस्तुदन्ति चेतः प्रसभं प्रवासिनां ।। २.४ ।।

प्रभिन्नवैडूर्यनिभैस्तृणाङ्कुरैः समाचिता प्रोत्थितकन्दलीदलैः ।
विभाति शुक्लेतररत्नभूषिता वराङ्गनेव क्षितिरिन्द्रगोपकैः ।। २.५ ।।

The rains or the Varsha ritu is depicted full of energy. The earth has come to life with thunder and lightning and rivers full of water speeding towards the oceans. Forests are green and verdant. Women hurry to meet their lovers bedecked with flowers and perfume. The separated lovers gaze at the clouds with dismay and longing.

सुवासितं हर्म्यतलं मनोहरं प्रियामुखोच्छ्वासविकम्पितं मधु ।
सुतन्त्रिगीतं मदनस्य दीपनं शुचौ निशीथेऽनुभवन्ति कामिनः ।। १.३ ।।

नितम्बबिम्बैः सदुकूलमेखलैः स्तनैः सहाराभरणैः सचन्दनैः ।
शिरोरुहैः स्नानकषायवासितैः स्त्रियो निदाघं शमयन्ति कामिनां ।। १.४ ।।

नितान्तलाक्षारसरागरञ्जितैर्नितम्बिनीनां चरणैः सनूपुरैः ।
पदे पदे हंसरुतानुकारिभिर्जनस्य चित्तं क्रियते समन्मथं ।। १.५ ।।

पयोधराश्चन्दनपङ्कचर्चितास्तुषारगौरार्पितहारशेखराः ।
नितम्बदेशाश्च सहेममेखलाः प्रकुर्वते कस्य मनो न सोत्सुकं ।। १.६

File:The Eager Heroine on Her Way to Meet Her Lover out of Love (Kama Abhisarika Nayika) LACMA M.71.49.6.jpg

Eager maiden in the rain, abhisarika nayika,painting,18th century, Nurpur, Himachal Pradesh,LACMA,USA.

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

Photo of Trees Being Poured by Rain

Rain,image.

http://www.pexels.com

Painting by Sobha Singh,20th century.

By India4art – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28320346

Sharat ritu or autumn has arrived and the rivers have slowed down. The sky has few clouds and the moons glows clearly. Cool breezes blow and the beautiful maidens watch the scene in delight. They wear jasmine in their hair.

व्योम क्वचिद्रजतशङ्खमृणालगौरैस्त्यक्ताम्बुभिर्लघुतया शतशः प्रयातैः ।
संलक्ष्यते पवनवेगचलैः पयोदै राजेव चामरशतैरुपवीज्यमानः ।। ३.४ ।।

भिन्नाञ्जनप्रचयकान्ति नभो मनोज्ञं बन्धूकपुष्परजसारुणिता च भूमिः ।
वप्राश्च पक्वकलमावृतभूमिभागाः प्रोत्कण्ठयन्ति न मनो भुवि कस्य यूनः ।। ३.५ ।।

मन्दानिलाकुलितचारुतराग्रशाखः पुष्पोद्गमप्रचयक्ॐअलपल्लवाग्रः ।
मत्तद्विरेफपरिपीतमधुप्रसेकश्चित्तं विदारयति कस्य न कोविदारः ।। ३.६ ।।

तारागणप्रवरभूषणमुद्वहन्ती मेघावरोधपरिमुक्तशशाङ्कवक्त्रा ।
ज्योत्स्नादुकूलममलं रजनी दधाना वृद्धिं प्रयात्यनुदिनं प्रमदेव बाला ।। ३.७ ।।

कारण्डवाननविघट्टितवीचिमालाः कादम्बसारसकुलाकुलतीरदेशाः ।
कुर्वन्ति हंसविरुतैः परितो जनस्य प्रीतिं सरोरुहरजोऽरुणितास्तटिन्यः ।। ३.८ ।।

 

Maple Tree and Body of Water Photo

Autumn, image.

Source ; pexels.com

        Hemanta or early winter comes and the rice is harvested. Women don’t find lotuses; they use sandalwood paste on their bodies and use fragrant waters in their hair. They come together with their lovers at night. Women show signs of the night’s passion in the morning with tousled hair and sleeping till the sun rises spreading its warmth.

    Shishira is winter and it is very cold. People decide to stay indoors. Harvested rice lies on the floor. Snow fall also happens in some places. Lovers drink wine and after a night of lovemaking women emerge like goddesses; says the poet. their hair is freshly washed and after decorating their faces they begin the day.

पाकं व्रजन्ती हिमजातशीतैराधूयमाना सततं मरुद्भिः ।
प्रिये प्रियङ्गुः प्रियविप्रयुक्ता विपाण्डुतां याति विलासिनीव ।। ४.११ ।।

पुष्पासवामोदसुगन्धिवक्त्रो निःश्वासवातैः सुरभीकृताङ्गः ।
परस्पराङ्गव्यतिषङ्गशायी शेते जनः कामरसानुविद्धः ।। ४.१२ ।।

दन्तच्छदैः सव्रणदन्तचिह्नैः स्तनैश्च पाण्यग्रकृताभिलेखैः ।
संसूच्यते निर्दयमङ्गनानां रतोपभोगो नवयौवनानां ।। ४.१३ ।।

काचिद्विभूषयति दर्पणसक्तहस्ता बालातपेषु वनिता वदनारविन्दं ।
दन्तच्छदं प्रियतमेन निपीतसारं दन्ताग्रभिन्नं अवकृष्य निरीक्षते च ।। ४.१४ ।।

File:Adolf Kaufmann - Sonnenuntergang in Winterlandschaft.jpg

Winter, painting.

Adolf Kaufmann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

      Spring or Vasanta ritu has been personified as a ”he” by the poet. ‘He’ touches and transforms everything. Nature.Humans. Ponds are full of water.Lotuses bloom. Trees are flowering. Women wear bright clothes,flowers,pearlstrings, bangles and anklets. Bees are humming. the soud of the koel (cuckoo bird) is very appealing. Lovers are busy with each other, as described by the poet.

सुगन्धिनिःश्वासविकम्पितोत्पलं मनोहरं कामरतिप्रबोधकं ।
निशासु हृष्टा सह कामिभिः स्त्रियः पिबन्ति मद्यं मदनीयमुत्तमं ।। ५.१० ।।

अपगतमदरागा योषिदेका प्रभाते कृतनिबिडकुचाग्रा पत्युरालिङ्गनेन ।
प्रियतमपरिभुक्तं वीक्षमाणा स्वदेहं व्रजति शयनवासाद्वासमन्यं हसन्ती ।। ५.११ ।।

अगुरुसुरभिधूपामोदितं केशपाशं गलितकुसुममालं कुञ्चिताग्रं वहन्ती ।
त्यजति गुरुनितम्बा निम्ननाभिः सुमध्या उषसि शयनमन्या कामिनी चारुशोभां ।। ५.१२ ।।

कनककमलकान्तैश्चारुताम्राधरोष्ठैः श्रवणतटनिषक्तैः पाटलोपान्तनेत्रैः ।
उषसि वदनबिम्बैरंससंसक्तकेशैः श्रिय इव गृहमध्ये संस्थिता योषितोऽद्य ।। ५.१३ ।।

प्रफुल्लचूताङ्कुरतीक्ष्णसायको द्विरेफमालाविलसद्धनुर्गुणः ।
मनांसि भेत्तुं सुरतप्रसङ्गिनां वसन्तयोद्धा समुपागतः प्रिये ।। ६.१ ।।

द्रुमाः सपुष्पाः सलिलं सपद्मं स्त्रियः सकामाः पवनः सुगन्धिः ।
सुखाः प्रदोषा दिवसाश्च रम्याः सर्वं प्रिये चारुतरं वसन्ते ।। ६.२ ।।

ईषत्तुषारैः कृतशीतहर्म्यः सुवासितं चारुशिरश्च चम्पकैः ।
कुर्वन्ति नार्योऽपि वसन्तकाले स्तनं सहारं कुसुमैर्मनोहरैः ।। ६.३ ।।

वापीजलानां मणिमेखलानां शशाङ्कभासां प्रमदाजनानां ।
चूतद्रुमाणां कुसुमान्वितानां ददाति सौभाग्यमयं वसन्तः ।। ६.४ ।।

 

File:Vasant Ragini, Ragamala, Rajput, 1770.jpg

Vasant ragini,Ragamala, Rajput, Kota, Rajasthan. 1770.

By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mural,Ajanta caves,Maharashtra.

By Indischer Maler des 6. Jahrhunderts – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153070

File:First night.png

Mithila painting.

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

Source of Sanskrit text : sa.wikisource.org

 

 

References :

  • Kalidasa;Ritusamhara (The garland of seasons/Rajendra Tandon,tr. New Delhi :Rupa and Co, 2008.
  • indianetzone.com

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

Golconda in art : images of royalty

          Golconda was one among the Sultanates of the Deccan during 16th -18th century India. Known all over the world for its fortifications, big arsenals, ruined palaces, gardens, fountains, pools, mosques and terraces and leader in diamond trade with expertise in cutting an polishing the stone; as it was available in the mines in the bed of the river Krishna. The hill fortress at a height of 400 feet above the ground, housed the king’s soldiers, harem, treasury, courtiers and followers. The area within the fort also housed a population which grew too large and a new capital for the kingdom was made at Hyderabad by Sultan Mohammad Quli in 1591. The kingdom extended over the Southern peninsula starting from the Godavari river upto the Cape Comorin and up to the Indian Ocean in the east.

   The art of the Golconda kingdom and some of it’s representations are elucidated for an idea of the art of the Golconda and Hyderabad school of Deccani painting. Deccani painting evolved when the Deccan Sultanates namely, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda started producing paintings of great quality. There was a strong Persian influence on their art. However their art was distinct and has earned itself a unique place in the history of Indian painting. Deccani paintings were not dated or inscribed with the name of the painter as the Mughal ones.

  Coming to the subject at hand, namely Golconda, it can be said that the Persianate character of their painting can be attributed to the fact that the first king, Sultan Quli had migrated from Persia to Bidar in 1478. The Qutub Shahis maintained close ties; which included matrimony with the Safavids and patronised poets and painters from Persia.The typicality of Golconda paintings lies in its opulence and vitality which has an Indian flavour of richness.

File:Abdullah Qutb Shah.jpg

Portrait, Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah of Golconda.

By Unknown – , CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24570593

      The Kulliyat-e- Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah , a collection of the Sultan’s poetry contains many illustrations which depict the Golconda school of painting. Iridiscent colours including bluish-purple, salmon-red,pricked gold surfaces are typically Golconda style.There are other astonishing and splendorous  examples too.

File:Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA M.89.159.4 (2 of 5).jpg

lIluminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA , 17th century.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AIlluminated_Manuscript_of_the_History_of_the_Qutb_Shahi_Sultans_of_Golconda_LACMA_M.89.159.4_(2_of_5).jpg

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

File:Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA M.89.159.4 (3 of 5).jpg

lIluminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA , 17th century.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AIlluminated_Manuscript_of_the_History_of_the_Qutb_Shahi_Sultans_of_Golconda_LACMA_M.89.159.4_(3_of_5).jpgSee page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA M.89.159.4 (1 of 5).jpg

Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda,LACMA , 17th century.

By Image: http:/collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-2794559-O3.jpgGallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/177837, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27254257

 

After the death of Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah. Abul Hasan ascended the throne. He was the son-in-law, ie. husband of the second daughter of Abdullah Qutub Shah. He was a follower of Shah Raju, and used to live in Gulbarga. Both of them came to Hyderabad. Shah Raju was a mystic and influenced the new court. Madanna, a Hindu became prime -minister and farmans (royal diktats) began to be issued in both Telugu and Persian. Urdu, Telugu and Arabic literature was patronised. There were influences in art too. Abul Hasan was nicknamed Tana Shah meaning king of taste. Many paintings of the Golconda school can be attributed to his time. The school was kept alive even after the defeat of Tana Shah in 1687 to Aurangzeb.The Mughal governors and local aristocracy engaged painters to work for them.

*Portrait of Navab General Firoz Khan, c.1670.jpg
Firuz Khan,nobleman, 17th century, Golconda.

By Unknown – http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php?v=12&id=2734, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19044933

Visit of Sufi singer Shir Muhammad to Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, later Golconda school,1720.

By Govardhan II – http://expositions.bnf.fr/inde/grand/exp_031.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19082077

Akbar Shah, son of the Deccani saint Shah Raju (6124544567).jpg

Akbar Shah, Son of saint Shah Raju,17th century.

By thesandiegomuseumofartcollection – Flickr, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38309515

Lady with the Myna Bird.jpg

Lady with a myna bird, early 17th century,Golconda.

By Deccan School – http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/features/12-11/features2319.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21077969

 

 

 

 

References :

  • Khan, Nazirul-Islam/Guide to Golconda, Bombay : Thacker & Company Limited,1941.
  • Zebrowski, Mark/Deccani painting, New Delhi : Roli Books,1983.

 

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

©author

Lamps in India : beauty and devotion

               Lamps are an important part of Indian culture and tradition and is a revered object at homes and temples. It is called deepam in the south and diya in the north. It is a part of ritualistic worship at temples and homes.Lamps across India are found made of clay,terracotta,porcelain,brass,bronze,silver etc.The earthen lamp is the commonest lamp made on the potter’s wheel from clay. The potter introduced variety in lamp-making and thus we have dome shaped lamp holders and bunch of five diyas. Diyas on top of a elephant figure or a horse figure  or as a hanging lamp are also available.Sometimes dances in India are centred around lamps.

image001

The earthen diya.

By Sreekumar K. S. (originally posted to Flickr as Picture 011) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

image003.png

Earthen diya with five wicks.

By Ramesh NG (originally posted to Flickr as The Diwali Diya) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

          Metal lamps are found at Hindu temples. Brass, bronze and silver are common. South India and Gujarat have their own array of lamps. Many temples have niches in the walls where lamps are placed. A lamp pillar or deepasthambham has plates at equal intervals and holds the oil and wicks. The plates get smaller and the top of the pillar is decorated with a lion or peacock on top. Lamp  used at the time of prayer is called aarti deepa which comes with a handle. The lamp is a symbol of Goddess Lakshmi and is known as deepalakshmi.

image005.jpg

Lamp as deepalakshmi, South India.

By Xufanc – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10854869

image007.png

Aarti diya.

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

image009.png

Lamps arranged in niches,Thiruvegappura temple Palakkad, Kerala.

By Argopal at ml.wikipedia – Transferred from ml.wikipedia by User:Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12450060

         Deepavali or Diwali means a row or array of lights and  symbolises chasing away darkness from one’s life and ushering in prosperity and abundance.  The festival commemorates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. The whole town of Ayodhya was lit up with lamps to welcome Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana.

            In Tamil Nadu a lamp is called Vilakku and in Kerala it is called Valakku. There is a lot of variety in the lamps of South India. Kuthuvilakku and Nilavilakku are traditional oil lamps used in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Many times,  a human figure is shown holding a lamp, the cup being the oil container. In the Padmanabha temple at Thiruvananthapuram the male is shown as the figure in the statues, which are mostly brass lamps. There are many inscriptions recording the gift of lamps to  presiding deities. The idea of statue lamps was probably taken from the Romans or Phoenicians as the Tamils had trade links with them.

image011.jpg

Paavai vilakku (lady with a lamp), Tamil Nadu.

By Xufanc – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10855014

image013.png

Tiered lamp in bronze, 13th-14th century, Kerala.

By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “airforceJK” [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
image015.jpg

Lamps set around a rangoli ( a decorative design) on Diwali.

By siddarth varanasi – Flickr: DSC_0438, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29961576

       Lamps with human motifs is more common in South India. However many south Indian lamps are found in the temples of Benaras as per O.C Gangoly. The hamsa lamp or swan lamp is found in South India which has a perpendicular stem which is the pedestal of the lamp and is called deepa-briksha. This is broken into various knobs and the whole is surmounted by a model of a swan or hamsa. The hamsa is a beautiful and auspicious bird and is the vahana or vehicle of Lord Brahma. Lamps have been depicted in many paintings both medieval and modern.

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Diwali celebrations at Kotah, painting, Rajasthan.

By Indian Unknown Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Copper alloy lamp with peacock and elephant, 18th century, Maharashtra.

http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-17275183-O3.jpg

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

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Lamp at Padmanabhapura palace,16th century, Kanyakumari,Tamil Nadu.

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

       During the month of Kartika(mid-November to mid-December) in the Hindu calendar a festival of lights called Karthikai Deepam is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.The lamps are lit when the moon is in conjunction with the Kartigai(Pleiades) and is a full moon. This constellation is a group of six stars in the shape of an ear ornament. This day is called as Kartik Poornima and observed by  Hindus across India with lighting of lamps. It is also known as Dev Deepavali and is celebrated in Benaras or Varanasi by lighting of all the ghats on the river Ganges. It is believed that the Gods descend on earth on this auspicious day, to bathe in the Ganga river. Devotees take a dip in the river and offer lamps to the Goddess Ganga in the evening and perform Ganga aarti.

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Nilavilakku  lit up  for Karthikai deepam, Tamil Nadu.

By Aravind Sivaraj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22915898

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Image of chromolithograph ‘Indian woman floating lamps on the Ganges’ by William Simpson,1867.

 

Photograph of chromolithograph titled, “Indian woman floating lamps on the Ganges,” by William Simpson (1823-1899) Medium: Chromolithograph Date: 1867. Downloaded from this British Library Web Site by Fowler&fowler«Talk» 11:27, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

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

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Ganga aarti at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

By http://www.flickr.com/photos/u-suke/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/u-suke/3156784664/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Hanging lamp, Kerala.

By Sajith Erattupetta – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50373207

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Lamp with swan motif, Kerala.

By Fotokannan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15902950

 

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Gangoly, O. C/The Journal of Indian art, 1916: South Indian lamps, p 129-136.

 

 

Posted by : Soma Ghosh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Durga in Indian art: some painting and sculpture depictions

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.

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Durga on amulet, Rajasthan.

By Vassil – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1877832

The nine manifestations of Durga or Navadurga are worshipped during Navaratri in the month of Ashwin of the Hindu calendar; Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta,Skandamata,Katyayani,Kaalratri,Mahagauri and Siddhidaatri. Durga is associated with two mountain ranges, the Himalayas in the north and the VIndhyas in central India. She is Paravati in the Himalayas; daughter of the mountains. Durga images have been found in Afghanistan(ancient Gandhara) and also in Tibet.

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Navadurgas, painting, Banaras.

By No machine-readable author provided. Elishams assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1939544

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Mahavidyas and Navadurgas on Amber Fort palace door, Rajasthan,16th cenury.

By Adamina – DSC05814Uploaded by Ekabhishek, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12020687

Durga is Sachika in the Jodhpur area of Rajasthan. She is called Sharika in Kashmir, Meenakshi in the south, Kamakhya in the east. All over India local goddesses are identified with Durga. She is Chandi in Punjab and Haryana. In Kerala she is Bhagavati and worshipped as Bathukamma in Telangana. The Devi Mahatmya is a religious text which describes the Devi as the supreme power and creator of the universe.  This text is used by Shakta groups (who worship the Devi as supreme), Vaishnavas, Shaivas and others.The other important texts are the Devi Bhagavata Purana and Devi Upanishad, important texts of the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism. In fact the earliest evidence for the feminine aspect of God appears in the Rigveda as Devi suktam. Hymns to the devi or Goddess appear in the epic Mahabharata too. By the 3rd or 4th century, the devi became an important aspect of Hindu tradition. The mahadvidyas are a group of ten aspects of Adi Parashakti (Durga) in Hinduism. The mahavidyas include Buddhist goddesses too and are important aspect in Shaktism; and include Kali, Tara,Tripura Sundari,Chinnamasta,Dhumavati,Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala.

The Shiva Purana says Lord Shiva invoked Durga from his left half to create and together both created Shivaloka. As per the Devi Mahatmya ,Mahisasura, son of demon Rambha unleashed terror on earth and defeated the Gods. The Gods then approached Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Together they created a woman on whom they bestowed weapons and she was Durga.  The demon’s entire army was challenged by Durga. Mahisasura attacked Durga as a buffalo-demon whom Durga kills with a trisula(trident) after a fierce battle.

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Sculpture of Durga, Kashmir, 9th century.

 By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-31961402-O3.jpg Gallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/176350, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27253189

 

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Devi mahatmya manuscript, 17th century.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-31973441-O3.jpg Gallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/171565, Public Domain,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27229319

The Devi Mahatmya has three episodes. In the first Durga is the sleep state or yoga nidra of Lord Vishnu. The demons Madhu and Kaitabha are threatening to destroy the cosmos. Brahma calls upon the Goddess to emerge and she comes out through Vishnu’s eyes,mouth,nose, arms and chest. Thus Vishnu becomes awake and vanquishes the demons. The second episode is the story of Durga as Mahisasuramardini. The male Gods have been defeated by demons or asuras whose leader is Mahisasura. A strong rage or the tejas of all the Gods takes the form of a woman, Durga who rides lion and is armed with weapons given by the Gods and slays the buffalo-demon, Mahisasura. In the third episode too, the Gods are defeated by the demons or  asuras  Chanda and Munda and Shumbha and Nishumbha. This time the Devi or Durga emerges from the skin of Parvati who is the consort of Lord Shiva and during the battle from her forehead emerges Kali with a tongue dripping with blood and who wears a necklace of skulls and who finishes off the evil beings.

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Sculpture of Durga, Karnataka,13th century.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-34340591-O3.jpg Gallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/236874, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27303644

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Kalighat painting, Kolkata (previously Calcutta)19th century.

By Unknown – The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41948601

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Wall relief at temple at Aihole, Karnataka,  7th-8th century.

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19877840

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Goddess Kali and the saptamatrikas in battle, from a Devi mahatmya manuscript, Mysore.

By Unknown – LACMA[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2374850

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Durga fighting Shunga and Nishunga,painting from Devi Mahatmya, mid 19th century.

By Punjab Hills, India – from a Devi Mahatmyahttp://www.asia.si.edu/collections/singleObject.cfm?ObjectNumber=F1907.602, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18230079

 

 

In the 10th or 11th century another text the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Shakta poem Soundaryalahiri became important. Thus Devi or Durga as Lord Shiva’s consort, mahisasuramardini, cosmic power, divine feminine became an important part of Indian religious tradition and culture.

The Devi Bhagavata Purana looks upon the Devi or Shakti as the creator of the Universe and as the Brahman or ultimate reality. This text celebrates the divine feminine and is a mix of mythology, metaphysics and about the conflict between Gods and asuras or good and evil. Durga is described as the eternal truth, the nirguna or formless, saguna, with form, the unchanging reality or purusha and the changing reality or prakriti and the very soul of living beings.

Soundaryalahiri is a poem written by Adi Shankara and sage Pushpadanta about the beauty and grace of Goddess Parvati. It is tantra text book with instructions about pujas, offerings and various yantras.

The matrikas are seven female divinities, together called saptamatrikas; Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Indrani, Kaumari,Varahi and Chamundi. They assist Lord Shiva to battle Andhakusura and assist the devi in their fight with demons.

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Saptamatrikas ,red sandstone, Madhya Pradesh, 9th century.

By Ms Sarah Welch – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44761691

Every year during the month of Ashwin(which falls during late September and early October),Durga Puja is celebrated in many Indian states especially West Bengal, Asom, Odisha, Bihar,Tripura,Meghalaya and Jharkhand. Durga Puja celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the buffalo-demon Mahisasura. She is worshipped as destroyer of evil and protector of her devotees with great pomp and festivities.

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Durga puja idols, Kolkata,21st century.

By Aryan paswan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21249252

 

References:

  • Pal, Pratapaditya,ed./Goddess Durga : the power and the glory, Mumbai: Marg Publications,2009.
  •   wikipedia.org

Posted by : Soma Ghosh

 

 

Bygone splendour : a history of the Kakatiyas

The Kakatiyas ruled over Telugu country or Andhradesa for two centuries before the advent of Muslim rule in south India.Warangal or Orugallu was their capital literally meaning ,”one stone”. They ruled between 1150 A.D to 1323 A.D. Initially the Kakatiyas were military generals of the Rashtrakutas ruling some parts of Western Andhradesa in 9th century.They emerged as independent rulers only from 1163 A.D. Much of the Kakatiya history has been gleaned from epigraphic sources;copper-plates and lithic records. Nrittavalli, a treatise on dance styles of the period written by Jaya-senapati, the general and minister of Ganapatideva is also an important document.

The name Kakatiya seems to have its origin in the Goddess Kakati or Kakatamma, a village-goddess form of Durga worshipped by the early Kaktiyas.Some sources refer to Kakati as a place from where the founding ruler Venna ruled, while some say that Kakati stood for a Jaina deity.The Kaktiyas are descended from the family of Durjaya and its founding ruler was Venna. Venna was folllowed by Gunda I and Gunda II.   Gunda III followed Gunda II and participated in the war against Chalukya Bhima I, the king of Vengi and died a heroic death. His son Erra followed him with the rulership of Koravi region of the Warangal district of present day Telangana. Betiya and his son Gunda IV succeeded Erra. Gunda IV also referred to as Kakartya Gondyana was a loyal subordinate to Rashtrakuta king Krishna III and supported Dananarva to capture the Vengi throne from Ammaraja II . Gunda IV was instrumental in getting the Mangallu grant issued by Dananarva in 956 A.D. He continued with his principality in the Koravi region.The Rashtrakutas collapsed in 972 A.D.at this point of time the Chalukyas of Kalyana ruled over the western and southern parts of Andhradesa and the Kakatiyas became cheiftains to them during the reign of Someswara I. Garuda Beta or Beta I was the subordinate and lived upto 1052 A.D. His son Prola I is supposed to have built  a tank Kesari Samudra, 50 km from Warangal and was a great warrior.He accompanied Vikramaditya VI, the son of Someswara I in campaigns against Konkan, Kerala, Pandya rulers.the victories gained led Vikramaditya to reward Prola I with Anumakonda region. He however died in 1075 A.D.

His young son Beta II or Bottu succeeded him and with help from his minister and wife of Viriyala chief Erranripa, Kamavasani he got the rulership of Sabbinadu. He gave full support to Vikramaditya VI and earned the title Vikram chakri.After his death in 1090 A.D., he was succeeded by his son ,but there seems to be a confusion between his father’s last date and his ascension.

Duggaraja was the son of Beta II and succeeded him. Prola II, brother of Duggaraja succeeded him who defeated Medaraja and conquered Polavasadesa.By 1139 a.D Chalukyan power had disintegrated due to internal tensions.Prola II asserted independence.Rudradeva or Prataparudra I succeeded Prola II. He is remembered for his military exploits.After death of Vikramaditya II, Prola II overthrew feudatories of the Western Chalukyas and  expanded his territory. He captured Chalukya emperor Jaila III and later released him. The Kakatiyas ruled as independent kings and Prola II died when he invaded Vengi, capital of the Chalukya kings and lost in a battle with three feudatory chiefs of the Eastern Chalukyas.

Rudradeva(1150-1196), son of Prola II succeeded him. And carried out successful campaigns against Taila(name similar to Chalukyan ruler but actually someone else), Domma, Meda and Bhima He ventured into the coastal Andhra region and brought Kurnool district under him.He was defeated by the Yadavas during an attack on Devagiri along with his nephew Ganapatideva who was taken prisoner by the Yadavas. Rudradeva is believed to have written a treatise “Nitisara” on politics. He founded the city of Orugallu and the Sri Rudreswara temple was built by him. His brother Mahadeva(1196-1199) succeeded him who ruled for three years. He was killed in a battle with the Yadavas. The other invasions on the Kakatiya kingdom was by Nagati and Kulottunga III of the Cholas. Rudra, the Kakatiya commander repulsed the attacks. Later the Yadavas released Ganapatideva who claimed and regained his throne. However Ganapatideva Maharaja was the greatest ruler of the dynasty(1199-1261 A.D). He ruled for 63 years. During his rule he expanded his kingdom and encouraged trade and improved the condition of farmers, thus improving agriculture.The areas under his control when under the petty chiefs had discouraged trade by imposing heavy duties on export and import. Ganapatideva streamlined the system and offered concessions to foreign traders. He built a magnificent fortress with mud walls at Warangal.

His daughter Rudramadevi succeeded him. She was  the first woman ruler in South Indian history. She used to wear male attire and conduct her royal duties. In fact her father gave her the name Rudradeva Maharaja. She had the title of Raya-gaja-kesari. She married Virbhadra, an eastern Chalukya prince. She succeeded the throne when her father died in 1261. During her tenure invasions continued. The kings of Orissa wrested the Godavari valley and the Vengi country. The Kakatiyas resisted the invasion of Mahadeva, the Yadava king. The eastern Ganga king Bhanudeva I in 1274 advanced upto Daksaramam on the Godavari but the Kakatiyas defeated him. Rani Rudramadevi faced some internal troubles too. Ambadeva, Kakatiya feudatory with headquarter at Valluripattna allied with the Pandyas and annexed Kurnool and Cuddapah. He restored at Kurnool Manuma-Gandagopala who had been removed by Ganapatideva. Later in 1287 A.D. along with Prataparudra, her grandson she defeated Ambadeva.Adidam Mallu commanded an attack on Manuma-Gandagopala who was killed. His successor in Nellore Raja Gandagopala who joined the Pandyas was also defeated.In 1294 the Kakatiyas attacked  the Yadavas and captured the Raichur doab. She lost her life along with her general Mallikarjuna Nayak in the battlefields. She had married Chalukya Virabhadra and had three daughters Mummadamma, Rudramma and Ruyamma. Rani Rudramadevi was succeeded by her grandson Prataparudra who was the son of Mummadamma and Mahadeva. Prataparudra(1289-1323 A.D.) was the last ruler of the dynasty.He managed to defeat the Kayasthas,Manumaganda-gopala,Pandyas and the Yadavas.the Kakatiya kingdom expanded under his rule upto Kanchi and till the southern part of Orissa. His reign was marked by repeated Muslim invasions which started in 1303. However the first one failed. In 1309 Malik Kafur invaded Warangal and forced Prataparudra to pay a huge  indemnity. Another invasion took place which was led by Khusrav Khan. These two invasions happened during Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s rule. In A.D 1321-1322 Ghiyasuddin sent his son Ulugh Khan(later called Mohd. bin Tughlaq) with a large army to Warangal. However the seige of the fort lasted for six months and Ulugh Khan went away to Devagiri. However he came back in 1323 and after a seige of 5 months Prataparudra surrendered and died as a captive on being taken to Delhi in the same year. Thus ended the Kakatiya rule over Telugu country. Mohd bin Tughlaq extended his hold over the kingdom from Godavari to Nellore upto Cudappah.

The Kakatiyas are remembered not only for military pursuits and achievements but also for their architectural edifices and splendorous temples.The Warangal fort with its impressive thoranas  and  two walls was mainly built during the reign of Ganapatideva Maharaja who wanted to build a cosmic pattern fortress. It was completed by his daughter Rani Rudramadevi. The fort had 45 towers and pillars, probably a third wall spread over a radius of 19 km. The remains of the  swayambhu temple are at the centre with four pathways leading to it with lofty gateways or thoranams called keerthithoranams which are still visible today. The architecture has evolved from the later Chalukyan style but are representative of  Kakatiya architecture. The other famous temples at Hanamkonda and Palampet at  a distance of 12 and 65 kilometres respectively are the Veyi Stambha gudi( 1000 pillared temple) and Ramappa temple.image001

Warangal Fort remains, Warangal

Pic : Isha Vatsa

The thoranams were an important part of the temple architecture of the Kakatiyas which lend the enclosed temple additional grandeur. The plan of any temple depends on its spatial arrangement. The keerthithoranas are present at four cardinal points of the temple. These thoranas resemble the ones at Aihole, Karnataka. The thorana is large, massive and has double pillars on each side and the extreme ends of the lintels are decorated with hamsas with makaras at the centre. Overall the thorana is highly decorated structure with flower designs and geometric motifs and is very imposing to the onlooker gazing upon it.

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Keerthithoranam, Warangal Fort, Warangal

Pic : Isha Vatsa

Kakatiya architecture has other pillars termed nandisthamba, nagastambha, garudasthamba and dipastambha. The great Swayambhu temple located in the centre has elephants, horses, hamsas and gajavalas on its adisthana (on which the temple stands). Honeysuckle motifs adorn the padmajagati and kapota layers which are components of the Kakatiyan temple namely Upapitha, adhisthana,padmavarga and vimana. A workshop maintained by the rulers existed in Warangal which employed sculptors  and temple builders bought their work. All over Telangana their work can be found in ceilings, pillars, doorjambs, friezes and lintels.

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Kakatiya sculpture,Warangal

Pic : Isha Vatsa

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Ramappa temple, Palampet

Pic : Isha Vatsa

References :

The art and architecture of the Kakatiyas by B. Satyanarayana Singh, Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, New Delhi, 1999.

Temples of Telingana by M. Radhakrishna Sarma, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi,1972.

Concise history of Ancient India by A. K Majumdar,Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi 1977

Posted by : Soma Ghosh

 

 

Cosmic in Indian art : Shiva as Nataraja

“..Shiva chooses the evening for his dance, when it is dark but the darkness is lit up by his own effulgence, the moon on his crest, the stars around, the flame in his hand and the powerful rays shooting forth from the gems on the hoods of snakes he wears his ornaments” says C. Sivaramamurti.

Shiva is depicted dancing in a circle of flames, lifting his left leg and balancing over a demon or dwarf, muyalaka who symbolises ignorance. His dance represents both the destruction and the creation of the universe and reveals the cycle of death , birth and rebirth.

Shiva is considered the Lord of Dance and has many epithets like nrityasila,nrityapriya,nityanritya,nartana and sarvasadhaka. The dance aspect of Shiva gets prominence in his name NATARAJA or Narteswara. Shiva dances eternally and is the embodiment of dance. The significance of the Dance of Shiva has been understood in many ways. It is understood as a dance of bliss,omnipotence,immanence,time and eternity, onmniscience etc.

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Image of Nataraja at Thanjavur Palace, Tamil Nadu

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

Dance of bliss is Anandatandava. Shiva is the Supreme dancer and assures the highest bliss. The dance of omnipotence is a warrior’s dance after the destruction of the Tripuras, a dance of victory, a military triumph.

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Image of Nataraja at  Cave No 19, Kailasa, Ellora, Maharashtra

By No machine-readable author provided. QuartierLatin1968 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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The dance of immanence is Shiva dancing as astamurthi symbolising his presence everywhere. The ashtamurti aspect of Shiva includes water,sacrificer,sun and moon, sky,earth and air and is of great use for sustenance of the universe, visual forms seen by all. The Ganga that dances in his jatas is his liquid form, his flying garments are his airy aspect. Shiva in this form has the sun, moon and fire as his eye, his breadth is air, his body is the earth, his ear holds the sky. He assumes the eight forms in order to uphold and maintain the universe as its creator, protector and destroyer. Shiva’s dance is of a whirlwind, of the flames, quake of the earth,dance of light, dance of waves etc.

Dance of time and eternity is Shiva as Kalanataka who kicks death and dances on the prostrate body of death or Yama. Dance of Omniscience is Shiva dancing with a veena as Dakshinamurthy, Nataraja and Vinadhara, he is the Lord of Knowledge, dance and music. The drum of Nataraja is believed to have revealed fourteen sutras to Panini which led to creation of Ashtadhyayi and identification of correct lingual usage. Siva is the poet of the Vedas as Dakshinamurti, an also a beater of the drum,teacher of music with Brahma and Vishnu who are also Natyacharyas.

“He is not only the architect of the universe, he is himself the author of the theory of this mode of construction and his is not an effort limited to a short time schedule to bring into existence something that has not been there. He is eternally active as there is no creation, no destruction, but only transformation and transmutation for which his omniscience, omnipotence and immanence and over-powering will make him the supreme Ishvara...the dance of Shiva is a symbol of this eternal dance. His eternal creation is an eternal cycle of creation,protection,destruction and deliverance”..says C. Sivaramamurti.

 

References :

Siva in art, thought and literature, C. Sivaramamurti, Publications Division, 1994.

 

Posted by : Soma Ghosh

Prayerful splendour : Ramappa temple at Warangal

The Kakatiyas ruled over the Telugu country or Andhradesa with Warangal or Orugollu meaning “one stone” as their capital. They ruled between 11th and 14th centuries ,1052 to 1323 A. D. and built a fort, temples and created amazing sculptures. At Palampet , a village in the Mulug taluq of Warangal district exists a lake,green hills and a temple consecrated to Rudreswara known as Ramappa temple situated by the side of Ramappa Lake;it is possible that the sculptor’s name was Ramappa. Built in 1213 by a general of the Kakatiyas, Recherla Rudra ; as is mentioned on the north east pillar inscription .image001

Pic : Isha Vatsa

The temple has a main temple and  a nandi manatapa. The temple is built of light brick.  Each wall has a triple storeyed niche with ornamentation.

The other structures include two subsidiary shrines, north and south of the main temple, a dharmashala situated at its southwest. There are two minor temples southwest and north west of the main temple. Smaller shrines are present to the west and the western and eastern end of the bund of the lake.

The Kakatiya architects had consulted the Silpa and Agama texts. The Ramappa temple is of a cruciform plan with garbagriha, antarala on the western side.The east, north and south share porticos. The temple stands on a upapitha with space of ten feet around it which forms the pradakshinapatha. The upapitha has horizontal moldings.The adhisthana and pabhanga are also molded. The pabhanga has elephants and other motifs. The figure brackets which emerge from the outer pillars are alasa kanyas and gaja vyalas. These figure brackets spring from outer pillars and appear as supports to the roof projections.

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Pic : Isha Vatsa

The temple is five feet higher than the upapitha and to enter the temple one has to climb steps. The pillars are arranged in such a way that the ceiling is divided into compartments and each is carved with rich designs. The central pillars are also richly decorated and one can find puranic episodes here. The Rangamantapa where musicians used to perform contains ornate pillars with scenes from Bhagavata including Tripura samharam, Gopika Vastrapaharanam etc. The dance postures in the temple inspired Jayapa Senani to compose Nritya Ratnavali.

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Pic : Isha Vatsa

Decorative gateways lead to the antarala and garbagriha where the linga stands on a black basalt stone pedestal. The subsidiary shrines on the north stand on upapithas and can be reached by steps. The south shrine has a square hall with garbagriha which has no roof. The hall has pillars in the middle and the ceiling has beautiful carvings. Episodes from Ramayana are carved on the pillars.

The dharmasala is at the South west of the main shrine. Various other shrines have been built in the vicinity; a temple of Shiva with mantapa, antarala and garbagriha with parapets having beautiful sculptures and doorways with jali design. Another temple towards northwest has an open pillared hall, an antarala, a garbagriha and an open mantapa mostly in ruins. West of the main temple another ruined shrine in pyramidal shape facing north, At western end of the bund of the lake lies a temple which has a portico leading to  a main hall and three garbagrihas with antaralas to the north, south and west. At the eastern end of the bund is a temple standing on a upapitha with flower and animal carvings. There is a hall and a garbagriha at the eastern end.

The famous traveller Marco Polo has referred to the achievements of the Kakatiyas.image006

Pic : Isha Vatsa

References :

The art and architecture of the Kakatiyas by B. Satyanarayana Singh, Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 1999.

Temples of Telingana by M. Radhakrishna Sarma, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi,1972.

The Kakatiyas by Dr. P. V Parabrahma Sastry, Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1978.

Posted by : Soma Ghosh