Tag Archives: art history of India

Mathura art : varied images from ancient India

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

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

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

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

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The Mathura lion capital,  British Museum, London.

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

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

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

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

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

The Bodhisattva Maitreya, 2nd century,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

       Playing games is an important part of many world cultures including India. Children play naturally and devise games of their own. Adult games have been devised using creative skills and artistic expression.  The word ”ganj” means treasure or treasury which went on to refer to granary in Persian. The term represents playing cards and card games in India, Nepal, Iran, Turkey and few Arabian countries. Card playing was and still is popular in India and many other countries. Ganjifa cards were circular or rectangular, and traditionally hand-painted by artisans. The earliest references are to the Mamluk cards from Egypt, first mentioned in Annals of Egypt and Syria by Yousuf ibn-Taghribirdi, an Egyptian historian born into the Turkish Mamluk elite of Cairo in the 15th century. The Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey has a set of Mamluk playing cards datable to 1500s. The set consists of four suits of 13 cards each; cups,swords, coins and polo sticks including one Malik or king, a Naib and Thani Naib – Governor and Vice- Governor. These actually depict the officers at the court of a Mamluk Sultan or Amir; the cup-bearer, the commander of the palace guard, the exchequer and the polo-master or jukandar.  Mamluk, Italian, Persian and Indian cards might have a common origin; the exact source is not clear. it might have originated in the West or the East. The pack of cards is sometimes believed to have its origins in the four sided chaturanga, a dice game and a precursor of chess. King Shah Abbas II of Persia had banned the game (1642-67).

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Mamluk playing cards  or kanjifah, from left to right: 6 of coins, 10 of polo sticks, 3 of cups and 7 of swords, 16th century.

     The earliest playing cards known in India were most probably introduced by early Muslim rulers. The game became popular at the Mughal court during the 16th and 17th century, and lavish sets were made, from materials such as precious stone-inlaid ivory or tortoise shell ; darbar-kalam, by court artists. The game later spread to the general public, and less expensive sets; bazaar-kalam by other artists would be made from materials such as wood, palm leaf, stiffened cloth or pasteboard.

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In the royal palace of Sawantwadi, skilled craftsmen hand painting Ganjifa cards, Maharashtra, maybe early 20th century.

     Mughal Ganjifa was similar to the Safavid game in terms of suits and ranks. In the 17th century ”Dashavatara” ganjifa was created to appeal to the Hindu populace. The main development of  the game of Ganjjfa happened in India. The Indian cards depict variety and the number of suits can vary from 8 to 10, 12 or 20. Ganjifa cards have coloured backgrounds, with each suit having a different colour. The compositions on many Ganjifa cards resemble small miniature paintings. Different types are found, the designs, number of suits, and physical size of the cards can vary considerably. With the exception of Mamluk kanjifah and the Chads of Mysore, each suit contains ten pip cards and two court cards, the king and the vizier or minister. The backs of the cards are typically a uniform colour, without patterning. Card players expect a constancy in design in packs. The Rajasthani cards show a Mughal influence, Mysore and Cuddapah depict Nayak styles and the cards from Odisha have folk patterns. It is called dashabatar taas in Bishnupur, West Bengal. The painters of the cards are called chitrakars. 

 

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 A king handing a ”Royal Document” to his minister, King of the Barat or Document suit, playing card from a Mughal Ganjifa set, Rajasthan, India, LACMA, U S A,19th century.

       Playing cards are put in painted boxes which are made of light wood and have different subjects painted on them ranging from flowers, women, mythological themes and animal figures. However, slowly by the end of the 20th century printed cards became popular. The modern printed packs made the older hand painted cards obsolete and so also the games associated with them.

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Ganjifa box with ornate designs, 19th century. Image source : Michael BackmanLtd, U.K.

File:Five Galloping Elephants, Number Six of the Gajpati (Lord of Elephants) Suit, Playing Card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.10.jpg

Five galloping elephants, Number six of the Gajpati or Lord of Elephants suit, playing card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set, Rajasthan, India, 19th century, LACMA, U S A.  

File:Krishna Preparing to Decapitate King Kamsa, King of the Krishna Suit, Playing Card from a Dashavatara (Ten Avatars) Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.3.jpg

Lord Krishna preparing to decapitate King Kamsa, King of the Krishna suit, playing card from a Dashavatara ganjifa set, Sawantwadi,  Maharashtra, mid-18th century, LACMA, U S A.

File:Enthroned and Crowned Buddha Holding Lotuses, King of the Buddha Suit, Playing Card from a Dashavatara (Ten Avatars) Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.1.jpg

Enthroned and crowned Buddha holding Lotuses, King of the Buddha suit, playing card from a Dashavatara ganjifa set, Rajasthan, India, 19th century,  LACMA, U S A.

       There are many variants of Ganjifa. The Mughal Ganjifa, the Dashavatara Ganjifa, the Ramayan Ganjifa, the Rashi Ganjifa, The ashtamalla Ganjifa, the Naqsh Ganjifa, the Mysore Chad Ganjifa. Ahli Shirazi wrote Rubaiyat-e-ganjifa’ for each of the 96 cards in a eight suit pack. The game is mentioned in Ain-i- Akbari, the record of Emperor Akbar’s reign. In fact there was a variety of Ganjifa called Akbar’s Ganjifa.

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Mughal ganjifa playing cards, early 19th century,  Wovensouls Textiles and Arts Gallery.

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Playing cards made with the traditional pattachitra technique from Puri, Odisha, India.

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A king in an elephant-drawn carriage, King of the Ghulam or Slave or Servant  suit, playing card from a Mughal ganjifa set, 19th century, LACMA, U S A.

File:A Woman with Seven Documents, Number Seven of the Barat (Document) Suit, Playing Card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set LACMA M.73.55.6.jpg

A woman with Seven Documents, number seven of the Barat or Document suit, playing card from a Mughal ganjifa set, Rajasthan,  19th century, LACMA, U S A.

 

References :

  • Ganjifa: the playing cards of India/Leyden, Rudolf Von, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1980
  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

Decorative book covers : some Indian images

         Books have always been an important part of human culture used to  communicate, inform and entertain. There are different types of books, some printed and some in manuscript form. The decorative element in book covers and book binding has been important in bindings of yore. Combining beauty and strength has been a historical practice.  One  of the definitions of book binding states it as a term applied to any process for making a book by fastening together printed or un-printed sheets of paper and providing them in this compact form with a suitable covering. Book covers can be made of paper, cloth or leather. Around 100 B.C in India religious sutras were bound together which were written on palm leaf  which were numbered, had a hole and a twine passing through them. From then on book-binding travelled a long way, with the introduction of the codex, leather tooling, wood covers giving way to pasteboards, dust jackets, cloth covers, case bindings, gild bindings, glass bindings and ornate bindings using ivory.  In India, writing was done on stone, metal, shells and earthenware.  Also wooden board,  birch-bark palm-leaves, cotton cloths and paper was used. Engraving, embossing, painting and scratching methods were used for writing. Showcased are some book bindings from the Indian subcontinent.

      This pair of wooden covers protected the palm-leaf folios of a Buddhist sacred text. One cover has the nine Buddhist goddesses, each holding a staff surmounted by the wish-fulfilling jewel or chintamani, while the other cover has the five transcendental Buddhas flanked by four bodhisattvas. Painted on the interior, the iconography offers a protective field to the holy text within, in this case likely the Perfection of Wisdom text, the Ashtasathasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra.

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Wooden cover of manuscripts, Met Museum, New York , Public Domain image.

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Palm leaf manuscript, Bhagavat Gita, Grantha script, 18th century, Public Domain image.

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The middle figure is “an Indian scribe” who is writing on palm leaves, engraving from F. J. Bertuch’s ‘Bilderbuch fur Kinder’, Weimar, 1790-1830, Public domain image.

      The book cover is of lacquer binding with central floral design of an illustrated and illuminated copy of the collection of poems or divan by Shams al-Din Muḥammad Hafiz al Shirazi (flourished during 13th century AH / 14th century,  produced in India, most probably Kashmir, in the 19th century.

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Book cover, Divan of Shiraz, Kashmir, 19th century.

Source : Walters Art Museum, Public domain image.

     The image below depicts a binding from most probably the 13th century AH/19th century. The binding is composed of lacquer and is decorated with a floral design covering the whole surface of the boards.

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Book binding, 19th century, India.

Walters Art Museum [Public domain or Public domain]

File:Palm Leaf Manuscript and Wooden Covers with Symbols of Sixteen Pilgrimage Sites LACMA M.91.300.3a-c (3 of 3).jpg

File:Palm Leaf Manuscript and Wooden Covers with Symbols of Sixteen Pilgrimage Sites LACMA M.91.300.3a-c (2 of 3).jpg

Wooden Covers of palm leaf manuscript and with symbols of sixteen pilgrimage sites, Sri Lanka,19th century, LACMA, U S A , Public Domain images.

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Seen above is the end board of a Sinhalese palm-leaf manuscripts transcribed in 1874. This example is of a lac-worked Kandyan book cover comprising the traditional motifs of a string knot at either end with a single vine scroll between the punched holes and a flower around each hole with a diamond chip motif  border, Sri Lanka, 19th century, Wellcome images, Public domain image.

 

References :

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

Silver Filigree art : images from Karimnagar

      The thought of silver or argentum as it is called in Latin, reminds us of stars, the lining in a cloud, lightning in the sky and snow on mountains and tree tops. Beautiful jewellery, decorative objects and utility items are made from this amazing metal which is soft. lustrous, both malleable and ductile making it highly suitable for use in craft. Silver has technological applications in photography and in the medical world too. Silver is an investment too and figures in the bullion market. Filigree work using silver has been there in Europe, Persia and Central Asia. Ancient Greeks and Romans too were fascinated with this metal and created works of art. Silver is a metal with positivity and hope, augmenting a good future…..every cloud has a silver lining !

  An exquisite silver craft which is over 200 years old from the area of Karimnagar in Telangana State in South India is the silver art of filigree. It is believed to have its origins in Elagandala village , around 10-11 kilometres from Karimnagar city. Elgandala, which is situated on the banks of river Manair, was popularly known in earlier times as Bahudhanyapuram, Tellakandula and Veligandula and later came to be called Elgandal. The history of the place is traced to the Old Stone Age and much later ruled by the Mauryas and Satavahanas. Kotilingala in Karimnagar district was the first capital of the Satavahanas. Later to that, the region was ruled by five dynasties; the Kakatiyas, Bahmanis, Qutub Shahis, Mughals and Asaf Jahis. During the  VIth Nizam, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan’s reign (1869-1911), the district headquarters was shifted from Elgandal fort to the present Karimnagar town in 1905. During the Nizam rule, the name Karimnagar was named for a village by an Elgandal Qiladar, Syed Karimuddin. Inscriptions of the Kakatiyas have been found in the region.

Elgandala Fort in Karimnagar

Teen-minar, Elgandal fort, Karimnagar, Telangana.

         The craft was introduced and  practised by a well-travelled goldsmith Kadarla Ramayya and his family at Elgandala and it was a well guarded technique, in the 19th century. It is called Venditeega pani in the local language, Telugu. It was patronised by royalty and wealthy businessmen; Muslims used to give silver articles as part of dowry, so its demand was always there. After Indian Independence in 1947 the craft faced a setback but by 1956, the co-operative movement helped revive the amazing craft of filigree. The two co-operatives were Tarakashan and Zagaram Osmania which merged as one in 1953 as Tarakashan Society.   The type of articles made using this technique include trays, pandans or betel boxes, attardans or scent holders, purses,jewel boxes, glass holders, jewellery like earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings and pendants, figures of popular deities, handbags, photo-frames, spice containers, lamp stands, baskets, rose-water sprinklers among many others.  The designs are intricate and cause awe and a sense of wonder.  

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Silver filigree bowl, Karimnagar,Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

  The trellis-like work or jaali  as it is called, is made of thin silver wire. The designs include fauna, geometric and floral designs with creepers in delicate exquisite workmanship. The equipment is that as used by a goldsmith or silversmith’s tools. In modern times, a wire drawing machine is also used. Pure silver blocks are made into thin wires and wrapped around a charkha and flattened, later fashioned into the required design. The Government of India had accorded the Geographical Indicator or GI status to this craft of silverwork which augurs well for the future of the artisans and the art. The silver items make excellent gifts for all festive occasions. The craft is sold online, at retail outlets and emporia. Exhibitions are held at urban centres to encourage and promote this art.

                                           Silver tray with , Karimnagar silver filigree.

Image source : http://sifka.org/

              An ornate palanquin model in silver filigree, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

 

Silver tray, filigree work, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

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Filigree box, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Pic sourced from https://www.christies.comFiligree Work Silver Cuff (Ajustable)

                               Silver filigree cuff from Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : Jaypore.com

 

References :

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

Peacock in art : images from sculpture

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

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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

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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

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

 

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

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Jaisalmer Palace and Fort, 12th century, Rajasthan.

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

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Chennakesava temple, Somnathapura, 13th century, Karnataka.

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

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Lakhsminarasimha temple, Javagal,13th century, Karnataka.

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

 

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Achyutaraya temple,Hampi, 16th century, Karnataka.

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

 

References :

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

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

@author

 

Panchatantra in art : some depictions

           Panchatantra literally means five treatises. It is an ancient collection of animal fables. The animals have human virtues and vices. The original text is believed to be in Sanskrit prose and verse.  It has been dated to 300 B.C  and attributed to Vishnusharma, an octagenarian Brahmin who is mentioned in the prelude of the text of many translations that are available. Some sources mention Vasubhaga as the creator of the inter-related animal fables. The illustrations depicted below show some fables from the sub books of the Panchatantra.

Panchatantra manuscript, The Birds Try to Beat Down the Ocean, watercolor on paper, Rajasthan, India, 18th century. 

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/results.html?searchTxt=panchatantra, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61455723

        The Panchatantra has been widely translated into as many as 50 languages across the world. Most European versions of the text are derivative works of the 12th-century Hebrew version of Panchatantra by Rabbi Joel. In 550 A.D it was translated into Pahlavi by Burzoa. In 750 A.D an Arabic translation Kalila wa Dimnah was done by Abdullah Ibn-al-Muqaffa. In the 12th century a Persian translation by Rudaki was titled  Kalileh-o-Damneh. In the 15th century Anwar-i-suhayli in Persian by Kashefi was done which was known as The fables of Bidpai in European languages. It was translated into English by Arthur Ryder in 1925.

18th century Panchatantra manuscript page, The Elephants Trample the Hares picture.jpg

Panchatantra manuscript, The elephants trample the hares, watercolour,18th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/results.html?searchTxt=panchatantra, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61455729

     The Panchatantra is for the learning of niti or appropriate moral conduct by three ignorant princes. The Panchatantra consists of five parts, each having a main story. Each story contains sub-stories. The titles of the sub-books are Mitrabheda, Mitralabha, Kakolukiyam, Labdhapranasam and Apariksitakaram.

Mitrabheda is the story of Damanaka who is an unemployed minister in a lion’s kingdom. Along with Karataka he conspires and breaks up aalaiances of the king. The book has over 30 fables.  Mitralabha is a collection of the adventures of a crow, a mouse, a turtle and a deer. This book focuses on the importance of friendship and alliances. It has ten fables.

8th century Panchatantra reliefs at Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal Hindu monuments Karnataka.jpg

Panchatantra reliefs, Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka, 8th century.

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

     Kakolukiyam is  a treatise which focuses on war and peace. It points out that a battle of wits is more powerful than a battle of swords. it has 18 fables. Labdhapranasam is a compilation of ancient fables full of moral teachings. It is a guide on what not to do. It has 13 fables in the translation by Arthur Ryder.  Apariksitakaram  is acollection of moral filled fables. The characters are human beings. It has 12 fables in the translation into English by Arthur  Ryder. The stories are titled The loss of friends, The lion and the carpenter, The unteachable monkey, The monkey and the crocodile among many others in the five sub books.

8th century Panchatantra legends panels at Virupaksha Shaivism temple, Pattadakal Hindu monuments Karnataka 2.jpg

Panchatantra panel, Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka, 8th century .

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

 ‘Panchatantra’ relief ,Mendut temple, Central Java, Indonesia.

By Original uploader was BesselDekker at nl.wikipedia – Transferred from nl.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Shreevatsa using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5836212

A page from the 18th-century Panchatantra manuscript, Rajasthan India.jpg

Panchatantra manuscript, Rajasthan,18th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

References:

 

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

Architecture of Bengal : piety and variety

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

View of the central shrine

Somapura Mahavihara, Paharpur, Bangladesh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bishnupur Rashmancha.jpg

Rashmancha, Bishnupur ,West Bengal.

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

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

Madan-Mohan-Temple-of-Vishnupur.jpg

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

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

 

Raghunathjee Temple with Shiva as deity at Ghurisha.jpg

Char-chala, Raghunathjee Temple, Ghurisha.

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

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

 

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

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

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

Shyam Rai Temple, Bankura.JPG

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

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

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

National Heritage.JPG

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

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

Bhukailash Shiv Temple 06.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Radhashyam Temple - Bishnupur.jpg

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

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

 

 

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

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

Kalna Lalji Temple.jpg

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

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

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

Kalna Pratapeswar Temple by Piyal Kundu.jpg

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

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

 

 

Deul (Temple of Ichai Ghosh).jpg

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

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

Deul at Banda, Purulia WLM2016-0207.jpg

Rekha deul, Banda, Purulia,West Bengal.

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

Mothurar Deol Faridpur.jpg

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

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

 

References :

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

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author