Tag Archives: art history

Kaliyamardana – a story from the Bhagavata Purana

          Lord Krishna is a much loved deity in Hinduism. His childhood as Balakrishna, youth as a cowherd; later revered as the mentor and charioteer of Pandava Arjuna in the Indian epic Mahabharata who advises him on the battlefield in which he has to fight his own cousins. His actions, words and feats including his Rasaleela at Brindavan with his beloved Radha and other has been captured in art, poetry and narratives. Find the story behind a celebrated feat of Lord Krishna – the Kaliyamardana in which he slays a multiple hooded serpent of astounding strength who is tormenting people and been depicted in many artworks found all over India and outside India.

    The details of the story is found in the Bhagavata Purana, one of Hinduism’s 18 great Puranas.

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Krishna dancing on the head of Kaliya, Mughal School, India, 1590-1595 A.D, illustration from the Harivamsa, an appendix of Razmnama, Balarama and people watch from the riverbank.

        The story is very interesting and takes us to the banks of the Yamuna flowing through Brindavan in the north of India. Lord Krishna as a young lad who also lived nearby, played here along with his cowherd friends. The tenth canto of Chapter 16 describes an amazing feat of a young Krishna of subduing a serpent called Kaliya and the episode is referred to as Kaliyanaga-mardana. The depictions in art range from narrations in miniature paintings, stone sculpture, metal works and book illustrations.

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Episode of Kaliyamardana, page from a dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series, late 18th century, Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A

     Kaliya the serpent was originally from Ramanakadwipa and driven away from there because he was mighty afraid of Garuda the enemy of snakes. Garuda had been cursed by Sage Saubhari that if he ever came to Brindavan he would meet his end there. So Kaliya made Brindavan his home and lived there with his family. The giant serpent was residing in the river Yamuna and scared people away and nobody could go near to the site where he lived. He was also spilling deadly venom into the Yamuna which was frothing and bubbling over. One day Krishna and his cowherd friends were playing a game of ball. While playing the ball fell near the spot where Kaliya resided. Krishna’s friends urged him not to go after the ball. But Krishna jumped into the river and on seeing Krishna, Kaliya curled around his legs. Krishna’s mother Yashoda was very frightened of the serpent and asked Krishna to just come home. However Krishna stomped on his tail and warned Kaliya not to trouble anybody. Kaliya was a very strong serpent and pulled Krishna into the river. People gathered on the bank. Kaliya has got Krishna ensnared in its coils. However Krishna expanded himself forcing Kaliya to release him. After he was thus released, Krishna started dancing on the head of Kaliya which released the poison of the snake. Krishna took the weight of the whole universe and started beating him with his feet. Kaliya started to die and began vomiting blood. Kaliya’s wives came and begged Krishna to spare his life. Kaliya too  surrendered and promised not to harass anybody again. Krishna did a final  dance on his head and asked him to go back to Ramanakadwipa and assured him that Garuda would not trouble him again.

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Kaliyadamardana, Krishna ensnared, Brooklyn Museum, U S A, painting, created between 1750 and 1780 A.D.

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Image, Dharmshala, Khatu Mode, Mumbai.

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Kaliya’s wives praying to Krishna to release their subdued husband serpent Kaliya, Kangra, Pahari painting, 1785-90 A.D, National Museum, New Delhi.

Richly Decorated Carving of Sri Krishna - Sri Lakshminarayana Temple,Hosaholalu.jpg

Carving of Lord Krishna subduing Kaliya, Sri Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu, Karnataka, 13th century.

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Krishna subdues serpent Kaliya, – lintel over the main door of the outer East gopura,  Prasat Muang Tam, Thailand, late 10th century.

    Krishna rose from the river while dancing on Kaliya’s head. People too on seeing Krishna danced on his head and Kaliya was finally pushed into Patala where  he stays to this day as it is believed.

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Book illustration, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914), Nivedita, Sister, Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish,  University of Toronto Digital Collection.

 

 

References

  • wikipedia.org
  • Memories of Childhood tales
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

Rani-ki-vav – sculptural marvels in a step-well

           A astounding marvel in architecture of a step-well along with embellishments of 500 principal and 1000 other minor sculptural creations are waiting to amaze visitors at Patan in Gujarat, India. Built in the 11th century on the bank of the river Saraswati by Rani Udaymati, wife of Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. Hence it is called Rani ki vav or the Queen’s step-well.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The step-well has seven levels of stairs with the panels embellished with sculptures. The themes are mostly religious or mythological. Udayamati was the daughter of Navavaraha Khangera and commissioned the step-well in memory of her husband Bhima I who ruled between 1022 and 1064 A.D. The step-well is well preserved because it was flooded by the Saraswati river and had got silted. This entire creation took 20 years to be made.

 

Ornamental pillars, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         Art historians Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited the site when it was totally in mud. They thought it was ahuge pit. However in the 1940s the excavations carried out under the Baroda State revealed the stepwell. In 1980s the Archaeological Survey of India took it further by more excavation and in 2014 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The entrance is located in the East while the well is located at the Westernmost end and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. There is a compartmentalised stepped corridor with multi-storeyed pillared pavillions. The walls, pillars, columns, brackets and beams are all ornamented and embellished with carvings and scroll work, The niches too demand attention by their ornamentation with figures. There are 212 pillars in the step-well.

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Lord Rama, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Sculptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          The sculptures depict Gods, Goddesses, celestial beings, men, women, priests, birds and animals. Lord Vishnu image is the maximum form depicted here as ‘Seshasayi’ and ‘Viswaroopa’ and also as ‘Dasavatara’. Hindu deities Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Gods Ganesha, Kubera, Surya, Indra and Hayagriva are also depicted here. One finds Uma-Maheshwara, Lakhsmi-Nararayana, Ardhnarishwara, Chamunda, Mahisasuramardini, the Saptammatrikas and the images of Navagraha or nine planets as well. This step-well brings out the sanctity of water as a life giving force. This step-well is a form of subterranean water architecture and is like an inverted temple, a water management system symbolising the technological height of the step-well tradition in India.

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Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Mahisasuramardini, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

There are also celestial beings like Apsaras and celestial dancers and a Naga princess. also common men and women doing their daily activities, women holding children. Every sculpture seems sublime and infused with a special quality. The expressions have beauty and balance to mesmerize the onlooker. The jewellery and hairstyles depicted are also unique and can be a study on its own !

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Apsara , Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scroll designs and lattice patterns, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Varaha avatar, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          It is a fine and exquisite stepwell, classified as a Nanda type. It  is 65 m long, 20 m wide and 28 m deep. The fourth level is deepest and leads to a rectangular well. However at present the ground water levels have changed following the Saraswati river’s relocation.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

 

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 !

Related image

A peacock feather.

      The female is called peahen and is smaller in size.  It is a plain brown bird without the train. Fully white peacocks too are there but are bit rare. The peacock rejoices on seeing the clouds and is often called meghananda. Found mostly in South Asia and Far Eastern Asia. Peacocks have been depicted in India since Harappan times. The peacock is India’s favourite bird in the Rigveda. The peacock was a favourite among the Indus Valley people, peacock has been depicted in folk literature too! Peacock was the totem of the Mauryan rulers, a word derived from mor or mayura.  and has been found on  stones used for the palace of Chandragupta Maurya. The peacock is an important component in the Jataka tales.

   Peacock is found at the railings of the Bharhut Stupa dating to 1st century B.C, now seen at the Indian Museum, Kolkata. the northern gateway of the Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, from 2nd-1st century B.C depicts peacocks in pairs with their long tails. There are many sculptural depictions of the peacock across India across centuries.

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Peacock motif, Great Stupa, Sanchi, 2nd to 1st B.C, Madhya Pradesh.

By Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand (017 Maya on Lotus, Couple on Horse, and Peacock) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

   The peacock is associated with Lord Kartikeya or Murugan as his vehicle or vahana. Lord Murugan is the Commander-in-chief of the Gods in Hinduism. He vanquishes Tarakasura. To achieve this Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) gave his son, the peacock to him. Lord Shiva gave him a locket and  Indra gave him a string of pearls. The other gods gave him different powers. Agni gave him a shula  or spear, Brihaspati gave him a danda or club, Ganga gave him a kamandala (pot for water).

Kartikeya depicted on his peacock in upper left, on a Nataraja relief on Temple 1; Ganesha in upper right corner, Parvati in lower left and a musician is in lower right, Jageshwar Temples, Uttarakhand, 7th-12th century .

By Nitin Sharma – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28550582

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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

File:12th-century Kama Artha Dharma Moksha relief at Shaivism Hindu temple Hoysaleswara arts Halebidu Karnataka India 5, lower panel shows musicians and dancing peacocks.jpg

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

 

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

Image result for peacock images sculpture

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

 

Saptamatrikas in art : some depictions

      The concept of the Saptamatrikas or Seven mothers have existed since the Indus valley civilisation. Seals have been found with seven feminine deities. The seven mothers find mention in the Rigveda, the Puranas and the Mahabahrata.

         By the fifth century they came to be called as Tantric Goddesses. The Mahabharata describes them as dark in colour and staying in ”peripheral areas” and that they are associated with Skanda or Kumara, son of Lord Shiva. They later came to be associated with the sect of Lord Shiva himself. Their sculptural representation in the 1st to 3rd century happened in stone. During the Gupta period(3rd to 6th century C E) folk images of the matrikas were made. Later rulers made Skanda as their model and the foster mothers became”court goddesses”. Many dynasties devoted rock-cut sculptures to the matrikas. Like at Parhari in Madhya Pradesh. Temples of the Western Ganga dynasty (350-1000 A.D) and sculptures of the Gurjara-Prtiharas (8th to 10th century A.D) and Chandella dynasty (8th to 12th century), Chalukya dynasty (11th to 13th century A.D). Initially the matrikas were considered dangerous but later took on a protective role. They are mostly depicted in lalitasana posture.

       According to a legend the matrikas were created to assist Lord Shiva in a battle agianst Andhakasura as per the Isaanasivagurudeva paddhati. The matrikas are the powers of the associated devas. In Shaktism they are believed to have assisted the Devi in her fight against demons like Raktabija.  The saptamatrikas are Brahmani,Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Varahi, Chamunda and Indrani.

Statues of Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Camunda, National Museum, New Delhi.jpg

Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32743578

Brahmani : She is four-headed and has yellowish complexion with vahana or vehicle of a hamsa/swan. She represents the power of associated deva Brahma. She holds a rosary or noose and kamandalu (water pot) or lotus stalk or a book.She is also shown seated on a lotus with the hamsa on her banner. She wears various ornaments and is distinguished by her basket-shaped crown called karandamakuta

Vaishnavi : From Vishnu; is described as seated on Garudaand having four or six arms. She is depicted holding Shankha (conch), chakra (Discus), mace and lotus and bow and sword or her two arms are in varada mudra (Blessing hand gesture) and abhaya mudra (“No-fear” hand gesture). Like Vishnu, she is heavily adorned with ornaments like necklaces, anklets, earrings, bangles wearing a cylindrical crown called kiritamukuta.

Maheshwari : From Shiva; Maheshvari is depicted seated on Nandi (the bull) and has four or six hands. The fair complexioned, Trinetra (three eyed) goddess holds a trishula (trident), damaru (drum), Akshamala (A garland of beads), panapatra (drinking vessel) or axe or an antelope or a kapala (skull-bowl) or a serpent and is adorned with serpent bracelets, the crescent moon and jatamakuta, a crown formed of piled, matted hair.

Kaumari : From Skanda or Kumara;the god of war. Kaumari rides a peacock and has four or twelve arms. She holds a spear, axe, a shakti (power) or Tanka (silver coins) and bow. She is sometimes depicted six-headed like Kumara and wears the cylindrical crown. In Tamil Nadu, Karumari Amman is a favored deity.

 

Varahi : From Varaha; the boar-headed form of Vishnu or Yama – the god of death, has a boar head on a human body and rides a ram or a buffalo. She holds a danda (rod of punishment) or plough, goad, a vajra or a sword, and a panapatra. She wears a crown karaṇḍa mukuṭa with other ornaments.

Chamunda Chamundi and Charchika is the power of Devi (Chandi). She is very often identified with Kali and is similar in her appearance and habit. The identification with Kali is explicit in Devi Mahatmya. The black coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls (Mundamala) and holding a damaru (drum), trishula (trident), sword and pānapātra (drinking-vessel). Riding a jackal or standing on a corpse of a man (shava or preta), she is described as having three eyes, a terrifying face and a sunken belly.

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Chamunda, sculpture.

By Daderot – Self-photographed, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11384120

Indrani : From Indra; the Lord of the heaven. Seated on a charging elephant, Aindri, is depicted dark-skinned, with two or four or six arms. She is depicted as having two or three or like Indra, a thousand eyes. She is armed with the vajra(thunderbolt), goad, noose and lotus stalk. Adorned with variety of ornaments, she wears the kiritamakuta.

     Another eighth Matrika is Narsimhi or NarasimhikaPrathyangira, and Atharvana Bhadrakaali, is the power of Narasimha (lion-man form of Vishnu). She is a woman-lion goddess who throws the stars into disarray by shaking her lion mane. Ashtamatrika is revered in Nepal.

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Saptamatrika panel, National Museum, New Delhi.

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

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Matrikas Temple, Aihole, Karnataka.

By Benjamín Preciado Centro de Estudios de Asia y África de El Colegio de México (Trabajo de Campo 1977) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Vaishnavi and Varahi fighting asuras (demons),folio from a Devimahatmya,Sirohi, Rajasthan, 1675-1700.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Saptamatrika, Ellora (Cave 21),Maharashtra.

By Leon Yaakov from Tel Aviv, ISRAEL – Ellora Caves, May 2012, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37357560

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Mantra ratnakara decipting Matrikas, Wood and multi-layered paper,Nepal.

By NA – Freer Gallery [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2804473

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Saptamatrika, Nepal, 11th century.

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12403566

Terracota statue of Saptmatrikas from Maurya Period, National Museum, New Delhi.jpg

Saptmatrikas,terracotta, Maurya period, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32740370

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Saptamatrikas flanked by Shiva on the left and Ganesha on the right, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, U.S.A, 9th century.

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

Goddess Durga leads the eight Matrikas in battle against demon Raktabija. Folio, Devi Mahatmya, Nepal, 18th century.

By Unknown Nepali – Source: LACMA[1]. Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. Original uploader was Redtigerxyz at en.wikipedia Transfer was stated to be made by User:Giggy. 2007-07-11 (original upload date), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3351664

 

References :

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

Art of Kerala : magnificent murals

     Kerala is at the southern end of the Indian peninsula.  It is a part of the Western Ghats of India. Verdant with copious rainfall it is home to many trees, spice plantations, an amazing amount of flora and its well-known backwaters in the south.  Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country has a very interesting history of mural making. Believed to have started in the 7th and 8th century; majorly influenced by Pallava art. The oldest Kerala style murals have been found at a rock cut temple of Thirunandikara, now in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu which was probably made in the 9th or 10th century. There is some doubt about mural making in between 10th and 13th centuries but from the 14th to 16th century many were made and continue to this day after continuing  revival efforts.

    The content of the murals are mostly religious and mythological depicting legends. Flora and  fauna also figure in the wall paintings. Magnificent murals are found all over Kerala. Murals have been made at palaces, termples, churches and also some other spaces. The Kanthaloor temple, Thiruvananthapuram, The Mattancherry palace, Cochin, Vaddakumnathan temple, Thrissur to mention a few. Murals have been made at churches at Alappuzha, Thiruvella, Angamly and Akkaparambu. Some temple murals   are highlighted here.  Also some depictions from Kalyana bhavanam or marriage halls.

Ananthasayanam, mural, 21st century, by artist Sastrasarman Prasad, Sree Karthyayani Temple,  Kunnamkulam, Thrissur,Kerala.

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

    The Mattancheri palace was built by the Portuguese in 1555. It is commonly called Dutch palace since 1663 after the Dutch made additions and renovations to it. there are shrines in the palace compound. Next to the palace is the Cochin synagogue built in 1567. On the west of the palace are murals painted in 1000 square feet in four chambers and two low ceilinged rooms from the 17th to mid 19th century. The depictions are from the Ramayana and some Krishna-lila scenes. The eastern chambers have Lord Shiva and Vishnu depictions. The scenes are dominated by browns,golds and red browns with touches of jewel-like green. There are many paintings which include Lord Vishnu as Anantasayana, Lord Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan, Lord Shiva with Parvati on Kailasa, Krishna with gopis, marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Also Lord Shiva with Vishnu as Mohini.

File:Mattancherry Palace DSC 0899.JPGMattancherri Palace, Cochin,Kerala.

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

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Mural, Lord Shiva with Mohini, Parvati looking away in anger, Mattancheri palace, Cochin, Kerala.

By Mark Hills (originally posted to Flickr as mattancherry palace) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Padmanabhapuram palace is located 40 kilometres from thiruvananthapuram, now in Tamil Nadu though historically a part of Kerala. This palace was a royal site, a centre for contact between the ruler Maharaja with visitors from abroad and for discussions with his advisors.  The murals at the palace are from the 17th and 18th centuries mostly found on the upper floor of the 4 storey tower, in a sacred bedroom devoted to Lord Vishnu. Deities and tales from the Puranas  are depicted on all four walls. The colours are light with uses of pastel shades and white as well. an are of 900 square feet is painted with murals. Lord Shiva resting with Parvati, Lord Krishna playing on his flute with gopis around him; are also depicted in the palace.

     The Krishnapuram palace, built in the early 18th century at Kayamkulam is located north of Kollam (Quilon) and has a mural of Gajendramoksham of 154 square feet made around 1725-40.  There is also an image of Ganesha. At some places European influences can be seen.

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Krishnapuram palace, Kayamkulam, Kerala.

By Appusviews at Malayalam Wikipedia – Transferred from ml.wikipedia to Commons by Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12762847

Gajendramoksham, Krishnapuram Palace, Kayamkulam, Alappuzha, Kerala. 

By Essarpee1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32662595

    The magnificent art of mural painting is well depicted in many temples across Kerala. The Vaddakumnathan temple at Thrissur, the Chemmanthita Siva temple, Thrissur, Kudamaloor, Kannur, Thodeekkalam, Kannur, the Sreevallabha temple, Thiruvalla the Mahadeva Siva temple, Ettamanoor, Pallikarup Mahavishnu temple, Mannarkad, Palakkad, the Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Guruvayur temple, Guruvayur, Vaikom temple, Kottayam,  among many others.

           The Sreevallabha temple at Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta is dedicated to Lord Sree Vallabham  and is very old. It is built on the banks of the Manimala river. The temple has fine stone-wooden carvings and grand architecture. There are  superb murals paintings in the  sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of Matsya avatara, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Sudarshana, Parashurama, Venugopala, Lord Krishna, Kaaliyamardana episode,  Balarama, Dakshinamurty, Purusha sukta, Lord Rama, Lakshmi, Ganapati,  Kalki avatara.

Sree Vallaba Temple 1.JPG

Sreevallabha Temple, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

By Ssriram mt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42076069

Garuda picture sreevallabha temple.JPG

Garuda, mural, Sreevallabha temple, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

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

   The Vaikom Mahadeva temple in Kottayam is an elliptical plan temple founded in the 11th or 12th century. The murals here are dedicated to the story of Lord Shiva. The paintings are bright and the colours are intense. At the Mahadeva temple at Ettamanur in Kottayam is an awesome panel of Lord Shiva as Nataraja  on the inner wall of the gopura, 12 feet by 8 feet in size from the 16th century ! Lord Shiva is seen trampling the demon apasmara.

Image result for kerala murals images

Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam, Kerala.

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

       The Thodeekkalam Shiva temple at Kannur is believed to be 2000 years old ! It is having much admired murals which depict stories of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Also the rural life from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The two-storied temple associated with the Pazhassi royal family of Kottayam, has 150 murals  painted over an area of 700 square feet  on the walls of the garba-griha or sanctum sanctorum. The splendorous murals are painted with naturally sourced pigments and red, saffron-yellow, green, white, blue, black, golden yellow hues dominate the panels.

Mural painting of Ganesha, Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, Kannur,Kerala.

By Vijayakumarblathur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48710571

Thodeekalam_mural_paintings

Mural painting, Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, Kannur, Kerala. 

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

       The Pundareekapuram temple near Thalayolaparambhu in Kottayam has Lord Vishnu as the main deity on his Garuda along with Bhoodevi. The murals of this temple were made most probably in later 18th century. The themes include Mahisasuramardini, Krishnalila, Sri Rama-pattabhishekam among others. The murals are bold and striking with accurate lines. Many images of Nagaraja along with Garuda are found in the temple.

 

 

Pundareekapuram temple.jpg

Pundareekapuram temple, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16060370

Pundareekapuram temple  mural, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16060393

Kalyana-bhavanam mural painting, Achikanam, Kasargod, Kerala.

By Vijayanrajapuram – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53875551

File:Murals in Palakkad Junction railway station.jpg

 Mural at Olavakhode Railway Station, Palakkad, Kerala.

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

   

References :

  • Temple arts of Kerala/Bernier,Ronald M, New Delhi : S Chand & Company Ltd, 1982.
  •  Murals of Kerala/Shashibhushan,M.G, Tvm : Department of Public Relations. (article)
  • connectingmalayali.com
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

 

 

 

Mughal miniatures : some fauna depictions

   Mughal miniatures are much admired across the art and history world and the artworks have captured the Mughal times and the opulence related with the Emperors and their reign.The Mughals ruled in India 1526 – 1857 A.D. The Mughals were patrons of art and maintained ateliers of their own. They had their own court artists.  The Mughal atelier included artists like  Abu’l Hasan, Farrukh Beg,Manohar, Govardhan, Inayat, Muhammad Nadir among others. Mansur was a 17th century painter under Emperors Akbar and Jahangir. He excelled in painting flora and fauna. Animal subjects were his passion and he earned the title of ustad or master during Akbar’s reign. He used to travel with the emperor recording natural subjects. He earned the title Nãdir-al-’Asr, someone who is unparalelled in his time.

Nilgai (blue bull).jpg

Nilgai, by Ustad Mansur, from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal painting, 17th century.

Ustad Mansur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

File:DodoMansur.jpg

Dodo bird along with others, Mughal painting, 1625.

Ustad Mansur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ustad Mansur Truthahn.jpeg

Turkey-cock, Mughal painting, 17th century.

By Ustad Mansur, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1938648

Siberian Crane.jpg

Siberian crane, Mughal painting, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

By Ustad Mansur – Indian Museum, Kolkata, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30561300

Ustad Mansur Chameleon.jpg

Indian chameleon, Mughal painting, 17th century,British Royal Collection,U.K.

By Ustad Mansur – The Royal Collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29182473

Spotted Forktail, by Abu’l Hasan, Shah Jahan Album,1610–15 A.D. Metropolitan Museum, New-York.

By Abu’l Hasan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

        Ustad Mansur  was a colourist for pages in the  Akbarnama. His animal paintings earned him a place in history of painting. He also drew some birds and animals from his own imagination or world of fantasy. He used floral borders around his compositions. His attention to detail make his works mesmerising to the viewer. There were copies of his works made. His portrayal of the dodo bird (now extinct) is an important source for zoologists. He remains the most celebrated; he mixed objective naturalism with artistic creativity and depiction.

        Ustad Mansur made portraits in his early career. He painted birds like the dipper described by Emperor Jahangir in his memoirs Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. His last painting was that of a zebra which had been gifted to emperor Jahangir. It is now in the V & A Museum, U.K. Jahangir was a keen naturalist like Emperor Babur. Emperor Jahangir has left amazing descriptions of fauna. As a prince Jahangir had his own studio in the 1580s with Aqa Riza, a  painter from Herat, as his chief artist.  He  made  Ustad Mansur copy all the flowers in the valley of Kashmir during his visit. During Emperor Akbar’s reign Mishkin was a talented artist. He has painted Laila-Majnun surrounded by many animals. Artists Abu’l Hasan, son of Aqa Riza and Manohar Das or Manohar, son of Basawaan during the reign of Emperor Jahangir were also good at making paintings of fauna.

Squirrels in a Plane Tree, by Abu’l Hasan, 1610, India Office Library and Records, London,U.K.

By Abu’l Hasan and Mansur (scan from book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs", Folio from an Akbarnama MET sf30-95-174-8a.jpg

Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs, By Manohar Das, from an Akbarnama, Metropolitan Museum, New-York.

By Creator:Manohar [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

"Black Buck", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album MET DP246551.jpg

Black buck, by Manohar, folio from a Shah Jahan album, early 17th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

By Creator:Manohar [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Peacocks, illustration, Mughal painting,17th century.

By Ustad Mansur, Nãdir-al-’Asr (Ustad Mansur, Nãdir-al-’Asr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two Cranes - Ustad Mansur

Two cranes, Mughal painting, 17th century.

http://www.wikiart.org/en/ustad-mansur/two-cranes

 

Zebra, 1621 - Ustad Mansur

Zebra, by Ustad Mansur, Mughal painting, 17th century.

Source :www.wikiart.org/en/ustad-mansur/zebra-1621

References :

  • Court paintings of India/Pal, Pratapadiya, New Delhi : Kumar Gallery,1983.
  • Animals and birds in Mughal miniature paintings/Khanam, Zaheda,New Delhi : D. K Print world, 2009.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

The Barahmasa : depictions in Indian miniature paintings

         The twelve months or Barahmasa correspond to the length of a year which is a span of time. During these months various seasons happen in nature. Human activities change and so does the scenery with its various elements, the sky, birds, water bodies, animals and vegetation. The various months are Chaitra (March-April). starting in the spring season.  The following months are Vaishakha(April-May), Jyestha (May-June, Asadha (June-July), Sravana(July-August), Bhadon (August-September), Ashvin (September-October), Kartikka (October-November), Margasirsa (November-December), Pausa(December-January), Magha ( January-February) and Phalguna (February-March).

    The folio from a Hindu calendar, Vikram Samvat is seen below. The left column shows the ten avatars of Vishnu, the center-right column shows the twelve signs of the Hindu zodiac. Top middle panel shows Ganesha with two consorts. The second panel shows Krishna with two consorts. The seasons are well recognized and has been depicted in all forms in India’s art and literature and it’s overall cultural landscape. Poetry, painting and sculpture have awesome portrayals and descriptions of the seasons. Seasons in India are part of her ethos and life. Festivals are also celebrated in connections with seasons.  The Barahmasa is a genre of poetry, a concept to which there have been many contributions. Indian paintings have been closely associated with literature. Many important literary works right from ancient times have been depicted  in art and sculpture. The Jataka tales have been depicted in many Buddhist sites of India.

  .     

Hindu calendar/almanac corresponding to Western years 1871-1872, Rajasthan. 

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

              Coming to the subject at hand, this theme has been depicted mostly from late medieval period.  An Indian treatise Chitrasutra composed by Vishnudhrmaottara, sometime during the interval of the Kushana and Gupta times has a set of guidelines on how the seasons are to be depicted in art. Painters have followed the guidelines in ancient and medieval India.

   The Barahmasa was popular in Hindi literature during 13th to 16th centuries and also was a part of Sufi poetry. However, Barahmasa in miniature paintings were mostly done or executed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The paintings had writings in Devanagari on top or behind the painting. Many royal courts had their own painters and ateliers. This theme has not found much favour with Mughal miniatures and Deccani painting though nature by itself has been a subject of composition in these schools. Many animal and bird portraitures have been made in the Mughal paintings; the Deccani schools depict clouds, ponds and lotuses.

        The Rajasthani painting evolved in the courts of Rajputana. They were done in the mniature format. and also on walls of havelis(mansions), palaces and inner chambers of forts. The pigmetns were derived from minerals,plants, conches and precious stones too ! Gold and silver were used at places. The paintings depicted avrious themes from the social viewpoint, also stories form the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nature was depicted too’; these paintings were representative of a rulers legacy. The Rajasthani school has many sub-schools. like Jaipur,Bikaner, Bundi, Kota, Mewar. Alwar and Jodhpur. The style of painting has been influenced by Persian, European, Mughal and Chinese art of painting.The paintings are rich, mostly due to the arid desert landscape, dry hills and less vegetation.

     The Barahmasa theme has been depicted in Chamba, Garhwal, Guler, Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur schools from among the Pahari school. The Pahari schools developed in the hilly regions of North India during 17th to 19th century. From Jammu to Almora and Garhwal,Himachal Pradesh. the range is wide,varied and very interesting. Basohli school is from Jammu which is known for its bold colours. Kangra is famous for its Radha-Krishna depictions and its lyrical quality.; being greatly inspired by Jayadeva’s Geeta-govinda. Central India has the Malwa, Datia and Bundelkhand schools.

     The Chitrasutra as already mentioned has given guidelines for the seasons and they seem to be followed by artists across India. Summer is indicated by the sun in the sky, spring with its seasonal trees in bloom, humming bees,cuckoo depictions and men and women going around happily ! Further, summer depicts fatigue experienced by men,animals, dry pools,birds hiding in trees,lions and  tigers resting in their mountainous hideouts. The rainy season has its dark, laden clouds and streaks of lightning in the sky. Autumn has trees full of fruits,corn ripe in the fields, pools full of swans and lotuses. The winter has its dew and fog, the earth is a bit bare and misty. Crows and elephants are joyous.  There is snowfall in some places.

    Depicted below are some Barahmasa paintings from different schools. The month of Chaitra is depicted with the seasonal trees in bloom and men and women joyous and in conversation. Birds and sarus cranes are seen in the background and where the lotuses are abounding in the pool nearby.

1 The month of Chaitra. Barahmasa series. March-April. 1675-1700 (circa) Bundi. British Museum.jpg

Chaitra (March-April), Barahmasa, Bundi, 1675-1700 A.D, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762741

       The month of Jyeshtha is hot and humid, people are seen using hand fans reclining under shades and birds are hiding in the trees. The sun is scorching the earth and there is bright light around. Tree ahve shed their leaves due to the heat. The animals are resting in shade or retreating to the forest.

2 Jestha (may-june). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Jyestha (May-June). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800s, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762750

 Jyestha (May-June), Folio from a Barahmasa,  Uniara, Rajasthan, 1775, LACMA- public domain image.

      The Asadha month is the pre-monsoon month and clouds are seen to start arriving in the sky with sporadic rain. In Shravan the sky gets laden with rain bearing clouds and the opens with lightning and thunder ! Peacocks are happiest during this time and dance to full glory with their splendorous tail spread out. Nature all around is green and verdant. Pangs of separation are felt more strongly in this season. Forlorn heroines are eager to meet their beloved !

 Ashadha (June-July), Folio from a Barahmasa, Kota, 1700-1725.

LACMA- public domain image.

File:4 Sravana (july-august). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Sravana (July-August), Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British  Museum,U.K.

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

Bhadon (August-September), Folio from a Barahmasa ,LACMA ,U.S.A

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50398299@N08/16260026998/ image by Ashley Van Haeften

          The painting below shows a forlorn heroine trying to go out to meet her beloved and her sakhi or friend refraining her as the sky is full of menacing clouds during the month of Bhadon.

'Virahini' (Lovesick Heroine), India, c. 1740, Honolulu Museum of Art, 10689.1.JPG

Virahini (lovesick heroine), Bhadon (August-September)1740, Barahmasa,  Honolulu Museum of Art,U.S.A.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29363548

Bhadon (August-September), Barahmasa, Malwa, 1640-1650, LACMA- public domain image.
Bhadon (August-September). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6 Asoja (september-october). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

 Ashvin or Asoja, (September-October). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 7 Kartikka (october-november). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg
  Kartikka,(October-November). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8 Margasira (november-december) Barahmasa series..jpg
Margasirsa or Agrahayana,(November-December) Barahmasa series,1800, Rajasthan. British Museum, London,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
         The month of Pausa is depicted with people warming their hands over fire and  sleeping under blankets to face the biting cold. Shawls are worn around the head and shoulders. People seem to be suffering from fever and are making visits to the vaidya or doctor for treatment.
Pausa, (December-January). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
References :
  • Barahmasa/Dwivedi,V.P, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1980.
  • wikipedia.org
Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author