Tag Archives: Art of Bengal

Art history of Bengal : early terracottas

   Terracotta or baked clay has been used as a medium to create objects of beauty and utility and votive objects for rituals since ancient times. Clay is available in abundance in the Gangetic valley. The history of using clay goes back to 2nd century B.C.  Excavations at Pandu Rajar Dhibi, Chandraketugarh and other sites have revealed interesting figures made from terracotta. There have been evidences of the art from the Mauryan period from the excavations at Chandraketugarh, Tamluk and Bangarh. The figures are of folk origin made by hand using applique technique; the mother goddess and animal figures continue to be made and used for rituals in rural Bengal, having an ageless quality about them.

     Different types of figures have been found relating to the pre-Mauryan times. Beak-headed mother goddesses with pin-holes and large breasts, fertility goddesses with wide hips, wearing girdles with pin holes. Bull front with fan shaped shaped hump too has been found. During the Mauryan times, the torsos were modelled by hand, faces were moulded, dress and ornament were made separately and fixed. The women were portrayed with full breasts, heavy hips and resembling a fertility goddess. Different historical evidence as gleaned from the Indian epics and archaeological findings are indicative of Aryan settlements in North and south Bengal. but the Aryan culture took centuries to gel with the indigenous culture of Bengal. The excavations undertaken all over Bengal revealed that the maximum objects were made out of terracotta which tell us the story of Bengal from yore. Bengal temples find mention in the travelogue of Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang, Gupta period inscriptions and the illustrations of Buddhist manuscripts.

Male figure, Chandraketugarh, India, 2nd-1st century BC, terracotta - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01682.JPG

Male figure, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 2nd-1st century BC, Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

   Terracotta has been a material abundantly found during excavations and clay seems to have been a popular medium used by common folk to express themselves. Clay objects from 1st-2nd millennium B.C have been found at Pandu Rajar Dhibi. Excavations at Tamluk, Bangarh and Chandraketugarh  have resulted in terracottas which include male figures, fertility goddesses and yaksha/yakshi figures. the women figures are depicted wearing elaborate head-dress,knob-earrings,heavy bangles and neck-pieces. the dress and drapery have been done on these figures using applique technique. The terracotta art found at the ancient sites also reveal nagas, naginis, apasaras and kinnaras. The other art objects are toys, animals, birds, erotic motifs, narrative plaques and pottery with designs. Gupta period terracottas have been found at Birbhum district of West Bengal.

SungaFecondity2.jpg

Sunga fecondity deity or fertility goddess, Chandraketugarh, Sunga 2nd-1st century BCE. Musée Guimet,Paris. 

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

Winged female deity, Chandraketugarh, India, 2nd-1st century BC, terracotta, view 1 - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01683.JPG

Winged female deity in terracotta , Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 2nd-1st century B.C, , Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

By Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45206173

 

    Yakshas and Yakshis resemble human figures but cannot be clearly identified as divine beings or ordinary mortals. They are associated with emblems, animals, birds and mounts.  During the Mauryan and Sunga period their images were frequently made and have been found at various sites. Kubera, the leader of the yakshas has been depicted too. Yakshis outnumber yakshas and are seen with hairpins, common in both West Bengal and North India. They wear heavy jewellery like ear kundalas, sirastraka, necklace and bangles.

Yaksha (Chandraketugarh).jpg

Terracotta yaksha, Sunga dynasty, 1st century BC, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

By Shakti – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14898695

          Toys  and animal figures in terracotta were made for children. Clay carts were most common usually the two or four wheeled chariot type cart. The animal depicted would be a ram or horse. Plaques depicting Jataka tales have been found at Chandraketugarh. Amorous couple have been found at Tamluk and Chandraketugrah.

Boy Feeding a Parrot LACMA M.85.35.1.jpg

Boy feeding a parrot, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 1st century B.C,  LACMA, USA.

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

File:Rattle in the shape of Kubera, India, West Bengal, Chandraketugarh, c. 200 BCE, terracotta, HAA.JPG

Rattle in the shape of Kubera,terracotta, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, 200 B.C,  Honolulu Academy of Arts. U.S.A.

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Terracotta plaque of a yakshi (female nature spirit),  Bengal, 3rd-2nd century B.C, Honolulu Academy of the Arts, U.S.A.

By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17609527

 

References :

 

 

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

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Terracotta art of Bengal : jewellery depictions

       Jewellery has always occupied an important place in the social and cultural life of India. Initially men and women used natural material for beautification of the body like leaves  and flowers followed by beads using other type of material. In course of time, metals like gold  was  used to make ornaments which continues to this day.

  The figure of the bronze dancing girl found at Mohenjodaro, one of the Indus valley sites depicts her wearing necklaces and a number of bangles. Gold, silver and ivory, copper, bone, shell and terracotta have all been used to make ornaments. Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro yielded variety of beads  which were strung together and worn as armlets, bracelets, necklaces and girdles.

Vedic texts make enough references to jewellery and its use to decorate the body. The Ramayana and Mahabharata, India’s great epics describe jewellery elaborately. When Sita daughter of King Janaka gets married to Lord Rama, she is bedecked with ear ornaments, nose ornament, chandrahaar , bracelets, anklets with bells etc. her head ornament the chudamani is believed to have been given to her father by Kubera, the God of wealth himself. Lord Rama wears pearls on his crown, and as ear-rings and around his neck. Yudhistira loses a rare pearl during his gambling game with the Kauravas in the Mahabharata.

  Buddhist and Jaina literature mention ornaments. The Jataka tales mention jewellery including those worn by elephants and horses. The Kalpasutras, Jaina texts describe different ornaments.

   In ancient India, following the Indus valley times and the Vedic era, the ascendancy of the Mauryan dynasty unified the Indian subcontinent. Trade routes opened and rare and new gems came to India. The Arthshastra written in 3rd century B.C by Kautilya describes jewellery types. Jewellery was worn both by men and women. The yakshi from Didargunj, Patna wears a headband, a pendant, girdle on her waist and anklets. Terracotta figures from this age also depict jewellery. Bharhut, Sanchi, Bodhgaya and Amaravati are attributed to the Sunga and Satavahana phase of Indian history. Their art reveals a variety of ornaments used on head,ears,neck,arms,waist and feet. Motifs were drawn from nature or religion. Short necklaces were called Kanthi and in case it had a large pearl as  a centre-piece it was called sirshak. A necklace having alternate gold and pearl beads was called ApavartikaRatnavali was a necklace having many gems, pearls and gold beads. Shankhavalayaswere made of conch, ratnavalayas set with precious stones, jalavalayas were bracelets with perforations. Mekhala,Kanchi,rasana and sarasana were different type of girdles. Various names have been assigned to anklets such as manjira tulakoti, nupura, padangada,hamsaka and palipada and kinkini for the ones with bells. Trade was prevalent between South India and Rome at the beginning of Christian era and the gold which came in was converted into jewellery. Jewellery of Satavahanas is described inGathasaptasati written in Prakrit by a ruler. A circular jewel was placed in the centre of the usnisha(turban), kirita(a crown with jewels) was worn too. Women wore the chudamani and the makarika(crocodile shaped jewel) was also very popular. Ear kundalas were in vogue. The phalakahara consisting of gold slabs as very popular among necklaces.

      The jewellery of Taxila and adjoining townships of Sirkap and Sirsukh have revealed a blend of Indian, Greek, Persian and Greco-Roman in design and form. This is because the city was built and destroyed many times between 500 BC to 500 A.D. by invaders like the Greeks, Mauryas of Magadha, the Bactrian Greeks, the Sakas, the Parthians, the Kushanas and the Huns.

 The Sungas replaced the Mauryan dynasty. Bharhut sculptures are seen wearing a variety of ornaments. Ear-rings were termed Karnika or kundala if they were ring shaped. A single string of beads was called ekavali. Armlets were very much in use. Bracelets were also worn, girdles were worn by women. Hair ornaments kept hair in place. Sakas, Parthian and later the Kushanas followed the Sunga rule. This had an impact on the society of ancient India as they came from Central Asia and influenced indigenous art and craft of India.

 

File:Chandraketugarth, epoca sunga, dea della fecondità, II-I sec. ac. 02.JPG

Fertility deity. Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh.

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

       Kanishka, a Kushana ruler patronised art and his rule was from Bactria to Magadha and Kashmir to Saurastra. Gandhara was an important centre with Roman influence and the other was Mathura which was purely Indian. Jewellery has been excavated  from Taxila which include gold, copper, bronze pendants, bracelets, bangles and armlets. Kushan  jewellery is evident in the Gandhara and Mathura sculptures. The railing pillars at Mathura depict Yakshi with nupura(anklets), mekhala(girdles), hara(necklace), valaya(bracelets), bangles, ear-rings and finger-rings. The excavations at Chandraketugarh in West Bengal of the Sunga era too have revealed many fertility goddesses, mother and child figures etc. The figures have adorned bodies with elaborate coiffure and jewellery. Head dress and fashion of hair dressing is evident form figures found at Pandu Rajar Dhibi in west Bengal. They are seen wearing a conical helmet like hairdo; and also a fan shaped one! The mauryan hairstyles depict neatly combed hair and hairdos with bi-cornate arrangement. Decorative hairpins are seen on Sunga-Kushana figures. along with jewelled bands. used to tie the braid. These head ornaments are though to be the prototype of the kiritamakuta. Forehead ornaments like tikli can be seen on women. The tikli can be seen having radiating beaded strings. Kundalas or ear ornaments were worn by both men and women. Over-sized ear studs with floral motifs have been depicted too. The neckpieces are a study in itself. Women wore neck collars like the hasuli or a choker.  The necklaces are the haras. Long beaded necklaces are seen on the figures, some reaching the navel. The valayas or bracelets were worn by both men and women. They were heavy and the keyura or armlet also used to be worn. Girdles were worn at the waist either single or of more than one string made up of discs spaced by beads.

SungaMasculine.jpg

Sunga masculine figure, Sunga 2nd-1st century B.C, Chandraketugarh,  Musée Guimet,Paris.

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1062807SungaWithChild.jpg

Mother and child, Sunga dynasty, Chandraketugarh, West Bengal.

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1062813

    Yaksha and yakshis, who were semi -divine beings and resemble human figures, were associated with emblems,animals, birds and mounts. The Yakshis which have been discovered at the archaeological sites of Mauryan and Sunga period outnumber the yakshas (male). Seen with hairpins, these yakshis were common both in Bengal and North India. They are seen wearing ear kundalas, sirastraka, necklace and heavy bangles.

File:Plaque of a Yakshi (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century BCE, terracotta, HAA I.JPG

Plaque of a Yakshi (female nature spirit), India, Bengal, 3rd-2nd century B.C, terracotta, Honolulu Academy of Arts, U.S.A.

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

      The late medieval temples of Bengal have many figures of both men and women, flora and animals. the jewellery is noteworthy. The animals like the horses and elephants are seen wearing jewellery too ! Adornment seems to have been away of life.  The Bankura horse also wears jewellery like the Chandmala on its forehead.

    Figurines over the wall of jor bangla temple.jpg

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur,Bankura,West Bengal.

By Dyutiman86 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59899298

References :

  • H.Clifford Smith/The art of Jewellery; New Delhi :Bharatiya Kala Prakashan,
  • M.L.Nigam/Indian jewellery;New Delhi : Roli Books, 1999.
  • Jamila Brijbhushan/Masterpieces of Indian jewellery; Bombay : D. B Taraporewala and Sons,1983.
  • Terracotta art of Bengal/Biswas,S.S,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1981.
  • Bengal temples/Dutta, Bimal Kumar , New Delhi : Mushiram Manoharlal,1975.
  • wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : depictions from the Ramayana

    The temples of Bengal (undivided) are well known for the intricate terracotta work and carvings. The themes depicted are many. Among them the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are also seen at many places. Scenes and characters from the epics are sculpted.

         Showcased below is a a terracotta creation from a temple at Surul, a village in Birbhum, West Bengal  adjacent to Visva-Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Depicted below are scenes from the epic Ramayana. The battle between Lord Rama and Ravana at Lanka has been sculpted above the arch.

File:Surul 2.JPG

Terracotta carving of Ramayana, Surul , Birbhum, West Bengal.

Pic source : wikitravel.org

      The Ramayana was composed by Sage Valmiki (5th century B.C to 1st century B.C , ie. more than 2500 years ago. It is the story of Lord Rama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu of Hinduism. It has over 24,000 verses spanning 5 chapters and is the longest epic poem of Hinduism. Rama is the prince of Ayodhya , eldest son of King Dasaratha. Rama is to succeed him but King Dasaratha’s second wife Kaikeyi wants her son Bharata to be on the throne. She schemes against Rama and sends him along with his wife Sita into exile for 14 years. During this time Sita is kidnapped by demon king Ravana of Lanka. However with the help of his brother Lakhsmana , who accompanies him on his exile and the monkey general Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, Sita is rescued after a fierce battle. After the exile they come back to Ayodhya and Lord Rama is crowned king. They have two sons Lava and Kusha. However Sita is accused of being unfaithful and asked to prove her chastity. She prays to Mother Earth and vanishes for ever but is immortalised; as per the epic. Ramayana is very popular and  Rama and Sita are thought of as  ideals and their victory is taken as the victory of good over evil. There are many sub-stories which teach valuable moral lessons. The great epic has been depicted in art since ancient times. There are miniature paintings, sculpture, modern paintings, translations in many languages, versions in other Asian countries, songs, films and television serials about the epic, given its timelessness and popularity.  Thus the terracotta  temples in Bengal (undivided) are no exception and could not escape the magic of this epic story.

 

Sage Valmiki, painting, unknown artist.

By …, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1058109

File:Print Ramayana - Pages 49 and 50.jpg

Scene of the battle at Lanka between Rama with his forces and Ravana, print, British Library, London.

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

         The Kanta Nagar temple at Dinajpur in Bangladesh was built by Maharaja Pran Nath, started in 1704 and completed by his son Maharaja Ramnath by 1722. It is a magnificent edifice with fine terracotta carvings. The epics are depicted on the temple, some characters can be seen on the pillars too !

Dinajpur KantanagarMondir 11Oct12 IMG 3579.jpg

Kantanagar temple, Dinajpur,Bangladesh.

By Kazi Rashed Abdallah – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51935398

Detailing of terracotta on the Kantanagar temple's wall 02.jpg

Detailing of terracotta, Kantanagar temple,Bangladesh.

By Tanhaaa7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51471853

Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh (20).JPG

Terracotta, Kantajiu temple, Kantanagar, Bangladesh.

By Shahnoor Habib Munmun (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Kan-terra-cota-19.jpg

Kantanji’s Temple, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.

By Omar Shehab (omarshehab) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2595736

      The Radhabinod temple at Jayadev Kenduli, a village in Birbhum district of West Bengal depicts scenes from the  epic Ramayana. It is a navaratna temple, one having nine spires. Jaydev Kenduli was believed to be the birthplace of Jayadeva, the composer of Gita-Govinda from the 12th century, a classic Sanskrit work on Radha-Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavan. The gopis were the other cowherd girls who loved Lord Krishna. The land of Birbhum has been known as the land of red mud.

 The Radhabinod temple was built by Maharaja Kirtichand of Bardhaman in the 17th century.  The Ramayana scenes at the temple depicts the battle between the demons and the monkey army or vanar-sena.

Radhabinod Temple at Jaydev Kenduli, Birbhum,West Bengal.

By Chandan Guha – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6080659

Ramayana scene at Radhabinod temple, Jaydev Kenduli, Birbhum, West Bengal.

By Chandan Guha – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6080705

 

References :

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

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : fauna depictions on temples

 

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

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

Jor Bangla Temple 3 Bishnupur.JPG

Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

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

Terracotta work on Jor Bangla temple, Bishnupur 4.JPG

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

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

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

         Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur, Bankura,West Bengal.

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

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

Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh (12).JPG

Kantaji Temple, Dinajpur, Bangladesh.

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

                                  Terracotta work, Kantanagar temple.

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

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

 

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 1.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

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

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 11.jpg

Lalji Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51951638

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Outer Panel - 9.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rameswar Temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

References :

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

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Terracotta art of Bengal : magnificent Radha-Krishna images

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

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

Terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple Bishnupur 8.JPG

Ras-lila depiction, terracotta work on Shyamrai Temple, Bishnupur,West Bengal.

Amartyabag – নিজের কাজ কর্তৃক, সিসি বাই-এসএ ৩.০, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18523365

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

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

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

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

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

Group of temples known as Brindaban Chandra's Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guptipara - Temple Complex Brindaban Chandra's Math

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

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

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

Terracota work at Brindaban Chandra's Math.jpg

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

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

Lalji Temple - Kalna - Inner Panel - 9.jpg

Panel, Lalji temple, Kalna, Bardhaman, West Bengal.

By Sumit Surai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51950483

Pratapeshwar temple,Kalna,West Bengal.

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

 

References :

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

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

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