Tag Archives: nature

Kalpavriksha or tree of life : depictions from Asia

 

 The concept of the tree of life, wish fulfilling tree  exists in many cultures. In India the word used is kalpataru or kalpavrikhsha.  Also known as Kalpadruma, it  is a divine tree in Hinduism. It has been mentioned in Sanskrit  literature like Manasara, part of Shilpashastra  and Jain cosmology.  Some depictions in art are mentioned  herein from Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka in India and Java in Indonesia.

    The birth of the kalpavriksha happened during the samudramanthan or churning of the ocean as per Hindu mythology. Along with the tree, the wish fulfilling cow kamadhenu was also born. Lord Indra is supposed to have taken them to heaven, devaloka, along with him and planted it there.  As per mythology  there are five kalpavrikshas; mandana, parijata, santana, kalpavrikhsa and harichandana. All these are believed to grant different wishes to the  devas or gods and out of jealousy the asuras or demons waged wars with them. Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati gave away their daughter Aranyani to a Kalpavriskha for safekeeping when the demon Andhakasura waged war, with a request to bring her up as Vanadevi, or protector of forests. Another daughter Ashokasundari was created from a Kalpavriksha to be a companion to Parvati during period of loneliness.

     The banyan tree or nyagrodha is called kalpataru; the coconut tree whose every part is utilised by human beings for various purposes,the ashwatha (fig) tree, believed to be sacred, mahua tree, shami tree or jaant  of Rajasthan which stays green always and checks soil erosion is also referred to as kalapataru. A variety of palm is considered as kalpataru in Tamil Nadu in India. The Baobab or Parijata  tree is called kalpavriksh in Uttar Pradesh, believed to have been brought by Arjuna, one of the main Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata.    

      The Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, India has many depictions of the bodhi tree which is shown as being worshipped for its association with Lord Buddha. The bodhi tree is an akshaya vata, eternal, life giving tree. Originally commissioned by King Ashoka in 3rd century B.C many structures were added to the stupa complex by other dynasties. Scenes from Lord  Buddha’s life are sculpted on the toranas (gateways) and other structures in and around the stupa.

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

Photographed at the Sanchi Hill, Raisen district of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

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

      A Hindu temple at Java in Indonesia Candi Prambanan from the 9th century is dedicated to the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The temple has pointed architecture with a large complex of many individual shrines. The epics Ramayana and Bhagavata-purana are depicted along the inner balustrade walls of the main shrines. The kalpataru is depicted on the lower outer wall niches.

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Kalpataru guarded by Kinnara and Kinnari, mythical beings at Candi Prambanan, Java, Indonesia.

By Gunawan Kartapranata (Own work originally uploaded in english wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Kalpataru and Kinnara, Siva Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (043 Kalpataru and Kinnara, Siva Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and peacocks, Vishnu Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java,Indonesia.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (124 Kalpataru and Peacocks, Visnu Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and lions, Nandi Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java,Indonesia.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (129 Kalpataru and Lions, Nandi Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and monkeys, Brahma Temple,Candi Prambanan , Java, Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (085 Kaplataru and Monkeys, Brahma Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

     In Jainism too the kalpavrikshas are wish fulfilling trees. There are ten such trees who grant different wishes. The madyanga trees provides delicious drinks, the Bhojananga provides great food, yotiranga gives light, dopanga gives indoor light  The others  include pananga, turiyanga, bhusananga, vatthanga, alayanga, diviyanga who provide music, ornaments, mansions, utensils etc.

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Kalpataru, wall painting, Jain Basadi, Moodbidri, Karnataka,India

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

Ranakpur temple - Kalpavriksha leaf carving

Kalapavriksha  carving in marble, Jain temple at Ranakpur, Rajasthan, India.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pbarry ( Photo taken by Patrick Barry)

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

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Fauna in Indian art : depictions through time

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, Buddhist and Jaina relics and rock shelters from prehistoric times. Mughal emperors have left behind hundreds of animal and bird depictions in miniature paintings for posterity.

In Madhya Pradesh, in present day India, rock shelters in Bhimbetka has paintings which depict the early life,beliefs and thoughts of early human populations. Rock art is found in all five continents of the world, two third of India’s art is found in Madhya Pradesh alone. Rock shelters depict many aspects of society and life of the earlier times they were made in; the hunting scenes,scenes of dancing,types of animals,costumes and tools used etc. Many drawings were pictographic representations and connected to the ecosystem of the group or individuals who made them. The paintings at Bhimbetka are most likely from the mesolithic period. Paintings were often made to appease deities,chase away diseases or to ensure fertility.image001

Animal figures at Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

By Michael Gunther – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39414027

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Horse and man,  Bhimbetka caves,Madhya Pradesh

By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33749834

At Amaravati in Guntur district ,right of the Krishna river of present day Andhra Pradesh, erstwhile capital of the Satavahana dynasty  from 2nd century B.C to 3rd century A.D., is a stupa site.Founded by an emissary of emperor Ashoka, Amaravati is an important Buddhist centre, identified as Dhanyakataka and a place of origin of Tantric teachings especially Kalchakra. The stupa was originally a simple structure with limestone crossbars and simple carvings.The Satavahanas renovated and embellished it with superb and intricate carvings depicting Lord Buddha’s life and teachings. Acharya Nagarjuna’s efforts have also gone into the construction of the stupa which was also called Deepaladinne, Mahastupa and Mahachaitya. The slabs of the stupa are famous for its Buddhist inscriptions.  The stupa is believed to have stood taller than the Great Stupa at Sanchi. The important remains of the stupa are at The Government Museum, Chennai.

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Horse depicted in Amaravati art, Andhra Pradesh

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22568696

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Gazelles in sculpture, Amaravati art,Andhra Pradesh

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22568681

Madhubani paintings, an age old folk art form of Mithila region , in present day Bihar, literally meaning  ‘forest of honey’, portrays images of gods, goddesses and various objects from the animal and plant world. These paintings vibrate with life and hold a very unique place. One of the avatars of Lord Vishnu of the Hindu trinity, as the fish or Matsya avatar, from the Dasavataras or his ten incarnations is depicted in Madhubani art.

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Lord Vishnu in a fish, depicting Matsya avatar, Madhubani painting

By Mithiart.com – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30977311

The Hoysala dynasty built  ornate, richly carved grand temples at Halebidu and Belur,  in present day Karnataka in the 12th and 13th centuries. Built on stellate platforms with chloritic schist, a grey-green stone,these temples had high domed towers with many shrines in the temple complex. Temples of the time were educational centres, musical centres and courts of justice. The outside of the temples are covered with sculptures, the lower friezes include animals and plants and scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.The term Hoysala means ‘a young man fighting a lion’ and their royal emblem depicting this idea is seen at their Chennakesava temple at Belur.

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Elephants, Hoysaleswara temple, Halebidu, Karnataka

By Pushkar V – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19050536

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The royal Hoysala emblem, depicting man and lion, Belur

By Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4609444

The Kakatiyas ruled Andhradesa including the areas of Telangana, from Warangal, in present day Telangana during 1150 A.D to 1323 A.D. Great builders, they  built many temples. They also built an impressive fort at Warangal whose ruins can be seen today, depicting beautiful sculptural work. The fort’s four impressive gateways called the Keerthithoranams are grand and has been adopted in the logo of the state of Telangana. Among other sculpture depictions, animal motifs, kirtimukha(gargoyles), floral designs have been used  to enhance the charm of the creations.

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Frieze of lions, Kakatiya sculpture, Warangal, Telangana

Pic : Isha Vatsa

The shalabhanjikas,alasa kanyas and madanikas and  are an important idiom in Indian sculpture. A young maiden holding the branch of the sala tree, or holding a mirror, or playing a musical instrument, or as huntress or seen holding a parrot are frequently depicted. The Chennakesava temple at Belur (already mentioned) has around 40 such shalabhanjikas in different moods. Mentionable here is the one with the parrot, ornately carved, with the maiden wearing a serene expression and  in harmony with the bird in her hand.

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Madanika holding a parrot, Chennakesava temple, Belur ,Karnataka

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Madanika (Temple de Chennakeshava à Belur, Inde), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37213510

The Virabhadra temple at Lepakshi, in Anantapur district of present day Andhra Pradesh is a marvellous example of Vijayanagara art and architecture. It is believed that sage Agastya visited this place on his sojourn to the Vindhya region. The area where Lepakshi is appears to have been under the Mauryas, Satavahanas,Gangas, Chalukyas of Badami,Nolambas and the Chalukyas of Kalyani. The Vijayanagara kings ruled this region between the 14th and 17th centuries. Built by Virupanna, treasurer under King Achyutaraya, the temple is dedicated to Virabhadra.  The temple has a rangamandapa, ardhamandapa, a kalyanamandapa and garbagriha. The temple has beautiful mural paintings on its walls and ceilings. The pillars are ornately done in the temple.The great sculptures of the temple are the Nagalinga and Basavanna, a huge monolithic bull, beautifully carved,15 feet high and 27 feet wide, some distance away from the temple.

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Monolithic bull at Lepakshi, Anantapur,Andhra Pradesh

By Vinay332211 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21123320

 

The Mughal empire in India started in 1526 with emperor Babur, after the decisive First Battle of Panipat. During the 16th,17th and 18th centuries Mughal painting emerged as a combination of Persian, Turkish and Indian styles. It grew and developed  under different emperors. Emperor Akbar commissioned the painting of Persian and Indian epics. Under Emperor Jahangir, the scenes were mostly from his own life and included flowers, animals and birds. Emperor Shahjahan encouraged painting of palace scenes, gardens, lovers and ascetics.

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Emperor Babur on a rhino hunt near Peshawar,from the  Baburnama

By Unknown – Painting from the Babur Nama reproduced with the kind permission of the National Museum, New Delhi in pg 127 of Treasures of Natural History (2005) eds A. S. Kothari & B. F. Chhapgar, Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, Mumbai., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3217018

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A Mughal tournament, Mughal  painting

By Payāg, Indian style – http://www.iranica.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12223783

image024Ganjifa playing cards. Mughal style, 19th century.

By Jainamishra – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47578537

 

References :

Chakravarty, K. K,ed./Rock art of India;New Delhi : Arnold Heinemann,1984.

Thakur,Upendra/Madhubani painting;New Delhi ; Abhinav Publications.

Rao,Amancharla Gopala/Lepakshi;Hyderabad: A.P.Lalit Kala Akademi,1969.

Knox,Robert/Amravati;London: British Museum,1992.

culturalindia.net

Posted by : Soma Ghosh