Saturday, October 13, 2018

Unusual sculptures

In many Hindu temples we see bas-reliefs of animals and humans which are different from other sculptures.

In some we can see two or more images of the same or different animal/human share a certain portion of the body. With the result it gives a sort of optical illusion. Multiple images sharing a common portion of the body!   

I have seen from two images to six images in the same sculpture! Obviously it takes a very talented and super imaginative sculptor to make.

This kind of sculpture is not very common and can be seen only in very few temples.

Here I have posted pictures of such sculptures which I have seen and photographed!

This is called Rishaba Kunjaram - A bull & an elephant - 2 images sharing the head
Another Rishaba Kunjaram 
Three images sharing the head & trunk.
Three images sharing the head & trunk.
Three images sharing the head & trunk.
Four images
6 images sharing the head and trunk

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Jalasangvi - Kamalishwara Temple

A tiny village in Karnataka stands testimony to the Kalyani Chalukiya dynasty’s ability to build temples with outstanding  sculptures. King Vikramaditya VI of the Chalukya dynasty has built a small temple to lord Shiva called Kamalishwara Temple. 

This temple is famous for its outstanding sculptures of Salabhanjika or Madanika. The shalabhanjika is a standard decorative  element of Indian sculpture, a graceful stone sculpture representing a young female under a stylized tree in various poses,  such as dancing, grooming herself or playing a musical instrument. The salabhanjika's female features, like breasts and hips,  are often exaggerated. Frequently these sculpted figures display complex hairdos and an abundance of jewellery.

The sculptures of the Jalasangvi temple were the source of inspiration for the later Hoysala bracket-figures of Belur, Halebidu and Somanathapura. This chalukya temple is built on a star-shaped plan.

It is mind-blowing to see the exterior walls of this temple decorated with intricate sculptures. They are heavily exaggerated and decorated with ornaments and attires. The most prominent is a woman writing an epigraph in Kannada. 

Jalasangvi is a small village in Bidar district of Karnataka near Basavakalyan, the capital of the Kalyani Chalukyas. It is 10 kms from Humnabad. The Kamalishwara or Kalleshwara temple is said to have been built around 1100 AD.

This temple is under the care of Archaeological Survey of India and it is a protected national monument. Photography is allowed in this temple. There is hardly anyone in this temple and when I visited even the priest of the temple was not there! 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Salabhanjika or Madanikas

The concept of Tree Goddess was used to decorate temples in some parts of India. The power of the tree goddess was frequently invoked due to her association with fertility and it was shown in sculptures by the tree bursting into bloom when the goddess’s heel touches its trunk. 

Images of these semi-divine beings were positioned in temples at points of transition from the mundane to the sacred space; as auspicious guardians they blessed the worshipper’s journey to the central shrine of the temple. This work, characteristic of sculpture dating from the period of the Hoysala dynasty (late twelfth to early fourteenth century), features intricate foliage, jewellery and costuming balanced by smooth volumes and polished surfaces. 

These sculptures are called Salabhanjika or Madanika. They are sculptures of women displaying stylized feminine features, standing near a tree grasping a branch. 

This standard decorative element of Indian temple architecture is seen in various poses of dancing or a woman grooming herself or playing a musical instrument. Mostly they are in tribhanga posture - the beauty of the sculpture is unparalleled as the nymph is found in a rare position bending her body in triple flexion, even while keeping an intense and beautiful expression on her face!  The salabhanjika's female features, like breasts and hips, are often exaggerated. Frequently these sculpted figures display complex hairdos and an abundance of jewelry. Placed at an angle, salabhanjika figures were also used in temple architecture as a bracket figures. 

Some of the most renowned salabhanjika sculptures are to be found in the 12th-century Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebidu and Somanathapura, in south-central Karnataka. These figures were also extensively used to decorate the temples of Odisha. These figures of Madanikas are used as bracket figures in Ramappa Temple near Warangal!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Super sized Nandis of South India

If it is a Shiva temple, there must be a sculpture of a Nandi (bull). Nandi is the vehicle for the Hindu god of Shiva. In Hindu mythology, Nandi is the bearer of truth and righteousness. Nandi is said to be Shiva’s main form of transportation and most ardent devotee.  As his most astute follower, Nandi is in charge of leading all of Shiva’s followers.  Along the same lines, Nandi is regarded as the gatekeeper and protector of Shiva as well as Shiva’s consort the Hindu Goddess Parvati.  Nandi is always seated and facing the main temple as protector.  The name, Nandi, is even used as metaphor meaning “to stand in the way of”.  It is said that one must first gain the approval of Nandi before being allowed worship of Lord Shiva himself.

In this post I am posting five super sized Nandis of south India.

1. Nandi of Brihadiswarar temple, Tanjavur
In The Big Temple or Brihadeeswarar Temple of tenth century is a big statue of sacred Nandi  carved out of a single rock. It is at the entrance of the temple facing the lingam or the main deity of the temple. It measures sixteen feet long and thirteen feet high. It is said that it weighs about 20 tonnes!

2. Nandi at Hoysaleswara temple
The eleventh century temple of Hoysaleswara, at Halebidu is most well known for its exquisite sculptures and has a large statue of Nandi. Hoysaleswara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has one of the largest monolithic Nandi statues. It is elaborately decorated and made of soapstone. 

3. Nandi at Veerabadra Swamy temple
The colossal monolith of Nandi called as Basavanna at Lepakshi is a remarkable piece of art. It is made of granite and fifteen feet tall and twenty two feet long. It is facing a huge lingam shaded by a seven headed cobra. It is carved out of a rock behind the Veerabadra temple. 

4. Nandi of Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram 
Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple is located in Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu. The Gangaikondaan temple nandi is situated in the east facing the main shrine in front of the temple. Interestingly, the nandi is built in such a way that it reflects the sunlight into the inner sanctum.

5. Nandi at Ramappa Temple
As one enter the temple, one can  see a Nandi mandapam with Nandi, facing the Shiva's shrine. Although the mandapam is not in good condition, the majestic statue of Nandi is undamaged and presents an impressive sight. Unlike most of the other Shiva temples in the country, here Nandi is shown in an attentive posture, as if ready to take the command of the Lord and execute it any time. Of the five Nandis posted here the most intricately decorated one is the one at Ramappa Temple.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rock-cut relief - Descent of the Ganges

A rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture carved on a solid or living rock (rock that is not detached but still forms part of the earth) rather than a detached piece of stone. Rock reliefs have been made in many cultures throughout human history. Rock reliefs are generally fairly large, as they need to be in order to have an impact in the open air.

The best example of Rock relief in India is the Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna's Penance at Mahaballipuram, near Chennai, in Tamizh Nadu, India. This was carved in the mid 7th century and is considered the world's largest preserved open air rock relief - 29 meters long and 13 meters high. It is one of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram that were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

This is a protected monument at Mahaballipuram. It is a giant open air rock relief carved on two monoliths.  The legend depicted in this relief is the story of the descent of the sacred river Ganges to earth from the heavens led by Bhagiratha.

The Arjuna's relief is in the centre of Mahaballipuram facing the sea or east. So the best time to photograph this would be in the morning as it will get a beautiful natural lighting! It is at a walking distance from the very famous Shore Temple.

Arjuna's Thapas was created to celebrate the victory of Hinduism over Buddhism by Narasimhavarman I. 

The sculptures show deva ganas descending in stages towards the Ganga. Humans are seen worshipping the Ganga, carrying water from it in a big pot or performing rituals on its banks, including Sun worship. There is a tank at the panel’s foot where water from these “rivers” are collected.

Photography is freely allowed here !

Friday, March 30, 2018

Kudumiyanmalai Temple Complex

There is a wonderful temple complex in Kudumiyan Malai. The oldest part of the Kudumiyanmalai Temple complex is the rock cut cave shrine called Melakkoil. In the same complex The Kuduminatha temple came a few centuries after the cave temple, sometime in the 10th century. Built by the Cholas, it was renovated by the Pandyas in the 13th century and by the Vijayanagar Kings in the 15th. During every renovation these kings have added some outstanding sculptures to this temple. 

If this temple is in some form today it is because of The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This temple complex was almost ruined few years back and it is the ASI which has painstakingly restored this great temple to it's original glory. Today this temple is in reasonably good condition and it is under the care of ASI. With all their limitations I should say that ASI is maintaining this temple very well.

Thousand pillared mandapam at the entrance has sculptures of Hanumanji, Sugreevan and Vaali. Since this is the latest addition to the complex the sculptures have not been exposed to the onslaught of Muslim Invasion and hence are in very good condition.

The next hall is called Vasantha Mandapam which houses sculptures of Narasimha, Rati and Manmathan, Ugra thandavam of Shiva, Subramanya on peacock, Agora Veerabhadrar.

Above the Melakkoil is a rare bas-relief of Siva and Parvati on rishaba vahanam, flanked by the 63 Nayanmars. 

Forfurther details one can always Google!

I have taken all these pictures in this temple in its natural background. In order to bring out the details of each sculpture I have cut out the sculptures from its natural cluttered background and posted them in this post!