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A Lesser Known Terracotta Motif Depicted in the Shyama-Raya and Madana-Mohana Temples of Bishnupur: Some Preliminary Observations

Ardhendu Ray, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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 Introduction

This essay discusses the cultural significance of a lesser known terracotta motif Navanarigunjara in the temples of Bishnupur and relates it to various types of representation of the same motif found in Pata paintings. Moreover, it looks into its origin and evolution and its position in temples.

The Temple Complex of Jinsar near Kharagpur, Paschim Medinipur: a Photo Journey

Tarun Tapas Mukherjee, Bhatter College, Dantan, Paschim Medinipur

 Jainism as a religion had existed in Bengal—mainly in the Rarh region, for many centuries. Lord Mahavira himself is said to have travelled to Bengal, and if it be true, he must have preached the religion himself. A number of ancient Jain and Buddhist texts attest to the dominance of Jainism in the ancient Gouda kingdom. However, afterwards it lost much of its position in the triangular struggle involving the Brahminical Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism for dominance in various parts of the early medieval post-Pala period. In the 12th century Jainism received royal patronage from Anantavarman Choda-Ganga-Deva (1078 AD), the Odishan ruler who occupied the entire southwest Bengal up to the river Bhagirathi and created his second kingdom at Ambikanagar, Bankura. Many temples for the Digambara sect were built in Bankura and Purulia in the 11th and 12 century AD in honour of Parswanatha and Mahavira.

Shree Kshetra Mahuli, Satara, Maharashtra

Kane Dwijendra, Travel Writer

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Satara, 240km South East of Mumbai, is a place with very rich Cultural and Historical background, dating back right from Shivaji Maharaj era to end of Peshwai. Satara has number of religious places around. Some of the temples are 500 to 600 years old. One of such old temple complexes devoted to Lord Shiva is “Shree Kshetra Mahuli”. This is birth place of the famous Chief Justice in Peshwa regime, Mr. Ramshastri Prabhune. He was known for his straightforwardness in giving justice irrespective of who was the accused. He was known for his unbiased opinions. Ram Shastri held office during later part of 18th Century.

Shree Kshetra Mahuli is situated at confluence of rivers Krishna and Venna. Krishna being major river of the two. This place is also called as “Dakshin Kashi”. There are three major temples of Lord Shiva namely, Vishweshwar, Rameshwar and Sangameshwar. There are a few more temples as well but I could not get names and details of these. Vishweshwar side is called “Sangam Mahuli” whereas Rameshwar side is called “Kshtra Mahuli”.

Durga Idols of Kumartuli: Surviving Oral Traditions through Changes

Dr. Lopamudra Maitra, Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC- UG), Pune

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Introduction

As the torrential rain gushes down the plastic and tarpaulin sheets of the narrow alleys in Kumartuli, covering the half-made clay idols, the smell of wet earth emanates, reverberates, encircles and rises up to announce the arrival of the auspicious occasion— Durga Puja. Finally, as the dawn of Mahalaya announces the arrival of the Devipaksha and the last ablutions are offered to seek blessings from one’s forefathers on the banks of the sacred river Ganga, the artisans of Kumartuli pronounce the occasion through invoking the powers of the female goddess by painting the eyes of the idols of Durga, famously known as Chokkhudaan or bestowing of the eyes. A popular and annual sight in the region every year, this relatively small, yet largely famous and well-renowned region of Kumartuli stands tucked within the narrow lanes and by-lanes of Sovabazar area of the northern region of the present city of Kolkata (West Bengal, India) and the relatively recent construction of the underground metro-railway station of the same name.  A busy place for idol-makers, the kumbhars, their small and narrow workshops, aligned against their crowded tenements, hum with the buzz of activities at most times of the year, especially during the time of the Durga puja. Over the years, the region has experienced a surge and witnessed changes in the style of the clay idols, their expression and depictions, especially the ones made for Durga puja. Carrying forth a string of history within itself, as these depictions represent a strain of continuity of the famous worship of female deities of the region, the changes and alterations in visual depictions of the idols made in Kumartuli also help to reflect new ideas and ideologies in the age of new-media, forming an important part of Visual Anthropology. Based on an extensive fieldwork in the region of Kumartuli and various parts of Kolkata throughout the month of Aswina (September-October) between 2011-2012, this paper tries to look into the significant aspects of the representations of the idol-making formats of Kumartuli, their changing presentations and new reflections and how the local history, oral traditions and lores still manifest themselves through these changing representations.

Temples of Bengal: Material Style and Technological Evolution

Priyanka Mangaonkar

Architect and Researcher


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Art of Bengal, which was mainly religious in nature, was expressed through the medium of temples. Brick temples of Bengal (built between 16th and 19th century) forms one of the most distinctive groups of sacred monuments in India. Due to multiple artistic influences acting upon the region during this period the Brick temples of Bengal show wide range of forms and techniques of construction.  Hence the temples constitute a coherent series in their architecture and sculpture, characteristically expressed in brick and terracotta. The chronological span also significant coinciding with the emergence of the new Bengali culture. “In fact, the Bengali temples may be viewed as one of the most important manifestations of this regions culture, closely associated with contemporary movements in religion, literature and the arts as well as with broader political, social and economic developments.”[i] Due to the political unification and consequent independence of Bengal; a unique Bengali style of monumental architecture was created which was also an expression of the local idioms. “Another important result of this change was the combination of Hindu and Muslim elements as intrinsic part of Bengali culture: thus, Muslim rulers and monumental Islamic architecture, but Hindu revivalism and religious poetry.”[ii]

Iconography and Visual Culture of Bengal

Ruma Chakravarti

Independent Researcher

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 Iconography is a field of study that concerns itself with the evaluation of symbols and their significance in religion. It aids in establishing context and helps to link the beliefs and myths of the past to the practices of the present. Any attempt to discuss iconography of temples needs to start with a look at why icons are created. The need for religious iconography is multifold in nature. First, it seeks to make the intangible concept of the gods real through physical presence. Religious iconography has a language of its own which seeks to make the god visible through a certain set of characteristics that are predetermined by rules that originated in ancient times. Secondly, religious icons in the days prior to the industrial revolution provided a unifying effect by their occurrence in temples across a region or a kingdom. Even though the actual mode of worship may differ from region to region within India, the icons themselves are pan-Indian. Icons associated with temples may also be a sign of the wealth or social standing of the person who finances the temple building process. Removing the icons makes religion itself a vague concept which is not as easily disseminated. One other function icons perform is as a record of a certain period in history. The intentional removal of icons during certain historical events can provide clues to the socio-political climate of the time and be reflective of invasion or change of patronage.

Krishnalila in Terracotta Temples of Bengal

Amit Guha

Independent Researcher


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 Introduction

The brick temples of Bengal are remarkable for the intricately sculpted terracotta panels covering their facades. After an initial period of structural and decorative experimentation in the 17th and 18th centuries, there was some standardization in architecture and embellishment of these temples. However, distinct regional styles remained. From the late 18th century a certain style of richly-decorated temple became common, particularly in the districts of Hugli and Howrah. These temples, usually two-storeyed or atchala and with a triple-arched entrance porch, had carved panels arranged in a fairly well-defined format (Figure 1). Ramayana battle scenes occupied the large panels on the central arch frame with other Ramayana or Krishna stories on the side arches. Running all along the base, including the base of the columns, were two distinctive friezes (Figure 2). Large panels with social, courtly, and hunting scenes ran along the bottom, and above, smaller panels with Krishnalila (stories from Krishna’s life). Isolated rectangular panels on the rest of the facade had figures of dancers, musicians, sages, deities, warriors, and couples, within foliate frames.

The Mystery of Indian Floor Paintings

Swarup Dutta

Dean Academics, Indian Institute of Crafts and Design


 As a child one of my fondest memories is of Lakshmi Puja. The whole household seemed transformed. There was activity all around the household. I could sense a joyous mood in everyone. But the most remarkable reminder of this day to me was alpona – the beautiful floor decorations which my mother and sisters made on the threshold of our household, on the doorsteps leading to the prayer alter…”, remembers Narayan Sinha, a renowned sculptor, who has spent his childhood in rural Bengal.

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