For the purpose of this post let us confine the discussion to the Dhruva bera images.
The Dhruva bera, iconically, is classified according to its posture; which depicts its attributes, its dispensation or attitude or Bhava.
The Shipa Shastras mention four basic postures of the idols. They are the Sthanaka (standing), Aasana (seated), Shayana (reclining) and Yanaka (relating to deities like Hanuman or Garuda who serve as the ride for other deities).
Each of these postures has its sub classifications.
The Sthanaka posture (standing posture) of the image will be in accordance with its nature (sattvic, rajas or tamasic) and its attitude of benevolence or otherwise. That expression of benevolence, grace or the other attitude depicted on the face of the image is enhanced by the manner and style of its stance.
The standing postures are named Bhanga, which involves appropriate stance, position and bent of the neck (greeva), shoulder (bhuja), waist (kati), knees (janu) and feet (paada).
The images of Gods and Goddesses are invariably depicted as standing upon a Lotus-throne (Padma-pita)
The basic styles of the standing postures are five in number. They are, briefly:
The Samabhanga or Samapada is standing erect, with the head, the neck and the torsos in a line; and, radiating peace, fulfillment and benediction.
In this type the right and left of the figure are disposed symmetrically, the Sutra or plumb line passing, through the navel, from the crown of the head to a point midway between the heels. In other words, the figure, whether it is seated or is standing, is poised firmly on both legs without inclining in any way to right or to left.
The images of the Buddha, Jina, Venkateshwara and Vishnu are generally made to follow this scheme of rigid vertical symmetry.
The disposition or attitudes of the limbs and organs on either side are made exactly similar, except that the Mudra or symbolical posing of the fingers is different, depending upon the disposition of the deity.
The Abhanga is a stance with only a slight bent of head or waist, or with a hand on the waist as in the case of Dakshinamurthy,
In an Abhanga posture, the plumb line or the centre line, from the crown of the head to a point midway between the heels, passes slightly to the right of the navel. In other words, the upper half of the figure is made to incline slightly towards its right side, that is, to the left side of the artist or the reverse.
The figures of Bodhisattva, Dakshinamurthy, Velayuda or Vatu, the boy Subrahmanya; as also the images of sages are given such slight inclinations.
The hips of an Abhanga, figure are displaced from their normal position about one Amsa towards the right side of the image, the left side of the artist, or the reverse.
Dvibhanga is a posture with a bend at the waist, while the parts from waist to the head and from waist to feet are otherwise in samabhangha, as in the case of Sri Rama holding a bow, Shiva or bracket images of damsels.
Tribhanga is when the body is in three distinct delicate and graceful bends – at the neck, the shoulder and the waist, as in the case of female deities, Krishna dancing on Kalinga serpent and Ganapathi in dancing poses. This is essentially a classic dance pose.
In these figures, the center line passes through the left (or right) pupil, the middle of the chest, the left (or right) of the navel, down to the heels. Thus the figure is inclined in a zigzag or curve like the stems of a lotus or like an ascending flame. The lower limbs, from the hips to the feet, are displaced to the right (or left) of the figure, the trunk between the hips and neck, to the left (or right), while the head leans towards the right (or left).
Images of goddesses belonging to this Tri-bhanga type have their heads inclined to the right (the left of the artist), while gods always lean theirs to the left (the right of the artist), so that when placed together the god and the goddess appear leaning towards each other.
In other words, when the male and female images are properly placed in pairs,— the female to the left of the male —, they appear like two full-blown lotuses bending to seek one another. This is the usual attitude of all Yugala (twin) figures, or of divine couples. This bending attitude, or the seeking poise of the male and female figure may however be occasionally – reversed, so that the figures lean away from each other, the male assuming the female Bhanga and the female assuming the pose of a male figure; thus , suggesting lovers’ quarrels, and mutual disagreements, etc.
Figures like that of Vishnu or Shiva , which are flanked by two attendant figures, are usually made a compound of the Sama bhanga and Tri bhanga types, the figure of the deity being placed rigidly upright in the middle , without inclining one way or the other towards either of the attendant deities.
The attending figures, which usually are female deities, assume Tri bhanga posture, with their heads inclined inwards towards the principal figure.
The figures on either side are exactly similar in poise, except that one is a reverse or reflex of the other. This is a necessary; as otherwise one of the figures would lean away from the central figure, and, would spoil the balance and harmony of the whole composition.
A Tri bhanga figure has its head and hips displaced about one Amsa to the right or left of the centre line
The Atibhanga is a dynamic posture, which actually is an accentuated form of the Tri bhanga; the sweep of the Tri bhanga curve being considerably enhanced. The upper portion of the body above the hips or the limbs below are thrown to right or left, backwards or forwards, like a tree caught in a storm.
And, Athi-bhanga is the one with several twists in the body and arms. This bhanga brings out anger and ferociousness as in the case of Durga slaying the demon; and Ugra Nrusimha slaying and tearing apart the demon; or to bring out wonder and amazement (adbhuta) as in the case of Trivikrama; or fearsome or grotesque attitudes as in the case of sculptures of Kailasanath temple, Kanchipuram
This type is usually seen in such representations as Shiva’s dance of destruction and fighting gods and demons, and is specially adapted to the portrayal of violent action, of the impetus of the Tandava and the dance of the Devi in her aggressive aspect etc.
The idols in the standing posture, sthanaka, are also classified according to their nature: Dhirodaatha, the sattvic type; dhira lalitha (rajasa) and Dhiroddatha (tamasa).
Shayana is the idol of the deity in reclining or sleeping position. Only Vishnu and the Buddha images are represented in this position. Apart from this, the baser elements such as the demons (Apasmara) are shown lying under the feet of Nataraja or the Devi.
Sri Ranganatha or Anantha shayana is the most celebrated form of Vishnu in reclining posture.
Vishnu is represented in three forms of Shayana. In the Yoga shayana posture, Vishnu, with two arms and without his ayudhas, is depicted in yoga nidra, Yogic sleep, contemplating the unfolding of the universe. Vishnu is reclining on the coils of Anantha the serpent who symbolizes time; and Brahma the divinity responsible for creation is seated on the lotus emerging from Vishnu’s navel.
The Yoga shayana images are installed in temples located in forest region or in forts on top of hills. Yoga shayana Vishnu symbolizes his creation, shrusti, aspect.
Bhoga shayana Vishnu is similar but is adorned with four arms, auspicious signs of srivatsa, kausthuba on his chest; and with his usual set of ayudhas. Vishnu’s gaze is fixed on his consorts serving at his feet. He has a very pleasing disposition.
The temples of Vishnu in Bhoga shayana form are located in the midst of a populous city or town. Bhoga shayana Vishnu symbolizes his well-being, sthiti, his preservation aspect.
(Line drawing by Shilpi Shri Thippajappa)
The Veera shayana form of Vishnu is adorned with four to eight arms. He is holding his weapons. He is represented as if he is just about to wage a battle. He is surrounded by the rishis, the gandarvas and his entourage including Garuda, his ride. Brahma is as usual seated atop the lotus from Vishnu’s navel. The demons Madhu and Kaitaba are shown at his feet. Veera shayana Vishnu symbolizes his absorption, samhara, aspect.
There is also an unusual form of Vishnu in shayana posture. The Abhicharika shayana does not have the serpent bed or the Brahma. Vishnu is reclining on the floor; he looks emaciated too. Such an inauspicious form of Vishnu is employed in Tantric worship; and it should not be located where people especially where women and children dwell.
Aasana class is when the deity is in sitting posture. There are several modes and styles of sitting; and among them about eleven or twelve postures of sitting are usually depicted in temple architecture. These are again classified into sattvic, rajasa and tamasa.
The images depicting the deity in a peaceful, happy and benevolent disposition; radiating peace and joy; and blessing the devotees are the most common forms of sattvic class of idols in sitting posture. The deity, in such cases, is sitting in padmasana (lotus position) or yoga-asana (yogic posture, as in the case of Yoga Nrusimha or Ayyappa).Dakshinamurthy, the Buddha and Mahaveera being the other well known examples.
Sukhasana is sitting with one leg bent at the knee and across; and the other leg down and almost touching the ground. The deity is in a relaxed position looking happy, peaceful and joyous. Images of Padmapani , Vishnu, Shiva or Devi in Sukhasana are the most common examples.
The images of the deity sitting with its one foot down, almost touching the ground, radiating majesty and authority are the rajasa type of idols in Aasana posture ; Vishnu , Rajarajeshwari , Chandikeshwara (a form of Rudra ) are the common examples. In some cases, the deity rests his foot on an asura (demon) lying on the ground, as if displaying authority and power.
The images of goddess Durga, Chamundi, Mahisha mardini and such other forms of the Devi, sitting or mounted on a beast, with her one foot almost touching the ground are the tamasic class of idols in Aasana posture.
D. Nruthya bhanga: The deity is depicted in a classic dancing posture. The images of Krishna dancing on the Kalinga, Nataraja, nruthya Ganapathi and Sarawathi are some of the well known examples of this genre.
In the Yana, the postures of Hanuman, Garuda and Bhuvaraha are depicted.
Icons are further classified according to their disposition; and the purpose for which the icons are worshiped .
1. Yoga mūrti;
These icons depict the deity in various meditation postures. They are worshiped by the aspirant desiring self-control or Yoga. These icons should be established and consecrated on the banks of rivers, in forests or on top of mountains; and, it should be quite far from human habitation; the reason being to provide a peaceful environment in which the aspirant can practice yogic meditation, undisturbed.
These icons depict the deity in a pleasant disposition . These forms are well suited for temples constructed in towns and places of habitation. These icons are generally worshiped by all classes of people , praying for health , happiness and prosperity in life. The images of Uma-Maheshvara, Lakshmi-Venkateswara, Radha-Krishna and Lakshmi-Narayana etc. are of this type.
These icons depict the Deity in a heroic posture such as Rama defeating Rāvana or Durga defeating Mahiṣāsura or Śhiva as samhara-murti. This type of icon bestows power and victory over enemies (such as anger, greed, delusion etc.), it can be established either in the town or outside of it.
This is the form which is used for protection against enemies (either real or virtual in the form of anger, delusion, desire etc.) They are characterized by sharp teeth and a large number of arms carrying various weapons, wide eyes and a flaming halo around the head. This icon may only be set up in the North-eastern corner of the settlement or village. The setting up of an Ugra-murti in the midst of a town or city is prohibited. If it is established then a śānta-mūrti must be placed directly in front of it, or a tank of water should be constructed in front of the temple.
The Viśvarūpa, Narasimha, Sudarśana and the Vaṭa-patra-śāyin are of the Vaiṣṇava Ugra type. Gaja-samhāra is an ugra form of Lord Śihva and Kāli dancing on Śiva, and Pratyaṅgira Devī are examples of Ugra Śaktis.
These types of icons are used for the purpose of inflicting death and destruction on one’s enemies or confounding his purposes. This form is only set up far from a town and never in a place of human habitation. (This form is purely theoretical as there are no temples of this type; and common people should never have anything to do with these).
Ayudha generally translates to weapons; but, in shilpa sastra, the term indicates whatever objects the idol holds in his or her hands.
The Ayudhas delineate the nature, character and functions associated with the idol. In a way of speaking, they are the symbols of a symbolism.
For instance, Saraswathi holds in her hands a book symbolizing the Vedas and learning; a Kamandalu (a water jug) symbolizing smruthi, vedanga and shastras; a rosary symbolizing the cyclical nature of time; and the musical instrument veena symbolizing music and her benevolent nature. All these objects are not weapons in the conventional sense, but the shilpa employs those as symbols to expand and depict and interpret the nature of the idol and its meaning.
Each of these Ayudhas signifies a certain aspect or it stands for a concept.
For instance, the mirror signifies a clear mind and awareness; the flag signifies victory or celebration; the Ankusha (goad) signifies exercising control over senses and baser instincts, Damaru in the hands of shiva signifies creation and origin of sound and learning; and, the scepter signifies authority and rule of law.
The Dhyana slokas associated with each deity specify the Ayudhas to be held in its right or left or upper or lower arms. The Ayudhas held by auspicious deities are in even number.
Apart from the weapons a variety of objects are employed as Ayudhas. These include instruments of various professions (pen, chisel, hammer, plow, sickle etc.), musical instruments (flute, veena, drums, pipes, trumpets etc.), plants and trees (ashvatta, bilva, seedlings of paddy, grass etc) and miscellaneous objects (mirror, bell, book, flag, lamp, vase, umbrella etc.)
Mudra means sign or a seal. It is a symbolic gesture or position usually of hands and fingers. They are commonly used in tantric worship, yoga, dance and music. The Shilpa shastra has however its own use for the mudras ; and it has developed its own set of mudras .There are in general two types of mudras, those with one-hand and those with two-hand. The one handed mudras (asanyuktha orkevala) number about 28; while the two hand mudras (sanyuktha) are about 23.The mudras give an expression and eloquence to the attributes of the image and to its message.
All these symbols and mudras form the pool of Indian art language. They are commonly employed by the Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina traditions.
According to Tantrasara Vishnu has 19 mudras (shankha, chakra, Gadha, padma etc.), which mean attributes; Shiva has 10 mudras (yoni. Trishula, linga tc.); Ganesha has 7(ankusha, dantha, modaka etc.); Saraswathi has 7(maala, pusthaka, veena, etc.); and Agni has 7 (flames, horns etc,) and so on. The Tantrika also include Jata, Tilaka, Bhasma, Chandana etc.
Mudras are again classified into those that convey a message (sankethica), which are mostly single hand mudras. The next are the vastu rupa mudras which suggest as if the diety is holding in his or her hands some object. And, the third is ayudha grahana , where the diety actually holds an ayudha.
Among the Sankethica mudras, the better known are the Abhya mudra with right palm fingers pointing upward assuring protection; Varada mudra with the fingers pointing down ward in act of giving; Vyakhna mudra or Chin mudra as if teaching or explaining as in images of Dakshinamurty and the Buddha; Dhyana mudra as if settled in meditation; and, Tarjani mudra or ala_padma with raised palm conveying happy welcome as in the images of dwarapalakas, the guards at the sanctum.
The common examples of Vastu rupa mudra are those of Saraswathi or Dakshinamurthy with hands in such a position as if the deity is playing on the veena. The other examples are those of Rishba_rudha Shiva as if Shiva is reclining against his ride the bull; of Sri Rama as if he is holding the bow; and of Shiva as if he is holding the damaru, a sort of drum (damaru hastha).
Vrishbha-ruda Shiva – as if reclining against Nandi bull.
The Ayudha mudras are those where the deity actually holds an object such as pasha (rope),ankusha (goad or hook) as in the case of Ganapathi; Danda , a staff in the hands of Skanda (danda hastha)
In Hindu Iconography, Paada mudras the position of the lower limbs and the feet are as important as the hand gestures (hastha mudras).It is the paada mudra that suggest movement or animation or stillness of the image. The samarangana Sutradhara lists six paada mudras: Vaishnavam (one leg straight and another slightly curved- adidaivatha form of Vishnu); Sampadanam (standing erect with legs joined and body weight distributed evenly); Alidanam (Standing like an archer, with right leg drawn forward); Prathyalidanam (opposite of Alidanam- left foot in front); Ardhasam or Mandalam (one leg is thrown out and the other remains stable – as in Nataraja or Vishakadeva); and there are the legs folded in sitting postures as in Udarabhandam (as in Ganesha) and in paada-patta or Yoga –patta (as in Yoga Nrusimha )
Kirita; makuta; and Jata-makuta
The headgear is a distinctive feature of the Indian icons. The head-gears that are commonly mentioned are the Kirita -makuta, Karanda-makuta and Jata-makuta. Mansara, the ancient text of Shilpa shastra, classifies these types of head gears under the term makuta or mouli (Mansara: Mauli-lakshanam: 49; 1-232). The kiritas or the makuta (crown) emphasize the nature (sattva, rajas or tamas) and the nobility of the image. For all the makuta-s, the width commencing from the bottom should be gradually made lesser and lesser towards the top.
Among these, the Kirita-makuta is an highly ornate elaborate crown that adorns major gods such as Vishnu and his forms (Narayana) and also emperors (Sarvabhouma).It has the appearance of Taranga-s (waves) and its middle is made into the shape of flowers and adorned with precious stones. The base of the Kirita-makuta should be curved like a crescent (ardha-chandra) just above the forehead. The height of the Kirita-makuta should be two or three times the length of the wearer’s face.
The Karanda-makuta is prescribed for lesser gods and for goddesses when depicted along with their spouse. It is simpler and shallower as compared to Kirita-makuta. The Karanda-makuta is a small conical cornet receding in tier. It is shaped like an inverted flowerpot, tapering from the bottom upwards and ending in a bud. The width of a Karanda-makuta at the top should, however, be only one-half or one-third less than that at its base. The female deities such as Saraswathi and Savithri have kesha_bandha or Kuntala type of hair arrangement.
The jata- makuta is suitable according to Mansara for Brahma , Rudra or the Buddha , as also for consorts of Shiva. Jata-makuta,is made up of jata or matted locks, which are twisted into encircling braids of spiral curls and tied into a knot looped at the top. It is held in place by a patta (band); and is adorned with forest flowers and by a number of ornamental discs like the makara-kuta, patra-kuta, and the ratna-kuta. In the case of Shiva, the jata-makuta is adorned with a crescent of the moon, a cobra and the Ganga.
The Hoysala School of sculpture in particular adorns its images with elaborate and highly ornate crowns, rich in design. Usually, highly ornate kirita, makuta adorns images of Vishnu and his aspects. A simpler crown of the Karanda class is meant for lesser deities.
Jataa-makuta, coiled hair mopped on top of head is for the images of Shiva, Brahma, the Buddha and the sages.
Nataraja’s hair is flying in the wind as he swirls in his tandava dance. His hair is prasarith jata, the flying hair.
Agni has a special hairdo called agni_kesha with his hair spreading out like tongues of fire.
The shilpis took great delight in adorning the image with rich and finely carved ornaments. While the other segments of the carving are regulated by the prescriptions of the Sahastras and the tradition, the Alankara element offers the artists abundant scope to exercise their imagination and to display their ingenuity. Therefore, the amazing varieties, the patterns and the designs of ornaments that one comes across in the Indian sculpture are virtually limitless.
The major deities, both male and female, are adorned with rich ornaments; the minor deties and humans are provided modest ornaments. Often, the ornaments serve as the costume of the image.
The term used for ornamentation is Alankara which encompasses forms of beauty and visual appeal in all forms of Indian art including poetry and music. Alankara is not merely bejeweling but it also implies enhancing the grace and beauty of the image and to enchant and please the eyes of the beholder. Alankara also conveys the nobility, the grandeur and the lovely nature of the adorable image. The Hoysala sculptures in particular are rich in ornamentation.
Specific names are given to the ornaments that adorn various body- parts of image. The ornaments below or around the neck are Kanti (like a collar) , Skandamaala (necklaces) and manihara (strings of precious stones or beads).
In the abdomen region, are the Yajnopavitha (sacred thread), Kati bandha or kati sutra (waist belt).
Katakas are bangles made of gold or precious stones.
The feet are adorned with paada jalaka (ornament made of strings), nupura (the bells) and rings that decorate the toes.
Shilpa Soundarya by KT Pankajaksha
The Lord of Seven Hills by Prof. SKR Rao
Line drawings of kirita and ornaments by the renowned Shilpi and Yogi Sri Siddalinga Swamy of Mysore
Other Line drawings from Shilpa Soundarya
Other pictures from internet
November 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm
This is an ocean of great knowledge/ information that is to be sought after. Thankyou
November 28, 2017 at 5:41 pm
Dear Ameeta, Thank you for the visit ; and, for the appreciation
Please do read the other parts of the series , as also the articles on other subjects as well
November 8, 2022 at 4:55 am
it is a great blessing to see this page, thank you srinivas guru…. Thank you so much….
November 8, 2022 at 6:07 am
Thank you Dear Vinu
You are most Welcome