RSS

Category Archives: Indian Painting

The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Six – Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram

 

[This is the Sixth article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on Art of Painting in Ancient India 

The present article looks at the surviving mural (early-eleventh-century) at another Pallava temple viz. the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) . This temple is one of the earliest constructed by the Pallava kings; and, it served as a model for the other bigger temples.

In the next article we shall look at the Paintings at the magnificent Chola temple of Brihadeeshwara at Thanjavur.]

Continued from

The Legacy of Chitrasutra –  Five  –Panamalai

 Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram

19.1. Kanchipuram located along the banks of the Palar has a glorious history. In the ancient times it was reckoned among the seven primer Sacred cities (Saptapuri) that granted liberation (moksadayikah):  Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kashi (Varanasi), Kanchi, Avanthika (Ujjain), Puri, and Dvaravathi (Dwaraka) .

Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kashi Kanchi Avantika | Puri Dvaravati chaiva saptaita moksadayikah ||

And the great poet Kalidasa (4th century CE) lauded Kanchi as the best among those cities (Nagareshu Kanchi).

Kanchipuram was the holy city not only for the various sects of the Vedic religion but also for the Jains and the Buddhists.

19.2. Even much prior to that, Kanchi located in the region referred to as Tondaimandalam in ancient Sangam literature, was described as the city of Kachchi surrounded by forests, lovely like the many-petalled lotus.

Manimekalai, a Buddhist epic from the later Sangam age, recounts Kanchi as the graceful city where the most beautiful, golden-hearted dancer Manimekalai, causes to build a delightful garden in honour of the Buddha; places the Amuda Surabhi at  the lotus seat of the Buddha  ; and,  welcomes all living beings, including the lonely, the neglected, the hungry, the defeated, and the maimed to gather and partake food offered by her and bless her. The beloved Manimekalai enters the Sangha under the guidance of her teacher Aravana Adikal; and dedicates the rest of her life to Dharma.

Kanchi developed into a centre of Buddhism in South India, from where the Dharma spread to other regions in India and also to Far-East and China. It was the home of many eminent Buddhist scholars, such as: Buddhaghosha (fifth century CE) and Aniruddha (author of Abhi-dhamma-ttha-sangaha); and of revered monks such as: Venudasa, Vajrabodhi, Sariputra, Sumati and Jotipala.

Among the Buddhists of Kanchi was the renowned scholar Dignaga (c. 480 – c. 540 CE), one of the founders of the system of Logic (Hetu Vidya) which developed into the deductive logic in India ; and,  as the cornerstone of Buddhist system of Logic and Epistemology (Pramana).

Kanchi was also the home-town of the remarkable and matchless Bodhidharma (470-543 CE), a Pallava prince, the third son of Simhavarman II; and a contemporary of Skandavarman IV and Nandivarman I. He came under the influence of the admirable Buddhist teacher Prajnatara who trained him in the techniques of meditation. Later,  as per the wish of his teacher, Bodhidharma left for China to spread Dharma in that land. He arrived at the port city of Kwan-tan (Canton), along the southern coast of China, during the year 520. He was honoured by the Chinese emperor Wu-li in whose court was the great translator Paramartha. Soon thereafter, Bodhidharma headed north, crossed the Yangtze River and reached the Ho Nan Province.  There at a temple, Bodhidharma meditated for nine years facing a wall, not uttering a sound for the entire time.

Bodhidharma is revered as the Adi – Guru, the first patriarch, of the Chinese Cha’n (Skt. Dhyana) School, which later developed into the system of Zen meditation – a way to awakening through self-enquiry.  In order to ensure that his disciple –monks are physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and his demanding training methods, Bodhidharma trained the monks in the ancient Indian style of armless combat, called Vajramusti (diamond-fist).  That later  gave rise to the now famous  martial art , the Shoaling style of fist fighting ch’uan-fa (literally ‘way of the fist’).

*

It is also believed that Bodhisena, who was invited by the Emperor of Japan to inaugurate the 8th century temple of Todaiji in Nara, was from Kanchipuram.

**

19.3. Kanchi was, in a similar manner, a prominent centre of Jainism. It is believed that Jainism entered Southern India in around fourth century BC, when the monk Visakhacharya, at the behest of Acharya Bhadrabahu, moved over to the Chola and Pandya countries along with a group of sramanas (Jain monks), in order to propagate the faith of the Thirthankaras.

The Jain scholar-monks such as Acharyas Sumantha-bhadra, Akalanka, Vamana-charya Pushpa-danta, Kunda-kunda and others, were highly regarded for their piety and scholarship. Under their guidance a number of Jain temples and educational institutions (samana-palli) were established in the Tamil country, especially in its Northern regions.

The recognition accorded to Jainism is evidenced by the fact that a sector of Kanchipuram is known as Jaina Kanchi.  It is said; the Pallava King Mahendra-varman I (600 – 630 CE), in the early part of his life, caused , in that sector , construction of two temples :  one dedicated to Chandra-prabha the eighth Thirthankara; and the other dedicated to Vardhamana the twenty-fourth Thirthankara who is also addressed as Trailokya-natha-swami. The ancient paintings in the Vardhamana temple are renowned for their artistic qualities.

19.4 . Kanchi is also a sacred center for the Vaishnava faith. It is the home of the Pallava temple of Sri Vaikunthaperumal, built by Nandivarman II in the late 8th century CE, dedicated to Vishnu. It is one of the latest surviving temples built by the Pallavas . It, again, is  dominated by a huge tower. The temple is also exceptional for its triple shrine, one on each story ; and,  each containing an image of a form of Vishnu. A mantapa with eight columns leads to the sacred shrines within where there are two ambulatory passages on the first floor. The interior walls of the temple are decorated with relief sculpture depicting scenes from the history of the Pallava dynasty.  

Kanchi was also the home of the Saint philosopher Sri Ramanuja (11th to 12th century CE).

19.5. Even today, Kanchi is an important religious center.  The town has over 120 temples, including several smaller Pallava shrines of which the Muktesvara and Matangesvara are the biggest. The small Cokkisvara temple dates to the 12th century CE. Finally, the Varadaraja temple , built in the early 17th century CE has a massive gopura and outstanding sculpture on its exterior, notably the rearing lions of its mantapa columns. Besides the abundant sculpture adorning the various monuments of the city several excellent figures of yoginis have survived, typically in green-stone and dating to the 9th and 10th centuries CE.  

*

19.6. It is said; the history of Kanchipuram is lost in obscurity almost from the days of Karikala (Ca.190 CE), recognized as the greatest of the Early Chola kings who ruled in Southern India during the Sangam period, to its occupation by the Pallava kings under Sivaskandavarman (perhaps the beginning of the fourth century). It is probable that during this period  the city of Kanchi was in the hands of the Chola princes, some of whom are mentioned in the Manimekhalai to have built Buddhist temples.

Kanchi was the imperial capital of the Pallavas for over five hundred years from 4th to 9th centuries. Though Kanchipuram was taken over by to King Pulakesin II (r. 610-642 CE) in the 7th century CE; and, later again by the Calukya ruler Vikramaditya II (r. 733-746 CE) , the city regained its glory rather quickly.

The Pallava power and the city of Kanchipuram were at the zenith of their glory during the 7th and 9th centuries, when the Pallavas had established supremacy over their southern rivals and ruled over the territory extending from the Krishna in the north to Cauvery in the south. During this period the Pallava kingdom enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity; and, during which literature, art and architecture flourished. Kanchi was also the home of the famous 6th century CE poet Bharavi who wrote the Kiratarjuniya . Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese-Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler and translator who visited Kanchi during the 7th century, wrote glowingly about the splendor of the city and its intellectual wealth. He records that there were as many as one hundred monasteries with ten thousand Buddhist monks in Kanchipuram. Further, the might of the Pallavas was such that they had established diplomatic and trade relations with China, Siam, and Fiji etc.

chola_map_new.svg_

19.7. Thereafter, the city came under the rule of Cholas from 10th to 13th century; and of the Vijayanagar kings from 14th to 17th century. By then the city had lost its primer status and was steadily on the downward slope.  Kanchi’s decline was accelerated by the drying up of the Palar River. 

Under the Company rule, Kanchipuram turned into a battlefront for the British East India Company in the Carnatic Wars against the French East India Company; and , also in the Anglo-Mysore Wars fought with the Sultan Mysore. Thereafter, during the Second Anglo-Mysore War of 1794, the territory came under the direct control of the East India Company.

Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is one of those sad cases where a thriving urban populace forced by neglect and paucity of resources rapidly reverts to rural life styles. The city could no longer sustain itself, particularly after the near-demise of the Palar. Kanchi is now a little more than a weavers’ town.

The other instance of that nature that quickly comes to my mind is the city of palaces and mansions located on the Ganga that once was the seat of a mighty imperial power, the Pataliputra which now has degenerated into squalor and dirt ridden dust-bowel called Patna.

20. Sri Kailasanatha

20.1. The Kailasanatha (or Rajasimhesvara) is one of the largest and most ornate ancient temples in the whole of India. And, Kailasanatha , the oldest among the ancient temples in Kanchipuram is  dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was earlier known as Raja-simheshwaram. The temple is credited to the initiative and enterprise of the Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman II or Rajasimha (also known as Ajiranakanta, Ranadhira and Kshatriya Simheshvara) who reigned between 690 to 728 AD. A foundation inscription states that he erected this great house of Shiva “to reflect his own glory and the laughter of the Lord.” 

In the early eighth century, the Rājasiheśvara (Kailāsanātha) temple at Kancipuram was probably the largest structural temple complex thus far built anywhere in India. The central temple located in the western part of a large rectangular Prākāra (walled enclosure), which is encircled by more than 50 Devakulikās (subsidiary shrines).The surface of these sub shrines as well as the spaces between them are carved with hundreds of sculptures, all related to Śhaiva iconography, thus assembling the largest pantheon of Śhivamūrtis perhaps ever created in India. Also the temple’s main body (Vimāna) with originally at least seven Parivāra shrines built against its outer walls is carved all over with different forms of Shiva.

Kailasanatha Kanchipuram original ground plan

said to be original ground plan of Kailasanatha temple

The Kailasanatha temple is the finest structural project of the Pallavas. It looks as if a chariot from heaven has descended on earth. The exterior of the temple is more piercingly and vividly carved in comparison to the interiors. The niches have some of the most splendid sculptures/forms of Shiva and his family. 

The sandstone structure is enclosed within a highly decorative wall which has interior niches forming fifty-eight separate shrines containing figures of Shiva, Parvati, and Skanda. The sanctum enshrines a shodasakona (sixteen-cornered) lingam of black colour. The vimana rises over the sanctum like a pyramid.

” The main temple has three main components: the outer corridor with the enclosure wall running around; the main shrine with the sanctum tower; and , the pillared Mantapa in front. The walls of the Vimana and the attached shrines are a house of absolute riches of Śaivite iconographic forms. This can be called as the richest of all Pallava shrines in terms of figurative decoration. Sculptures occur not only in the main niches but also on their flanks. The sculptures are found carved not only inside the attached cardinal and corner shrines but also are on each shrine’s outer walls. In the wall facing south has Uma-Mahesvara, Lingodbhava with Varaha below in the main niche.

kailasanatha Lingodbhava

The west wall has Sandhya-nrtta-murtti and Urdhva-Tandava-murti with dancing Ganas below. The wall facing north has Tripurantaka and Durga in the main niche. Apart from the more prominent forms of Shiva which are carved in the main niches, the flanks show Harihara, Ganeśha, Durga, Skanda and Vishnu.

In front of the main Vimana is Rajasimha’s Mantapa. It is flat topped with corner piers and paired pillars on the main openings. While the façade pillars are of sandstone, the inner pillars have shafts of granite. Dvarapalakas appear in niches with makara-toranas on the east, Lakśhmi and Saraswathi on the south and Durga and Jyeśtha on the north.”

Kailasanatha

The noted filmmaker, art-historian and photographer Benoy K Behl says

The entire complex of this royal temple is grand and lavishly sculpted. The rampant lions and a  royal symbol of the Pallavas are made everywhere. They display the vigor and courage of the spirit within us, to fight the demons of our ignorance. They also display the glory of the Pallava king, who made the temple. It has many images of Durga as Mahishasur Mardini. It is one of the most expressive images of Indian art. Durga personifies the energy and power within us to face and to destroy the demon of our ignorance,”.. ”  The panel of Ganas, only thirty inches in height, running along the base of the temple, depict the joyous spirit of the worship of the Lord. These display the high quality of carving everywhere in the temple.

Sri Kailasanathar

20.2. The Somaskanda panel, depicting Shiva and Parvathi with their son Karthikeya is the main iconographic motif of the temples built by Rajasimha in particular and the Pallavas in general. The term Somaskanda (Sa-Uma-Skanda) literally means (Shiva) “with Uma and Skanda”. The rear wall of the sanctum in Kailasanatha is adorned with the Somaskanda panel. The Pallavas seemed to be very fond of the theme of Shiva’s family. In endless varieties of depictions they celebrate Shiva as regal and yet a loving family man with a beautiful wife and a playful child.

The Pallava depictions of the Somaskanda are usually large sized. Shiva is three eyed; four armed, splendidly ornamented; and his complexion resembles the rising sun (udaya bhanu nibha) or the coral (mani vidrumabha).His matted hair is done up as a crown adorned with crescent moon and Ganga. He wears a patra-kundala in his left ear; and makara kundala in his right ear. His upper hands carry tanka or cane (vetra), and an antelope; and his lower two hand gesture benediction and assurance. He sits with his one leg bent and kept on the seat (sayanam padakam); and his other leg stretched down (lambaka padam).

Parvathi sits to his left. She has two hands; and holds a blue lotus in one of her hands. She too sits with her one leg bent; and the other stretched.

Both have a pleasant countenance; and sit in a relaxed posture (sukhasana).The playful child Skanda is between the loving couple. The child Skanda, in these depictions, has one face, two hands; and holds a flower in each of his hands. His complexion is blue

kailasanatha-temple-

20.3. The Kailasanatha has one of the largest and most complex Vimana . The stories  (Vimanas) are decorated with architectural designs . The Kailasanatha is a four-storied structure containing two walls providing an ambulatory  passage (pradakshina –patha).The three exterior walls of the garbhagriha have seven lesser shrines placed around them and each contains an image of Shiva. The whole of the exterior of the temple is covered in a mass of relief sculpture, notably of rearing lions (yalis), Nandis, attendants of Shiva (ganas), Shiva, and other deities.

The temple built almost entirely of sandstone is integrated into a coherent complex. The modest scale of the temple, and the closeness of its enclosing wall, lends a sense of intimacy to the surroundings.

20.4. The Kailasanatha temple is perhaps the biggest sandstone temple structure in the world. Among the ancient temples in Kanchi, the Kailasanatha is the only temple whose structure has not been meddled with or re-constructed. It still retains its pristine form and structure. It’s another unique feature is the 58 devakulikas (mini-shrines) that run round the main temple. They had murals that portrayed scenes from the Shiva- Lila, the legends of Shiva. Sadly, most of those paintings are no longer visible.

20 .5.  The Gopuras were not an essential feature of the early temples. At the Kailasanatha there is just a suggestion of a Gopura- dwara. It was only by about 11th century that tall, colossal and overwhelming Gopura emerged as a unique feature of the South Indian temple architecture.

20.6. The Kailasanatha appears to be the earliest structured temple constructed by the Pallavas. It surely served as a forerunner and a model for the later temple structures including some Chalukya temples. Some scholars opine that Rajaraja –Chola I was inspired by Kailasanatha to build Raja-Rajeeshwaran temple at Tanjore. Kailasanatha contains in embryo many features of the emerging South Indian style, such as: gopuras, pilastered walls with ornamental columns, a pyramidal shikhara, and a perimeter wall enclosing the complex. Many of the ornaments depicted in the Chola and Vijayanagar sculptures and paintings owe their origin to the Pallava period.

20.7. Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to the graceful magnificence of Sri Kailasanatha temple was by the victor and conqueror of Kanchipuram. Vikramaditya II (reigned 733 – 744 AD) son of King Vijayaditya of the Badami Chalukya in his military career conquered the Pallava kingdom on three separate occasions. Vikramaditya ‘s third campaign against the Pallava kingdom ( around  735 AD) was to support the cause of a young Pallava prince Chitramaya against the Pallava king Nandivarman II Pallavamalla . Besides, by defeating Nandivarman II, Vikramaditya avenged the defeat his ancestor Pulikeshin II suffered (during 642 AD) at the hands of the Pallava king  Narasimhavarman I.

Vikramaditya II was very gracious in his victory. Unlike many conquering kings, he ensured that the city and its residents were not harmed in any manner .Even amidst battle violence he did not lose his sensitivity and love of art. As a connoisseur of art and architecture, he was captivated by the beauty of the Kailasanatha temple then known as Rajasimheshwaram. Vikramaditya II not only returned the war-booty but also liberally donated considerable gold and jewels to the temple. He also gifted in charity to city’s Brahmins and to its weak and forlorn. His acts of benevolence are inscribed, in archaic Kannada, on a pillar erected in front of the pavilion (mantapam) at Sri Kailasanatha temple.

 [Prof. R. Gopalan in his History of the Pallavas of Kanchi (Published under the Madras University Historical Series III; 1928) beneath the head – The Chalukyan Invasion of Kanchi. – pages 121-122  & page 189 – writes:

The Kendur plates of Vikramaditya II describe an actual invasion into the Pallava dominions (Tundakarashira) and the capture of the city in somewhat graphic terms: –

Being resolved to uproot completely his natural enemy (prakrti-amitra) Vikramaditya II (A.D. 733 to 746) reached Tundaka-Vishaya, ‘beat and put to flight, at the opening of the campaign, the opposing Pallava king named Nandipotavarman, took possession of particular musical instruments called Katumukhavaditra, the Samudraghosha, the khatvankladvaja, many excellent and well-knon  intoxicated elephants (matta-varana)  and a heap of rubies which dispelled darkness by the brilliancy of the multitude of their rays. . . entered without destroying the city of Kanchi, which was as it were a girdle adorning yonder lady, the region of the south … rejoiced the Brahmanas, and poor and helpless people by his uninterrupted liberality … acquired high merit by restoring heaps of gold to the stone temple of Rajasimhesvara, and other gods which have been caused to be built by Narasimhapotavarman … distressed by the Pandya, ChoJa, KeraJa, Kalabhra and other kings

The above extract from the Kendur plates distinctly makes it clear that Vikramaditya II actually captured the city of Kanchi from the Pallava king Nandipotavarman, that is, Nandivarman Pallavamalla, and occupied it for a period of time during which he endowed some of its temples with grants. This occupation of the Pallava capital by Vikramaditya is further confirmed by the discovery of a Kanarese inscniption of Vikramaditya engraved on one of the pillars of the mantapa in front of the Rajasimhesvara shrine.

This inscription (said to have been inscribed by the engraver Niravadya Srimad Anivarita Punyavallabaha – aka Anivarita Achari), which has been published by Dr. Hultzsch records the fact that Vikramaditya Satyasraya, after his conquest of Kanchi, did not confiscate the property of Rajasimhesvara temple, but granted large sums to the same, and ends with an imprecation that those who destroy the letters of the record and the stability of the king’s charity, shall incur the sin of those who killed the men of the assembly of the city (Ghatikaiyar) – (as mentioned in Appendix A .p 189)

The Chalukyan attack on Kanchi was therefore apparently different in character from the raid of the Pllava king Narasimhavarman I on Vatapi which involved much destruction if the Periyapuranam account is to be believed. ]

The inscription reads:

Vikramaditya IIHail Vikramaditya –sathyashraya, the favourite of Fortune and of earth, Maha-rajadhiraja Parameshwara Bhattara having captured Kanchi and after having inspected the riches of the temple, submitted them again to god of Rajasimheshwaram.

It is also said that Vikramaditya II took along with him, to his imperial city Vatapi (Badami), the temple architects (sthapathy or sutradhari) Sarvasiddhi Acharya and Anivaratha Acharya ; and as desired by his queens Lokamaha Devi and Trailokyamaha Devi, caused construction of two temples, in Dravida style , dedicated to Shiva as Lokeshwara (now known as Virupaksha temple)  and Trailokeshwara (now known as Mallikarjuna temple).In addition, the queens caused construction of two other temples, at Pattadakal,  in Rekha-Nagara style, dedicated to Papanatha (Shiva) and Durga Devi. These temples were in celebration of King Vikramaditya’s victories over the Pallavas. The sthapathys were generously remunerated and honored with gifts and titles Perjarepu, the great architects; and sent back to Kanchi.

Of these, Lokeshwara temple (now known as Virupaksha temple) at Pattadakal is said to have been modelled after Sri Kailasanatha (Rajasimheshwaram) temple of Kanchipuram. That was Vikramaditya’s expression of appreciation and his tribute to the graceful Rajasimheshwaram.

Pattadakal

 Sri Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal

20.8. It is remarkable; while the cave temples of Badami influenced the carved structures of Mahabalipuram, about a century later the Pallava temples influenced the style, structure and depiction of the Chalukya temples. Over a period the two rival schools enriched each other giving place to composite styles of sculpture and architecture.

21. Paintings

21.1. Though the sculptures of the Rajasimha are fairly well preserved, its paintings have almost vanished. It is said that the walls of the pradakshina -patha of the Kailasanatha temple were once covered with paintings of brilliant colours. But most of that has turned into faint traces .None of the surviving paintings at Kailasanatha is complete; only fragments have remained.

21.2. The problem of aging was exacerbated by the coat of white wash applied by the temple authorities on the ancient murals. The conservation work, to rescue the underlying paintings,  was taken up during 1936-40 by Shri S.Paramasivan, an archaeological chemist, who was a curator at the Madras museum. And; he encountered a number of serious problems in restoring the paintings in the cells of the Kailasanatha temple. He remarked said, “Since mechanical removal is the only possible means of removing the whitewash, it had to be done with great patience, not just skill”. Thanks to the efforts of Shri Paramasivan a few fragments of paintings at Chittannavasal, Thanjavur and Kailasanatha, Kanchipuram, have survived.

21.3. The fragments at Kailasanatha along with the remnants at Talagishwara temple at Panamalai are however quite significant. Because, these are the only two surviving examples of the Pallava mural paintings. Further, they represent an important stage in the history of development of South Indian paintings. Sadly, there has not been much discussion about these paintings.

21.4. Benoy K. Behl, the scholar and art historian remarked, “The fragments at Kailasanatha reveal the tenderness and grace that come from the tradition of Ajanta; as well as the glory of great kings. The theme of the family of Siva is also, at another plane, a representation of the royal family. There is an impressive quality in the crowns and in the painted figures, which are not seen in the earlier gentle beings of Ajanta. The idiom, which begins to develop here, is seen to blossom later into a grand imperial style of painting under the Cholas. The ancient Indian murals were also the foundation of the later manuscript paintings and Indian miniatures.

Here we see the high quality of painting of the classical Indian style, with a beautiful rendering of form and volume.”

22. Technique

22.1. While explaining the technique of Pallava murals, Shri Theodore Baskaran says the painting surface consists two layers of plaster. The first layer was a rough layer of lime and sand.  Over this a thin lime plaster was applied and this stuck on to the first layer firmly. Then the plaster ground was given a gentle polish with a trowel or stone.

22.2. He also mentions that the Pallava plaster – fresco –technique was superior. “The plaster from Kanchipuram was 2 to 3 mm in thickness and the two layers of plasters adhered to each other firmly. Because of the high degree of purity in the lime used, gypsum content was negligible and there was no efflorescence on the surface of the paintings”.

Next

We shall look at the remains of the early 11th century Chola murals on the corridors around the sanctum of Sri Brihadeshwara at Thanjavur.

Resources

http://www.thehinduretailplus.com/thehindu/mp/2006/01/19/stories/2006011900100300.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanchipuram

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2001/stories/20030117000409200.htm

http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Archeaology/arch_thondai.htm

http://www.tamilnation.org/culture/architecture/kanchipuram.htm

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2516/stories/20080815251606400.htm

http://www.muralpaintingtraditionsinindia.com/theodore%20bhaskaran.htm

https://www.academia.edu/2559588/Architectural_Brilliance_Kaila%C5%9Banatha_Kanchipuram?auto=download

All pictures are from Internet

 

Tags: , , ,

The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Five –Panamalai

[This is the fifth article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on Art of Painting in Ancient India 

The present article is about the surviving mural (ninth-century) at the Talagirishwara temple in Tamil Nadu. This temple is one of the earliest constructed by the Pallava kings; and it served as a model for the other bigger Pallava temples.

In the next article we shall look at  the  Paintings at another Pallava temple –  Sri Kailasanathar of Kancipuram]

Continued from

The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Four – Sittannavasal

 Panamalai

 

Panamalai situated about 7km to the south of the famous heritage fort at Gingee ( Tamil Nadu) is renowned for the ancient temple dedicated to Shiva as  Talagirishwara , the Lord of the Talagiri. (It is his earth abode here). The exquisite temple still has a few remnants of beautiful paintings.

16.1. The Talagirishwara temple on top of the rock-hill overlooking a placid lake is dated around seventh – eighth century, based on the inscriptions found in the temple. The temple is attributed to the creative genius and enterprise of the great Pallava king Narasimhavarman II aka Rajasimha (son of Parameshwaravarman I), who ruled for more than three decades from c.690 to 728 AD. By the time Narasimhavarman II ascended to the throne, the Pallavas had gained supremacy over their rivals – Chola and Pandyas; and were established as the dominant power in Southern India. The Pallavas had even established trade and diplomatic relations with China. The long reign of Narasimhavarman II was free from conflicts with the neighbouring states; and was blessed with a fairly long spell of peace of prosperity during which literature and arts flourished.

Narasimhavarman II, the Pallava King

16.2. It is said, Narasimhavarman, in particular, was a great patron of art and literature. Dandin, the great scholar was his court – poet. Narasimhavarman himself was an accomplished playwright and poet; and had to his credit many works in Sanskrit and Tamil. Though most of his works are now not extant, his plays on Ramayana and Mahabharata themes continue to influence the traditional theatre. For instance, his plays kailasodharanam and kamsavadham, in Sanskrit, are still a part of the repertory of Kutiyattam, the ancient School of drama in Kerala.

16.3. Pallavas were the pioneers of south Indian architecture; and, laid the foundations of the Dravidian school which blossomed during the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijayanagar kings and the Nayaks. Among the later Pallavas, the contribution of Narasimhavarman was phenomenal. During his reign he caused as many as fourteen major temples to be constructed. The prominent among those were: the Kailasanatha and the Airavatesvara temples of Kanchipuram; the shore temple of Mamallapuram; the Atiranacanda temple of Saluvankuppam; and, the Talagirisvara temple of Panamalai. He is also credited with the construction of the Buddhist Vihara commonly known as ‘China-pagoda’ at Nagapatam, for benefit of Chinese merchants, mariners and visiting monks. Marco Polo who visited the monastery in 1292 AD wrote about it.

  mahabalipuram-771x462

shore temple at Mahabalipuram datable to late 7th century

Tiger Cave complex in 2005 led to the excavation of a Sangam Period

   Saluvankuppam Yali Cave, façade 

 

16.4. The architecture of his time was versatile and innovative. While the Mamallapuram temple was located on seashore, the kanchi temple was in the plains and the Panamalai was atop a rocky hill. Architecturally, each temple was distinct in its style and in its depiction of the details.

While the sanctum of the Kanchipuram temple was decorated with sculpture, the one at Panamalai was painted with the Somaskanda murals. It is also said, Narasimhavarman’s shilpis (sculptors) displayed a great deal of imagination and artistic liberty; and, did not strictly adhere to the prescription of the Agamas.

Shiva at Talagirishwara 

Panamalai temple

Panamali_temple_viewITNTG004general view

 

( It is believed that the modest sized graceful looking Vimana of Talagirishwara temple, with its sharply recessed corners leading up to the stupi (top point)   served as a prototype for the more intricate vimanas of the later Pallava temples.)

17.1. The temple at Panamalai is smaller in size; its inner and outer walls are plain unlike that of the other Pallava temples of its time. The inner walls of its cells and the sanctum were, at one time, covered with paintings of exquisite beauty. Interestingly, it is said, the Panamalai murals resembled closely with the sculptural details on the inner walls of the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram.

Somaskanda panel at Kailasanatha-Kanchi

17.2. The Somaskanda murals on the sanctum walls and other paintings in the pavilion front of the sanctum have all but vanished, leaving behind few traces of paintings.

The lone painting

Panamalai Parvathi

18.1. The only identifiable figure now visible on the temple walls is that of a beautiful looking, well adorned graceful young lady standing beneath a royal parasol, wearing a tall bejewelled kirita (tiara)and jewellery, typical of the Pallava period. The skilful shading has endowed the figure a three dimensional appearance. It is regarded one of the most beautiful paintings of ancient India. 

Detail of the parasol

18.2. She, with the parasol, resembles Parvathi of the Kailasanatha temple, Kanchipuram, and the Vakataka women of Ajanta. She is identified by some as Parvathi, the consort of Shiva; but she could be any beautiful woman of refinement and elegance. In any case, the influence of Ajanta is unmistakable. The enraptured gaze and the tender grace are inherited from the Chitrasutra and Ajanta tradition.

18.3. The idiom of Pallava painting, which began here, later blossomed into a grand imperial style of painting under the Cholas.

Next

The Pallava temple – Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram.

Atiranacandesvarar 

References:

http://www.archive.org/stream/epigrahiaindicav014768mbp/epigrahiaindicav014768mbp_djvu.txt

http://www.whatisindia.com/inscriptions/south_indian_inscriptions/volume_12/introduction.html

http://conserveheritage.org/paintingpreservation.html

http://tamilartsacademy.com/books/mamallai/new-light.xmlhttp://reachhistory.blogspot.com/2008/10/gingee-fort-dalavanur-mandagapattu.ht

All Pictures are from Internet

 

Tags: , ,

The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Four -Sittannavasal

[This is the fourth article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on Art of Painting in Ancient India 

The present article is about the Jain murals (ninth-century) at Sittanvaasal caves in Tamil Nadu. These are perhaps the earliest surviving Jain murals

In the sections to follow we shall look at   Paintings at Panamalai and Kailasanathar of Kancipuram]

Continued from  : The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Three – Badami

Sittanavasal

12. 1. As Benoy. K. Behl  (the well known art-historian, filmmaker and photographer who has written extensively on Ajanta ) remarked “If Badami and Ajanta represent the earliest surviving Hindu and Buddhist murals, Sittannavasal caves are the earliest surviving Jain murals”.

12.2. Sittanavasal, near Pudukkottai in Tamilnadu is renowned primarily for its rock-cut cave temple with its rare Jaina mural paintings. The name indicates abode of the Siddha (the monk or monks).The first century Tamil-Brahmi inscription names the place as ‘ChiRu-posil’.  It records that Chirupochil Ilayar made the Atitnam (Adhittana, abode or a dwelling place) for Kavuti Itan who was born at Kumuthur in Eorumi-nadu. The territorial division of Eorumi-nadu is   identified with the present-day Mysore region.

The cave floor, in fact, provides slightly elevated beds and pillows carved out of rock, for use of the monks.  There are about seventeen beds, rectangular even-spaces; each with a sort of stone pillow. It is likely that on these rock beds the Jain ascetics performed austerities such as kayotsarga and sallekhana (voluntary starvation leading to death).

An inscription of 7th century AD,written in Tamil Brahmi, in 7 lines, mentions some names (perhaps of Jain monk residents): Kadavulan Tirunilan of Tolakkunram, Tiruppuranan, Tittaichchanan, Tiruchchattan, Sripurnachandiran, Niyatakaran Pattakkali and Kadavulan.

[There is mention of another inscription written in vattelettu script dated 5th – 6th centuries AD, found in another natural cavern in the same hill.]

[Sittannavasal has the distinction of being the only monument where one can find, in one place, Tamil inscriptions dating back from 1st century BC to the 10th century AD. It is virtually a stone library in time].

It is likely that the Sittannavasal cave temple dated around first or second  century (based on the Tamil-Brahmi inscription found on the cave floor) belonged to a period when Jainism flourished in Southern India. And, it  served as a shelter for Jain monks till about 8th century when Jainism began to fade away in the Tamil region.

12.3. Sittannavasal, a natural cave, located on top of a modest granite hill, called Eladipattam, served in the ancient times, as residence for the Jain monks. The cave temple is quite spacious and has a low roof. But, Sittannavasal is rather small in size in comparison to Ajanta with which its paintings are often compared.

13.1. The importance accorded to Sittanavasal is not because of its size or grandeur, but because of its significance in the history of development of Indian art and also because of its exquisite style of depiction, as evidenced by the fragments of its remnant murals. The Sittanavasal paintings are regarded as a surviving link between the Ajanta paintings (c.6th century) and the Chola paintings of Thanjavur (11th century). They are also classified with the Sigiriya (Srigiri) frescoes of Sri Lanka (fifth century) and the Bagh frescoes in Madhya Pradesh (sixth and seventh centuries).

Sigiriya-Sri Lanka                Bagh caves- Madhya Pradesh

13.2. Sittanavasal is the earliest example of Jaina paintings. These paintings gathered attention of western world after an inscription was published during the year 1904.Though the cave and its interior carvings are dated to around 2nd century, the surviving remnants of the beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the sanctum and the ardha-mantapa (front pavilion) are dated around seventh century, as they appear to be based in the classical Ajanta style. Some scholars say, the pillars and cave paintings belong to the period of the  Pallava king Mahendra-varmanI (580-630 CE).

13.3. Another reason for dating the Sittannavasal murals around 6th -7th century is that they exhibit some Pallava features. Further, the temple in its architectural style resembles the cave temples built by the Pallava king, Mahendra-varman.

As regards the wall-surface and its preparation, they closely resemble that of Ajanta. The base of Sittannavasal paintings is well consolidated, firm yet thin with lime plaster used as binding agent. The painted plaster is made up of three layers: rough plaster, fine plaster and a covering layer of paint, as in Ajanta.

The paintings 

14.1. The paintings that were on the temple walls have almost completely perished. Only the fragments of the paintings that were on the   ceilings, the beams and the upper regions of the pillars have partially survived.

I understand, these remnants too are eroding fast clouded by the fine granite dust emanating from the nearby quarries. And, this ongoing disaster might eventually emaciate the rock-hill, weaken the ancient temple structure and bring the whole of it crumbling down.

14.2. Of the remaining fragments of paintings, those on the pillars and the lotus pool scene on the ceiling of the ardha-mandapa (pavilion) and the carpet canopy on the ceiling of the inner shrine are the most important.

14.3. Among the pictures painted on the pillars, the figures of the dancers adorned with ornaments and distinctive hair styles; and displaying graceful dance postures are very attractive. They closely resemble the Apsaras (celestial maidens) of the Ajanta. 

Sittanavasal-Paintings

There are two dancers painted on western face of the two pillars, greeting those who enter the cave. However, the images are much weathered now; and, only upper the portions of the dancers remain. Apsara’s hair is tied together and is adorned with varieties of flowers. She wears necklaces around her neck. Her upper body is bare (as in the classical style of depicting the aristocracy) . It is likely that the full figure was depicted   with elaborate clothes below her waist.

14.4. A painting on the southern pillar of perhaps the king and his queen has somehow survived. The benign looking male figure is adorned with an elaborate crown, ear-rings set in gems (patra-kundala and makara kundala). The female figure behind him is rather simple.

14.5. Canopies of vivid patterns are painted on the ceiling over the images of Thirthankara Parshvanatha a Jain Acharya (preceptor) employing the lotus motif.

15.1. The most important mural of Sittannavasal is the exquisite composition depicting the delightful Jain heaven. The painting depicts Sama-vasaranathe adorable heavenly pavilion with theBhvyas, the eligible souls fortunate to receive divine discourse in the Samava-sarana.

The termSamavasarana (Sama avasarana) means an assembly which provides equal opportunities for all who gather there. Samavasarana, in Jain literature denotes an assembly of Thirthankara.  At this assembly different beings – humans, animals and gods – are also present to behold the Thirthankara and hear his discourses. The common assembly, at which different beings are gathered for one purpose, treats all alike overriding the differences that might exist among them. A  Samavasarana is thus, a tirth, a revered place.

According to Jaina faith, the Bhavyas have to pass through seven bhumis or regions before they gain eligibility to listen to the divine discourse. Among these bhumis, the second bhumi is the khatika-bhumi (region-of-the-tank).

The Sittannavasal mural depicts the joyous scenes at this divine lotus tank.  It pictures bhavyas amusing themselves in the delightful lotus tank full of lotus flowers, fishes, birds and animals.

It is a picture of sublime happiness, where the Bhavyas happily gather, with tender care, lotus flowers larger than themselves, while elephants appear to smile; and the bulls, birds and fishes are in playful mood. The figure of the bhavya is made with a lilting grace, like the stalks of the lotuses he gathers. It is a gracious world.

Line drawing

the detail

15.2. The lotus with their stalks and leaves, and the birds, fishes, bulls and elephants are utterly simple and beautiful in their natural charm. Some art critiques have remarked, this might be one of the most beautiful depictions of flowers in ancient Indian art.

These flowers attract viewer’s attention due to their sheer size and bright colours. This bright colour fades gradually towards inside of flower. These flowers are depicted in various stages of development, from a bud to a well blown flower. The bright red lotus with green leaves and thin stem presents a very pleasant sight.

There are three buffalos in this lake, one totally submerged and two in state of getting out of the lake as men approach. There are three men in the lake who are shown collecting flowers. Elephants are shown carrying lotus stems and in process of handing those to nearby men. One of them is holding a basket to place flowers into it. These men probably represent Jaina monks who are getting flowers for offerings to their teachers. Smile on their faces suggest that they are happy and content.

15.2. The unique features of the Indian art are seen here, where humans share the joy of life with the animals, birds and plants. It is a celebration of life, even in after-life. It echoes the spirit of life immortalized in an inscription at Ajanta: “The joy of giving filled him so much that it left no space for the feeling of pain.”

It seemed to convey “Every leaf, every flower, every ant, deer, elephant and human form is filled with the same joyous spirit that flows through and connects all that there is in the world”.

Please see reproductions of some of the ancient paintings of Sittanvasal

sittanvasal

lotus_sasi

 

Next

The Panamalai temple of the Pallava times

Resources and References

http://www.pudukkottai.org/places/sittannavasal/03sittannavasal.html

http://indian-heritage.org/swaminathan/sittannavasal/Sittannavasal%20-%20a%20booklet.pdf

http://indian-heritage.org/swaminathan/sittannavasal/arivar.html

http://narajin.net/g2data/main.php?g2_itemId=1602

http://indian-heritage.org/swaminathan/sittannavasal/arivar.html

http://puratattva.in/2011/05/02/sittanavasal-the-legacy-of-chitrasutra-13.html

All pictures are from Internet

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Legacy of Chitrasutra- Three – Badami

[This is the third article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India .In the present set of articles , I propose to talk , briefly, about the influence of Chitrasutra – its outlook, its theories and its recommended practices – on the Indian mural paintings. In this process I propose to cover some , not all , of the main mural paints of India that succeeded Ajanta , such as : Pitalkhora (c.6th century), Badami (c, 6th century), Sittannavaasal (c.7th century), Pannamalai (7thcentury), Kailasanatha – Kanchipuram (8th century),Brihadeshwara – Tanjore (11thcentury), Lepakshi (16th century), Mattancheri (c.17th century) and Padmanabhapuram palace (18th century).I propose to round it up the discussion with a note on the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam , who kept alive the tradition of Chitrasutra in the modern times.

The first article was meant to serve a brief introduction to the subject outlining the characteristics of the Chitrasutra tradition.

The present article attempts to give an account of the murals at Badami.]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra- Two-Pitalkhora

Badami

8.1. Badami, along with Aihole, Pattadakal and some other sites in and around the valley of the River Malaprabha in Bagalkot District of Karnataka, contain some of the earliest temples built in stone in the regions of Southern India.  Badami known as Vatapi in the earlier times, founded in 540 AD by Pulikeshin I was the capital of the early Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD.

The rock-cut cave temples of Badami located in a ravine at the foot of rugged sandstone rock formation were carved and sculpted mostly during the 6th and 8th centuries. However, the history of construction of monuments in stone go back much farther in time, as evidenced by the large number of megalithic monuments that are distributed at several sites in the Malaprabha Valley.

The ceiling designs in the Badami temples are highly intricate; and, are decorated  with  stylized padma-vitāna, lotus-ceiling involving radial symmetry, and concentric borders enclosing lotus motifs.

badami cealing designs

The four cave temples depict the art of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious inclinations, evidencing the secular outlook and religious tolerance of the ancient Kings of Badami. The rock cut temples at Pattadakal (UNESCO world heritage monument), Badami and Aihole are among the most celebrated monuments of ancient India.


8.2. It is said; the cave temples of Badami influenced the development of the rock-cut structures of Mahabalipuram. Rev H Heras SJ in his ‘Studies in Pallava History’ (SG Paul and Co, 1933) discusses in fair detail the similarities between the two groups of sculptures and traces certain features of  the statues and sculptures at Mahabalipuram to the caves of Badami. According to Rev Heras, soon after his accession to the throne the Pallava king Mahamalla Narasimhavarman I (ruled 630-668 AD), in retaliation, successfully attacked Vatapi (Badami) the capital of the Chalukyas. While at Vatapi, Mahamalla was greatly impressed by its extraordinarily well executed cave-temples; and particularly by cave No.3 the largest and most ornamented of all the Badami caves.

Narasimhavarman was struck with admiration at the beauty in the architectural concept and the perfection of its execution in those elaborate cave-temples. Rev Heras asserts it is beyond doubt that the Pallava king studied the Chalukya style of cave building took designs of some of the architectural elements and motifs of ornamentation. He also broadened his views on stone carving and fostered in his mind new ambitious projects to emulate the artistic achievements of his enemies. And he did succeed.

8.3 .Rev Heras points out striking similarities between the pillars the Varaha Mantapa of Mahabalipuram and the pillars in the veranda of Cave No.1 of Badami:” The same prismatic appearance; the same bulbous lotus-like development of the capital; the same interruption of the fluting by a band of filigree work; the same rosary-like garlands “. He also points out that Mahamalla adopted the Badami style of decoratively covering the side-walls with large sculptural panels displaying elaborate figures that resemble the Badami depictions. For instance Varaha, Vamana, Gaja-Lakshmi and Durga in Cave No. 2 and Cave No. 3 of Mahabalipuram closely follow in their depiction the figures of the Badami caves. Rev Heras remarks; the statues and sculptures of Mahabalipuram are plainer than those of Badami; there is neither profusion of ornamentation nor richness of details. But the figures of Mahabalipuram seem richer with their’ naturalness s and freshness of the poses ‘that is   not found in the more conventional panels of Badami.

vishnu badami d1613

8.4. It is remarkable; while the cave temples of Badami influenced the carved structures of Mahabalipuram, about a century later the Pallava temples influenced the style, structure and depiction of the Chalukya temples. Over a period the two rival schools enriched each other giving place to composite styles of sculpture and architecture.  

Paintings

9. Though its exquisite carvings and sculptures are fairly well preserved, the murals in the Badami caves have all but vanished. Only a few fragments of the paintings tucked away in the concave surfaces of the vaulted cornice of the 3rd and 4tn cave have survived. They are perhaps the earliest surviving specimens of the Hindu wall paintings.

578 CE Mangalesha Kannada inscription in Cave temple 3 at Badami

Badami inscription of Mangalesha

An inscription dated 578 AD records, in Kannada language; the caves were completed during the reign of King Mangalishwara (aka Mangalesha) son of Pulikeshin I. The wall paintings might therefore have been executed during that period. Some other paintings in cave 4 might belong to a later period (6-7th century) as they appear related to paintings in Cave 1 of Ajanta, depicting the visit of a Persian emissary to the court of Pulakshin in 625 AD.

10. It is likely that the caves were earlier painted and fully decorated. The fragment remains of the Badami murals still evoke the images of splendour and magi of the bygone eras. The remains of the Shiva and Parvathi murals, and of other characters from the Puranas ( in cave 3) strongly resemble the figures painted in Ajanta .

The mural in cave 4, dedicated to Adinatha Thirthankara, depicts Jain saints relinquishing the world for attainment of knowledge   , is truly uplifting.

11.  The secular paintings too closely resemble the Ajanta paintings, thus carrying forward the tradition of the Chitrasutra. Shri SM Sunkad an artist from Hubli (Karnataka) has attempted reproducing a mural each from Ajanta and Badami and illustrating how closely they resemble in style.

http://gallery.passion4art.com/members/sunkad/picture.html

This was the commencement of Chalukya style of architecture and a consolidation of South Indian style.

Next

— Sittanvaasal->

 References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badami_Cave_Temples

http://gallery.passion4art.com/members/sunkad/picture.html

http://www.indiamonuments.org/

http://indiabackpacker.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html

All pictures are from Internet

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

The Legacy Of Chitrasutra- Two-Pitalkhora

 

[This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India .In the present set of articles , I propose to talk , briefly, about the influence of Chitrasutra – its outlook, its theories and its recommended practices – on the Indian mural paintings. In this process I propose to cover some , not all , of the main mural paints of India that succeeded Ajanta , such as : Pitalkhora (c.6th century), Badami (c, 6th century), Sittannavaasal (c.7th century), Pannamalai (7thcentury), Kailasanatha –Kanchipuram (8th century),Brihadeshwara – Tanjore (11thcentury), Lepakshi (16th century), Mattancheri (c.17th century) and Padmanabhapuram palace (18th century).I propose to round it up the discussion with a note on the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam , who kept alive the tradition of Chitrasutra in the modern times.

The first article was meant to serve a brief introduction to the subject outlining the characteristics of the Chitrasutra tradition.

The present article attempts to give an account of the murals at Pitalkhora.]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra- One

The previous post viz. The Legacy of Chitrasutra- One  tried to present, as a backdrop, an outline of the general principles of the Chitrasutra tradition: its outlook, its concepts and theories; and its recommended practices. As mentioned, the school of Chitrasutra wielded enormous influence on the artists of the sub-continent, over about fifteen centuries. We shall now look at some celebrated murals of ancient India, which either belonged to the period of Ajanta or to sometime thereafter.

Pitalkhora

6. The caves

6.1. The Buddhist caves at Pitalkhora are the closest to Ajanta; both in terms of space and time. They too are situated in the Aurangabad region of Maharashtra; about 40km west of the famous rock- cut temples at Ellora. The Pitalkhora caves are cut into the side of a secluded ravineand are located deep inside a valley with a gentle stream running through it.

6.2. The set of fourteen caves of early- Buddhist period are similar to Ajanta; and are dated around second or third century BCE. Some scholars identify Pitalkhora with ‘Petrigala’ mentioned in Ptolemy’s history and with ‘Pitangalya ‘mentioned   in a Buddhist tantric text Mahamayuri of 3-4th century AD. The inscriptions found here (c. second century) indicate that ‘Pitangalya ‘had close connections with Pratishtana (modern Paithan), the capital of the Imperial Shatavahanas. Pitangalya was also an important trade centre along the caravan -route from Surparaka (Sapora) to Nasik, further north.

A unique feature of Pitalkhora is its ingenious arrangement to drain out the seepage that found its way into the cave through cracks in the rocks. Long tunnel like openings were bored into the ceilings and the water was channelled underneath the cave floor, in concealed drains, leading to outside cave entrance.

Pitalkhora caves occupy a significant place among the ancient Buddhist monuments of 2 C B.C. But, sadly the caves are in a poor state of preservation.

 

6.3.  Pitalkhora consisting of 14 Buddhist Caves forms one of the earliest centres of the rock-cut architecture; and are said to belong to about 2nd C BCE. The architectural and sculptural representations are similar to that of the Sanchi stupa; and are approximately of the same period. The sculptural remains at Pitalkhora include some   unusual sculptures; such as those of the wonderful animal motifs, miniature Chaitya windows, the elephants, yaksha (semi divine beings), dwarapala  (door-keepers) and mithuna (twin ) figures.

7. The paintings

7.1. As regards the paintings, only a few fragments of the murals dated around 5-6thcentury AD (of the time of Ajanta murals) can be seen in the Chaitya and Monastery Caves. The best paintings are in Cave 3. These appear on the pillars and side walls. They bear a strong resemblance to Ajanta style of painting; carrying forward the tradition of the Chitrasutra.

7.2. This is evident from the gentle expression and typical soulful eyes (characteristic of the Ajanta) depicted in the figure of a worshipper in a Pitalkhora fragment. The hair- do and colour scheme of the Pitalkhora fragment resembles greatly the Ajanta figures.

7.3. The Buddha figure to with its benign countenance and soulful eyes does resemble the Ajanta.

Next

The rock-cut cave temples of Badami, in North Karnataka, carved and sculpted mostly during the 6th and 8th centuries, depicting the art of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious traditions.

 

References:

http://www.devi.org/pitalkhora.html

http://lavanya-indology.org/pitalkhora.html

http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_ellora_pitalkhora.asp

http://www.indiamonuments.org/Pitalkhora.htm

All pictures are from Internet

 

Tags: , , ,

The Legacy of Chitrasutra – One- Introduction

[This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India. In the present set of articles, I propose to talk, briefly, about the influence of Chitrasutra – its outlook, its theories and its recommended practices – on the Indian mural paintings.

In this process I propose to cover some , not all , of the main mural paints of India that succeeded Ajanta , such as :  Pitalkhora (c.6th century) , Badami (c, 6th century), Sittannavaasal (c.7th century), Pannamalai (7th century), Kailasanatha-Kanchipuram (8th century), Brihadeshwara -Tanjore (11th century) , Lepakshi (16th century), Mattancheri (c.17th century) and Padmanabhapuram palace (18th century). I propose to round it up the discussion with a note on the sublime creations of Shri S Rajam, the classical painter who kept alive the tradition of Chitrasutra in the modern times.

The present post is a brief introduction to the subject outlining the characteristics of the Chitrasutra tradition. This will be followed by an account of the murals at Pitalkhora and Badami in the next section.]

From  the caves of Newari region on the borders of Nepal and China(8-9th  cent)

1. Indian murals

1.1. Murals in India date back to times beyond the pages of history. India has a rich tradition of mural wealth. The treatises such as Vishnudharmottara, Silpashastra, Manasollasa, Shilparatna, Narada-shilpa-shastra and Kashyapa-shilpa, discuss at length all aspects of painting, including murals. The murals are perhaps the only surviving examples of ancient Indian painting.

1.2. The Chitrasutra of Vishnudharmottara describes itself as a “legacy of the collective wisdom of the finest minds”. That legacy inherited by the Chitrasutra was, in turn, carried forward by the scores of artists, spread across the centuries, who produced priceless works of art. Those were acts of intense devotion and dedication. The earliest surviving of those works of art are the murals at Ajanta, which we have already discussed. The decorative motifs, richly populated compositions, well defined figures, appropriate costumes and adorations are some of the notable features of the Ajanta mural paintings. The tradition of Chitrasutra and Ajanta was nurtured, practiced and kept alive in other parts of the country, during the next fifteen centuries. The widespread acceptance and a sustained propagation of the principles of Chitrasutra in a country of diverse cultures and religions, is one of the marvels of ancient India. Some residuals of those ancient murals have somehow survived to this day.

Sigiriya-Sri Lanka

1.3. The Chitrasutra tradition, in a way of speaking, was the unobtrusive soft silken bond that tied the country together in a common cultural web, by providing idioms of art expressions that all could share and regard it as their own. It put into the hands of the artists a well structured grammar of painting. Chitrasutra was an inclusive and a unified tradition of painting. One of the main characteristic of this tradition was its remarkable unity and consistency. Though there were regional variations and individual styles, the works produced in diverse geographical and cultural regions shared certain common values, concepts and techniques. And, all those varied   manifestations were inspired by the general principles of Chitrasutra. The regional idioms, nevertheless, contributed to the richness of Indian art, and their mutual influences gave birth to multi-faceted development of Indian art.

2. Outlook

2.1. Chitrasutra tradition was at once Hindu, Buddhist and Jain; for its style was a function of time and region; and, not of the religion. It is not, therefore, strictly correct to speak of Hindu or Buddhist art; but, rather of Indian art that happened to render Hindu or Buddhist themes. For example, an image of Vishnu and an image of Buddha of the same period are stylistically the same; the religion having little to do with the mode of artistic expression. Apart from that, the Indian art that rendered the religious themes shared a common pool of symbols, gestures (mudras) and a common set of values that avoided imitation of the physical and ephemeral world of the senses.

Let me try to illustrate this aspect. In all  the Hindu , Jain and Buddhist themes , alike, the Chakra – the revolving wheel of time symbolizes the cyclical rhythms of all existence;  the Padma – or the lotus embodies creation – that springs from the bosom of the earth; the Ananta (represented as a snake) symbolizes  water – the most important life-giving force from which all life emerges, evolves  and then resolves; the Swastika – represents  the four-fold aspects of creation ,motion and a sense of stability ; the Purnakalasha the over -flowing pot symbolized creativity and prosperity; the Kalpalata and Kalpavriksha –  the wish-fulfilling creeper symbolize  imagination and creativity; and Mriga or deer – symbolizes  desire and  fleeting beauty.

Similarly, the gestures (mudra) by positioning of fingers, hands, limbs etc. , making explicit the virtues such as wisdom, strength, generosity, kindness and caring etc. are employed and interpreted commonly by all the persuasions.

3. Concepts

3.1. There is a marked absence of portraitures in the ancient murals. One rarely comes across the physical representations of the monarchs or the patrons who caused the paintings to be done. This could be viewed as one of the strength of Indian art. It strived to move away from the ephemeral towards the long lasting; and from particular to universal. It also meant that the ancient Indian kings were not vain enough to assume their portraits would override the art.

3.2. Even in cases where the figures of kings and queens were depicted, the emphasis was on the ideal person behind the human lineaments rather than on their physical likeness. Most of those kings and queens were celebrated in their idealized forms. Their representations were therefore visualized or abstract rather than “photo-like”.

3.3. That approach seems to have sprung from the concern of the artist not to just reproduce the forms but to look beyond the tangible world of appearances. The Chitrasutra suggested, the artist should try to look beyond the beauty of the form that meets the eye; to lift the veil and look within. It asked him to look beyond “The phenomenal world of separated beings and objects that blind the reality beyond”.

3.4. The art expression was, therefore, not about how the world appears to one and all, but how the artist would experience and visualize it. In other words, the Chitrasutra tradition emphasized that art was more than photographic reproduction of visible objects. It was about the experience of a person and his expression of it through art; and about his unique creative genius, imagination, enterprise and individuality as an artist. Its purpose was to present that which is within us; and to evoke an emotional response (the rasa) in the viewer’s heart.

3.5. The Indian murals are rich in expressive realism. For instance, the Paintings at Ajanta, Bagh and Sittanvasal testify to a love of naturalism – both in the depiction of the human form and in the depiction of nature.  Yet, they always seem to suggest to something beyond the obvious.  They not merely stimulate the senses but also ignite the imagination of the viewer. That experience, according to Chitrasutra, sets the individual free from the confines of place, time and ego (self).

3.6. That aspect brought into the fore the concept of the abstract; and with it a whole set of symbols and symbolisms.  Further, the objects in nature were visualized or personified endowing each with a distinct personality. That enabled rendering the absolute and the undefined, into tangible visual forms. It, in turn, gave rise to a tendency to draw abstractions from nature in a manner that was both aesthetically pleasing and very effective as decorative embellishment.  Painting also developed into a medium for expressing visual fantasies. The elements of natures like rivers, sun, moon etc   were personified bringing out their virtues and powers through eloquent symbolisms.  Birds and flowers, trees and creepers too were depicted with a loving grace and tenderness. In certain cases, idyllic nature scenes were created just to convey a sense of joy and wonder.

3.7. The virtues and powers of the gods and demons too were made explicit by employing varieties of forms, symbols and abstract visualizations. The ancient Indian artist thus enjoyed far greater artistic liberty, freedom and felicity of expression as compared to his peers in the western world. That was made possible mainly because the Chitrasutra encouraged innovation and display of imagination. The text said, “Rules do not make the painting; it is the artist with a soul and vision who creates the art expressions”.

The Indian murals indicate that its artists took full benefit of the license granted by Chitrasutra. Its artists did not strictly adhere to the prescriptions of the texts, but improved upon them and instilled a life, rhythm and vigour of their own in the murals.

3.8. Chitrasutra while discussing the depiction of deities says, those qualities that we admire in a divine being are within us. When we respond to those images brought to us in art, we awaken those finer aspects that are latent in us. When we are filled by that grace, there is no space left for base desires and pain: we have become that deity.

The murals of India have that magical quality, which brings out the essence of life and the grace that permeate the whole of existence

4. Techniques

4.1. Traditional Indian texts have a three-fold classification: bhumikabhitti and prastara — floor, wall and ceiling respectively. Murals in South India, for that matter in India, are not the fresco type of paintings. In the present-day context the wall paintings are usually called murals (derived from the Latin root murus, meaning wall).The other term used to describe wall paintings is fresco , which generally refers to buon fresco, or ‘true fresco’ where colours mixed with water is painted directly on wet plaster. There is also fresco secco, or ‘dry fresco’ where the painting is made on dry surface. Most of the Indian murals, including the Ajanta murals, are painted on dry plaster.

4.2. One of the noticeable features of the Chitrasutra tradition is the deployment of its lines; delineating beautiful figures and their delicate inner feelings through graceful, steady, smooth and free flowing lines that capture the essence of a picture, in least number of lines. Its line-drawings are full of grace and vitality. The delicate touches and intimate details added   enliven the paintings.   The Simplicity of expressions symbolized the maturity of the artists.  Chitrasutra did not favour straight or harsh or angular or uneven lines.

4.3 . There is a natural quality and grace in the ancient murals; they almost seem effortless. The vigour, the strength and the power of a heroic figure are brought to life by the vitality of its lines; not by his fat muscles or his sheer size. Even the demons in the murals are never depicted as muscular or excessively fat. . The outlines are strong and very sure and there is an easy and natural depiction of volume, evidencing a good understanding of the rhythm and the structure of the human body.

4.4. The figures were never rigid and static. Their stances were always suggestive of flowing movements of languid grace and charming rhythm. Their display of the sense of balance is lovely. The painted figures of the “heroes” present a profound sense of peace and joy even while placed amidst activities and contradictions of life.

4.5. The Chitrasutra tradition regarded the eyes as the windows to the soul. And, it said, it is through their expressive eyes the figures in the painting open up their heart and speak eloquently to the viewer. It therefore accorded enormous importance to the delicate painting of the soulful and expressive eyes that pour out the essence of the subject. The lively sets of lustrous pools of eyes continue to influence generations of Indian artists; those eyes are, in fact, a hall mark of Indian art works.

Benoy K Behl  the scholar and art-historian remarks, ”This stylization, increasing linearity and the protrusion of the farther eye, which extends beyond the line of the face, are significant changes that take place in the paintings of Ellora. In later years, these are reflected in paintings over the whole of India”.

4.6. The other was use of proper colours:  soft and subdued, the lines firm and sinuous and the expressions true to life. The colours, at times contrasting and at times matching were artistically employed to create magical effects. That effect was enhanced by the skilful shading of the body-parts,  giving them a three dimensional appearance; and providing depth to the picture.

Next

5.  After this brief introduction let us now turn to some of the celebrated murals of ancient India, which display the characteristics and influences of the Chitrasutra tradition that we so far discussed . To begin with let’s look at the ancient murals at Pitalkhora (Maharashtra –c. 6th century) and Badami (Karnataka –c.6th century) in the next section.

References:

Legacy of Ajanta: by Benoy. K. Behl

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2021/stories/20031024000107000.htm

Developments in Indian Art and Architecture: http://jigyasa0.tripod.com/art.html

All pictures are from Internet

 

Tags: ,

Ritu Varnana and Barahmasa

From: Venetiaansell 

Dear Mr Rao, I read your post on sharad rtu with great interest.  I am a student of Sanskrit and currently doing some research on the description of each rtu and in particular the flowers associated with each and would be interested to know more. Can you recommend any good books or articles about rtuvarnana in Sanskrit literature? I look forward to hearing from you. Best, Venetia

 

A. Ritu- varnana in Sanskrit Literature

1.1. Dear Venetiaansell , Greetings. The phenomena of the seasons, day and night, birds and beasts and flowers, are often employed  in Sanskrit poetry to frame human emotions, or are personified as counterparts of the human subjects of the poet. And, throughout the literature, a deep love of nature is implicit, especially in  the poems of  Kalidasa; who, for this reason , among others, is regarded very highly.

Kalidasa’s Meghadutam a work of little over 100 verses, has always been one of the most popular of Sanskrit poems. Its theme has been imitated in one form or another by several later poets both in Sanskrit and the vernaculars. More than most Indian poems, this work has unity and balance, and gives a sense of wholeness rarely found elsewhere. In its small compass Kalidasa has crowded so many lovely images and word-pictures that the poem seems to contain the quintessence of the  whole of Indian natural scenery.

As regards the ritu- varnana in its proper natural sequence, the most renowned, of course, is again  that by the Great Kalidasa in his various poetic works, and especially in the Ritu-samharam, the melody of the seasons or the garland of the seasons, running into six cantos describing the six seasons of the year; and how with each change in the season, the mood and behaviour of a young lover too would alter. In his other work, the Meghdootam, the intensity of the lovelorn Yaksha is far deeper. However, he weaves his yearning around the clouds; and thus, the description is confined to the rainy season.

In Kalidasa’s romantic poetry; graceful sensuality, colours and the music of love resonate with the world of blossoms and birds. The urges and pains of his nayaka and nayika are shared by the deer, birds, trees and the sky. It is a world where trees long for the touch of a lovely woman as much as a man longs for her embrace.  There is an unspoken bond between the song of the peacock and the lament of the separated lover. The messages of love are conveyed through clouds; and the changing seasons mirror the changing colours of love.

Kalidasa’s nayika adorns herself with blossoms and sprouts of the forest as ornaments and decorates her lotus-like feet with the red dye from the forest tree. She is decked in various fragrant flowers; apadma in her hands; kunda blossoms in her hair; the pollen of lodhra flowers on her face; the fresh kurbaka flowers in her braid ; the lovely sirisha flowers on her ears; and, the nipa flowers that bloom in the parting of her hair .

The nocturnal path of the lovelorn abhisarika nayika is traced   at dawn by the mandara flowers that have fallen from her hair and the golden lotuses that have slipped off her ears (Ritusamharam 2.11-12). Kalidasa’s nayika is not a mere mortal but a yakshi, the very life and spirit of a tree; and the trees mirror her exuberant ardour.

Kalidasa’s virahini-nayika of the Meghadutam, separated from her lover like a lotus deprived of the sun; like a solitary Chakravaka bird isolated from her mate ; and, crestfallen like a lotus withered by winter, is a chaste lovelorn woman, pining for her lover. She sits with her face resting in the cup of her palms, her locks covering her face as clouds cover the moon. She spends her time alone in  her bed with her ornaments cast off;   counting the days of her separation  by placing flowers on the threshold ; by painting the likeness of her beloved , singing songs reminiscent of her lover  and talking to the Sarika bird (Meghadutam 2.20-2.33).

There is dignity in her poignancy, a certain grace in her sorrow. The colors of her pathos resemble that of the wilted flowers and the movements of her eyes and limbs speak of her pain even when her words do not.

If Kalidasa’s Meghadutam is the epitome of the virahini in early Sanskrit poetry, his Ritusamharam is the poetic testimony of how intimately the loves, pathos and lives of the human are tied with the colours and sounds of the seasons. Of all the seasons’, vasanta or spring is especially important to those in love, for the blossoms of spring are like the arrows of Kama. Red is the colour of the spring season everywhere and it is when:

The mango tree bent with clusters of red sprouts kindle ardent desire in women’s hearts

The ashoka tree that bears blossoms red like coral makes the hearts of women sorrowful

The atimukta creepers whose blossoms are sucked by intoxicated bees excite the lovers

The kurabaka tree whose blossoms are lovely as the faces of women pain the hearts of sensitive men

The kimsuka grove bent with blossoms, waved by winds, appears like a bride with red garments.   — Ritusamhara (15–20)

sugandhikālāgurudhūpitāni dhatte janaḥ kāmamadālasāṅgaḥ // KalRs_6.15 //
puṃskokilaś cūtarasāsavena mattaḥ priyāṃ cumbati rāgahṛṣṭaḥ /
kūjaddvirephāpyayam ambujasthaḥ priyaṃ priyāyāḥ prakaroti cāṭu // KalRs_6.16 //
tāmrapravālastabakāvanamrāś cūtadrumāḥ puṣpitacāruśākhāḥ /
kurvanti kāmaṃ pavanāvadhūtāḥ paryutsukaṃ mānasamaṅganānām // KalRs_6.17 //
āmūlato vidrumarāgatāmraṃ sapallavāḥ puṣpacayaṃ dadhānāḥ /
kurvantyaśokā hṛdayaṃ saśokaṃ nirīkṣyamāṇā navayauvanānām // KalRs_6.18 //
mattadvirephaparicumbitacārupuṣpā mandānilākulitanamramṛdupravālāḥ /
kurvanti kāmimanasāṃ sahasotsukatvaṃ bālātimuktalatikāḥ samavekṣyamāṇāḥ // KalRs_6.19 //
kāntāmukhadyutijuṣāmacirodgatānāṃ śobhāṃ parāṃ kurabakadrumamañjarīṇām /
dṛṣṭvā priye sahṛdayasya bhavenna kasya kandarpabāṇapatanavyathitaṃ hi cetaḥ // KalRs_6.20 //

Vasanta is also the season when cuckoos sing in indistinct notes; the bees hum intoxicating sweet sounds; and, the travelers separated from their lovers lament. Kama the god of love who wages a war, as it were, on those in love,  fashions his arrows from the mango blossom; his bow from the kimsuka flower; the bowstring from a row of bees. His parasol is the moon; and, he wafts the gentle breeze from the Malaya mountain whose bards are the cuckoos (Ritusamharam 28).

1.2. Another poet and playwright , Rajashekhara (Ca.9th century) in his Kavyamimamsha , a treatise on poetry summarized , for the benefit of the aspiring poets essaying to portray seasons in their works , how the seasons were portrayed in the poetic works prior to his time. In addition, he collated the standards as authorized by the texts. Rajashekhara came up with comprehensive season- descriptions, outlining each season’s basic characteristic features, months-wise divisions, individuality of each month, and the imagery that a poet should preferably employ for representing a season. He also deduced the natural human responses to a given season.

1.3. The great poet Dandin (Ca.6-7th century) renowned for his colorful Sanskrit prose, too, in his Kavyadarsha (‘Mirror of Poetry’) the handbook of classical Sanskrit poetics, mandated that a classic work of poetry (maha-kavya) should essentially include eighteen (ahsta-dasha varnana) types of descriptions including that of the city (nagara); ocean (saagara); mountains (shaila) ; seasons (vasantadi ritu); the moon; the sun rise and sunset (chandra-surya udaya –asthamana); parks (udyana); gardens (vana vihara);water-sports (jala krida) ; pleasures of wine and love making (madyapana surata); wedding (vivaha); discussions with the wise (vipralamba) ; pangs of separation (viraha); birth of sons (putrodaya); state-craft (raja-mantra); gambling or sending messengers (dyuta); wars (yuddha);  campaigns (jaitra-yatra);  and, accomplishments of the hero (nayaka abyudaya).

1.4. The description of seasons thus became an integral part of classic poetry . Apart from Kalidasa’s poetry, there are some beautiful heart-warming descriptions of the seasons in the poetic works of other notable poets too; for instance, as in: Bhattikavya by Bhatti; Kiratarjuniya by Bharavi; Shishupala-vadha by Magha; Naishadhacharita by Shriharsha among others.

2.1. The Natya-shashtra too had earlier directed how seasons should be represented in a drama, especially on the stage through an actor’s performance – acts, gestures, facial demeanours and other expressions.

2.2. The Puranas also evinced interest in season-description. The Matsya Purana has a whole chapter dedicated only to the month of spring; while the Samba Purana alludes to different colours of the sun in the six ritus. The Chitra-sutra in the Vishnudharmottarpurana (c.6th century) prescribes certain general rules for the depiction of each of the four seasons.

3.1. According to Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottarpurana, the depiction of each of the four seasons could be symbolically represented in the paintings by employing certain idioms of expression, such as:

Summer: languorous men seeking shade under trees, from the harsh summer sun; buffaloes wallowing in the mire of muddy waters; birds hiding under a thick abundance of leaves; and, lions and tigers seeking cool caves to retire in.

Rain: An overcast sky, with heavy rain filled clouds weighed down with their aquatic excess; flashes of lightning and the beautiful rainbow; animals like tigers and lions taking shelter in caves; and, sarus (cranes) birds flying in a row.

Autumn: Trees laden with ripe fruit; the entire expanse of the earth filled with ripened corn ready for harvest; lakes filled with beautiful aquatic birds like geese; the pleasant sight of blooming and blossoming lotus flowers; and, the moon brightening up the sky with a milky white lustre.

Winter: the earth wet with dew; the sky filled with fog; men shivering from the cold, but crows and elephants seem euphoric.

[A collection of learned essays by the great scholar Dr. V Raghavan ‘Rtu in Sanskrit Literature’ (1972) published by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha , Delhi, comprehensively deals with all aspects of Rtu varnana  in Sanskrit texts including Rig Veda and , epics and puranas.]

B. the Barahmasa tradition

4.1. With the decline of classic Sanskrit poetry, the ritu-varnana found abundant expression in the Barahmasa tradition. Barahmasa meaning twelve months are based on the lunar calendar comprising months of Chaitra, Vaishakha, Jyestha, Ashadha, Shravana, Bhadrapada, Ashvina, Karttika, Agrahayana, Paushya, Magha and Phalguna. Each two of them are respectively the ritus or seasons of Vasanta, Grishma, Varsha, Sharada, Hemanta and Shishira.

4.2. The glory and characteristic beauty of each season came to be celebrated in a specialized form of poetry, music and art (paintings) as Barahmasa, describing the splendour, aura and magic of nature as it emerges with the change of each season. The expressions of the ritu– theme were rendered highly eloquent with the emotive songs and music; as also by the exquisite miniature paintings depicting the glory and poignant character of each season woven into stories of tender love, separation and reunion.

4.3. The essential theme of the Barahmasa is the passionate yearning of lovelorn hearts, the pangs of separation that each change of season stimulates. Each month bringing a special message to the beloved, every season a special reminder of the joys of love and longing. The nature participates in the world of human emotions and mirrors the lovers’ or singer’s experience of tenderness and pain of love.

4.4. The transformations in nature such as the gentle unfolding of a bud’s petals; or melting of a winter night into dew-drops; or the dark dreadful clouds rending with their roar the sky and the earth and frightening the lovely nayika into the arms of her beloved Nayaka and bursting forth into torrential rains – all become symbolic expressions of the seasons and the state of love of the ardent lovers. The Barahmasa depictions of poetry, music and painting, bind the two confronting worlds, the worlds of man and of nature into one thread.

Barahmasa Poetry

5.1. The Barahmasa Poets over the centuries have used the imagery of the Ritu Varnana or changing seasons to depict different facets of human emotions and moods, varying states of romantic love as they respond and change in accordance with seasons. The songs of the seasons resonate with the heart of the lover and the beloved. Nature as always forms the very companion of the yearning lovers.

5.2.In expressing her lament and relating it to the colours and moods of the seasons , nayika the heroine likens the throbbing of her heart to the pulsating sap of the trees; the trembling longing within her to the drifting movement of the clouds ; and , the agony of her forlorn state to the pain of lonely birds. She is not alone in her anguish; her piquant cry is heard by the deer, the birds and the blossoms that surround her; they too empathize and share her pain. In Barahmasa poetry there is a strong and sympathetic resonance between the heart of the nayika and the world of nature around her, it is a world that shares her romantic urges and longings.

6.1.Let me add; the theme of Barahmasa occurs not merely in regional representations but in classical poetry too. Let’s, for instance, take the case of Kumarasambhava and the Ramayana. Both are epics; but, while the Kumarasambhava is a chaste classic observing all the mandated norms of poetics and other conventions, the Ramayana represents an amalgam of various folk traditions. In Ramayana, the poet attempts exploring the turmoil in the lovelorn heart of Rama the prince of Ayodhya in exile ,after separation from his beloved Sita , by placing his distress in contrast to the glowing beauty of the season; and picturing    how it affects Rama. The poetry here truly transforms into a viraha song.  Rama describes to his brother Lakshmana the sublime beauty of nature that surrounds them; and gives vent to his grief of separation aggravated by the beauty that envelops him. Rama narrates the onset of monsoon in a rather intuitional manner describing the gathering of clouds ; and how they remind him of his brother Bharata and his friend Sugriva are with their wives and in their kingdoms while he is lonely and sad deprived of both. Thus the vein of ritu-varnana in the Ramayana is closer to the Barahmasa convention. In contrast, the descriptions of nature in Kumarasambhava, in the context of Parvathi’s penance, lack such subjective responses.

Oh! Soumitri, Pampa Lake is magnificent , glowing with her emerald green  like waters (vaiduurya vimala udaka ); adorned with  fully bloomed lotuses (phulla padma utpalavatī);  surrounded by many trees  , Pampa looks truly delightful (śobhate pampā).

 saumitre śobhate pampā vaidūrya vimala udakā | phulla padma utpalavatī śobhitā vividhaiḥ drumaiḥ || 4-1-3||

This auspicious Pampa is pleasant  with its delightful forests overspread with many diverse flowers, cool waters, though I am sad 

śokārtasya api me pampā śobhate citra kānanā | vyavakīrṇā bahu vidhaiḥ puṣpaiḥ śītodakā śivā || 4-1-6|| 

The green pasture lands have turned into  colorful pastures covered with  variety of  laden trees… and with flower-fall  covering it like  shining flowery carpet  of varied colors  of red, blue , yellow etc.,

adhikam pravibhāti etat nīla pītam tu śādvalam | drumāṇām vividhaiḥ puṣpaiḥ paristomaiḥ iva arpitam || 4-1-8||

Breeze coming out from those mountain caves along with the high callings of lusty black cuckoos are making the trees to dance, and the air itself is as though singing as an accompaniment to that dancing

matta kokila sannādaiḥ nartayan iva pādapān | śaila kandara niṣkrāntaḥ pragīta iva ca anilaḥ || 4-1-15 ||

At the shore of this Lake Pampa rejoicing are these birds in groups, and these trees loaded with the mating sounds of  birds; and the callings of the male black cuckoos, are  inspiring love in me.

asyāḥ kūle pramuditāḥ sanghaśaḥ śakunāstviha | dātyūharati vikrandaiḥ puṃskokila rutaiḥ api | 4-1-28  | svananti pādapāḥ ca ime mām anaṅga pradīpakāḥ |

***

Radha

7.1. But, the most eloquent and lovely expressions of Barahmasa are through songs and poetry of viraha, music full of pathos of a young woman Nayika deeply engrossed in love. These representations brimming with the finest imagery and most tender emotions, intense longing, lyrical felicity, rhythmic vibrancy and dramatic conflict of the worlds of man and nature, besides their mystic connotations, form the themes of Barahmasa.

7.2. The Barahmasa poetry has gifted the Indian literature with some of its best lyrics forming the heart-touching love-lore inspired by the folk traditions. Pictorially very rich and emotionally most fervent, the Barahmasa poetry, which subsequently had its transforms in art, is a genre of the Indian countryside. These forms of poetry, music and art are uniquely Indian. Its riches , distinctively Indian, are woven into the cyclic changes in nature and into the lives, loves, and woes of the Indian people in a manner that is not known in other literature and art traditions of the world. They are incomparable.

7.3. The Barahmasa themes are mostly entwined with the celestial love of Sri Radha and Krishna. Alberuni (ca.1030) observed that Vasudeva Krishna had a special place in the hearts of the common people who loved to call him by many names. He says; people called out Krishna, out of sheer love, by different names in each of the twelve months; such as: in Margasirsha:  Keshava; Paushya:  Narayana; Magha:  Madhava; Phalguna:  Govinda; Chaitra:  Vishnu; Vaisakha:  Madhusudana; Jyestha:  Trivikrama; Ashadha:  Vamana; Shravana:   Sridhara; Bhadrapada:  Hrishikesa; Ashvayuja:  Padmanabha; and in Karttika:  Damodara.

8.1. The Barahmasa poetry has two basic forms, one, literary, and the other, oral. The oral Barahmasa of the regional dialects later became an important ingredient of the literary poetic tradition. The literary traditions were inspired by the simple songs of the village women pining for the husband or the lover away from her, giving vent to “torments of separation, of estrangement, and feverish waits” ; sung either in the rainy four months from Ashadha to Ashvin or through the twelve months. Literary, Barahmasasare a part of the written literature and are endowed with poetic merit and compositional excellence. Barahmasa, oral or written, as a genre, has five broad types, namely, religious, farming-related, narrative, viraha, and the Barahmasa of chaste woman’s trial.

8.2. Viraha Barahmasa or the seasonal poetry of longing is the most evocative in this genre of romantic poetry. This group of the Barahmasa compositions is inspired by the romantic lore of Sri Radha and Krishna and their beautiful idealized love. The poets charged with Krishna-Radha intoxication recreated the celestial Vrindavana of the Braj country through a class of poetry called ritikavya. Of the many poets in this genre those that stand out are: Bidyapati (1352–1448), Keshavadasa (1555–1617), Bihari (16th century) and Ghanananda (1673–1760).

8.3. Bidyapati the Maithili poet glorifies the sublime love of Sri Radha-Krishna; and charmingly describes the essence of seasons and , in particular , of the lord of the seasons the Basanta the spring : ‘ the rays of the sun in their youthful prime; the golden kesara flower; the fragrant kanchan and Jasmine flower garland; the pollen of flowers floating in the air like a canopy over the patala, tula, kinsuka and clove-vine tendrils;   the koil singing its sweetest note ; tribes of honey-bees arrayed their ranks; the water-lily that has just found life with its new leaves ; and the refreshing and  shining in Brindaban’.

9.1. But, the archetype Barahmasa poetry and the inspiration for all forms of Barahmasa expressions are Keshavadasa’s sublime verses scripted in Brij-basha. The poet Keshavadasa (1555–1617) in his Rasikapriya (a comprehensive compendium of nayakas and nayikas, their moods, meetings and messengers, considered a lakshana grantha, foundational work, in riti kavya tradition), he vividly describes the essential features of the twelve lunar months of the year; and the pain each month evokes in the heart of the nayika at the impending separation from her beloved.

9.2. Starting with the month of Chaitra, Keshavadasa portrays the heroine urging her beloved not to leave her in that month; describing to him the beauty and tenderness of that month. She cajoles him to stay with her; and to enjoy along with her the thrill and ecstasy of living and loving in the paradise on earth created especially for their enjoyment. She convinces him that it is a blessing to be alive amidst that beauty. Such loving requests follow in each of the other months too; as every month has something special that makes separation painful and unbearable.

The following are briefly the suggestive descriptions of Barahmasa according to Rasikapriya.

Chaitra: charming creepers and young trees have blossomed and parrots, sarikas and nightingales make sweet sounds.

Baisakha: the earth and the atmosphere are filled with fragrance and all around there is fragrant beauty, but this fragrance is blinding for the bee and painful for the lover who is away from home.

Jyestha: the sun is scorching and the rivers have run dry and mighty animals like the elephant and the lion do not stir out.

Ashadha: strong winds are blowing, birds do not leave their nest and even the sadhus make only one round.

Shravana: rivers run to the sea, creepers have clung to trees, lightning meets the clouds, and peacocks make happy sounds announcing the meeting of the earth and the sky.

Bhadrapada: dark clouds have gathered, strong winds blow fiercely, there is thunder as rain pours in torrents, tigers and lions roar and elephants break trees.

Ashvina: the sky is clear and lotuses are in bloom, nights are brightly illuminated by the moon, people celebrate the Durga festivities and it is time for paying respects to ones ancestors.

Kartika: woods and gardens, the earth and the sky are clear and bright lights illuminate homes, courtyards are full of colourful paintings, and the universe seems to be pervaded by a celestial light.

Margashirsha: rivers and ponds are full of flowers and joyous notes of hamsas fill the air, this is the month of happiness and salvation of the soul.

Pausha: the earth and the sky are cold. It is the season when people prefer oil, cotton, betel, fire and sun shine.

Magha : forests and gardens echo with the sweet notes of peacocks, pigeons and koel and bees hum as if they have lost their way, all ten directions are scented with musk, camphor and sandal, sounds of mridanga are heard through the night.

Phalguna: the fragrance of scented powders fills the air and young women and men in every home play holi with great abandon.

9.3.The Barahmasa poetry reflects the moods of the lovers in the brilliant spring, sad autumn or monotonous winter; but none is so evocative as of the splendour and awe inspiring beauty of the Indian monsoon. It is uniquely Indian. Further, the Indian attitude to the monsoons is fundamentally different from that of the west. To a common Indian villager, monsoons are a symbol of hope and life; while a westerner might view rain and snow as a sign of gloom and despair.

When the rains come down like blessings from heaven, suddenly the world looks beautiful; the earth smells lovely, and the heart smiles! The bond that India has to rains is much like the colder nations of the North have towards spring. A lot of our happiness and physical well being is associated to raining, raining well and raining in time.

Monsoon poetry

10.1. Whether we are talking about music – classical, folk as well as devotional – dance, painting or sculpture, the rains and their incessant music are a recurring theme in India’s many-splendored art treasure. The diverse dialects of India’s far flung villages are replete with songs welcoming the life giving rains flowing down from heavens like blessings; and their message of bounty. And, they allude that just as all rain water falling from the skies flows to merge with the ocean, all living beings flow finally into the shining pool of divinity.  The divine object of their single-minded devotion is Krishna – the Ghanashyam, dark like the monsoon clouds, the one born on a rain-stormy night in the monsoon month of Shravana. And Krishna the dark one is the icon of the monsoon season and the songs dedicated to him are composed in the soul-soothing monsoon Raga Megh Malhar. The romance of Radha and Krishna, the eternal lovers, is the theme of rain songs. The constant longing of any beloved waiting for her lover to return home is envisioned as an epitome as of Sri Radha.

10.2. As the Krishna-Sri Radha celestial love permeated into folk music and dance as well as into the celebration of festivals, the songs about their love created a treasure-house of KajrisShravan jhoolaschaitis, thumris and other light classical music compositions with an edgy eroticism.

10.3. These soulful songs celebrate various seasons and sometimes the festivals occurring during such seasons, such as Holi in the month of Phalguna. In most cases Sri Radha is the lonely Nayikaconstantly longing and waiting for her beloved Krishna the eternal lover. In other cases it is a Nayikaseparated from her loved one, usually a warrior, in whose context the cycle of the changing seasons is depicted.

Barahmasa Music

11.1. The raga melodies of classical Indian music are in harmony not only with the time of the day or night but also with the seasons of the year. Each raga is personified by a colour, the overall mood bhava, the nature surrounding the hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika).   The raga elucidation as envisioned in Indian music is a delightful amalgam of art, colour, poetry and music.

11. 2. As regards the seasons and the ragas, most of the ragas in the classical music are set in accordance to various seasons. Generally:

Basant (chaitra – vaishakha): the ragas Hindol and Raga Bahar sung early in the dawn are  associated with the festive and invigorating season of spring Basant (chaitra –vaishakha) when kimshuka trees are full with lustrous red flowers; mango trees laden like bejewelled women; pond waters filled with lotuses; breezes loaded with their fragrances blowing pleasantly; the eventides and daytimes enjoyable with the fragrant breezes; air ringing with the passionate cries of male koil birds; and, women brimming with desire sporting in swimming pools like she elephants in heat; and bashful ladies playfully dressed in light silks of reddish hue of kusumbha flowers. The women decked in pearl pendants and in just unfolded whitish flowers of jasmine (mallika) and karnikara; and in red Ashoka flowers.

Grishma (jeshta –ashadha):  raga Deepak sung during the evening of the Grishma (jeshta –ashadha) season of blazing summer light and the grief of separation when men are away from home on work or trade or war. And, the women decked in white pearly ornaments, jasmine garlands, cool silks and dabbed in pure sandalwood paste liquefied with coolant scents like yellow camphor, kastuuri etc laze on rooftops in moonlit nights savoring portions , enjoying music , lustfully   awaiting their   husbands or lovers. Just blossomed bright and fiery safflower kusumabha embrace the tree trunks with tongues of fire. Fragrant lotuses and patala (trumpet flowers) are overlaid on cool waters of the pond,

Varsha (shravana-bhadrapada : Raga Megha or Megh- Malhar or Desh and their derivatives sung during the midday of the rainy season of the Varsha (shravana-bhadrapada); the most romantic of all seasons ; the season of dark clouds rumbling like beats of war drums   , the thunder and  flashes of lightning ,the gentle patter of raindrops and the pageant of rainbows ;  the season that delights the thirsty chataka birds, the lustily cheering peacocks brilliant with fanlike expansive colourful plumage; the season that captures the joy and relief from dry heat, the season that brings life and hope to all existence. The breeze is ruffling the wet treetops of Kadamba, SarjaArjuna and ketaki trees; and the fragrance of their flowers is wafting through the windswept woodlands. The intoxicated women decked in vakula, malalthiKadambaKesara and ketaki flowers and with bunch of Kakuba flowers adorning their ears, are hasting into the bed cambers and into the arms of waiting lovers.

Sharada (ashviyuja-karthika): the serene Raga Bhirav sung in tranquil mornings of the season of bright sun, lustrous moon; glowing blue sky; gentle flowing rivers with clear waters; lakes with abundance of white and blue lotuses and lazy swans floating just after a long flight from Lake Manasa in the Himalayas; trees pleasantly laden, swaging under the weight of flowers and fruits; the transitional phase between rains and winter is blessed with bounty of natureThe green earth is decked with red golden colourful trees; the grand flowers of KadambaSarjaKatuja, Arjunaand Nippa; and of the Shyama creepers as also   flaming red Banduka flowers. The fragrance of those flowers is intoxicating. The joyous women with long, thick, black hair unfurled wearing pendants of pearl and gold   are adorned in white jasmine and colourful lotuses

Hemanta (margashira-pushya) – The season is associated with the lofty raga Shree sung during late autumn twilights.  Winter with the earth wet with dew; the sky filled with fog; men shivering from the cold, but crows and elephants seem euphoric. The lusty women retain body-heat by smearing their bosoms red with Kashmir kumkum and fragrant wood-turmeric (kalliyaka) skincare. And their hair is fumigated with vapours of kaala agaru ( aloe vera resin).

Shishira (magha –phalguna): the transitory season of cool days; the diminishing phase of winter; the season of cool comfort gladdening the hearts of lusty women with Malkoaunsa Raga sung in the chill and silent nights of winter.

11.3. It is said; the Seasonal Ragas can be sung and played any time of the day and night during the season with which they are associated despite the usual rule.

Miniature paintings

12.1. A vast number of schools of miniature paintings such as Bundi, Krishnagarh, Jaipur, Mewar and Marwar giving expression to the Barahmasa concepts and idioms flourished during the mid centuries under the patronage of Pala Kings of Bengal , the Mughals and the Rajputs of Rajasthan. The hill states and even smaller states from Central India too nurtured the paintings of Barahmasa tradition. Datia, one of the schools of painting in Central India, painted a timeless series of Ashtayama, another form of Barahmasa. . These sublime works of art, which gained fame as iconic representations of the seasons and as metaphors for emotions, have inspired generations of artists, poets and lovers. Over the generations, the artists of the diverse schools of miniature paintings have strained to retain the aesthetic values and technical excellence achieved by their pioneers.

2.2. In most of these depictions Krishna is the central figure of love and the embodiment of the magic of the seasons and the melodies specially associated with the season.  Its scenery epitomizes the landscape of the imagination, in Indian painting. The Barahmasa schools lovingly capture the delights, the emotions and the enjoyment of the lovers in each of the six seasons. These pictures do tell a tale; each one narrates an event that illustrates the beauty, love and togetherness in the lives of the lovers. That story is entwined on the splendour of nature that surrounds them, in each season.

C. Ragamala

13.1. During the later periods, say by about the fourteenth century, the music- literature developed a series of short verses, in Sanskrit, called Dhyana slokas meaning verses for contemplation , outlining in brief the characteristics (swaroopa) of the raga expressions (raga –bhava) , treating a raga as a human person (nayaka –nayika) , divine (devatha) or semi-human being (gandharva). It also provided for descriptions of Raga wives, (ragini), their numerous sons (ragaputra) and daughters (ragaputri). This poetry often amorous, illustrates the love of a maiden and her lover.

13.2. This led to the creation of Ragamala (garland of Ragas) School of painting which attempted translating the emotional appeal of a raga into visual representations. Each raga personified by a colour, mood, the nature surrounding the hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika).  It also elucidated the season and the time of day and night in which a particular raga is to be sung. The colours, substance and the mood of the Ragamala personified the overall bhava and context of the Raga. It is a delightful amalgam of art, colour, poetry and music.

The Barahmasa and the Ragamala – series of paintings are the evidence that the native genius in painting had survived the vicissitudes of political history since the days of Ajanta.

13.3. The development of the Ragamala School, however, got rather stunted as its theme lost relevance in the context of the present-day music. Further, the school did not seem to have the flexibility to accommodate and to describe newer raga innovations. The wonderful school therefore has virtually now faded away, sadly

14.1. Yet, the raga-ragini classification is still useful from the historical, academic, artistic and philosophical perspectives; and, could perhaps even help in understanding and performing music.

Ragini BhairaviRagini MeghaRagini Gurjari

[ Dr. Anjan Chakraverty who did his post-graduation in Landscapes in Indian Miniature Painting from the Faculty of Visual Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, explains:

http://vmis.in/upload/Assets/Exhibition/23/ragmala/part2.html

Every raga has its special sequence of ascending notes (aroha) and descending notes (avaroha) that determine its structure or that (lit. an array or setting). A raga experience would change from dawn to dusk, from a sunny afternoon to a moonlit night, from spring to autumn, so on and so forth. On the basis of this, ragas and raginis were associated with particular moods and regions, with particular seasons and, categorically, to the explicit hours of the day and night.

For example Dipaka raga was associated with fire and scorching heat while the recital of Megha raga, in contrast, was ideal for the season of clouds and rains, its flawless rendition promising downpour. Similarly, Vasanta raga is meant to express the joy of life in spring and Nata raga, the heroic martial spirit of the man. Bhairavi ragini is the plaintive melody of the morning and raga Yaman is meant to evoke the somber, explicitly devotional mood in the early hours of the evening. However, a raga is not a song or tune, on the other hand numberless songs can be composed in a certain raga-mould.

With a view to emphasize the divine qualities of music, each raga and ragini was attributed with a particular rupa or psychic form. The psychic form was further divided into the invisible sound form or the nadamaya rupa and tangible or image form referred to as devatamaya rupa. It was required on the part of a performer (kalavanta) to imbibe the presiding spirit or ethos of a melody and please the deified form. Raga-dhyanas or contemplative prayer-formulas were devised for the purpose, passed on from the master (acharya) to the student.

Ragini SehutiRagimi TodikaRagini Bhujanga

In Narada’s Sangita Makaranda, datable between 7th and 11th century C.E., do we come across for the first time a classification system of six ragas as male and six raginis, attached to each raga, as females forming six cohesive families, raga-parivara. However, this system was not followed by the painters.

 It is in the Sangita Makaranda that we find for the first time a classification of ragas according to the proper hour for rendition. Mesakarna or Kshema Karna, a sixteenth-century rhetorician from Rewa (central India), in his treatise Ragamala compiled the elaborate system of six ragas, each with five raginis and eight ragaputras.]

List of books and other references.

Rtu in Sanskrit Literature by Dr. V Raghavan; Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Delhi (1972)

Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara: Original Text in Sanskrit and Translation with Explanatory Notes by Sadhana Parashar, D K Print world, (2000)

Vishnudharmottarapurana: English translation by Priyabala Shah, Baroda (1961)
The Seasons in Mahakavya Literature, by Danielle Feller : (1995 )

Barahmasa in Indian Literature, Charlotte Vaudeville; Triloki N. Madan (1986)

Barshmasa (Agam55) by V. P. Dwivedi

Baramasa: The Painted Romance of Indian Seasons (Portfolio) by Daljeet, National Museum, (2009)

The Flute and the Lotus: Romantic Moments in Indian Poetry and Painting by Harsha Dehejia, (2002)

The Loves of Krishna in Indian painting and poetry by WG Archer

Flora and Plant Kingdom in Sanskrit Literature by Shri Jyotsnamoy Chatterjee; Eastern Book Linkers, (2003)

 Ritusamharam: http://www.giirvaani.net/giirvaani/rs/rs_intro.htm

Monsoon Ragas by Vimla Patil : http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/Monsoon-Ragas-1.aspxBarahmasa:

Songs of Twelve Months by Prof P. C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet http://groups.google.com/group/mintamil/browse_thread/thread/9b6cabddd8d32161?pli=1

Romantic Moments in Poetry : http://http-server.carleton.ca/~hdehejia/content/RMinPoetry.pdf

Bidyapati’s Description of spring: http://www.indiadivine.org/articles/382/1/Bidyapatis-Description-of-Spring/Page1.html

History of Flowers and Gardening in India By Dr. Jyoti Prakash  :  http://www.cityfarmer.org/indiagarden.html

  All pictures are from internet

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,