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The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Appendix to Seven – Brihadishvara – Part 8

 The Maratha Nayak paintings in Brihadishvara temple

The following is an appendix to Part seven.

1. During the reign of King Vijaya Raghava Nayak (1645-1673), the restoration and improvement works were undertaken in the Brihadishvara temple. Due to constant exposure to smoke and soot from the lamps and burning of camphor in the sanctum over a period of centuries, certain parts of the Chola paintings on the circumambulatory passage walls had been badly damaged. The artists of the Nayak period tried to set it right, as they thought it fit; and decided to replace the old paintings with paintings of their own. They went on to paint their pictures over the thousand year old Chola murals; covering the old murals completely.

The modern day scholars could not help remark that the artists of the Nayaks’ rather ham-handed and overdid their task.

2. The Department of Archaeology, during the 1980s, did a remarkable conservation of the 11th century Chola paintings, by scientific cleaning. And, they at the same time achieved to retain intact the upper layer on which the Nayak paintings were drawn.

3.  The Maratha Nayak paintings (18-19th century) can be seen on the ceiling of the adjoining great-hall (maha-mantapa); on the west and north walls of another pavilion (tiruchchurru-maaligai); as also on the walls of the mantapa in front of the Subramanian shrine.

4. Since the pictures of these beautiful paintings, looking fresh, could not be posted along with the Chola paintings, I am posting a few of them here as an Appendix to the main post. Please look at them.


All pictures are courtesy of internet.

Continued in Part Nine

Paintings on the ceilings of the Sri Pampa Virupaksha temple, Hampi (Vijayanagar )

 

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The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Seven – Brihadishvara

[This is the Seventh 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 .

The present article looks at the surviving Chola murals (earlyeleventh -century) at the magnificenttemple of Brihadishvara, Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu.)  This temple is a jewel among the Indian temples; and is the best of the Chola temples.

A brief mention is also made of the paintings of the Nayak period (17th century)

In the next article we shall look at the Paintings at the historic temple of Pampa Virupaksha at Hampi (Karnataka) , which belongs to the Vijayanagara School of art. ]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra – Six – Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram

23. The Big Temple

The greatest of Chola emperors Rajaraja-I (985 A.D – 1012 A.D) the son of Sundara Chola (Parantaka-II) and Vanavanmaha  Devi, built a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Rajarajeshwaram near the head of the Cauvery Delta; and called their Lord as Rajarajesvara udaiya Paramasami (The Great God who resides at Rajarajeshwaram). Rajaraja also affectionately addressed his god as Peruvudaiyar (the great lord or the great master); and, his temple as Peruvudaiyar-kovil. The epigraphic evidences suggest that Rajaraja commenced his temple building project in the 19th year of his reign and completed it successfully on the 257th day in the 25th year of his reign (c.1010 AD). 

In the early eighth century, the Rājasiheśvara (Kailāsanātha) temple at Kancipuram was probably the largest structural temple complex; with the highest Vimāna thus far built anywhere in India. It was successfully completed in just a matter of six years;  a remarkable feat; especially when you consider that   the hard granite stones that went into the construction of the huge temple were not found anywhere nears the project site.

Tanjore sketch

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.

The layout of the temple follows a very precise and well-planned concept.  The outer walls of the two-storied vimāna, Ardhamatapa and Mukhamatapa are embellished with niches all containing Shiva-mūrtis; whereas the niches of the first storey show different forms of Shiva, with a Tripurāntaka placed in the northern niche inside the Ardhamatapa facing east. All the 32 niches of the second storey are exclusively filled with images of Tripurāntaka. Thus, there are, in all, 33 life-size standing stone sculptures of Tripurāntaka, the largest number of a single Mūrti   ever installed as niche figures on the walls of a single temple.

The whole central temple (Vimāna-chariot of the gods”) at Tanjavur with its overwhelming presence of Tripurāntaka images could be regarded as symbolically depicting Lord Tripurāntaka’s chariot.

23.2. The inscriptions at the temple indicate that Rajarajesvaram was exclusively a royal temple conceived, designed, and managed by the Emperor himself. The Big – Temple was, in a way, an expression of the devotion as well as the power and grandeur of Rajaraja Chola. It also became a benchmark in the south Indian architecture, highlighting the maturity and technical excellence achieved by the Chola architects and sculptures.

Brihadisvara

23.3. The crowning glory of the temple is the staggering cupola of the Vimana comprising two huge, sculpted, granite blocks weighing 40 tonnes each. The engineering skills and the expertise that mounted  these huge stones atop the fourteen story  high tower structure, standing  over 216 feet tall organized by pilasters that break up the facade of the base creating spaces for niches and windows in between,   must have been way ahead of their times. Legend says that the stone was brought from Sarapallam (scaffold-hollow), four miles north-east of the city, using a specially designed ramp. The basement of the structure which supports the tower is 96 feet square. The architects and engineers attribute the stability of the massive temple to its pyramidal structure, more robust than the complex curvilinear profiles of other styles.

Ornate Gopuram (tower) of the Main Entrance

23.4. In course of time (17th to 19th centuries) the territory came under the rule of the Maratha Nayak rulers .They added various shrines and Gopuras within the temple complex. During their time, the temple came to be known as Brihadisvaram; and its presiding deity as Brihadisvara. The temple-city came to be known as Thanjavur. In Tamil, the temple is the Thanjai Periya- kovil (the Big-temple of Thanjavur).

24. The Paintings

24.1. During the reign of King Vijaya Raghava Nayak (1645-1673), the restoration and improvement works were undertaken in the temple. Due to constant exposure to smoke and soot from the lamps and burning of camphor in the sanctum over a period of centuries, certain parts of the Chola paintings on the circumbulatory passage walls had been badly damaged. The artists of the Nayak period tried to set it right, as they thought it fit; and decided to replace the old paintings with paintings of their own. They went on to paint their pictures over the thousand year old Chola murals; covering the old murals completely. The modern day scholars could not help remark that the artists of the Nayaks’ rather overdid their task.

24.2. How the underlying Chola   murals again saw the light of the day after incarceration of about four hundred years, is an interesting story. It is said that, during the year 1930, while late Professor S.K. Govindasamy of Annamalai University was inspecting the walls of the six-foot wide dim lit  ambulatory (pradakshina patha) around the sanctum of the Brihadisvara, he noticed that the painted surfaces on the walls on either side of the ambulatory had,  at places, crumbled exposing some exquisite ancient paintings. He examined it further; and was thrilled when he discovered that the paintings hidden underneath the Nayak paintings were the thousand-year-old murals of the time of Rajaraja Chola. Professor S.K. Govindasamy published his findings in the Journal of the Annamalai University, Vol. II, 1933. Thereafter, attempts were made to bring to light the Chola murals; and at the same time to preserve the paintings of the Nayak period.

         The passage

24.3. The Department of Archaeology has done a remarkable conservation of scientifically cleaning the exposed portions revealing the excellence of the Chola paintings and at the same time retaining intact the upper layer on which the Nayak paintings are drawn. It is said that during the 1980s, the chemical branch of the ASI came out with a unique `de-stucco’ process to remove the upper layer of Nayak paintings and display the same on fiberglass boards. For a report on that, please check:

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2003/02/28/stories/2003022801300600.htm
http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2410/stories/20070601000106500.htm

[ Incidentally, etched on the  Gopuram  of the Brihadeshvara temple , there is a figure of a man wearing a hat and a coat. There is no clear explanation about who this person was; and, how he came to be illustrated on the temple Gopuram. ]

Brihadesvara Tanjore man with a hat

25. The Chola panels

25.1. The magnificent temple of Brihadisvara at Thanjavur is a splendorous jewel of Indian temple art and architecture.

The original Chola paintings, so far brought to surface, are mainly in the corridors of the ambulatory around the sanctum. They are on the South, North and Western walls of the sanctum.

The Maratha Nayak paintings (18-19th century) are on the ceiling of the adjoining great-hall (maha-mantapa); on the west and north walls of another pavilion (tiruchchurru-maaligai); and on the walls of the mantapa in front of the Subramanian shrine.

( For the paintings of the Nayaks’ period : please see the Appendix posted as Part 8 )

25.2. The themes depicted in the panels so far exposed (1,200 sq ft) are : Shiva as Dakshinamurthy; the story of Sundarar; Rajaraja and his three queens worshipping Nataraja at Chidambaram; Tripurantaka; the marriage of Shiva and Parvathi; Rajaraja worshipping the Linga to be enshrined in the temple; and Ravana at Kailasa mountain.

Sadly, none of these is panels is complete. The figures too are not very clear; and it is difficult to make out the details. But for the efforts of ASI these ancient wall-paintings would have been totally lost.

Let’s take a brief look at some those panels.

25.3. The Dakshinamurthy panel

The Dakshinamurthi panel is rather huge and occupies almost the entire  space  on the southern wall. It is often cited as an example for lucidity and display of imagination in Chola paintings. It depicts Shiva as Dakshinamurthi under a banyan tree.

However, the figure of Dakshinamurthy is barely visible. The panel is very rich in details; it is populated with sages, Bhirava as dog, playful monkeys and birds such as peacocks, swans and owls.

There is a stillness of body and reverence on the face of the sages worshipping Dakshinamurthi, in contrast to the vivacious animals. Flying apsaras and gandharvas (celestial beings)complete the scene .But as a cobra enters the picture; there is a sudden change in the scenery. A monkey rushes away while another stares at the new entrant. Another, on a faraway branch, is not yet aware of the danger. A few sensitive swans flutter their wings in fear. The owls do not react as the whole thing happens in daylight. A peacock bends his long neck to watch. A squirrel, unmindful of all this, happily bites into a nut. Below the tree is a herd of elephants; one ferociously breaks a branch and another runs uphill with its trunk coiled around the branch. Another one calmly enjoys the peaceful surroundings.

The other panels are fragmentary but they, too, contain some marvellously drawn figures, bearing testimony to the skilful brushwork of the Chola artists.

25.4. There are also the graceful pictures of the Apsaras.

25.5. Saint Sundaramurti Nayanar

The panel on the west wall depicts the episodes in the life of Saint Sundaramurti Nayanar. In this panel the scenes of Sundara’s wedding are depicted in detail. These include scenes of Lord Shiva appearing in the guise of an old man clutching a document proving his claim over the bridegroom Sundara, an angry Sundara in a white coat , examination of the document by the villagers assembled there, and Sundara appealing to the mercy of Shiva etc.

  

25.6. The scene of Indra (the king of gods)   worshipping the Linga is on the opposite wall.

25.7. The next panel in northwest corner is the scene of four disciples who are now

identified as disciples (Kuravars: Sanka, Sananda, Sanathana, and Sanathkumara) of Sri Dakshinamurthy. Two figures among them were earlier assumed to be that of Rajaraja standing behind his Guru, Karuvurdevar, portraying a sense of humility. Now, the scholars seem to doubt that plausible explanation.

25.8. Tripuranthaka theme of Shiva raiding a chariot like a warrior, going into a war fully armed and wielding a bow, followed by an army of his supporters was a favourite of the Cholas. The Brihadisvara too has a panel dedicated to Tripurantaka. It must have once been a magnificent and awe inspiring painting, bringing to life the power, glory and the grandeur of the imperial Cholas and their Lord. It is said that Shiva in the mural had a twin expression: the ferociousness in the eye and the sweet smile on the lips. The daemons too have been depicted in detail. The panel, sadly, has not survived in its entirety.

The demon with his consort on the Tripurantaka panel.

25.9. There is a picture of Ravana at Kailasa the snow-abode of Shiva; labouring hard to destabilize mountain peak.

26.Prof. C. Sivaramamurthy , a scholar and art historian of great distinction, described the Chola frescoes of the Thanjavur Big Temple as a masterpiece of Chola art, distinguished by power, grandeur, rhythm and composition, and unparalleled by any other contemporary painting. What is significant about the Chola paintings of Thanjavur is that there is great emotion in all the faces, whether it is the compassion of the guru counselling Rajaraja, or a contemplative rishi, a devout queen, an animated dancer or an angry Shiva.

26.1. Those who have examined the Chola paintings closely have observed that even while depicting a sombre theme of devotion, the artist does not neglect the mundane aspects. The bedecked royal ladies continue to chatter among themselves, in spite of their being in a holy place. In contrast, the common ladies and elders seem absorbed in the performance.

 

26.2. According to Prof. C. Sivaramamurthy, “If expression has to be taken as the criterion, by which a great art has to be judged, it is here in abundance in these Chola paintings. The sentiment of heroism – vira rasa– is clearly seen in Tripurantaka’s face and form; the figures and attitude of the Rakshasas (demons) … wailing tear-stained faces of their women… suggest an emotion of pity – karuna– and terror – raudra; Siva as Dakshinamurthy… is the mirror of peace – shanta; the hands… of the dancer suggests the spirit of wonder – adbhuta… the ganas (Shiva’s followers) in comic attitude represent hasya. The commingling of emotions is complete in this which is a jumble ofvira, raudraand karuna” (Paintings of South India).

 

27. The Chola artists of the Brihadisvara murals were the inheritors of the hoary tradition of Chitrasutra. They preserved and practiced the concepts and the techniques of the Chitrasutra. The delineation of lines, use of colours and shades, arrangement of the figures on the canvass and treatment of the subject strongly resemble the murals of Ajanta. Its figures are alive with rhythm and movement.

 

The saints, kings and queens are celebrated in their idealized forms; the emphasis was on the ideal person behind the human lineaments rather than on their physical likeness. They figures of humans, animals, birds and vegetation always seem to suggest to something beyond the obvious. Its gods and goddesses too are full of virtue, vitality and grace; and have a universal appeal. They not merely stimulate the senses but also ignite the imagination of the viewer and set the viewer free from the confines of place, time and ego (self).The Chola murals of Brihadisvara have that magical quality, which brings out the essence of life and the grace that permeate the whole of existence.

[ I gratefully acknowledge the corrections and improvements suggested by Shri Vijay Kumar the creator of the delightfully articulate website on Shilpa and other related subjects :  http://www.poetryinstone.in ] 

For the paintings of the Nayaks’ period : please see the Appendix posted as Part 8

And
Next

The Vijayanagar period paintings on the ceilings of the Sri Pampa Virupaksha temple, Hampi (Karnataka)

 

References and Sources:

The Big Temple

http://www.thanjavur.com/bragathe.htm

http://www.thebigtemple.com/emperor_rajaraja.html

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

The Great God of Rajarajeshwaram

http://www.whatisindia.com/opinion/2006/03/wis20060331_the_great_god_of_rajeshwaram.html

Restoration of Chola paintings by ASI

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2003/02/28/stories/2003022801300600.htm

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2410/stories/20070601000106500.htm

http://www.thebigtemple.com/frescos.html

http://www.hindu.com/2005/12/24/stories/2005122406380400.htm

A.A.S.A.I: Paintings Preservation

http://conserveheritage.org/paintingpreservation.html

Legends across panels by Nandtha Krishna

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/print.pl?file=2004061300370200.htm&date=2004/06/13/&prd=mag&

The Swami as photographer

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2005/06/20/stories/2005062000400500.htm

Tanjavur Paintings in Koviloor, Sittannavasal, Panamalai, Tanjavur Early Chola Paintings;

Photographed  by C. Nachiappan (Koviloor Swamy), Kalakshetra Publications.

http://saigan.com/heritage/articles/cholamrl.html 

https://www.academia.edu/27054217/2016__Three_Royal_Temple_Foundations_in_South_India_Tripurantaka_Imagery_as_a_Statement_of_Political_Power email_work_card=view-paper

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

 

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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

 

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