Sunday, December 23, 2012



Family photograph on top of Chamundi Hills - 
the spread of  Mysore city in the background.

A photo album published by my friend Kanad  Sanyal  during Durga Puja ,2011 had a very interesting subject - he took photos of photographers in Durga Puja pavilions. The photographers were seen mostly using mobile phones - outstretched hands  holding their mobile phones  in front of the eyes, raised a bit to have a good image of the the deity made a good study by Kanad.

Kanad's collection motivated me to capture photos of fellow-photographers in Puja pavilions in 2011 - what I  got were  not very presentable ! This year, I tried once more and met with partial satisfaction. But, most interesting ones were taken during visit to places of tourist interest.

 Patient photographer,awaits the umbrella to move away.
Udayan Sangha, Naktala.Puja - 2012.

During February,12 visit to Konarak, I was waiting  to take a photo of  the chlorite door frame of 'Jagmohan' without any tourist in the frame. Another person was seriously engaged in doing the same, except for that he was keen to have only his companion in the picture frame . I waited patiently for him to get a photo-frame of his choice and move away.  Dissatisfied with his clicks, he kept on trying ! Slightly irritated because of waiting , I pointed my camera to capture the scene, which is here. If by any chance, these photos come to the notice of either of the persons mentioned in this anecdote, let me assure them - no offense meant.

  Waiting for a crowd-free frame to capture his friend against 
Door-frame, Jagmohan, Konarak.

During  my visit to Belur/Halebid/Mysore in November,12, I found young men very fond of clicking photos of their friend/s - often more than that of the architecture/sculpture ! But, what I notice these days that clicking has become easier and therefore 'treasures' can be  preserved for posterity ! Hope my young friends will maintain a good scrapbook to go back to.

Capturing 'legs' !! 
In front of Ravana, Chamundi hills,Mysore.

 Here is an exception :
 Kesava temple, Somnathpura.

The 'fun' element of these types of photographs can be fully obtained when the person/s in the photograph are  not conscious. I am learning the tricks of candid photography. I shall end with an anecdote on my learning curve. This February,12, when we were at Konark, I found  four young men ogling at a wall-relief in a niche , one of them was having a mobile/camera in his hand. As soon as one of this group found me  focusing my camera, two broke away. Here is a photo of the couple which the group's attention and two friends who stayed back to brave my clicking.

 I dedicate this blog to Kanad Sanyal. Look forward to many more of such candid moments.

Before closing, let me assure once more  all the persons in this blog - I intend no offense.

Friday, December 14, 2012



'Built from the wealth amassed from the sword' 
- King Vishnuvardhana, 
in context with his having built ChennaKesava temple,Belur.

To enjoy the temple art of Hoysala dynasty, homework before the trip is a MUST. There are lots of articles in Internet, giving history/timeline and photographs of the  more popular temples around Hassan and Mysore. I  even found a suggestion about a guide  of Belur temple - though  I could not locate him when we were  there during November,12.  Please search for Prof S Settar  and do not miss his interview in Frontline,April,2003.

Trikuta Kesava temple at Somnathpura.

Simply stated, Hoysala temples have a complex building plan with artistic projections aplenty, a 'scroll' of wall-reliefs of deities and other characters unfurling on the 'parikrama' , dazzling female dancers and musicians together with mythical animals staring down at you, rows of  human figures on animals and chariots fighting mythological and real battles. These temples are virtually a  gallery created to educate viewers of  Hindu Iconography and 'naba-rasa' as well as dance   plus music .

Rich wall frieze of Kedareswar temple of Halebid.

Kirat-Arjuna &  Bali-Sugriva duels, Hoysaleswara temple,Halebid.

Vishnu rests on Seshanaga - Lakshmi 'serves' at his feet, Yogamaya sitting near his head. He rests within  a pavilion, with roaring vertical waves filled with fish and tortoise - Vishnu's incarnations.
Kesava temple,Somnathpura.

Note : Interesting to watch one small part in each of the last two panels - Sugriva's right leg & Sheshnaga's tail - sneak out of the frame ! Typical Hoysala style .

And .... not-to-miss the exceptionally carefully executed  layout and 'art-work' in the  interiors of temples.Some of the secular ceiling art , round and serrated ends  of load-bearing columns, female bodies serving as brackets on  top-ends of columns almost hidden in the darkness of 'Mantapa' will not fail to mesmerise discerning viewers. Topping the list are the principal deities wherever we can view their splendour not hidden under silk robes and garlands.

Venugopala, one of the three deities of
Somnathpura temple.

Dancer on one of the four pillars within 'Garbhagriha' of 
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

Hundreds of figures and motifs curved on famous 'Narasimha' pillar within'Garbhagriha' of 
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.
Notes :1.  It  is said  that this pillar used to revolve on its vertical axis.  
2. Comparable are stone pillars of Vitthala and Hazara Rama temples, Hampi.

Once  a person spends time among the temples built by Hoysala dynasty, it becomes clear that a martial spirit had worked in bringing these temples into being. The name  king Vishnubardhana chose for his lineage and also the symbol are result of this military spirit. We all know, 'Hoysala' means 'Kill Sala', reportedly the uttering of  a sage whose life Sala, a tribal leader and ancestor of the king , saved by slaying a pouncing lion.

My favourite 'Sala slaying the lion'. Sala is in pain , yet he pierces right ear of the beast with his long dagger, held in his left hand !
Wall-reliefs of Vishnu and Kamadeva in the background.
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

This may be a myth,established  firmly by king Vishnubardhana , while adopting the 'Sala' symbol and sculptures of  'Sala and the lion' in the entries to ChennaKesava temple's 'Mantapa'.

While working within the limitations of 'canon', some of the artists broke ground in their efforts to stand apart among the 'many'.Collectively, the following characteristics will immediately draw attention of the viewer :
Krsna tames 'Kaliya-the-snake'. One of his wives asks for forgiveness 
on behalf of her husband.
Kedareswar temple, Halebid.
  • the decorative features of the wall-reliefs, e.g. the dresses , ornaments and other attributes are carved so meticulously that one feels s/he is viewing a wood, and not a stone-carving.
  • a toe here, a finger there overflow  the frame , just to add drama to the 'scene'.
  • the fierce manifestations of Siva and Shakti are often  not stiff, but in smooth postures of dance.
I end here with ten. nos of photos . More will follow.

Monday, November 26, 2012



 Worshipers rushing into the temple.
 Remarkable work on the lintel, court scenes of Dasharatha and Vishnubardahana adorn the facade of entrance to
  ChennaKesava temple, Belur.
 June to November,2012. Planning , ticketing, cancellation of tickets , new itinerary - soon it was time  to re-visit  temples of Belur and Halebid. I recall what another temple-art lover told me  decades ago : 'Those who have  not seen the temple of Belur have not seen one of the finest in India'. Like the previous visits, I awestruck by the extra-ordinary efforts in crafting the wall-reliefs which attract tens of thousands of tourists to this region of Karnataka ! Now I am sitting in front of the computer, with a 'Folder' full of bewildering photographs of Hoysala art !

Gorgeous wall-reliefs and stunning friezes 
Western face of Kedareswara temple, Halebid.
I am a little bewildered too - where to start and where to end. I searched and read  many many articles and photo-features in the internet  on  architecture and art of temples of Hoysala period - on temples of Belur, Halebid and Somnathpura in specific. I am wondering if  most of what  can be published have already been published  - text and photos included.

Bearded and bejeweled male drummer - 
one among 3 male musicians on brackets
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.
(Placed among those famous wall brackets of Mohini !!)*

 When at the temple complex at  Belur  and Hoysaleswara temple of Halebid, I noted  constant streams of visitors - local, tourists from other cities and States as well as from foreign countries.  Guides are taking groups around  and repeating their tales over and over again. Somnathpura temple had lot less visitors - still it is no longer a temple forgotten. But , Kedareswara temple at Halebid can be surely termed a forgotten one.

Obeisance of the 'Pandavas'.
Hoysaleswara temple, Halebid.

In a way , it is sad. This temple cannot compete with the sprawling Hoysaleswara temple in terms of size or  display of wall-reliefs as well as friezes , but surely is comparable in terms of quality of  art-work. Tourists  get their eyeful at Hoysaleswara temple and therefore do not explore this temple. We hired an auto-rickshaw to  visit the cluster of Jaina temples and neighbouring Kedareswara temple. Surprsingly, the yound auto-rickshaw driver did not know about the existence of this fine example of Hoysala art ! This shows the ignorance at the ground level of Halebid about the worth of this temple.I found just a Spanish couple and 2/3 Indian tourists there enjoying the  wonderful work of art of  Kedareswara temple.

  Rama the Archer - one of the difficult-to-capture wall-reliefs of 
Rama temple, Belur.

No less surprised I was at two very large and famous book stores of Mysore where I went to search for books on temple art & architecture of Hoysala period. One of them -  'Sapna ' claims to be  one of the largest chain in India ! Apart  from a very well-known book on Hampi and another on 'Torana', there was nothing on temple art of Karnataka at 'Sapna' ! Ditto at 'Crossward'. I would have left with a very poor impression unless a Shop Assistant   recommended a book on 'Mysore and more' plus a history book of Karnataka by Dr S U Kamath.

Internet search did not yield   many clues either. I found 2 books of my interesest.One is : Early Hoysala Art by  Binoy K hedge and 2 others , The second one is : Epic Narratves in Hoysala Temples by Kirsti Evans. I doubt if 1978 edition of the book by Sachindranath Maity is any longer available. Those who are interested in  feminine beauty may look for Rekha rao's 'Apsaras in Hoysala Art'.

                                     These reference books were expected at important book stores of Mysore !

  When I  visited Pattadakal complex and Aihole in 2011, I noticed the temple architecture of Badami Chalukyas differ from what we find in Orissa and Central and Western India. The mightiest among the lot - Virupaksha temple of  Pattadakal - has a style statement of its own. Perhaps, architectural details from the twin temples of Siva and SuryaNarayan of  Lakundi also can be referred to in this context.

 Stone pillars - one with  delicate designs and the other 'lathe-turned' - inside Mantapa of 
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.


*1. This male drummer's  attributes - both physical as well as dress/ornaments - are  to be noted carefully. He is elaborately dressed like a woman, in contrast to the other 2 of the male musicians placed on the brackets/arches. Question I have  - is this a woman incognito ?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012



Closed door of Gopuram at 7.25 am. Thin crowd started gathering 
on the steps to attend to early morning prayer. 
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

 During my early days in school, I used to  be teased  as a 'char-chokho' ( person with 4 eyes) , a common term for boys/girls with specs. By an extension of that logic , Ruby and I can be called 'paanch-chokho' (person with 5 eyes) during our travel, the '5th eye' being our camera.

On our 1st day out  at ChennaKesava temple, Belur, both our '5th eyes' went blank , due to  mal-functioning of batteries , though fortunately not at the same time.

 Ruby and her '5th eye', sitting near
 'Swarga Dwara' of ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

 I use a square battery for my DSLR.Ruby uses 4 pencil batteries for Powershot - a Canon s3is. I carried no spare battery. Ruby had  4 spare Duracell  batteries in her suitcase . After 6 clicks, her camera stopped functioning. We were stuck at the Gopuram. We had 2 choices - walk back to the Hotel ( Mayur Velapuri) and collect the Duracell batteries or buy fresh ones from one of few the  shops just opposite to the Gopuram.

 The shop which helped to keep our '5th eye'  functioning !
Opposite ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

I took the easier option - purchased 4 nos of 2100mAH Kodak batteries for Ruby's Powershot. Well, this move saved our day.Not only Ruby  could keep on clicking till the day-end, this shop-keeper came to my rescue when my camera's battery got discharged and gave me successive shocks.

1st shock came after I clicked only 102 shots. It was around 9.30 am. We decided to return to the Hotel for break-fast and charging the battery. On our way back to the Hotel, we found Canon's LP-E5 battery will have no supplier at Belur. I rang our photographer friend Mr Swaminathan Natarajan of Bangalore who confirmed that for  such a battery , I may have to go to Chickmagalur - 90+ km away !

  Coitus ! 
 'Performers'  shed their ornaments away ! 
1st level of Gopuram ,ChennaKesava  temple,Belur.

 Well  - I managed the day with multiple charging. The Kodak batteries did fine with their pre-charge plus 2 hours charging in the morning while we had our break-fast and freshened up. But, I had a difficult day. Twice - during lunch-break ( we had just a fruit-juice each) and once more after that, I sought help from the shop-keeper  from whom we bought the Kodak pencil batteries to bail my camera out. ChennaKesava knows what I would have done without help from from this guy !

 Nataraja Siva , with all his attributes and in his full glory, 
dances on a lotus . Ganas, Bhringee and worshipers around . 
Hoysaleswar temple, Halebid.

At Halebid on 12/11, I stayed cautious - and therefore, selective .I  faced 2 'black-outs'. 1st one was when I was about to complete round-one and ready to embark on a 'cover-the-ones I -missed'. I focused on one of the many 'Dwarpals' and it was a black-out ! I borrowed Ruby's Powershot for the time being, completed round-one and returned to hotel for lunch, though with great disappointment.

  'Ananta-sayane Vishnu'. 
Wall -frieze  at Hoysaleswar temple,Halebid. 
Captured in mobile's camera after 1st black-out .

At the Hotel Mayur Shantala , after my hard prayer, power-cut was restored  while lunch was served. At Kedareswar temple, I chose only the best wall-reliefs and friezes for clicking. In any case , scope for photography was limited as the 'Garbhagriha' was shut and the northern face was almost inaccessible with bamboo scaffolding. Here, the black-out came when I aimed my camera at an interesting frieze !

  Nataraj dances on 'Apasmara' - one of my last shots 
at Kedareswar temple,Halebid.

After I reached Mysore on 12th evening, I breathed a sigh of relief  sensing that in a town like this a squre battery will not be difficult to get. Well, I missed my heart-beat, when on the morning of 13/11, 2 shops turned me away.It was the 3rd shop which gave me an equivalent make with at least Rs 300/- premium or 'opportunity profit' !

Saturday, October 27, 2012


ICONOGRAPHY OF  MAHISASURAMARDINI -  ' সাবেকী  ' vs ' থিম '  পূজা   
( 'SABEKI', i.e. traditional vs 'THEME' PUJO ).

'No to cloning' -

 This time every year ,  argument rages between the groups supporting ' সাবেকী / SABEKI'  i.e. traditional  and ' থিম /THEME'  puja .  Often the ardent supporter from each group  excitedly uses language which further increases the temperature. One such example is here :
It is the exchange between Pradipta Nan and Payel Rinks Banerjee on one hand, Shibmandir Durgapuja's representative on the other  prompted me to prepare my submission.

  Durga mauls Mahisasura  - 
Famous traditional depiction at Vaital temple, Bhubaneswar.

 Centuries ago, when sculptors following  canons of Iconography were creating wonders at Badami, Aihole or later at Vaital temple, those who wanted to break with the tradition created the  relief at Mamallapuram where Devi is shown engaged  in combat with Mahisasuramardini . After centuries, another sculptor 'created' a Durga which has 4 hands, no trident  and the severed head of the buffalo  lying at the centre of Devi's feet ! This  depiction seems to have influenced many of our present day artists - I do not have to mention the names.

  Devi has won the battle - she no longer needs ten hands nor weapons. Even the trident is not here.
Severed head of the Asura lies at her feet.

 We can guess the ruckus the purists of those days had raised ! Yet, the wall-relief was installed and stayed put to the delight of Iconographers of these days. I have in my HDD another Durga where she has slain the Asura. Here she  has the trident in her hand.

 During the middle of  the 20th century, we found  many  artists broke from the mould. Reportedly Sunil Pal was  one of the pioneers of this trend. His work of 1945 at Kansaripara  is now forgotten - I could not get any photo of the same from a senior Art critic from whom I heard the 'story'. Later on Jiten Pal took the trend forward during 1950s. I used to admire the tremendous imagination his idols at 23 Pally used to demonstrate . I can still visualise his Durga turning away from the arena of combat with severed head of Mahisasura in her hand, her face and eyes red with anger. As far as my memory goes, she had two hands , not ten. Her dresses were unconventional too. This particular depiction attracted notice and criticism from purists and orthodox  section of  Durga's worshipers. But, Puja Committee of 23 Pally continued to patronise the trend and Jiten Pal .

 Traditional idol - ageold Puja.
Source - Bengali Statesman.

 Since  1950s,not only Jiten Pal , but some more artists started the trend of experimenting with Durga's iconography. In traditional format, Durga stands erect with her right foot on lion's back, left one on Mahisasura, her trident piercing Asura's breast . The implication is : the battle is over. The image is somewhat static.Many artists brought out scene of combat - somewhat like  the famous wall-relief of Mamallapuram -  thereby  a  sense of tremendous movement. During 2011, Bhabotosh Sutar  could portray  such dynamism in his Naktala idol.

One of the finest Durga I have come across - the 'movement' here is captured so perfectly !
Naktala Udayan  Sangha. Bhaboiosh Sutar.

Gradually,over the decades, Durga's depiction changed . These days, we have lots of varieties. Purists have their Bagbazar,Maddox Square,Durga Bari (Ballygunge Place).  Theme lovers have Sanatan Dinda, Tarun De, Shibsankar Das and .... also ShibMandir.

  Iconography of this idol of Durga is not easy   - 
it is important to 'understand' the interpretation before commenting !
95 Palli, Jodhpur Park

I appreciated Shibmandir's concept of merging 'RaktaBeej' and 'No to cloning' ! That neither means Pradipta Nan and Payel Rinks Banerjee will have to like the current (2012)  idol of Durga  of  ShibMandir  nor that  means SbibMandir will get so angry at dissents as to question the grey matter content of such viewers ! But, it is proper  that people like Pradipta Nan and Payel Rinks Banerjee refrain from using rude language.

Each to his/her views and choices !

Thursday, October 25, 2012


 Devi and her 'children'- Kartik in far right as seen in this photo - come down a spiral. 
Tarun De. Barisha Udayan Club.
Very lyrical,very graceful posture.

Many photographers - both amateur and professional - who like to chronicle their love for Durga Puja  start their  journey from Kumortuli. These journeys   have produced some wonderful shots , some repeatations. I have  been too lazy to visit Kumortuli for photography - only once I  went there as a child with my grandfather . I reckon this is one experience  I have missed so far.

  Devi among two hemispheres ( lower one in this photo) , within a Pavilion conceived as a 'Kadamba' flower. 
Shib Shankar Das. Santoshpur Triangular Park. 
(Photo taken 14days before inauguration)

  Devi ushering peace. A very tranquil image. 
Shib Shankar Das. Santoshpur Triangular Park.

 This year my association with Durga Puja started with visits to 'sites' where Sanatan Dinda , Shiba Prasad Das  and Purnendu Dey  were working beyond the eyes of the public. I also did a good amount of internet search to  get hold of old photographs of Jiten Pal's work, which brought into contact contact with some veteran Press photographers and finally Naba Pal, grandson of legendary Jiten Pal. More on the work of searching archives at a later date. Though I am yet to get the photographs I was looking for.

 Huge butterfly , installed by Bhabotosh Sutar. Naktala Udayan Sangha.
Looks like a dream when illuminated in the night. 
Devi  envisaged by Bhabotosh Sutar  in spite of  publicity,  a disappointment.

During our 'Puja Parikrama' this year, I have seen  a good no of excellent work. I am also learning to appreciate the great amount of artistic as well as mundane work which go into making an outstanding pavilion and at the same time shaping an idol that stands out in the crowd,stays in the heart of the viewer.
  Pavilion @ Barisha Sarbajanin,shaped as a massive 'SivaLinga' getting ready. 
Sanatan Dinda.

Yet, there are artists who do not get publicity  and their good work is ignored by the prize-giving community, at times by the pandal-hoppers who  are often guided by the Bengali News channels. One major work which has been largely overlooked is Barisha Udayan Palli. Tarun De's work - in Gen Y's language - rocks.

  'ShivLinga' @ Barisha Sarbajanin. 
Sanatan Dinda.

Devi placed within a cut-out on the 'SivaLinga' ,viewed at an angle.
Flames rage on the blue-coloured Linga. Symbols of eye  seem to float on it !
Barisha Sarbajanin. Sanatan Dinda.

 Sanatan Dinda's works in 2012 need elaborate explanation.It has several layers - beyond the obvious visual. More on Sanatan's work in future posts.

Sunday, September 30, 2012



 A very traditional idol of Durga.
Singhee Park.

 A broken terra cotta gate and pavilion attracted viewers 
from far & wide. South Calcutta.

When a question like 'Traditional or Theme-Pujo ?'  is placed as a matter of routine to a celebrity by an eager TV Jockey, the most common answer is 'Traditional'. A very safe answer !

 Two neighbouring Puja pavilions - shaped like vermilion container 
and lamp stand.South Calcutta.

I  enjoy the variations offered by the other kind of Durga-Puja - popularly known as ' Theme-Pujo'. It requires thoughts, debates, mobilisation and execution at a different level . If all the 'baro-iyari' pijas in Calcutta were according to traditional model, it would have been quite monotonous. Variations are offered by those organisers who think out-of-the-box and execute variation/s which please/s the viewers' eyes and senses. Ofter, the deity is built and decorated  in a traditional fashion, yet, the surroundings, specially the pavilion is 'built' with lots of novelty.

Chariot - not a very novel thought, but, tidy execution.
South Calcutta.

Here,I present  quite a few examples of novelty . I hope the viewers will like my collection. I end with a very traditional pavilion of South Calcutta.

Singhee Park,South Calcutta.