Friday, June 22, 2012



 Motif of a pair of snakes chasing a hare - do not know what it signifies !
Lintel of Eastern gate, Krishna temple, Hampi.

Snake - known as 'Naga' in Sanskrit - holds a strange position in Hindu mythology.  They are associated with the greatest among Hindu deities, a few 'Naga' character play a big role, but, never gets a central role in any  'event'. 'Naga' characters have been widely depicted in our temple art -  it is not clear whether just as sacred motifs or representation of clans who worshiped 'Nagas' as totem !

 'Samudra Manthan - 'Churning of ocean .
'Vishnutala' Cave, Badami, Karnataka.

Let me recount here some of the well-known mythological tales  connected with 'Nagas' :
  • Sheshanaga  supports the earth on his numerous hoods.
  • Vishnu rests on coiled Sheshanaga in cataclysmic ocean. This is his famous posture known as 'Ananatashayane Vishnu'.
  • Milky ocean was churned  by gods and demons ( Devas & asuras) - mountain Mandar was the shaft and  Vasuki naga allowed himself to be the coiled on the mountain for churning.  This is when elixir of immortality surfaced which gods did not share with demons creating ever-lasting enmity between these two races. Exhausted Vasuki threw up poison which Siva drank to save the universe from its effects - Siva's throat thus turned blue & he came to be known as 'Neelkantha' - 'One with blue throat'.
  • Siva wears a snake  around his arm, throat or shoulder. Also a 'sarpakundala' on one of his ears. Garuda,  Vishnu's mount   also wears snakes on his arms - details in a long tale - as a token of his supremacy over the clan of snakes after a fight involving his mother .  
  • Krsna tamed Kaliya during his Vrindavan years. 
  • Mahabharata records  King Janmejay's wrath against snakes. 
 Siva with 'sarpakundala in his right ear and a snake across his 
left shoulder to his right arm as his armlet.
'Siva' cave, Badami, Karnataka.
 There are a few more points  I would like to bring out which are connected with stature of snakes in Indian society - but after  we discuss a few photos.1st among the ones I want to present is of snakes in union which a section of Indians believes to be a very good omen. Here is a photo of a stone-relief I found at Mahakuta temple complex,Karnataka :

A seven-hooded snake  in union with a single-hooded snake.

 Sun temple of Konark has a huge display of 'Nagas' -  a researcher might have already counted how many - but, I  do not have the figure as yet. Here, what we find are half-snake-half-human figures. Following is one wall-relief  almost identical to the above theme - but both the male and female 'Nagas' have numerous hoods.

 Please do not miss out the small figure at the base with 5-hoods !

Aggression and subsequent domination of 'Nagas'  have remained a subject of temple art across India - I have come across  many depictions of 'Kaliyadaman'  - subjugation of Kaliya ( not a literary translation) in my limited exposure to temple art. I have viewed them in terra cotta temples of Bengal, pata chitra, fresco @ SriKurmam temple (*), Hampi. Here is a portion from a 'Torana' of Krishna temple, Hampi :

 As Krsna dances on Kaliya's hood and holds his tail in his left hand, two 'Naginis'  prays for  his forgiveness .

'Anantashayane Vishnu'  - Vishnu resting in cataclysmic ocean - is a theme pursued by numerous temple artists. But, the famous 'Vishnutala' cave at Badami has Vishnu in a seated posture on coiled snakes and 'Anantashayane Vishnu'  is depicted in a high-elevation and smaller wall-relief  in this cave (photo not posted in this blog) !

 Vishnu  seated on  throne of a coil of 'Naga'. Its hoods spread over Vishnu's head like a canopy.

Manasa , Siva's daughter, destroyed Chand Merchant's life . A reluctant Chand's offer initiated her 'puja' in Bengal.
Terra cotta Manasa at Bighna, WB.

 Beyond the Brahminical mythology of India, 'Naga' holds a position of reverence in local levels among Hindus too -  'Naga Panchami' , worship of Manasa the snake goddess being the examples. I can extend this discussion to other countries and cultures, but,   shall stop here with one last reference to Jainism. Parsvanatha  has snake as his symbol and those of his Yaksha and Yakshini too. There are other Naga motifs in Jainism too, e.g. one of the 'sixteen dreams' etc But, this aspect may be discussed later in a different post, after I understand  elementary Jain Iconography. It is a deep subject.

1. * Pl view

Tuesday, June 19, 2012



Group photo - our 1st day @ Hampi -
RH of the 'Torana' of Vitthala temple.

 Our visit to Hampi  was  a great experience .The photos and notes we brought with us never  fail to surprise me whenever I go back to them. Trip to Hampi stays deeply etched in  my memory - somewhat like the trip I made to Loch Lomond decades ago.

 During  a recent 'visit' to my HDD, I thought of  doing a series exclusively on the architecture and details of the 'Toranas' of  Hampi's famous temples - not a very widely discussed subject  yet. In our HDD, we have many photos  from which the figures on the facades of these 'Toranas' can be extracted for display and discussion .But, comparatively less for a discussion on the architectural aspects of these 'Toranas'.

 Inside face of 3-storeyed 'Torana' of Malyavanta Raghunatha temple. Main entrance to  temple compound from eastern side, 
glowing in the light of setting sun.

 At Hampi, 'Toranas' are built according to  'Gopuram' style - tall pyramidal several story-ed structure with rectangular base. The top has a barrel vault with  decoration. The structure is often taller than the  temple - thus it comes to the notice of  pilgrims from a distance. Is the height  meant to be a lightning arrester too ?
A typical barrel vault on 'Torana's' top.   
Krishna temple, North gate.

I shall take up Krisna- , Vitthala-, Malyavanta Raghunatha- and Virupaksha temples  to cover 'Toranas' of Hampi. Hope, I  shall come across more details gradually  to enrich my repertoire. The current state of  these 'Toranas' are due to the fact that  brick and stucco construction has suffered major erosion and decay over the centuries - only parts of one 'Torana' at Vitthala  temple, two at  Krisna temples and most of Virupaksha temples' Gopuram are intact. Rest  can be termed  black & white photographers' delight ! But, the details of once-beautiful artwork in stucco are lost.

  Lofty - 52m tall - 9-storyed East Gopuram/'Torana' , 
Virupaksha temple, Hampi.

 Krishna temple was built by King Krishnadeva Raya in 1513 AD as a shrine to an idol of Balagopala (child Krsna) he brought from Udayagiri. Very likely, it was a  monument to commemorate  his successful Orissa campaign. It has three 'Toranas' - East, North & South. Inside face of the East gate has a scene of an army leaving for  battle which  is believed to be associated with King Krishnadeva Raya's Orissa campaign. Among the other two, south 'Torana' is left with  few details. North 'Torana', though not in good shape, offer clear details when viewed from within the temple compound.

  Entrance to Krishna temple, Hampi. The stone structure and parts of only 2 storeys are standing.  Right-hand wall is gone.A small portion of left-hand wall stands. 
Far right - we can see the  barrel vault of north-side 'Torana'.

All these 'Toranas' are built with stone till the  roof-height of the gates' openings - and the decorative portions are  built with brick & stucco . I give here detailed views  of the artwork on East and North 'Toranas' of Krishna temple.

  View of the East-side 'Torana' from the court-yard of 
Krishna temple,Hampi.

 View of the North-side 'Torana' from the court-yard of 
Krishna temple,Hampi.
 (Note - Half of the 3rd storey is gone !)

 View of the South-side 'Torana' from out-side  of 
Krishna temple,Hampi.
 (Note - Top 2 storeys are gone !)

Thursday, June 14, 2012



NOTE : This blog has strong erotic/adult content. Those who are below 21 years of age  or dislike discussion on erotic  displays in Hindu temples may please stay away from this blog.

 There are two persons behind this blog - and I know - this subject of erotic art is difficult and delicate to handle.

After  I saw a series of centuries old frescoes published in facebook by a 'friend' of mine,  living in the other side of the border and   working on anthropology , I went back to the photos of frescoes  we took at SriKurmam temple, SriKakulam.  There is at least one erotic fresco in this temple - a couple in 'lordosis' posture of coitus.This posture is special, requires 'submission' of the female partner and trust too.

Serious 'student' of Indian art knows that while Indian erotic sculpture depict the couple mostly in  impractical vertical posture, Indian  paintings manifest no such compulsion ! This  fresco is different , somewhat crude compared to ones telling us 'stories' of the divine . The postures of both the partners are 'impossible' but, that is often the case with Indian artists decorating Indian temples.

A couple engaged in coitus in an impossible angle. The man pulls wide-eyed woman,encircled by his legs, to a 'lordosis' posture.
Man's impatience and urgency in red, woman's coolness in white!

So, ZAK - here is the photo of the fresco you wanted to view !

Here, the centre-lines of the sitting couple are out-of-alignment -  in almost 60 degrees  to each other. This reminded me of a painting  I saw in Academy of Fine Arts,Calcutta last month. It  was an exhibition by 'RANGAN',  a group of young artists. One of the artistes, Hirack Chand, displayed 4 canvasses here , the last one of a couple engaged in 'lordosis' posture. The woman rests her head on a pillow, face placid  and the man, red in passion enters her at an angle out-of alignment with the stretched body of the woman.Hers is a posture of submission, his is a posture impatience. No  fondness or intimacy in either ! Very strong lines in the figures - view the naked man of Hirack Chand here -

'Face to Face' - a painting by Hirack Chand.
(Source - Brochure of 'RANGAN')

When my facebook 'friend' ZAK asked me publish that fresco of coitus, I thought of writing a full-length blog. I contacted HC for a photo of this particular canvas ,explained the context in my telecon and followed  up with an e-mail. HC  called me back, but, decided  not to allow me use a photo of his painting. Well  bad luck of the viewers !

The posture of 'lordosis'  - known as 'position of cow' in India - can be a very comfortable and intimate posture in coitus.  As I already mentioned ,Hirack Chand's painting brings out the submission, but, not the intimacy. Nor such intimacy or chemistry is evident in the coitus  framed on a chariot's body I found on my way to Hampi.

Wood engraving on a chariot.
On our way to Hampi.

From this photo, it is appears that the couple is in a ritualistic posture , in company  of  a person blowing trumpet and two attendants  carrying offerings  . Surprisingly, I found a  wall-relief in 'lordosis' posture mounted on the Gopuram's door of Virupaksha temple, Hampi - no companions around, man approaches woman who is cooking.

 Man approaches woman unprepared for the 'act' - she is cooking !
Crude wall-relief, Gopuram door, Virupaksha temple ( 2010).

How painters of yesteryear  in Europe and India  handled this subject - with tenderness ?  Well - the reader to make his own conclusion. I have gone through  sketches painted by Mihaly Zichy, a Hungary-born artist of late 19th- early 20th century. He has a large repertoire of  painting of coitus among which, two depict 'lordosis' posture . Those who enjoy  good paintings may please surf and find out photo of his painting titled 'The Victory of the Genius of Destruction', painted for a Paris Exhibition , but,was banned by French authorities because of its daring anti-militarist message.

 Couple engaged in 'lordosis' posture.Painting by Mihaly Zichy.
(Source -Internet)

I shall end with a photo of erotic painting from India . Its mood is just the opposite of that of Hirack Chand. HC has depicted the 'act' where man engages with woman, who is kind of away. Here, we have an intimacy and active engagement being displayed in an otherwise poorly executed  painting.

  Couple engaged in 'lordosis' posture.Indian painting .
(Source -Internet)

Monday, June 11, 2012



Details !  Details !!
Temple on the approach road to Hampi.

As I wade through the postings in various Groups of FB dedicated to heritage  as well as those of my friends active in travel/photography of temple art & architecture, I note with excitement that  this is now a subject of growing  interest , discussions and also of mutual exchanges of notes. Digital photography and social internet sites have contributed largely to this expansion .Temple architecture is not my forte. I have often skipped chapters on the same when I read a travelogue. I have read hundreds of  pages on Iconography and currently am in a slightly bewildered stage.
Hindu Iconography is a heavy subject – with mythological stories , manifestations of Vishnu, Siva and Shakti , surrounded by Indra and other  eight 'Dikpals’, ‘Astabasu’, ‘Sapta Matrika’ plus Yogeswari, ’Vidhyadharas’ and ‘Gandharvas’, gods and goddesses  of various social and local statures with ‘Nagas’ and composites, divine and not-so-divine animals abound !

 Jaina Cave @ Badami, Karnataka

Jaina Iconography is no less heavy with 12 Thirthakaras, multiple interpretations of attributes by 2 sub-sects, numerous ‘Yakshas’ and ‘Yakshinis’ -  and goddesses   according to relevant chapters one reference book I have.

 Bodhisattwa Maitreya. 2nd - 4th century AD.
Victoria & Albert Museum.

Boudha Iconography is more complicated . I have a slender volume by Dr Binaytosh Bhattacharya . This subject is more difficult than Fluid Mechanics ! I recall a Quiz show titled ‘MasterMind’ in BBC where a successful candidate had to choose a   special area of interest on which penetrating questions were asked. Facing a ‘Rapid fire’ on Bouddha Iconography will be toughest among the toughest. I was wondering if we should visit Arunachal Pradesh to visit Tawang’s very large & renowned monastery.  Now, I am baffled while making an effort to have a toe-hold in this subject.

Bhageerath,Siva on Nandi, Ithyphallic Ganesha, Vishnu et all.
Terra cotta panel at Ilambazar market place .
 A few requests to my friends : when you publish photos and travel account connected with heritage sites, specially of multiple locations and multiple temples, please  do the labeling as critically as possible. Also, please do present clear  - if required, PSed – front views so that viewer can  see what the photographer ‘viewed’ when s/he was moving around.

With advent of more and more  individuals and groups interested in our heritage, we shall have a very rich future for  niche tourism  in religious monuments.

Sunday, June 3, 2012



Case I :

'Veenadhara Siva'. Brahmeswar temple. Bhubaneswar.

 It is interesting when I see a wall-relief or a photo of a sculpture or read an article on galleries of a Museum and suddenly it occurs to me that quite a similar theme has been 'executed' elsewhere! Scholars are doing this exercise regularly - yet when I stumble upon such a finding , I feel quite excited, almost like having accomplished a 'discovery'. I have compiled here a few such cases which are either in my HDD or in my notes - the photos, whenever borrowed  from the internet  as examples, have been acknowledged.

'Veenadhara Siva'. Pratepswar temple.Kalna.

I start with Veenadhara Siva - one his famous 'Dakshina murti' manifestations. Siva faced the south when he taught music,yoga and philosophy - hence is the name for this manifestation . The  wall-relief at the top is from Raja Rani temple (11th century AD), Bhubaneswar. any other  The only 'Dakshina murti' in West Bengal's terra cotta temples I have  noticed  is the one  above from Pratapeswar temple (around 1850AD), Kalna,  The difference in time span is noticeable in this case - 800 years ! 

Case II :
The 2nd case is a puzzle to me. I read somewhere that the posture of reclining Vishnu of  Deogarh, UP has a similarity to that of Endymion . I searched for both and - Yes! , the similarity is evident. The  right legs in both the sculptures are bent almost identically and  the left ones are straight or nearly so.In a way, right hands of Vishnu and Endymion  have similarity too !

 This Reclining Endymion is from Gustav III  Museum of Stockholm. 
It must be quite a favourite of the authorities & public since it appeared on the face of a stamp of Sweden. 
Reportedly, this is a 2nd century AD Roman copy of a Greek statue . "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever..' is opening line of Keats' poem 'Endymion'.
( Source - Internet)

'Anantesayane Vishnu'. Degarh,UP.6th century AD.
(Source -  Internet)

 I have no idea as to  how the posture of a Greek sculpture could influence that in Deogarh temple, which are 3-5 centuries and thousands of miles apart. If anyone can throw some light on it , I shall welcome the same.

Case III :

 Vishnu-Krsna - Hazara-Rama temple,Hampi. 
 Closer home, I would like draw comparison between  creative ideas between wall-reliefs at Hazara-Rama temple, Hampi.   and several terra cotta/lime-plaster temples in Bengal. At Hazara-Rama temple (15th century AD) ,we find the concept of combining Vishnu with Krsna. Two hands of deity hold  conch-shell and discuss ('chakra') and other two hands hold a flute. In the terra cotta temples of Bengal (17th-18th centuries AD) , the concept is of combining Krsna  with Rama and ChaitanyaDev. Deity carries bow,arrow,flute,water-pot ('kamandolu') . Here, the deity has six hands !

Krsna-Rama-ChaitanyaDev  - RadheShyam temple,Bishnupur.
Note -  This is plaster work on red laterite stone.There are terra cotta adaptations in several temples.

 Composites and grotesque  in our temples offer other areas of having such comparisons.  Conversely, when one starts comparing one visual with another with identical theme, marked dissimilarities can also be a point  to note with interest. More such photos and discussions to follow.