Friday, July 27, 2012



  View of  Brahmeswar Temple Complex - to observe similarity of Jagmohan-Deul here with that of Lingaraja Temple.

Zodiac signs in 'pabhaga' section of Brahmeswar Temple. 
Laced with female figures  meant for attracting viewers' notice !

Brahmeswar temple  is  somewhat  away from the core area of  temple sites of  Bhubaneswar, often missed out by tourists who are  pressed for time. A tidy courtyard , Jagmohan and Deul at its centre, four smaller temples in four corners of the courtyard and a green patch   at the entrance  - maintained by ASI.  Here are another two small temples along the pathway to the courtyard.

A section of the temple wall. Abstract design,erotica,people - 
positioned one above the other as well as  side-by-side, 
in a very aesthetic manner.

Those who have visited  Mukteswar Temple of  Bhubaneswar are familiar with its famous 'Bho'. Shall we call the wall-relief below the 'Bho' for this temple ? Before you decide . please look at the photo above - this wall-relief is certainly not at the centre of the wall ! Was it  moved from its designated place at  some point during renovation ? Or a deliberate positioning as an omen   or just for attracting notice ?

A 'Bho'-like display. Human figures,arabesque,snakes,bells 
- it has all the intriguing ingredients !

This temple was  built by Kolavati Devi, mother of King Udyotkeshari. Probably around 1050 AD. The architecture has  similarity with the gem of Bhubaneshswar - Lingaraja temple. Some of the wall-reliefs are exquisite. I noted a few which appeared to be precursor of  a good nos of  wall-reliefs  we find in Surya temple, Konark - specially those of royalty, seers and erotica.

Royalty  and seers. In court and private chambers. 
We shall see more of them in Surya Temple,Konark.

Amid the usual wall-reliefs of deities and erotica, what attracted my notice are : abstract designs, zodiac signs, a series of unfolding love scenes and on closer scrutiny, swans and flowers. I have  mentioned in one of my  earlier posts about  a wall-relief of 'Veenadhara Siva' (*1) - this is not so common in Orissan temples. I shall also mention a wall-relief of 'Ekapada Siva' - another special manifestation of Siva , not commonly known and a Gajalakshmi with a special attribute.

'Ekapada' Siva with all his attributes, straddling  'Apasmara' 
who is also pierced by Siva's trident.

Gajalakshmi in lalitasana, holding two large full-bloomed lotuses. 
Was the sculptor influenced by Surya's iconography? 
The designs around are interesting too !

 In at least one of the four smaller temples of Brahmeswar temple's courtyard, there is a series of erotic scenes, showing a couple in conflict - the story-line is clear. But, neither the the execution is artistically good nor the story-line is  in good taste. Perhaps, the wall-reliefs were 'banished' to   a smaller temple instead of according them  prominent display.But, the ones below stand out among the whole lot !

 Her music, his desire !
Watch the man's body language & gestures by  hands.

Indian sculptors have pictured 'Kama' on the walls of Hindu temples - photographers have published thousands of photos of erotica on Hindu temples.Ruby and I have collected many such photos over the years , some which can be subjects of serious viewing and discussion. Brahmeswar Temple Complex has at least 3 series - is not that an uncommon practice , one of which is presented here.

Row of swans and an elephant used for adornment of  space
 above a ledge.

 Writers  have mentioned several specialties of this temple  , like the pavilion -'chandratapa' - within Jagmohan, use of Iron beams in a Bhubaneswar temple for the 1st time, adornment with birds and animals  etc. To me, the wall-reliefs of Royalty/seers and string of erotica scenes - proliferation of which happened  during the Konark years are important for studies.

*1 -  Please view -

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



Cars & people crossing 5th Avenue - view from 
Schwarzman Building, NY.

Street photographers walk through a crowd taking photos, visitors of tourist destinations in  India - specially a class of them coming from abroad - click photos of children, sometimes their parents in exchange of chocolates or  pens, we capture photos in Puja pandals of crowds engrossed in 'Devi darshan' or a crowd in a temple - transients that we capture. Our album accumulates  photos of persons we shall not meet 2nd time in our life.

In front of Coney Island Station.

Rarely one goes back to those photographs after two years.  Unless one is a professional or amateur street photographer and publish from time to time. I am neither. I have just a handful of  photos of street scenes - except those  I took for documentation, to record an event or some characteristics. Even lesser at temples.  Here, I have borrowed at 2 photos from Ruby's album.

Children crossing a lane at Lincon Centre, NY.

Friends relax in front of 2 cut-outs of Charlie Chaplin. Near Highline Park - end of 10th Avenue(?) .

The next photo is a favourite of mine - not a crowd here - just a group of women , standing on the western side of the platform of Surya temple of Konark, with the Jagmohan rising in the backgound. Mist covers the top portion on a February morning.

On a misty morning, at Konark.
Crowd in a  live  temple is hardly an interesting subject  - processions are. But, to capture a photo of a procession, the best location for photography  is a rooftop which is hardly accessible to an amateur like me. The photos 'DD Odisha' rep captured during Puri's Rathayatra is a proof - we were happy to take snaps of the TV screen ! Here is a procession on the Hospet - Hampi Road  :-

Drums, pots of holy water and Goddess.
 In a live temple, people are busy with rituals, rehearsing or offering  prayer , often  anxiety writ large on their faces. The devotees often do not look up. 6' tall  that I am, crouching to take photos of  devotees  is not in good taste. After all, this is when a devotee is offering his or her prayer - is in a personal space.

Unhappy priests. 
These priests in SriMukhalingam temple, unhappy that we did not offer what would have  them happy, turned back towards the camera when the door of the sanctum was being locked during lunch-break.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012



Mythical lion on southern side - lit up during the evening.

Closer view of mythical lions on northern side. 
Looks like those from a film by Spielberg !
Elephants trampled & mauled not in this view.

Surya temple of Konark is an enormous gallery of sculpture and wall-reliefs. Deities & mythology, royalty, various moods and moments of life , floral designs and arabesque ..... and animals - both mythical and real. The variations are enormous. It takes days to chronicle the same -  and no matter how hard I try - how can I translate the wonder that these creations evoke - in photos and words ! Planning, execution, display and restoration - all are in such  large scales that on any of these topics, one can write a book .

 'Brihadashwa' rides out to horizon  !
 Surya on the western side of the temple.

 Very recently, a friend of mine who enjoys photography visited Surya temple together with his family. On his return, he sat with us and  shared his  album and stories of his visit  with us. He narrated how his young son was very much impressed -  may be we call him 'beholden' - by the abundance of animals' depictions  in this Surya temple  - then I thought : why not write a 'post' on photos from our album on this subject - in line with the one I wrote about  those from Lakundi temples !

Konark, even Orissa, is often represented by  the famous war stallions near the eastern edge of the temple compound.  I read a comparison between these war stallions and that of  the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni. The war stallion of  Colleoni  (Venice, Italy) is famous , but apart from the  exposure, in artistic merit, are not the stallions of Konark   superior to that of  Colleni's statue ?

  Horse is the central  figure in this composition where Man without his sandals or the one getting trampled under the horse's hoofs 
add to its statement on a battle scene.

 What we have are enormous mythical lions mauling elephants - perhaps denoting power of one religious group above another -  horses,mythical horses and horses , rows of  elephants on temple wall as well as elephants on pedestals. And a lone giraffe brought to king's court as a gift !! On strength of this wall-relief , Historians believe that travelers from Africa visited King NarasimhaDev's court. 

Tier - I  : King on elephant where a  delegation meets him 
with gifts including a giraffe.
Tier - II : A hunting scene.

Elephants are everywhere : the lowest row has elephants as if they are carrying the load of the temple.There are  elephants high above giving company to 'chlorite' musicians. One cannot see them from ground level - need a pair of binoculars.Elephants are parts of war and hunting scenes. The most forceful are the sculptures of a pair of elephants mauling humans  placed near the western  edge of the temple compound. 
Note - This location, according to an opinion I have read, is not the original one and decided upon during reconstruction and start of landscaping. I believe that two stallions on the eastern edge and two elephants on the western look quite pleasing.

The Mighty  &  the Hapless .

In contrast to the above, we have several scenarios where mythical lions , hunters on lions, horses and composites are crushing elephants. Symbolic  scenes as these are, the vigour exuded hit a viewer hard. The choice is very difficult  - just one representative wall-relief  is here.

 Unbelievable as  this wall-relief is - lion fitted with bridle. 
Rider makes the lion pounce upon a cowering elephant.

Note - This has an underlying social  meaning - left out without elaboration.

 I shall end with a scene of procession , a 'must' for wall reliefs in Indian temples.  These procession scenes are not often  noticed or analysed seriously. Perhaps visitors feel that these are work of not-so-skilled artisans.Here, what is noticeable are the effort on creating variations.

Sunday, July 1, 2012



A visit to Hampi as well as Surya temple of Konark is like 'visiting' an Epic. Every exposure is a delight , a revelation. You will  re-discover what  stayed at out sight during last 'visit'  or needed 'dusting' of memory cells or a new meaning of a known chapter, of a dear character.

Drummer of Hampi, playing 'Mridanga'.
Vitthala temple, Hampi.

 Hampi is not only a wonder  for those who have interest in  architecture, it has something for travelers who love trekking, rafting ,enjoy nature or photography for his/her special albums. Konark's architectural grandeur   is within a compact  area - not spread over a sprawling area like that of Hampi - the attraction here is architecture, and architecture only. It has  a sea-beach near-by - but, not many people  visit Konark attracted by the sea-beach !

 Drummers of Konark, in fluid poses of dance.
Pavilion of dance & music, Surya temple, Konark.

For this blog, I have chosen a subject  which has very delicately sculpted in both the sites  - musicians.   A serious Art historian will count how many percussionists are depicted on the pavilion for music/dance at Konark -they are numerous, but the finest at Hampi are limited in number.

 Music & Dance Pavilion - Vitthala temple complex. February,2011.

Vitthala temple complex  has a pavilion for music/dance too . Its additional attraction is that this pavilion has slender stone columns which, when touched, resonate to generate the seven notes of music. This hall's several sculptures of musicians are mostly male percussionists . Unfortunately for us, visitor's entry to this portion was prohibited to protect the 'musical'  columns from vandalism . Major repair work was going on  during our visit in February,2011 with scaffolding, slabs of stone obstructing photography from outside .

 Hundreds of miles, several centuries apart - 
 striking similarity of the dance pose !

Capturing the best sculptures of musicians at Surya temple  was not easy either. The work on 'chlorites' were placed far above the eye-level, on various upper floors of  the Jagomohan. Scaffolding was a problem here too - visitors and photographers  of  temple art have learnt to accept this problem as unavoidable.

 Two drummers on two sides of entrance of the inner pavilion 
@ Vitthala temple,Hampi
& the 'dhol'-player at 60' elevation of Surya temple,Konark.

Yet, I could not  resist of sharing a compilation of the photos I have of the musicians from  both these temples .Watch the percussion instruments, the expression  joy and seriousness the artisans, the controlled dance steps, the swing of clothes  sculpted so delicately. A close-up will show the details of ornaments, folds of clothes , ribs of the shell of  'Mridanga', executed centuries ago, wonderful  till date ! 

  'Yugal-bandi' - musicians in duet. Across centuries.