Sunday, April 12, 2009

The building art of Nepal

Durbar Square

Pashupati Nath Temple

Newars provided the artistic environment to the architecture and the stepping up undercurrent of Buddhism since Ashoka's pilgrimage to Nepal in third century B.C., thus setting up innumerable stupas. After passage of two thousand years two of the monuments namely temple of Shwayambhu Nath and othe known as Bodhanath came up as hall mark of the period. Main shape of these stupas was of the orthodox semispherical form, surmounted by a large finial of unprecidented design.

Pagoda form of the Far East was readily accepted as the architecture of the valley. Both shikhara form made out of stone and pagoda form chiefly constructed in wood was applied in the temple building. A closed structure forming cella for divinity, around which a courtyard generally provided space for congregation.

Kashmir: the Buddhist and Brahmanical remains ( A.D. 200 to 1300)

Temple of Sun, Martand

700 A.D. to the begining of 14th century had the classical form of buildings. Harwan site and Ushkar showed some traces of Buddhist settlement. And later period was entirely Brahmanical.

Stupa within its courtyard, accommodation for its monks, a chaitya hall. The stupa was square in plan, with its base in three tiers and flight of steps onits western side. This arrangement corresponded to the stupa court of Gandhara.

Lalitaditya Muktapida was the emperor of Kashmir from 724 to 760 under the Karkota dynasty. During his reign, he conquered most of Northern India and Central Asia.
According to the historian Mazumdar, Lalitaditya concentrated his attention on the areas in the north after important victories in the south. His empire reached the remote corner of the Karakoram mountain range.
In the beginning of the 8th century, the Arab invasion had started knocking at the door of the Kabul valley. During this period, the Muslim power in Sindh was trying to march towards the north.
While the empires of Kabul and Gandhar were occupied by these invasions, Lalitaditya used the opportunity to establish his foothold in the north, moving with his victorious army from Dardistan to Turkey. The entire area was rich in Kashmiri traditions and education, due to the efforts of monks and Kashmiri people in towns of Central Asia. Lalitaditya achieved an easy victory in this region.
After the end of Teng reign, those states that had come under the Chinese rule had disintegrated because of civil wars.
Kashmir, at that time, was the most powerful state. During the time of Lalitaditya, its boundaries covered an area from Tibet in the east to Iran and Turkey in the west and from Central Asia in the north to Orissa and the seashores of Dwarka in the south.
Lalitaditya expressed interest in other areas besides his army life. Art and trade gained importance during his reign, religious festivals were held, and special facilities and encouragement were provided to support painters and sculptors. He was a successful writer and a Veena player. Bamzai wrote that Lalitaditya's war victories have received special place among different accounts of his reign. He was later made a hero of Kashmiris. Lalitaditya is considered to be the greatest ruler of Kashmir due to his encouragement of art, great work in human welfare, love of education, protection of scholars, and kindness.

The ancient sites of Ushkar, built by the Kushan king Huvishka approximately in the 3rd century A.D., and Harwan, a typical Buddhist settlement of the type that flourished in Gandhara kingdom, provide the earliest glimpse of the building-art in Kashmir. During the reign of the great king Lalitaditya, who ascended to the throne in 724 A.D., temples constructed using stone masonry sprang up in large numbers all over Kashmir. This building activity continued with the wave of religious emotion which swept over India about the same time, and resulted in a fever of temple building – Lalitaditya's triumphs in the realm of territorial expansion created a cultural climate, of which grandeur was an important ideal. The monumental Buddhist shrine at Parihasapura, now a mass of sculptured stones, and the temple of the Sun at Martand show this quality, not only in their stupendous size but also by the bold confidence with which they were built.
The Martand temple has been often called "the materialized-spirit of a transcendent vision". Built on a plateau encircled by a range of eternal stones this temple represents an architectural expressiveness of the highest order, and forms the supreme model of a style to which a great number of later temples are subscribed. Instead of the Buddhist assembly hall, where congregational worship was held, the central structure here is a sanctuary for the divine symbol. This perhaps signifies a departure from the Buddhist influence and the acceptance of the Brahmanical creed by the people. The shrine stands within a big courtyard surrounded by a pillared arcade and a series of cells. Certain features in the surface decoration of the Martand temple are of unique interest. The regularly spaced medallions, the frequent use of pilasters (cantilevers), and the pediment motif, all recall the architecture of the antique classical west (see also: the parts of a temple). The capitals of the pillars that support cornices have something Doric about them, and their molded bases are of attic type. The encircling colonnade is also reminiscent of the Greek style. However, experts are of the view that these influences are not deep-rooted and that the main composition is of indigenous inspiration, the product of the genius of Kashmir.

The Brahmanical Buildings of Bengal (8th to 17th Centuries)

Jor Bangla Temple is located at Bishnupur in West Bengal. It was built by Raghunath Singha II in 1655. The temple is an exquisite specimen of Bengali architecture. The roof of the temple is made in ‘Chala’ style and there is a small tower which adds strength to the twin-sloped roofs. The walls of the temple have terracotta carvings.

The later Chalukyan Style ( cir. A.D. 1050 to 1300)

With the 10th century, the Karnatic idiom begins to show an increasing individuality that culminates in the distinctive style of the 12th century and later. The Kalleśvara temple at Kukkanūr (late 10th century) and a large Jaina temple at Lakkundi (c. 1050–1100) clearly demonstrate the transition.

The Later Chalukyan or Hoysala style ( A. D. 1050 to 1300)

The Keshava temple in Somnathpur, near the city of Mysore in the Indian state of Karnataka, is the last major temple of the Hoysala dynasty. Somnathpur is around 38 kilometers from Mysore, Karnataka state. The Keshava temple is the best-preserved most complete monument of Hoysala architecture. The temple is believed to have been built (around AD 1268) under Somnatha, a general in the army of Narasimha III.

[edit] Description
The entire temple was built on a broad platform to enable devotees to perform a pradakshina of the temple and to view the wonderful carvings on the outer wall surface. The platform on which the temple stands is guarded by seated lions. The actual temple base rises straight out of the platform and is composed of a series of bands that wind around the star form of the building. The shrines sit at the center of a courtyard bounded by a rectangular perimeter of cloisters and subsidiary shrines. An entrance pavilion is set into the east side of the courtyard.
In Hindu cosmology the universe is carried on the shoulders of powerful celestial guardian elephants. In these temples there are several elephants holding up the temple, which is symbolically a miniature universe. Each elephant is different in stance and poise and is beautifully bejeweled and decorated with chains and bells.
Every corner and angular projection of the central wall space of the temples is inhabited by familiar deities. They appear in all their glory, adorned with heavy jewels, towering crowns, bangles on every arm and chunky anklets on their feet.

The Temple-cities of the Jains

Girnar is one of the holiest places in Gujarat, situated near Junagadh at a distance of 327 from Ahmedabad. It is a holy place and an important pilgrimage for both Hindus and Jains. There are a number of temples located here, which have converted it into a township of temples. Amidst the lush green Gir Forest, the mountain range serves as the hub of religious activity. Apart from this, there is a mosque attracting many Muslim pilgrims to the place. This has made Girnar a perfect example of unity in diversity in India.
The summit has been an important religious place since the 3rd century. Girnar temples present a true blend of art, religion and devotion. The sculptural art used in these temples is outstanding. They have stood the test the time and the cruelty of various invaders. Despite that, the art forms of the temples still retain their magnificence. The Jain temples at Girnar attract devotees of both Shwetambar and Digambar sects of Jainism. The Neminath Temple at first peak is one of the main attraction of Girnar. It was built during 1128 AD to 1159 AD.
According to Jain religious beliefs, Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar became an ascetic after he saw the slaughter of animals for food on his wedding. He renounced all worldly pleasures and came to Mount Girnar to attain salvation. Here, Bhagwan Neminath reached the highest state of enlightenment, Keval Gyan and Moksha, after great austerities. His bride-to-be also followed his path and founded the 'Sandhvi Sangh', the organization of women ascetics. The rectangular Neminath temple is the greatest temple here.
It has an idol of Lord Neminath in black granite with jeweled eyes. There are quadrangle courtyards, corridors and other shrines. The pillars are adorned with intricate carvings of Jain Tirthankars. The ceilings bear carvings and sculptures of Dancing Goddesses. Apart from this, there is the Mallinath temple, which is dedicated to the 19th Tirthankar. It was constructed by Vastupal and Tejpal. Neminath in 1231 AD. The Lord is shown in blue color here. The
Rishabhadev Temple, situated nearby, is in golden color.
It is dedicated to 24 Tirthankars of Jain religion. Another Jain temple in the region is the Parshwanath Temple. It was built in the 15th century and is also known as Meravasi. Besides this, there is a Goddess Ambe Temple at Grinar. The temple is visited by the newly married couples for good fortune and prosperous married life. A mosque nearby is thronged by childless women for blessings. The Dattatreya hill also houses a number of other temples worth seeing.

Temples with gabled or multiple roofs

Mahadeva Kovil
Nepal & Kashmir: some development in Kathiawar( at Gop, Kadvar, and Bilesvara, Visavada and in the temple of Surya at Sutrapada, of the Kashmir type, and the Malabar( Siva temple, the Mahadeva Kovil, more to the double roofed Nepal temple style of the late mediaeval period.
One theory is presumed anthropological connection existed between the Nayars of Malabar and the Newars of Nepal, while another accounts for the pagoda-like attribution by a contact with China by sea as proved by the Chinese type of fishing nets used on this coast.
Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple : One of the oldest Siva temples in south India where Lord Siva is said to live along with his whole family. The temple lies at Methala village, south of Kodungalloor, 30 kms from Thrissur town. There is a namaskara mandapam in front of the sri kovil with 16 pillars where it is depicted that the temple was renovated in 1801. In this temple, Lord Shiva is worshipped as Uma Maheswara, in contrast to other temples where the Lord's consort has a separate sanctum. This temple has another rare event called "Anayottam" (Elephant race) which is part of the annual festival. Shivaratri is also celebrated in a grand way. The western entrance of the temple is on the Kodungalloor - Ernakulam highway.(NH 17)

Jain temples at Mudabidri near Mangalore. Chandranatha built in early in the 15th centuray.
Some examples are also found in Bhatkal (Kanara)