Wednesday, September 1, 2010

KRSNA & RAMA , THE ICONS of Vaishnavites - 1

A few panels from the largest and the best

All the six temples I have mentioned in the previous blog on Timeline are temples of Krsna.......therefore under deep impact of Vaishnavite scripture and literature . The biggest two I have seen  are from Shyam-Rai and Baronagar temples.In fact , the one from Shyam-Rai temple - the one depicting Rasleela - has deep root in 10th Canto ( Dasham Skandha) of 'Bhagavat Gita' as well as 'Vaishnav Padaabalee', the poems on Krsna's childhood and adolesent life in Vrindaavan.

Rasa Mandala.Shyam Rai Temple, Bishnupur.1643 AD.

Rasa Mandala  is one of the most famous among the terra cotta panels of Bengal. Almost iconic, symbolising the art of terra cotta temples of Bengal. This large panel comprises of segments forming three near concentric circles.At the centre, we find Krsna with two Gopies .Two circles outside - sixteen and twenty four figures respectively - show Krsna dancing with Gopis in many manifestations.Krsna plays drum and dances in top coners among peacocks in slightly different postures.In thr right hand corner, the peacock has spread its tail.At  the lower corners, Krsna-Radha are playing flute. A deer in the right hand corner makes the difference.

Slaying of Kansa.Siva Temple,Baronagar ( near Azimgunj) .1755 AD.

This is the 1st panel  we see as we enter the cluster of four temples at Baronagar ( near Azimgunj) . This panel on top of the left arch of the very first temple has two scenes from  the acts of Krsna-Balaram at Kansa's court. On the left is the 1st hurdle,elephant Kuvalayapeeda . As it charges , Krsna holds it by its teeth while Balaram kills its mahout.On the right , we see Krsna killing Kansa. Kansa's headgear is on the ground. His left hand holds a shield which he could not raise. Kansa's right hand holds a sword he has been unable to use as Krsna overpowered him.

The other two panels are from lesser known temples at Surul ( near Shantiniketan) and the famous Pratapeswar temple at Kalna.

Panel above LH arch of Siva Temple  at Surul. 19th century.
(Photo taken by Ruby Chatterji)

This panel has three rows. The top two rows cover one scene each. The lowermost panel has snatches from several scenes. In the top row, we  find 'Sita's Agnipareeksha' ( Sita's Trial by fire) Four sages are around the fire. Faces of Sita and three on-lookers from Rama's party disfigured. Rama and Lakshman watch from a pavilion on the right hand side.In the central row, we find Rama's court after his return to Ayodhya.Rama and Sita are seated on the throne while adulators and visitors flock in.The lower row is divided into three parts - three phases of Sita's life.. On left hand side, we find Sita in a pavilion and a maid seeks her permission with folded hands. The cental one depicts Sita and Rama in loving embrace under a tree, presumably during the their stay in the forest. An extremely rare scene. In the right hand side, Rama enters Sita's pavilion while Sita is dressing up - her hair being combed by a servant.Beyond this panel, in the right-most corner, we find Sita left in a chariot and a sage's wife bringing a pot of water to her.

Worship pf Devi Durga at Lanka. East wall.Pratapeswar Temple at Kalna.1849 AD.

A very intricately done panel. Top row has Devi Durga at the centre - flanked by Ravana, fully armed yet pondering and Rama about to release an arrow on her two sides. The panel is filled with 'Rakshasas' and monkeys in  battling mode. Durga is not in her 'Akaal Bodhan' manifestation - but 'Mahishasura-mardini' manifestation. A serious deviation from the accepted imagery !


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  2. Read your description over the plaques carefully. Nothing done here in Baqngladesh for Kantaji and Puthia. terracotta plaques of both the temples are innumerable and also interesting. Dr.Enamul Haque, former Director general of Bangladesh Museum tried to do something for the temples. He is the man who limelighted these two temples to the outside world. but that's all, after his retirement nothing has been done for documentation. After viewing my photos he invited me to meet him to find the way for documentation of both the temples. I'll be meeting him soon. Your's is the real encouragement !

  3. Utpal Babu,

    Thanks a lot for your kind comments.Hope, Dr EH works to take the process of documentation forward.

    We shall work in our individual capacity to do as much as possible till our efforts coalesce into a strong body.

    I have a couple of suggestions to make - if you can, pl contact me before your meeting wwith Dr EH.