Nataraja, the dancing Siva sculpture, is perhaps the most well-known among all Hindu sculptures, and rightly so. It has evoked highly advanced discussions among scientists, philosophers, performing artists, art critics, art collectors, historians, archaeologists and mythologists. The Nataraja sculpture also occupies a pride of a place at CERN, the European Centre for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva. Siva, according to Hindu Mythology, was the very first dancer in the world. All dramaturgy and dance traditions emerge from Siva's cosmic dance. Tandu, Siva's disciple narrated the description of Siva's dance to Bharata Muni and he is believed to have compiled the Natyasastra, the world's first treatise on dramaturgy, dance and other performing arts. Scholars believe that the Natyasastra was written over a long period of time between the 2' century BCE and 2nd century CE with contributions from various sages, with its foundation having been laid by Bharata Muni. Convergence between Hindu mythology, Natyasastra and Silpasastra was the natural outcome. Karnataka, and its temple architecture tradition, played a pioneering role in giving an artistic form to this convergence in its temple sculptures. Though this trend may have started earlier during 2nd and 3rd century CE, it started to take the center stage from the times of the Badami Chalukyas. Passing through various refinements between 5th and 10`h centuries, it reached its peak with the Hoysala art. This book traces the history of temple sculpture evolution and development through the centuries by referring to the existing sculptural forms and the canonical literature that developed over time.
Lalit Chugh did his post-graduation in Physics from the University of Delhi. He joined State Bank of India as an officer in 1975. After sixteen years with the bank, he went into the corporate sector in top management positions. When India started looking at augmenting the infrastructural facilities, he ventured into infrastructure project development and implementation consulting. During his consulting career that spanned over fifteen years, he was on consulting assignments from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other multilateral agencies. He has advised several State governments in India besides numerous central government agencies. He has advised governments abroad as well in the fields of governance and institutional strengthening. Since the beginning of 2012, he has been working on heritage preservation issues and this book is the second one in a series of books he intends to write. His first book largely covered temple architecture while the focus of this book is to establish a convergence between the Hindu mythology, Natyasastra and Silpasastra.
MY FIRST BOOK was mostly devoted to Temple Architecture. Temple Sculpture was treated more as an adjunct to Temple Architecture rather than as an independent subject of study. This book; however, attempts to examine much larger aspects of Temple Sculpture including the relationship between various different performing arts as observed in the Temple Sculpture. Hindu Mythology lays down the foundation for the Hindu iconography. As such a study of the mythology forms the first basic step in understanding Temple Sculpture. If exploring points of convergence between sculpture and other performing arts is one major objective of this work, studying and understanding the canonical literature of both the sculptural arts and performing arts becomes essential.
The Hindu Temple Sculpture does not merely end with creation of plastic images but also attempts to impart a dynamic character to them. The image must not just be beautiful but must also seem to be like a living god. To meet these objectives, the sculptor has to capture the psychological, dramatical and emotional aspects of the puranic episode relating to which the image is being created. Costumes, attributes of gods and goddesses, mudras, rasas, bhavas, dance postures and musical instruments are all to be captured in minute details to give the deity a look full of life.
All traditional and classical performing arts of India have their origin in religious actions. No wonder then that all classical dances are based on episodes from the epics and puranic literature. Even the famous ancient dramas written by authors like Kalidasa attempted to give godly attributes to their characters and seemingly depicted association with religious texts. Between 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE, numerous literary texts were being composed on subjects related with the Temple Art. Natyasastra emerged as the most comprehensive treatise on dramaturgy, dance and music. The temple sculptures soon started getting related with the poses and postures described in the Natyasastra. Even the canonical literature largely devoted to Temple Sculpture started describing the mudras that needed to be adopted while carving sculptures of particular gods and goddesses. Some of the gods and goddesses in fact were described as the dancing gods! Dance postures and dramatical expressions were imbibed in the way various limbs of the body like eyes, neck, arms, legs and feet were to be depicted to capture a particular gesture. Since sculptures were like a god in action depicted in a frozen state, the gestures captured while carving the poses in the image tended to communicate the context or episode. For instance, the sculpture relating to Ravana's shaking of Kailasa, depicts the fear in Parvati and strain through which Ravana is passing clearly besides the expressions of wonder and bewilderment in the other characters in the sculpture. Siva, though is calm and composed.
By the 6th century CE, the art of Temple Sculpture had advanced to the extent to provide a near life like expression to the images. Sculptures from the Badami Chalukya period bear testimony to this. The sculptural depiction of Jatayu trying to stop Ravana from abducting Sita on the walls of the Virupaksha Temple at Pattadakal is particularly unique in this respect. The sharply backwards bent body of Ravana on being attacked by Jatayu from behind seems like a befitting response to the surprise attack. Even the facial expression and swiftness of movement has been captured in the uniquely bent posture of the body. This bookbegins with the need to establish a relationship between the institution of worship, ritual composition and the shapes of images to be installed in the temples. Canonical literature guides the sculptor about the attributes of different gods and goddesses while simultaneously recommending shapes and sizes of their bodily contours. Various mythological texts (like the puranas, agamas and tantras), vastu and silpa texts have been discussed in brief in Chapter 1 of the book. Chapter 2 of the book highlights the description of gods and goddesses. While narrating the mythological tales in brief, the Chapter also identifies the unique attributes of different gods and goddesses as described in the canonical literature. The Hindu pantheon does not just consist of gods and goddesses relating to different sects but also of various types of terrestrial beings, celestial beings, animals, birds, reptiles, guardians, dvarapalas, dikpalas and bodies with composite characters and multiple limbs etc. All these gods and goddesses and other characters have their import into the Temple Sculpture from the mythological literature. Many are permanent company of a given god or goddess and many have situational or episode based appearance. That makes the sculptor's job intricate and complicated. The sculptor not only has to know his art but also the mythological background of each sculpture and if the sculpture has to depict a gesture, he must also know the relevant aspects of the performing arts too. Costumes, ornaments and weapons (and other attributes) held in the hands of images have been detailed in the Chapter 3. Since music and dance played a significant role in the religious life of the people in ancient and medieval times, a summary of the various musical instruments of those times too has been provided in this Chapter. Chapter 4 contains a brief description of the Natyasastra and other medieval texts on classical dances and dramaturgy. Since the Natyasastra is the oldest among them and gives the most comprehensive treatment of the subjects of the performing arts, it has been given a wider berth in our commentary. The Natyasastra is supposed to have been revealed to Bharata Muni, the author by Brahma, the Creator himself. The Natyasastra acquires a distinctive religious appreciation. Import of guidance from the Natyasastra into the canonical literature on Silpa was obvious. Since the images in stone at best can be described as 'frozen frames' of a state in dance, movements of only a few significant parts of body can be described to explain the gesture. Chapter 4; therefore, concentrates only on the movements of those parts of body which can be visibly identified with the movements of a dance.
**Contents and Sample Pages**