Thursday, December 27, 2007


The surviving temples of central India and Rajasthan dating from the 8th and 9th centuries have certain common features, which distinguish them from the preceding and following theistic buildings. As these regions were largely under the sway of the Gurjara-Pratihara during the 8th and 9th centuries, we may call this style Pratihara. Since the Pratiharas ruled over an extensive empire from Kanauj, the style spread over vast tracts of north India, including the present States of Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab as far as the Himalayas and had its reverberations further east and west. It is but natural that a style so extensive as this should show regional variations and local idioms.
The Pratihara temples of central India are characterised by a low socle, a simple and relatively stunted spire, a wall decorated with a single band of sculptured niches crowned byh tall pediments and an unpretentious plan, general consiting of only the sanctum and vestibule which in a few cases is preceded by a porch.
The Pratihara temples of Rajasthan, represented by the group at Osian (p.28), have a more elaborate plan and a slightly different design and decorative scheme. As these temples play a vital role in the development of the regional style, their discussion has been reserved for the following chapter on the temples in Rajasthan.
The group of temples at Naresar, near Gwalior, forming the earliest examples of the central Indian Pratihara style show a square sanctum with a curvilinear tri-ratha spire of a stunted shape and a constricted vestibule with a simple gabled roof. Their doorway is of the overdoor design usually with three simple bands decorated with scrolls, pilasters and serpents whose tails are held in the hands of Garuda represented centrally on the lintel. The lintel shows short pediments, surmounted by a frieze of chain-and-bell design which continues round the shrine. The jangha (wall) is plain except for sculptured niches on the central offsets depicting deities like Ganesha, Karttikeya, Lakulisha, Surya and Parvati. The site also has an interesting rectangular shrine showing 2 major offsets on the longer rear side with usual sculptured niches and a wagon-vault roof. The group of temples of Batesara, District Morena and the Mahadeva Temple at Amrol, both situated not far from Gwalior, are similar on plan, the latter being slightly larger and more elaborate in ornamentation. The Amrol temple has on each projection of its wall a sculptured niche crowned by a short but bold pediment. Its doorway is more ornate, the pilasters being embellished with graceful figures of nymphs and loving couples. These temples anticipate the Teli-ka-Mandir at Gwalior and are datable roughly to the 8th century.
The ruined Shiva Temple at Majhua, District Shivapuri, M.P., is comparable in plan and date with the Amrol temple but shows divergence in details of design and ornamentatioin. This temple replaces the torus moulding of the podium on the central offset by ornate square rafter ends, a feature characteristic of central India from earlier times. The wall shows a prominent niche qhich is confined to the central projection, the remaining projections being plain. A broad recess separates the wall from the spire which repeats the bhumi-amalakas on the flanks of the central offset, as seen on the roughly contemporary temple at Pashtar in Saurashtra and Temple No.IV at Barakar, Disttrict Burdwan, West Bengal.
A small shrine at Telahi, not far from Mahua, is slightly later in date with an advanced plan showing a pancha-ratha sanctum with a porch in front. The jangha (wall) shows pilasters of an early Pratihara order on the offsets flanking the central one and dikpala figures in niches crowned byh pediments in the corner offsets. The recesses of the jangha are also decorated with tall thin pediments.
The Teli-ka-Mandir at Gwalior is the grandest temple of the Pratihara 8th centuryu, but is exceptional in design. It consists on plan of a rectangular sanctum and vestibule, the former surmounted by a lofty (24.40m high) wagon-vault superstructure. The podium mouldings are simple and bold, but include a recessed frieze of sculptures, representing gods and goddesses in niches surmounted by richly carved scrolls. The wall at cardinal offsets displays elaborate niches-shrines surmounted by a large pediment or shikhara- motif. The wall also shows smaller replicas of the same design on the corner buttresses. The shikhara portioin is composed of 2 storeys, indicated by lateral amalakas, which are crowned by a wagon-vault roof of 2 components. On the shorter sides, the central offset of the shikhara shows a progressively widening series of chaitya-dormers, surmounted by an enormous sun-window, crowned by an ornate arch. On the longer sides, however, the oblong superstructure is decorated with a monotonous design of double rows of niches. The temple is entered through a grand flight of steps leading to an elaborate doorway of 5 bands, in the lower part are carved elegant figures of river-goddesses, flanked by attendants and Shiva dwarapalas. The doorway of the sanctum proper differs only in introducing Shakta dwarapalas in the place of Shakti. The decorative and plastic the me and style together with the palaeography of its short inscriptions suggest c.750 as the date of this temple which appears to have been founded by King Yashovarman of Kanauj.
In decorative and architectural features the ruined Shiva Temple at Indor (District Guna, M.P.) bears striking affinity to the Teli-ka-Mandir temple at Gwalior, with which it is not only co-eval but may even share common authorship. This temple however, is circular on plan' and has a sanctum of 12 offsets. Rising above the bold podium mouldings, the wall consists of ornate offsets alternating with plain angular wall surface, the whole surmounted by the shikhara. The major offsets are decorated with niches which are surmounted by tall pediments and contain images of Ganesha, Karttikeya, Uma and the 8 Regents of quarters, which represent fine specimens of the Pratihara art.
The above temples are followed by the Jarai Math at Barwasagar (District Jhansi), and Gadarmal Temple at Badoh (Disttrict Vidisha). Both have a rectangular sanctum and niche-shrines on the main offsets as at Teli-ka-Mandir, but unlike the latter, their sanctum is pancha-ratha on plan and in elevation, roofed by a partly preserved massive shikhara. Both have elaborately ornamented pillars and entrance door-frame of 5 bands, but while the Jarai Math is an unpretentious structure comprising only a sanctum and a vestibule, the Gadarman Temple adds to these a mandapa with transepts and a porch enclosed by a high balustrade punctuated with projecting elephant heads. The Gadarmal Temple stands on an ample, ornate platform surrounded by seven subsidiary shrines and has lavishly decorated mandapa pillars and is a little more evolved on plan and in design than the foregoing Pratihara temples.
The Chaturmukha Mahadeva Temple at Nachna, in District Panna, fa mous for its diamond fields, carries over its sanctum a developed northern shikhara, of pancha-ratha design. The temple preserves only a square tri-ratha sanctum with a plain interior and a richly decorated exterior. The interior, lighted by a doorway in the east and trellis-windows on the remaining 3 sides, enshrines a powerfully rendered chaturmukha Shiva-linga, noted for the sublime expressioin on its 4 faces. Externally the trellis-windows on the cardinal offsets are surmounted by a pair of niches, depicting Vidyadharas (divine attendants)_ with their consorts, crowned by pediments of chaitya-dormers. Each corner buttress of the wall shows a niche carrying an image of the Regent of the cardinal point, sur mounted by an elaborate pediment. Of 5 storeys, the shikhara is covered with a developed mesh of chaitya-dormers. All its buttresses project beyond the shoulder of the spire, which is surmounted by a heavy amalaka. While the windows and doorways of the temple are carved with friezes depicting dwarfs, scrolls, river-goddesses and the over-door design in the Gupta tradition, its mouldings and shikhara design, the treatment of the 'Regents, and decorative architectural motifs like the pediment, heart-shaped flowers, garland-loops and square rafter ends carved with conventional lion heads are in the developed Pratihara style of the 9th century.
The small but well-proportioned Sun Templeat Mankheda (District Tikamgarh, M.P.) is a gem among the Pratihara temples, roughly assignable to the same date as the above-noted temples. Essentially similar to the Jarai Math in design and ornamentation, the temple consists of a square pancha-ratha sanctum with a shikhara, a vestibule with an ornate roof surmounted by a lion figure and a simple porch. The shikhara is well-preserved and has excellent proportion. Its central offset projects beyond the neck which is surmounted by a heavy amalaka.
The Kutakeshvara Temple at Pathari (District Vidisha) consisting of a Kadamba type of tri-ratha pyramidical shikhara of horizontal tiers, a constricted vestibule and a porch of single bay is as simple as the rock-cut Chaturbhuja Temple at Gwalior, comprising a sanctum with a pancha-ratha shikhara and similar vestibule and porch. Both are assignable to the 9th century, the latter being securely dated to 875 by an inscription pertaining to the reign of Pratihara Mihira Bhoja.
Of the Jaina temples at Deogarh (District Jhansi) Nos. 12 and 15 are best preserved and are referable to the 9th century. Temple 15 is a triple-shrined structure with the roof of each component shrine lost and the pllain wall relieved by shallow sculptured niches surmounted by pediments. The structure consists of 3 tiny sancta (with the usual niche-shrines of the central offsets on their outer face) sharing a common assembly hall which is entered through a porch and a doorway. The 4 pillars and 12 pilasters of the mandapa and the door-frame bear typical Pratihara ornaments. Temple 12 comprises only a sanctum with an ambulatory and a vestibule. Its sanctum is pancha-ratha on plan and carries a heavy shikhara. Its outer decor is distinctive and shows on the wall latticed windows alternating with pilasters, the former inset with shallow niches sur mounted by thin and tall pediments. The niches contain relief figures of 24 labelled Jaina Yakshis around the wall which shows door-frame designs on the three cardinal projections.
The Mahadevi Temple at Gyaraspur (District Vidisha) is partly rock-cut and partly structural. It is a mature example of the Pratihara style, consisting on plan of a porch, hall, vestibule and sanctum with an ambulatory. Each of its shorter sides show 3 such windows, 2 projecting from the mandapa and 1 from the sanctum proper. The sanctum is tri-ratha on plan with a pancha-ratha shikhara of 9 turrets which is strikingly similar in design to that of the Shiva Temple at Kerakot in Kutch (p.35). The buttresses of the shikhara extend to the neck which is surmounted by a pair of amalakas and a pot-finial. The roofs of the porch and the hall are pyramidical composed of horizontal tiers. The temple has 2 ornate doorways of 5 bands. The hall doorway shows a figure of Chakreshvari as the tutelary image,.while the sanctum door-frame is carved with a row of standing Jinas on the lintel. This temple shows on the wall faces iconographically developed images of Jaina Yakshas and Yakshis some of which are labelled in the characters of the late 9th century. The mature decorative motifs and architectural features combined with the developed iconography would also indicate late 9th century as the date of this temple.
The Pratihara temples of central India are thus seen to have a simple plan and design, displaying some characteristic ornaments of the style, including tall p[ediments, a frieze of garland-loops on the top of the wall, a band of nagas on the door-frame and rich carvings of vase-and-foilage, s crolls, krittimukhas and a square, ribbed cushion-cap[ital to be found largely on the pillars.
The tiny shrine of Shiva at Jagatsukh (near Manali in District Kulu of Himachal Pradesh) dates from the early 8th century and is among the earliest specimens of the Pratihara style, with its simple tri-ratha sanctum, resembling that of the Naresar group of temples, roofed by a shikhara showing even bolder chaitya-dormers. The earliest temples at Jageshwar and Gopeshwar and the Shiva temple at Lakhamandal, all situated in the Himalayan hills, are also assignable to the 8th century. Most of these temples comprise tri-ratha or pancha-ratha sanctum roofed by a short, heavy-shouldered shikhara and preceded by a porch, adding sometimes a mandapa in beetween. Gopeshwar and Jageshwar also have rectangular shrines with wagon-vault superstructure, resembling that of the Teli-ka-Mandir, Gwalior (p,21). To the early 9th century may be attributed the Basheshwar Mahadeva Temple at Bajaura (District Kulu), which shows an advanced plan and architectural design with a four-faced opening and has elongated statutory of the regional art style. Dating from the 8th century are the woodedn temples of Shakti Devi at Chhatrarhi and of Lakshana Devi at Brahmaur in the Chamba region, both enshrining as cult-images bronze figures of Devi, known for their slender and elongated forms. These are the earliest surviving wooden shrines showing a rich repertoire of the Pratihara ornaments and decorative motifs with some influence of the Gandhara style and the arts of Nepal and Kashmir. The rock-cut temple complex at Masrur (District Kangra), dating from the later half of the 9th century, is also a notable Pratihara monument of considerable artistic and architectural significance.