Vastu-shastra (5): Temple Architecture

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 69,139 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Temple architecture in Kashmir of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) fifth part (Temple architecture). This part deals with This book deals with an outline history of Hindu Temple (the place of worship). It furtherr details on various religious buildings in India such as: shrines, temples, chapels, monasteries, pavilions, mandapas, jagatis, prakaras etc. etc.

Kashmir has been famous for many developments. Kashmir śaivism is one of the most fascinating philosophy. Kashmir is accredited with many writers of repute. Rājataraṅgiṇī of Kalhaṇa, Vikramāṅkadeva-carita of Vilhaṇa and a host of works from pens of renowned writers like Ānandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, Mammaṭa, Kaiyyaṭa [Kaiyaṭa], Bhaṭṭa-Lollaṭa etc. etc. are well known. Thus, not only in the realm of literature and philosophy, but also in art, Kashmir has its distinct contributions. Through-out its history Kashmir has experienced an art-life of its own. The natural position of the country coupled with its isolation could maintain its aloofness from its susceptibility to central Asiatic upsurges, cross-currents—ebb and flow on its boarders. It could therefore continue consistently to maintain a certain indigenous and independent type of culture. The Kashmir’s bountiful scenery, the lake, the river, the meadow, the forest, the mountain, the snow-clad peaks, its clouds and sunshine, its light and shade, its dawns and sunsets, its changes of seasons, its pegantry of colour, and what not, has produced a wonderful stimulation on the artistic creations of the land.

So far as the art of architecture is concerned, three phases of its movement are discernible:

1. The early or primitive, from 200 A.D. (merely foundational remains).

2. & 3. The classical epoch 700-1400 A. D. (A. Buddhist; and B. Brahmanical).

Buddhist remains:—

Without going into the details of the first, let us concentrate on the second. The latter phase is characterised by two phases—the earlier and later, the former being represented by mainly Buddhist attribution, while the latter was entirely Brahmanical, The first phase or early Buddhist period is represented by bare foundation as result of excavations at the two sites, one at Harwan near Srinagar and the other at Ushkar near Baramula. Harwan occupies an ideal situation on the slopes of high ground overlooking the crystal waters of the Dal Lake, with a glorious range of mountains in the distance. Here in the early centuries of the Christian era there grew a prosperous Buddhist settlement which included the usual monastic establishment—a stūpa accommodation for the resident monks, several chapels and a caitya hall or temple. The Gandhara affinity is perceptible in every arrangement. There also appears to have been a free standing pillar of the Aśokan type.

Brahmanical Remains:—

The early phase was entirely Buddhist but the mediavel movement is characterised by both the religious upsurges. It was the beginning of a grand classical development of architecture of which the first records emerge in the eighth century. The difference in both the phases is remarkable. Percy Brown makes a very apt estimation of it—vide Indian Architecture page 186.

It was due to the catholicity and toleration of that forceful personality, one of the greatest rulers, Lalitāditya (727-760) that this sudden progress in the architectural evolution of the country was possible. He encouraged both Buddhism and Brahmanism by foundations and dedications—in true religious merit of pūrta-dharma, of imposing monuments to both the creeds. Writers like Percy Brown are at their wit’s end to surmize this out-burst of architectural acumen in Lalitāditya’s mason-architects who have shown such a high-skilled and masterly dexterity in the execution of architecture, I may however suggest that artistic creations are only the outcome of the thought pattern of the thinking aspect—the architect-ācharyas, the sthapatis and the sthāpakas, who have a very ancient geneology of their own, as already referred to, and the Kashmir the rich store-house of ancient learning and lore can rise to these hights without any external influence of either Gupta artistic renaissance or any other similar upsurge.

As regards the details of the style and the technique of the perfection a very fresh field is waiting any student who could prove that the style is indigenous.

Modern scholars like Brown see in the style of Kashmir a making from many sources and I take the liberty to reproduce his mind:

“In its design the Kashmir temple is a conception which may be best described as of a classical order, one may go so far as to say that it recalls distant memories of the productions of the GraecoRoman schools. Such a generalization is emphasised by (he peripteral treatment of the composition, with its pillared porticos and peristylar arcades, thus by association of ideas bringing to mind the colonnades and columned perspective of the Parthenon, and other Hellenic buildings. The source of some of this classical character is fairly obvious, as it was most certainly derived from contact with the monastic buildings of Gandhara, for in a manner the Kashmir style was a continuation of the Graeco-Buddhist movement, which as already shown, penetrated into Kashmir in the early centuries of the first millennium. In addition to this attribution, however, there are distinct evidences of influences from a more distant origin, as is shown by the particular kind of capital, or order, employed almost exclusively in the temple architecture of the country.”

Needless to go into further details.

With this general introduction to the character of the style now as regards the monuments it may be said that earliest monuments produced in this classical mode were Buddhist. The principal sites being at Parihaspura, 14 miles north-west of Srinagar and at Puranadhisthana now the modern village of Pandrethan. Leaving this Buddhist aftermath, let us concentrate on the Brahmanical temples. The Brahmanical buildings are also considerably ruined. Their remains show that the creed of that region differed in its ceremonial, from that of most parts of India.

Percy Brown says,

“The temple of the valley included in its scheme no assembly hall but consisted of a main central shrine, or sanctuary, and to this, with the divinity in its cella, the devout paid their homage. This central building was isolated within a rectangular courtyard surrounded by a cellular peristyle, with a large gateway giving admission to the sacred enclosure on its front side. It will be seen therefore that the composition, as a whole, appertains more to a central tabernacle, or sanctuary for the accomodation of the deity, than a place for congregational worship. In this respect and also in others, the conception of the Brahmanical temple in Kashmir seems to have taken some of its character and arrangements from the stupa-courts of the Buddhist monasteries of Gandhara. Moreover, in its architectural treatment, it appears to have derived little from that important development of temple building which at this time was taking place in Hindustan. There is no sign of the Indo-Aryan mode in its structure, nothing of the sikhara nor of the columned hall; the Kashmir temple, to all intents and purposes, is a manifestation of an independent ideal.” He further remarks in the conception of the architectural style, “there are three structural formations of such a prominent nature that they go a long way towards shaping its character. These are, (a) a recess or niche composed of a trefoil arch within a high-pitched triangular pediment, (b) the pyramidal roof, and (c) the employment throughout of a variety of fluted pillar, with capital and entablature complete, resembling in some respects the Doric order of the classical mode.”

The other notable factor of the Kashmir style is the practice of placing some of the temples in the the centre of a shallow tank of water as may be seen at Ludov, Pandrethan and elsewhere, thus denoting the prevalence of a form of Nāga or serpent-worship, waler being a symbol of the cult, masonry being executed of abnormally large blocks of stone almost megalithic in appearance and an interesting feature being the constructional principle applied in the production of the ceiling i.e. a semi-circular dome of great proportion as is evident from the remains of the Rudreśa in the village of Ludov. The medieval development of Brahmanical temples is represented by two golden periods, or in the words of Brown, to be more precise it rose to its greater heights under two prominent building rulers, Lalitāditya (8th century) and Avantivarman (later half of ninth century). The oldest example is Rudreśa [Rudresh] at Ludov and in the opinion of Brown, resembles the vihāra of Guniyar in the Swat valley of the frontier Province. In the Śaṅkarācārya temple on the Takht-i-Sulaiman, the style is seen to be approaching its final form. Its position is uniqe overlooking the city of Srinagar the great loop of the Jhelum river being at its feet. The completed form of the style was attained with magnificent effect in the great temple of the Sun at Martand which became the model for all subsequent Brahmanical temples in Kashmir.

The temple of Martand illustrates very vividly the Prajñā of the Sthapatis, where the works of man and those of nature are coordinated. At Martand, a site encircled by majestic ranges of mountains demands composition having features of a special order for it to be formed in harmony with conditions of such exceptional grandeur. The temple of Martand was the supreme effort of Lalitāditya’s builders. The other temples of note, built in the same grand style, are collection of buildings at Wangnath some thirty miles north-west of Srinagar. Here was an important halting place on the pilgrim’s way to the sacred waters of Gangabal, a solitary tarn among the mountain peaks. Among the three groups of buildings one is identified as dedicated to Jyeṣṭhā Devī which shows the goddess was not the monopoly of the south. The second golden age, as already remarked was brought about by Avantivarman (854-883) and his immediate successors the notable temple being that of Avantiswami; the details may be purviewed in Brown’s book.

After Martanda and Avantiswami, it seems that the style has done its job. Nevertheless there are several manifestations, a notice of which may be very cursarily taken in the following temples:—

1. Temple at Bunior and Dhathamandira near uri both in the Jhelum valley road.

2. Two important Śiva temples—Śaṅkaragaurīśvara and Sugandheśa built by Śaṅkarvaman (883-92) successor of Avantivarman, the latter named after the queen.

3. The miniature Śiva temple at Purandhisthan three miles from Srinagar shows the progress of the style, another stage.

4. Other shrines monolithic in character such as those at Payar, Mamal, Kother and Bumazu illustrate the decline for the style.

5. Privincial [Provincial?] Offshoots in Northern Panjab and the North-West-Frontier may be classified in three sub-groups:—

  1. those at Amli, Katus, Malot and Nandna.
  2. several at Bilot; and
  3. others at Kafir Kot both the last named being on the river Indus in the North-West Frontier Province.
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