GRIFFINS TRAVEL TO TERRA COTTA TEMPLES OF BENGAL
MYTHOLOGY OF GRIFFINS TRAVELTHOUSANDS OF MILES !
When we took photographs of the terracotta panels of Shyam-Rai and Jor-Bangla temples of Bishnupur during our visit there in December,2007, certain panels with depictions of animals ( real and imaginary) and Palace and Street scenes struck us as quite different from the other panels with non-religious subjects. I created a folder called 'Anokhi', meaning 'Strange & unique' translated in English , where I stored these photos for future reference.
The first one was that of an animal which has wings, beaks eating elephants and a feline body. It was flying and trampling elephants. This was a panel from Jor-Bangla temple .A similar panel was there in Shyam_Rai too, but with a difference in shape and nos of limbs.
In my Tale about the terra cotta artists of Bishunur , I attributed Shyam_Rai panel to 'Aalam' :
(from Shyam-Rai Temple)
All the while, I wanted to find out if this 'image' has its root in Hindu mythology or imported from outside. History says that there was migration of artists from West Asia to India during Muslim rule and Indian art was influenced by the painting skills and imageries of West Asia.
Based on this clue, I searched and found that the fire-spewing animal of Bishnupur has considerable similarity of image of 'Griffin'.
The griffin is a legendary animal with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. The lion is the king of animals and the eagle is the king of birds.Combining the two, human imagination gave birth to a majestic 'creature' which 'lived' through centuries as a symbol of power with appearances in heraldry too.The idea of Griffin was known to artistes of Greece,Egypt and medieval Europe. In Persia, this creature is known as Homa.
One can read about this subject in more details from :
I have posted two photos from my album here which are close to Griffin's image.
The one from Shyam-Rai temple is a big winged bird, has two leonine hind limbs with talons and two ears. It is about to gobble an elephant and tramples nine others. One elephant has escaped its wrath and stands staring at the herd from the behind.
The one from Jor-Bangla is closer to the Western concept of Griffin. Its open beaks eat up two elephants, tramples four elephants by its four talons while one elephant, again at the rear, has survived the assault. It has wings and two rather small ears. A child Griffin is watching her mother's action.