TERRACOTTA TEMPLES OF BENGAL - IV
'RASA-MANDALA' in temples of Bishnupur.
The terracotta temples of Bengal tell us many stories.
Stories of the rulers and patrons who built these temples , of the development of architecture and sadly, stories of neglect these priceless heritage buildings faced for centuries.
What we often miss are the stories on the walls. Stories of Krisna in Vrindavan, Ramayana, Mahabharata. Stories from our mythology .Stories of common people and their rulers.I missed most of these details during my two visits to Bishnupur during 1980s and 1990s.But, when I started to read about these temples seriously since 2007, I felt not only I must go back to the terracotta temples I visited earlier , I must go to the interior of Bengal and spend time among these centuries old temples with the purpose of rediscovering the stories the nameless artistes told us through the panels they created.
In order to understand and interpret the 'content of image' of these panels, it becomes imperative to understand the 'context'.....both social and religious.....of the regions where the temples were built. Niharranjan Roy warned us that it is incorrect to judge these panels only as work of art without appreciating the bigger picture of religion, society and the emotion behind creation of these temples.
When the Malla kings built the Shyam-Rai and Jor-Bangla temples in the 2nd half of 17th century, these were decorated with major terracotta work ,which depict human and animal figures after a very long period .Mounted on the walls of the temples.......as if these walls were large open-air pavilions for exhibiting the artwork of a group of artistes we know nothing about.......these temples must have attracted people's appreciation for decades and centuries as this type of temples found many patrons across the state till 19th century.
Malla kings were 'shakta', ie. worshippers of 'Shakti'(Kali , Durga) ,but became 'vaisnav' ie. worshippers of Bishnu and His incarnations(Krisna).'Rasa-mancha' was built in 1587 AD. This is no temple for a particular deity.......all the idols of Krisna-Radha used to be brought here during 'Rasa' festival every year. How important 'Rasa'-festival was to the Kings of Mallabhum becomes apparent when we see the prominence of 'Rasa-mandala's on the west and southern faces of Shyam-Rai temple, built on 1643 AD.
How these imageries of the terracotta panels were generated : from literature, scripture and folk operas.Both 'Srimadbhagavat' and 'Vaishnav padabali' have dwelt upon 'Rasa-leela' at length .
a. colourful belles of Braja dance with Krisna,
hand in hand, their eyes playful
their claps rhyme with percussion.
b. belles of Braja dance ,as if in a trance, with Krisna.
Among them is Radha, merrily dancing
to the tune of Krisna's crooning.
c. Krisna delved into the hearts of the dames assembled.
He wondered for a while how He would satisfy all of them.
Then He manifested Himself many times over.
Each of the belle found Krisna fondling her !
( Boru Candidas and Govindadas).
d. .......the belles of Braja were over-filled with joy and clasped each other's arm. Krisna, encircled by these women, started 'Rasa-leela' .Festival of 'Rasa' began. Krisna manifested Himself among each of the pair of belles and placed His hands on every shoulder .Thus, each of them thought : 'Krisna is with me'.....They were all praise of Krisna, got pleased by His touch and started singing loudly.....The night was long. So was 'Rasa-leela'.....
( Chapter 33, 10th 'Skandha', Srimadbhagabat)
Also view my hubs :
I shall prepare a report on present day's 'Rasa-Yatra' during this autumn and post the same in hubpages.