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Indian Sculpture










The IGNCA has published several books on the art of sculpture and iconography. Following is a selection from these: 

Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture: Cave Temple Period by Alice Boner: This book represents an approach to a hitherto unexplored aspect of Hindu sculpture. Dealing with pre-medieval sculptures and leaving aside the historical, doctrinal and aesthetic aspects of this art, it concentrates exclusively on the question of composition. The principles of composition which are here discussed and defined, have resulted from a careful analysis, carried on for a number of years, of the great sculptures of the Rock-Temples at Ellora, Badami, Mahabalipuram and others, that is to say of sculptures of the pre-medieval period of the Rashtrakuta, Chalukya and Pallava schools.

The work contains a demonstration of the principles described above, in the form of detailed analysis of 21 sculptures; each analysis is accompanied by a photograph of the sculpture with a short description of the subject matter, and by two line diagrams – one presenting the Space division or Measure, and other the Time division or Movement. Each of these divisions is described separately and then brought into a synthesis, on the basis of which the deeper content of an image can be explored. 

Kalikapurane Murtivinirdeshah: Edited and translated by Biswanarayan Shastri: Most of the Puranas contain section/sections which are devoted to the arts. In some they provide the context while in others, they are akin to the texts of form and technique, specially shilpa, chitra, natya and nrtya

This volume is a selection of 550 verses from the Kalikapurana roughly ascribed to the period between 10th and 11th centuries A.D. It is an important landmark for understanding the iconography as also the ritual practices related to Saiva images particularly the Devi in Eastern India. The sculptured style of medieval Eastern India is distinctive and cannot be mistaken for contemporary sculptural style prevalent in Bengal and Orissa. What is true of the sculptural style is also true of the iconographical details of images from Assam and specially some only recently excavated and housed in the Assam State Museum.

For understanding the iconography of these images, the Kalikapurana is an indispensable tool. The detailed descriptions enable one to comprehend the particularities of the iconographical details. The Purana is especially concerned with Kamakhya, Kali, Kapali-Bhairavi. The fusion of the legend and the iconographical details can, no doubt, help in further interpretative work on Eastern-India sculpture. Equally significant are the sections relating to the methodology of worship through rituals. Very fine and sensitive details are enumerated as to how to meditate upon and worship the Goddess, specially Kameshvari (Kamakhya). 

The Iconography of the Brhadisvara Temple by Francoise L’Hernault, edited by Lalit M. Gujral: In Collaboration with Ecole Franscaise D ‘Extreme-Orient (EFEO), Pondicherry, the IGNCA launched a comprehensive project to investigate the multi-layered and multi-dimensional personality of the Brhadisvara temple at Tanjavur.

This in-depth study of the identified area and monument resulted in the publication of Tanjavur Brhadisvara: An Architectural study, by Pierre Pichard in 1955. One of the inter-related modules of the project coordinated by Dr. R. Nagaswamy, includes iconographical study of sculptures, stone reliefs, bronze images and mural paintings. Accordingly, Dr. Francoise L’Hernault of EFEO undertook the task of photo-documentation of the icons of the Brhadisvara temple. She completed the assignment in 1994, and based on nearly 600 photographs of the icons, she prepared this monograph as a catalogue for the identification of the iconographical forms of the two capital sites of the Cholas viz. Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram.

Mayamatam Treaties of Housing, Architecture and Iconography, Edited and translated by Bruno Dagens: is a vastusastra, i.e. a treatise on dwelling and as such it deals with all the facets of goods and men’s dwellings, from the choice of the site to the iconography of the temple walls. It contains numerous and precise descriptions of the villages and towns as well as of the temples, houses, mansions and palaces. It gives indications for the selection of a proper orientation, right dimensions, and of appropriate materials. Well thought of by traditional architects (stapatis) of South India, the treatise is of great interest at a time when technical traditions, in all fields, are being scrutinized for the possible modern application.

Silparantanakosa A Glossary of Orissan Temple Architecture by Sthapaka Niranjan Mahapatra, Edited and Translated by Bettina Baumer and Rajendra Prasad Das: The Silparatnakosa is a seventeenth century Orissan text describing all the parts of the temple and the most important temple types of Orissa, such as the Manjusri and Khakara. It also contains a section on sculpture (Prasadamurti) and an appendix on image-making. The text, though much later than the temples described, reflects the still living tradition and contributes much to clarify the terminology of Orissan temple architecture. It also contains interesting references to the symbolism of the temple and its elements. The most important contribution of the text, however, lies in the identification of the Manjusri temple with the Sricakra, which has helped to re-identify the Rajarani temple at Bhubaneswar as a temple dedicated to Rajarajesvari in the form of a Sricakra.

Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa by Thomas Eugene Donaldson: This book utilizes the author’s expertise of Orissan Brahmanical Art to develop a similar consistent and reliable iconographic and stylistic evolution for the Budhhist Arts of Orissa and its adherence to, or deviation from, surviving textual iconographic peculiarities. 

There is little doubt that Orissa played a major role in the creation, development and dissemination of Buddhists doctrines and concepts throughout India and the Buddhist world, particularly in respect to Vajrayana Buddhism and the iconography of sculptural mandalas. Particular emphasis in this book is placed on the reciprocal influence between Brahmanical and Buddhist Art in Orissa, both religions expanding at the same time in regard to the proliferation of deities and their variant forms, and each apparently competing with the other for patronage and converts.
Ellora: Concept And Style by Carmel Berkson: This a definitive and coordinative treatment of the world-famous rock-cut caves at Ellora. The text discusses relationship between the environment and the temples and examines the architectural and compositional features which unify the caves. The book offers fundamental approach to the life of form in the background of organic totality of the Ellora caves. The author draws the reader’s attention to the great and startling innovations in the life of form, with special reference to the four panels in Dasavatara Cave 15, of the pre-medieval period. Being a sculptor, her focus on the sculptures of Ellora makes a valuable contribution to the history of art.

This volume contains an intensive study, including about 270 photographs and an illustrated glossary, seen through the eyes of a sculptor with emphasis on aesthetics and multi-faceted view.

Besides these books, there are some other publications as well, e.g. Citrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara Purana edited and translated by Parul Dave Mukherji, The Temple of Mukteswara at Caudadanapura by Vasundhara Filiozat and Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, Stupa and its Technology: A Tibeto-Buddhist Perspective by Pema Dorjee and Govindadeva: A Dialogue in Stone, edited by Margaret H Case, which have considerable references to Indian sculpture in general. 


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