UNESCO World Heritage site | Indian Culture
UNESCO World Heritage site has registered lot of Indian Temples for their incredible Indian sculpture and design. India has always been a land flourished by different cultures and various traditions that automatically makes it an epitome for the field of art, sculpture and architectures. Although the magic of Indian sculptures architecture speaks in volume all over the world proudly, India has always been home or adaptation of various art & architectural styles that also bought different theories along with them.
Being a country with rich in culture, India has experienced so many migrations through different people with different Indian culture that bought their own philosophies regarding art and sculptures that have influenced India and have only enhanced its beauty. Indian has many temples under the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Some of the examples of brilliant Indian Sculptures can be seen below –
The Dancing Girl, Mohenjo-Daro
Whenever the Indian Sculpture are to be mentioned, The Dancing Girl statuette created over 4,500 years ago was found in the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro meaning ‘Mounds of the Dead Men’ which is the city of one of the most important sites of Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan Civilization (2600-1900 BC) of Pakistan and North-west of India. The Dancing Girl is a bronze statue made using the lost-wax technique.
The individuality of the statuette can be stated with the fact that although there have been thousands of figurines recovered from Harappan sites, some also made out of terracotta only a handful of them are carved out of stone like the dancing lady of lost wax copper bronze.
The Dancing Girl has her appearance with her long legs and arms and a skinny but sensuously moulded body with her large eyes, flat nose, chubby cheeks, curly hair and a broad forehead. She wears bangles and a necklace those of which can be particularly be seen on the carved statuette. She wears 25 bracelets on her left arm and four bangles on her left arm also holding an object having her hair styled in a bun resting upon her shoulder.
The obtaining existence of the statue led to two important discoveries of the Harappan Civilization – firstly, that they knew metal blending, casting and other metallic casting methods; secondly, dance was an important part of their culture.
Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh
The famous Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh have been hogging the limelight every now and then for various reasons. And the most popular psyche is that many find the carvings on the Khajuraho temples as offensive pornographic scenes. Perhaps, in all this, we tend to miss the most important point, i.e., the basic purpose of building these temples.
The temple stands proudly listed under the UNESCO World Heritage site is far from being a petty representation of the Kama Sutra. The temples here, in fact, illustrate the idea of life that engaged aesthetic objects to create something inspirational. Derived from the name that means ‘date-palms’, the temple was built during the rule of Rajput Chandela Dynasty as they began to rise up power upon their kingdom that later was called Bundelkhand; for which most temples were created between 950 and 1050 AD.
Quite interestingly, only 10% of the carvings on the temple complex depict sexual themes. The rest of the carvings depict everyday life of the common man that existed during those times. While some Indian sculptures display women applying makeup, other statues that showcase potters, musicians, farmers, and other common folks. The most common belief, which has no basis, is that since the carvings are in Khajuraho temples, this means the carvings are depicting sex between deities.
Shiva Natraja- Lord of the Dance
“The Dance Shiva performing is the ‘Tandava’ the cosmic dance that creates and destroys the universe.”
Above quote properly defines the Shiva Natraja; the Indian sculpture which also tells us that, there are so many representations of Shiva, the Hindu God in art but one of the most familiar is his dancing figure in the circle of fire.
Shiva Natraja proves itself a brilliant invention every time as it combines Shiva’s role in a single image name as the creator, the preserver and the destroyer that conveys the Indian origination of the never-ending cycle of time. Shiva as the dancing figure appeared firstly in Indian stone temple sculpture in the 5th and 6th century CE, its present and world-famous form evolved under the rule of Chola Dynasty. Later, it became a familiar free-standing sculptural representation of bronze later in 10th century.
The god is shown dancing within a flamingo halo (prabha mandala) which represents Time. Shiva holds damaru in his upper right hand – which also reminds that it was this drum that made first sounds of the creation. In his upper left hand, Shiva holds agni, the fire that holds the power to destroy the universe.
With his lower right hand, Shiva makes the abhayamudra, gesture of blessing that calms and alleys all the fear and with his left arm, he sweeps across his torso with the hand pointing to his left foot in the gaja hasta gesture which symbolizes salvation and liberation. The dwarf-like figure – Apasmara Purusha, is shown stamping by Shiva’s right foot holding a cobra that represents illusion and ignorance. Shiva’s left hand pointing to his raised foot implies refuge for the troubled soul. Shiva Natraja symbolizes through belief in Shiva, one can achieve Salvation.
Kailasa Temple, Ellora
The enormous structure of Kailasa Temple is one of the 34 cave temples and monasteries are collectively known as Ellora Caves in the state of Maharashtra, those are also privileged under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Kailasa Temple formed from a single block of excavated stone is considered one of the most impressive cave temples of India. As there are no written records about the building of the temple, scholars generally assign it up to Rachtrakuta King Krishna I, who ruled between 756 to 773 CE. The attribution is based on several associations of the temple with “Krishnaraja”.
Although, this is a fact and a truth that Kailasa was built from top to bottom and this unusual decision demanded 200,000 volcanic rock to be excavated that makes it extraordinary from others. Mountainous stone carvings depict different Hindu deities giving extra attention to Shiva the temple stands three stories tall, a horseshoe-shaped courtyard has Gopuram Tower at its entrance. As one walks on it, the panels to the left have devotees of Shiva, while on the right it has devotees of Vishnu. It is because of its incredible and masterful engineering that Kailasa is considered an outstanding example of Indian Sculptures & Art and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ashoka Pillar, Sarnath
The Ashoka Pillar signifies the site of Buddha’s first Sermon where he shared the four noble truths — power, courage, pride and confidence. The pillar also called as the Lion Capital, consists of four Asiatic Lions seated on a circular abacus originally found atop the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath establishes in 250 BC. The pillar is a symbol of the cosmic axis and of the column that rises every day at noon from the legendary Lake Anavatapta, the lake that is considered at the centre of the universe according to Buddhist cosmology to touch the sun.
The architecture of the pillar can be understood as the pillar reads from bottom to top with a base of the lotus flower – the most omnipresent symbol of Buddhism. Then a drum on which four animals are carved representing the four paramount directions – horse(west), ox(east), elephant(south), lion(north). Moreover, the four lions on the top with their mouth open roaring/spreading the Dharma and a wheel is mounted above the lions. The lion is also a symbol of loyalty and leadership and the Buddhist king Ashoka who ordered these columns. It is this pillar that was adopted as the National Emblem of India also depicted on the Indian currency coins.
Sun Temple, Konark
The Sun Temple at Konark in Indian subcontinent’s eastern shores has its personified beauty as it baths with the shores of Bay of Bengal. The temple signifies the monumental representation of the chariot of the Sun God is one of India’s most famous Brahman sanctuaries. The Sun Temple is one of the most outstanding examples of architecture and integral sculpture establishment. It’s the authenticity of form and design is maintained in full through the surviving edifices, their placement within the complex, structures and the integral link of Kalingan temple architecture.
Built-in the 13th century, the temple portrays Surya Chariot having 24 wheels carved with symbolic design lead by the team of seven horses evoking its movement across the heaven. On its north and south direction, there are 24 carved wheels each in 3m diameter that motifs referring to the cycle of seasons and months. The temple-like other ones also comprise of distinct spatial units consisting the vimana (principal sanctuary) was surmounted by a high tower with a shikhara (crowning cap), which was razed in the 19th century.
The jahamogana i.e. (audience hall) influences the ruins with its pyramidal mass and the east, the natmandir (dance hall), rises on a high platform. The Sun Temple is directly related to the thought and belief of the personification of the Sun God, which is adumbrated within the Vedas and classical texts. The Sun is personified as a divine being with a history, ancestry, family, wives and progeny, and intrinsically, plays a really prominent role within the myths and legends of creation.
Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, also known as the Great Stupa was built in 3rd century BCE by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka. Ashoka is believed to house ashes of Buddha therefore, the reason being for the architectural style of the Stupa is of Buddhist Architecture. Located 46km away from the Capital city of M.P the Stupa is 120 feet wide and 54 feet high. The shape and structure of the Stupa have a central structure consisting of a hemispherical dome (anda) on a base, with a relic chamber deep within.
The dome symbolizes, among other things, the dome of heaven enclosing the earth. It is surmounted by a squared railing (harmika) which will be said to represent the planet mountain. A central pillar (yashti) symbolizes the cosmic axis also known as axis mundi that supports a triple umbrella structure (chattra), which is held to represent the Three Jewels of Buddhism—the Buddha, the dharma (doctrine), and the sangha (community). A circular terrace (medhi), enclosed by a railing, surrounds the dome, on which the faithful are to circumambulate during a clockwise direction.
The entire structure is enclosed by a coffee wall (vedika), which is punctuated at the four cardinal points by toranas (ceremonial gateways). The toranas of the good Stupa are the crowning achievement of Sanchi Indian sculpture. Each gateway is formed from two squared posts topped by capitals of sculptured animals or dwarfs, surmounted by three architraves. All the elements are covered with relief Indian sculpture depicting the events of the Buddha’s life, Jataka stories (about the Buddha’s previous lives), scenes of early Buddhism, and auspicious symbols.
Qutub Minar, Delhi
The term ‘Qutub Minar’ is derived from Arabic that means ‘pole’ or ‘axis’. The infrastructure of Qutub Minar was established in AD 1199 as one of the earliest sites built by the Delhi Sultans. The first storey was constructed under Qutub-ud-Din Aibak which later continued to be constructed by his successors. This building took 28 years to get complete and was a commemoration of a great victory over the Rajput Dynasty; Muhammad Ghori who was the founder of Muslim rule in India had triumphed over the dynasty and bringing Islamic rule to India.
The exterior walls of Qutub Minar reveal its history of construction, with chiselled Parso-Arabic and Nagari character carvings. The inscriptions clearly describe the motive of this monumental building, the time taken and every minute detail about this monument.
From the intricate carvings, an aura of Afghanistan pattern can be noticed, blended with local artistic conventions having garlands and lotus borders. Fortunately, renovations of the minaret throughout time have maintained the original charm of the building. Each of the five different storeys has a projected balcony that circles the Minar (backed by stone brackets). The first three storeys are made with red sandstone while the remaining were constructed using marble and sandstone. If you look closely the cylindrical shaft has inscriptions of the Quran. A Mosque lies at the foot of Qutub Minar which is a special site in itself; a beautiful blend of Indo-Islamic architecture that showcases how the Mughal Empire (1562) influenced Indian culture.
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