Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rameswara Siva Temple

The Rameswara Siva temple is one of the three terracotta temples in Ilambazar, Birbhum District, West Bengal.

Plate 01 : The recent renovation in a sense serves to focus the layout of sculptural panels on the walls. There are densely packed small units on the east facing facade and isolated but larger units on the north and south walls.

Plate 02 : The south wall has a large relief of goddess Jagaddhatri etymologically the source of all creation. The symmetry amplified by the placement of two attendant ladies on either side who carry the hand-fan, and the pair of lions that serve as her mount at the base. Over this image is a secondary relief of Krishna playing the flute to four gopi-s. The alarming similitude in dress and postures of the gopi-s to known pictures of contemporary dancing girls is surprising, considering the absolutely non-secular intention of the panel in its significant and prominent position on the temple wall. However this is best taken as a subconscious reflection of contemporary reality on temple relief sculpture than any subversive attempt in implication.

Plate 03 : There is a terracotta relief depicting ten armed Mahishasuramardini Durga On the northern side. Above her, is smaller relief showing Shiva supported by Nandi and Bhringi, his constant companions. The image of Durga is pleasant in nature, even the demon and the lion look unusually pleasant in countenance.

Plate 04 & 05 : The vertical series of panels on the wall side forming a kind of pilaster-like appearance consist of rows of repeated figures, three at each register. They stand in a pose of attention akin to a trained army or Krishna with gopis.

Plate 06 : There is a central relief of enthroned Rama and Sita over the arched doorway which is followed by an outer and an inner series of individual rectangular panels rising in a vertical column on both sides of the door and joined at the top by a continuing horizontal band.

Plate 07 : Just above the central Rama-Sita relie, a long strip of sculptural relief depicts from the left, Shiva standing beside a ten-armed Durga seated on her lotus-eating lion mount with a child on her lap (Kartikeya/Krishna), Krishna and his friends being sent off on cattle grazing duty, a two storied building separating this from the next episode of Krishna being tied to the tree by his mother for the mischief he has been constantly creating, and finally Govardhan-dharana by a baby Krishna seated on the lap of his mother and supported by elder brother Balarama.

Plate 08 & 09 : There is a wonderful visual pun between the secular and the religious in two relief panels placed strategically in comparable and corresponding positions to enable the comparison. On the extreme left, the topmost relief panel on this horizontal register is a scene of a man reclining on a cot with an attending figure at his feet engaged in some activity. The corresponding plaque on the extreme right is the religious counterpart of Vishnu as Anantasayi reclining in a closely similar laterally inverted position on his serpent bed. How are we to read the corresponding image of the babu lying on a cot? The question arises because Anantasayi Vishnu in a way suggests end or death of creation.

Plate 10 & 11 : The lady-at-the-window motifs have a considerable range of expression, from the lost-in- to the wanton disarray of clothes to the alluring alert. Consider the lady from the panel to the right of the door who appears at the window impeccably attired and looks into the mirror admiring her own beauty, oblivious of the fact that her dressed has slipped down causing a partial nudity, and the claim may appear justified, though for specific examples only.

Plate 12 : The group is seen head-on in a full frontal view, with only the front legs of the trotting horse visible around what appears to be a corner of a street. Such a depiction of recession through a triangular depth within so thin a limit as the dimension of the unit is an excellent exercise in illusionistic rendering of relief depth suggestion through actually minimum cutting.

Plate 13 : The recurrence of the theme of a man single-handedly fighting a tiger must have been one of the major incidents of contemporary times and must be a representation of a specific individual. Could these be the representation in sculptural relief of the same man or someone else but with similar prowess?

Plate 14 : The temple terracotta reliefs did venture into records of contemporary secular life of the financially privileged, as the panel depicting a man enjoying his leisure, smoking a hookah while musicians play an array of instruments for his pleasure demonstrate.