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sikhara or spire of the Indian style is an outcome of a constructive necessity inspired by the method of roofing spaces by means of projecting corners of masonry called corbelling, till open space is sufficiently reduced so that it might be covered by a piece of stone slab. This may be effected in various ways. The angles of the square may be spanned by triangular blocks and the process may be continued till a square opening is left on the top which may be covered by a stone slab. This method of spanning the corners of a square is the logical precursor of the octagonal dome supported on eight or twelve columns so nicely elaborated by the Jains and resorted to by the followers of Islam in constructing their mausolea and mosques in later years.
From the constructive point of view I do not find any difference between the Hindu style and that practised by the Jains. Whether in Guzerat or Rajputana, Mysore or Kanara, the Jaina style is essentially Brahmaṇical in character, form and method of construction; even the same insignificant details, both architectural and sculptural, are noticeable examples of both the classes. In Southern India the similarity is greater than in Northern India where the Indian kings or chiefs are found to be patrons of both Brāhmaṇism and Jainism. The inscriptions of Kalatunga Chola, the great Chola King, and Kṛṣṇa Deva Mahārāya, the great king of Vijayanagar, are inscribed on the torus of the Upapīṭham of the verandah separating the Ardhamaṇḍapa from the Mahamaṇḍapa of the temple of Vardhamāna Svāmi in the village called Tiruparuti Kundaram near Conjeeveram on the other side of the Vegavati. The inscriptions of these two very kings are noticed in the Vishnuvite temple of Varadaraja at Conjeeveram. Even scenes from the Śrīmat-Vāgavatam are depicted in paint on the ceiling of the Mabāmaṇḍapa of the Jaina temple.
We find here the same South same South Indian arrangement of Garbha Griha (sanctum), Antarala (central chamber), Ardhamapḍapa (ante-chamber) and Mahamaṇḍapa.
We find the
same type of Prākāra Maṇḍapas or circumambient cells which
are noticeable in even the earliest examples of the Pallava style down to those of the Vijayanagar type.
The temples of Santisvara and Pārsvanatheśvara at Halebid in Mysore, though in a bad state of preservation, bear a close resemblance to any Hindu temple of the Hoysala Ballala kings Though devoid of elaboration of ornamental sculpture on the exterior, these Jaina temples have the characteristic Hoysala pillars, inclined parapets, highly carved ceiling pendants, technically called Bhubanesvari in Mysore, pierced screen flanking the doorway, etc. as are noticeable in the Śaiva temples of Hoysaleśvara or Kedaresvaru at Halebid, the Vishnuvite temple of Channa Kesava at Belur, the Saivite temple of Brahmnesvara at Kikkeri, thirty-two miles northwest of Seringapatam, and also at the Vishnuvite temple of Persana Channa Kesava at Somnathpur in the district of Mysore. If we look at the Jaina temple at Lakkundi in the district of Dharwar we cannot declare it to be a Jaina temple at all unless we are so told. It is a mixture of the Pallava and the Chalukyan styles belonging to the tenth or eleventh century. We thus find a uniformity in the Jaina-Brahmaņical architec tural traditions of Southern India, though some divergence is noticeable in Upper India; still there is a harmony existing indicating their common origin, a direct descent from the same parent stock.
It is very interesting to note that the form of the Buddhist chaitya hall was appropriated by the Dravidians professing both the Brabmanic and Jaina faiths in constructing a peculiar type of temple which is technically called Ekanāsá. This type is not, however, usually met with, and want of knowledge of technics bas led many authorities on Indian Architecture including Dr. Burgess to believe that these very structures were originally Buddhist chaitya halls subsequently appropriated for a different form of worship. The Śaiva temple of Kapotcsvara at Chezarla in the Krishna district has been erroneously taken by Burgess and Rea to be an old Buddha chaitya subsequently appropriated for Brāhmaṇical worship.
A similar apsidal Jaina temple of vaulted roof is to be found dedicated to Puṣpadanta Nath near Conjeeveram.
The study of Indian Architecture would be incomplete if no reference were made to the Bengali style of temples which is rather a thing of recent growth. I have searched in vain for a very old temple of the Bengali type. There is none extant older than the beginning of the seventeenth century A.D. but there is no doubt that there had been very old temples in Bengal for we find that the Darga at Pandua in the district of Hooghly of Zafar Khan Gazi, the contemporary of the first Muhammadan king Shamsuddin Firoz Shah, was built in the beginning of the fourteenth century A.D. out of the materials taken from Hindu temples. A reference to Banglaghar is found in the songs of Manikchand as follows
Bāndhilām Banglā ghar nāhi päḍa Kālī |
Em in bayase chḥāḍī jāyo amār bṛthā bhāva rāņi. || Though the Bengali style of temple building has not a very ancient pedigree it should not be dismissed with scorn. It has a peculiarity of its own not to be met with in any part of India. It is a thing confined to the province of Bengal, illustrating the influence on materials of architecture. This irregularity in origin and type has lent a special charm to its study. The Bengali style with its sanctum having panelled mural decoration, cusped and pointed arches and short heavy pillars is divided into two classes based on the method of roofing, e.g. (1) hut-roofed and (2) doubled roofed. These two divisions again admit of various subdivisions as per the number of towers, sikharas or rathas as they are called, e.g. pañoharatna, navaratna, etc. It may be mentioned incidentally that the temples of this class are built in bricks, both thick and thin. We find in the Bengali temple an obvious construction of Hindu-Saracenic architec tural traditions that can be traced back to the Adina Masjid, or the Ekalakhi Mausoleum at Pandua, the Qudam-i-Rasul at Gaur. It may be mentioned here in the language of Sir John Marshall that the materials employed at the Adina Masjid consisted largely of the remains of Hindu temples, and many of
the carvings from the temples have been used as facings of dome, arches and pillars. It seems probable that the architects who erected the monuments at Gaur and Pandua drew their architectural inspiration as well from the Hindu models of the preceding period when the kings of Sena and Pāla dynasties ruled.
However exclusive and self-contained the traditions of a nation may be it is impossible to escape extraneous influence in some way or ther. This inherent nature of a thing to combine with another, the tendency of the homogeneous to be heterogeneous is a law that governs not only the physical and the physiological but also the psychological world. Hence the foreign ideas and ideals orcep in unnoticed, combine with the original and form a compound which may have a constancy of composition like a chemical compound or may merely be a mechanical mixture. This is well illustrated in architecture which manifests a particular phase of the human mind. If we examiue some Brahmanical or Jaina temples of the sixteenth or the seventeenth century, we shall invariably find in them an adaptation of Muhammadan decorative devices and even constructive peculiarities. The ornamentations noticed in the pilasters of the ruined Vishnuvite temple in the Nurpur Fort in Kangra "show a marked similiarity in design to some of the early Mogul buildings in the Lahore Fort. The decorations round the panels on the outer face of the temple show both foliated and geometrical devices as noticed in the work of the Mogul buildings.
Those who look upon Indian Architecture in the light of technique, arrangement or mannerism only are wholly mistaken Without minimising the importance of the above method of study and criticism, it may be said that this does not acquaint us with the real nature of the thing.
There are three stand-points from which Indian Architecture may be studied: Technical or Scientific, Aesthetic and Ethical. These have been described by Ruskin as the three virtues of
Architecture. For instance, if we study the Renaissance Architecture, we cannot but be struck by a sense of worldliness or pride pervading the structures, but for all that no one fails to see the design elaborated by a process of aesthetic reasoning. This reasoning is so simple that it appeals even to a casual observer.
A pessimist as a philosopher, a Hindu is not so as an artist. As an artist he spiritualises matter and thus embodies architectural idealism in different forms which never oppress the imagination by its solid reality.
The architecture of the ancient Hindus is pervaded by a spirit of earnestness and self-sacrifice, the temple being as it were an offering, a gift to the deity, the Istam enshrined in the sanctum and as such we notice a profusion of decoration condemned by Fergusson as "over-decorated ugliness,” a remark exemplifying the deadning effect of the idealisation of the principle of utility, for architecture is not construction, the beaver's art, but is according to Ruskin, "the art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man, for whatsoever use, that the sight of these may contribute to his mental health, power and pleasure."
The structures of the present day illustrate a violation of this fundamental canon of architecture by allowing the constructive element to override the aesthetic side, indicating the nemesis of the decorative principle forming a vital part of ancient and medieval Indian Architecture.
However hampered by tradition or fettered by conventionality ancient Indian Architecture may be, we find evident and clear indications stamping it with originality, vigour and genius. Ours of the present day appears as one badly imitated, unsuited to the climate and the traditions of the past.