Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sculpting Devotion

Sketchbook India 2014 by Meera Rao panels 5, 6, 7, June 9-10
Tulasi Katte and Ratha (Festival Car)

The trip to Mysore from Bangaluru takes around 3-4 hours. When the taxi driver discovered that I had not seen a couple of beautiful temples along the way and that I did not have to be in Mysore by a certain time, he took it upon himself to make a few stops! (We still made it to Mysore by 3pm!) I took  photographs and during the next few days filled over dozen panels of my sketch book.   

Most every Hindu home, and all temples have a special place for the tulasi (sacred basil) plant. The 'pot' that holds the plant is sometimes very simple and most often very ornate.  

Ratha is a huge chariot used during festivals to take the temple deity on procession pulled manually with ropes.  It is decorated colorfully and towers over all the devotees assembled.  Check out Google images  to get a taste of the festival excitement!  

Sketchbook India 2014 by Meera Rao panels 8, 9, 10, June 12-16
Temple premises

Sketchbook India 2014 by Meera Rao panels 11,12, 13 June 18-19
Outside the temple

Sketchbook India 2014 by Meera Rao panels 14,15,16, June 19-22
Temple gopura, Utsava Murthy
Gopura is a towering gateway, entrance to southern Indian Temple. An architectural wonder, it is ornately carved, sculpted  and decorated with stories from Mythology connected to the main deity. There is also a massive and again beautifully decorated door through which one enters the temple complex. Check here to see images from google search of the gopurams.

The main temple deity  is never moved - so, for festivals special  'Utsava Murthy' are created by sculptors. After divine spirits are invoked in them, they are carried in a procession, either on the Ratha Festival cart, a palanquin or sometimes on the head of one of the priests. 

Sketchbook India 2014 by Meera Rao panels 15-18, June 22-27
garuda utsava murthy and stone wall in the back

Most of the temples are all ancient - several centuries old, some better maintained than others. It is  very common to find beautiful carvings, statues and walls in heaps covered in dirt around the premises.  Its heartening see that the citizens are beginning to understand the value of the art that surrounds them and efforts are being done to restore them.  

I think the beauty of the temples is a testimony to the creativity of the many anonymous  artists that sculpted and built them to make the ephemeral quality of spirituality and devotion more concrete, grand and immediate.  To visit a temple, to be surrounded by the beautiful statues, to take in the burning lamps, sounds of conchs, bells and invocation, the scents of the flowers, incense is a memorable and stirring experience. It did not matter that there were worldly business happening too. I really am awed by the incredible power of art that has lasted centuries! 
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