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Volume: IV, Issue: II, July-December 2013


CULTURAL ASPECT OF TEMPLES IN WESTERN INDIA: GLEANINGS FROM INSCRIPTIONS (c. ELEVENTH TO THIRTEENTH CENTURY CE)







Abstract

The temple signifies one’s beliefs. Its structural features have also attracted one’s attention. George Michell, Stella Kramrisch, Krishna Deva and some other scholars have discussed the ‘meaning and forms’, stylistic, religious and spiritual significance of the temple. We also find the temple being mentioned in connection with an understanding of early Indian political, economic and socio-religious activities in north and south India. Besides, the temple is also known to have been associated with cultural performances like drama etc. Fortunately, in this regard we have a number of epigraphic records from western India, particularly from Rajasthan and Gujarat, which point out the cultural aspect of the temple during the c. eleventh to thirteenth century CE. The present article seeks to study this aspect of the temple.



Keywords Content

PRELUDE

It appears from early Indian history (up to c.1300 CE) that human beings have used both land and water in order to fulfil the necessaries of life. This is supported by archaeological evidences [Chakrabarti 1999] and historical experiences [Chakravarti 2013] through centuries from as early as the days of the preliterate phase in early India. From these evidences we learn that human beings have related their activities to different segments of the earth. These are the hilly area, the riverine area, the agricultural area, the littoral area, the pastoral area or even the uncultivated area [Chattopadhyaya 2003:50]. Thus they have changed their physical landscape as and when they have felt it necessary to do. In doing this, people have gathered, as we learn, various experiences in connection with their interactions with their surroundings through ages.In this connection we like to propose that human beings have developed two basic convictions. The first is related to the idea of causation connected with spirits, deities or powers of nature in the universe and the second is concerned with the idea of a soul referring to the life after death [Hastings 1956: 676]. We are told that it is only Knowledge (Brahmavidyā) that can ensure release (moka) for human beings from all kinds of bondage. Thus we come to ‘the doctrine of transmigration (sansāra).’ According to the doctrine, after death a man comes back to this world. In this connection we find that the actions (karma)of a human being affect his or her rebirth [Michell 1977: 16]. We learn that there are ways to final release and one of the ways is pilgrimage. It is believed that pilgrimage ensures release for those who have controlled their minds and actions. Thus we come close to the occasion of sacred places (tīrthaketra) like Dvārakā, Badri etc [Bharadwaj 1973]. We are further told that in these places gods always dwell. One can obtain final release (moka) from such a sacred place [Kramrisch 1996: 3-4]. A communication with divinity is thus established. Such contact is established through one’s beliefs. We find that the temple as a link between human beings and gods represents the human quest for contact with divinity [Michell 1977: 61]. Thus the temple signifies their beliefs. Therefore one characteristic feature of a sacred place may be the temple [Kramrisch 1996: 6] (Devālaya). The structural features of the temple are well known to have attracted the attention of the scholar.

In this regard we have a good number of scholarly studies, to mention a few, by George Michell [Michell 1977], Steela Kramrisch [Kramrisch 1996], Krishna Deva [Deva 2000] etc. They have discussed the ‘meaning and forms’, stylistic, religious and spiritual significance of the temple. We also find the temple being mentioned in connection with an understanding of early Indian political, economic and socio-religious activities in north and south India. Thus in Orissa we find that royal patronage was provided to deities like Āmbikā, Stambheśvarī (Lady of the Pillar), the construction of temples and the purpose was to legitimately consolidate the royal power [Kulke 1993: 1-16]. In connection with the consolidation of the royal power with legitimacy we also come to know that the king and the temple have become interdependent for the sake of their respective existence in the early medieval period [Chattopadhyaya 1994: 196-199]. The temple is also known to have been associated with economic activities in the early medieval period [Chattopadhyaya 1994: 116-117; Chakravarti 2002: 187-200]. The temple has also been discussed as ‘site’ of social and religious activities in south India [Gurukkal 2009: 199-210]. We also find the temple to have been associated with cultural activities relating to performing arts like singing, dancing etc from the time of the Pallavas [Thapar 2002: 358] in south India (c.CE 6th to 9th –early 10th ) [Sastri 2004: 155]. Such cultural activities as drama, festivals, education etc of the temple are known to have continued in south India [Patil 1992]. It is interesting to note that this sort of the cultural role of the temple in south India may direct our attention to western India, particularly Rajasthan and Gujarat. From these regions we have a number of epigraphic records, which point out the cultural aspect of the temple during the 11th to 13th century. The aim of the present essay is to study this aspect of the temple in western India during the period.

 

DISCUSSION

We are told that a Sanskrit play called Karasundarī Nāṭikā by Bihlaṇa was performed in the temple of Ādinātha. The drama was composed during the reign period of Karṇa of VS 1122-1150 (CE 1065-1093). We are also told that people used to see such cultural performance at the temple. Probably some of them understood the sense of the drama. Such cultural performance was held on festive occasion. [Sandesara: 18]. We learn from the Arthuna (near Banswara lat. 240 south, long. 740 east, Rajasthan) inscription of the Paramāra king Chāmuṇḍarāja of Vikrama-Savat 1136 (CE 1079) that the two festivals on behalf of the Maṇḍaleśa (Śiva) temple were held; one was the Caitra (March-April) festival (Caitryām)and the other was ‘the festival of the sacred thread’ (Pavitryām) [Barnett 1982: 295-296, 302, 309]. We are told that the two such festivals Caitra and Pavitraiwere annually celebrated in many South Indian temples [Narasimhachar 1909: 53].The temple’s participation in the festivals was supported by the trader. At this point we may refer to another cultural performance of the temple. In connection with the procession-related festival (Yātrāmahotsava) of Mahāvīra a Sanskrit drama named Moharājaparājaya (“conquest on king Moha or ignorance”) by Yaśaḥpāla was acted at the temple built up by the Chaulukya ruler Kumārapāla of VS 1200-1229 (CE 1143-1172). The play describes that Kumārapāla was converted to Jainism. He was prohibited from animal killing and prevented from confiscating properties of those who died without heirs. The drama was staged in order to show that the Jain religion had a role in the regulation of the kingdom. [Sandesara: 15]. Apparently, such dramatic performance was staged in the temple in order to draw the attention of the public to the greatness of Jainism. Besides, it may be mentioned that the cultural function of dance/music was probably held in the temple. This is supported by a few epigraphic references to Mehari, Vaṁśika, Gaikā named Gocchini who performed music and were maintained by the temple fund (devakīya-ādāna-madhyāt). They were probably dancers (devadāsī) associated with the temple of Chaṇḍaleśvara [Sircar 1987: 240-241, 244]. Probably the dancing performance in the temple was socially important in the sense that aesthetic sense, religious emotions etc were communicated [Mukherjee 1988: 261] to the people through the medium of dance in the temple mentioned above. Probably people extended liberal support to the temple’s participation in a cultural event. In this regard we find from a temple inscription of VS 1233 (CE 1176) references to the land grant by a few cultivators to the worship of the god Śāntinātha and this grant was meant for the performance of the festival of Gūjarī-jātrā (GūjarījātrānimittaŚrīśāntināthadevasya dattā) [Bhandarkar 1981: 50-51].We learn from A. K. Majumder that a central hall, according to the Jalor inscription of VS 1242 (CE 1185), was meant for theatrical performance (abhinava-nispanna-prekṣā-madhya-maṇḍape). A golden cupola was placed in the hall and in that connection a ceremony was held on the day of the festival of lights (dīpotsavadine) [Bhandarkar 1981: 54-55; Majumder 1956: 326]. A Chaulukya grant of VS 1264 (CE.1207) informs us of the engagement of the temple with the festivals of Caitrīand Pavitrī [Hultzsch 1882: 338-339] mentioned above. Possibly it was in a Jaina temple. It might have an appeal to the people. There were endeavours on behalf of the temple to celebrate the five occasions of the life of Nemināthadeva. This is supported by the inscription No. II of the Jaina inscriptions of the Neminātha temple of Mount Abu of VS.1287 (CE.1230). From this record we come to know that these occasions were annually celebrated (Śrī Nemināthadevasya pañcāpi kalyānikāni yathādina prativara kartvyāni) [Luders 1981: 222]. The five occasions were conception, birth, initiation, enlightenment and final deliverance [Majumder 1956: 325]. We come to know from another inscription of CE 1249 that a festival was held on the occasion of a procession (Yātrā)in September-October (Āśvine) from the temple of the god Jagatsvāmī at Bhinmal (south-west Rajasthan). The festival was financially supported by the fund from the treasury of the temple (Jagatsvāmidevīyabhāṇḍāgāra). In connection with the festival a ritual (divasa bali) was performed and wheat 2 sei (equivalent to one maund [Jain 1990: 166-167])and 8 kalasa (pitcher [Jain 1990: 168]) boiled ghee (clarified butter) were provided for the offering of the bali to the god in the temple. [Bhandarkar 1981: 55-57]. Mercantile support is also known to have been extended to the procession of the lord Somanātha. From the Cintra Praśasti of CE 1286 we learn that the three pure-minded shopkeepers personally (ātmanā)always gave garlands, cocoanuts etc to the royal processions of the god Somanātha [Buhler 1983: 279, 286]. In other words, private individuals might have supported such religious procession. According to Majumder, a religious procession was held in honour of the god Kumārapāleśvara of the Śaiva temple at Somanātha [Majumder 1956: 309]. Gifts were given by Brāhmaṇas (Purohitas), braziers (kasāras), ship-owners (nauvittakas) etc in support of the theatrical performance in honour of the lord Kṛṣṇa [Bhandarkar 1912: 20-21]. Probably people had inclination for the development of the cultural aspect of the temple. This may be corroborated by an epigraphic record. From the Jain temple inscription of Chintāmaṇi Pārśvanātha at Cambay (shortly called Cambay inscription) of VS 1352 (CE. 1295) we learn that ‘all great and polite persons’ made financial arrangements for the worship of Pārśvanātha ‘with due ceremonies’ (sarvvairbidhivatsu bhavyapūjāvidhānāya)for the spread of the Jaina religion and also ‘for establishing (his) fame for ever’ (śśvatkirtisthiti)(of Pārśvanātha) [Bhavnagar 2011: 227, 229, 232; Jain 1990: 173]. Merchants also are known to have financially supported the holding of a ceremony (Pañcamībali)every year at the temple of Pārśvanātha as we read in the Jalor stone inscription of VS 1353 (CE. 1296) (Deva-śrī-Pārśvanāthacaitye-----prativara pañcamībali kāryā) [Bhandarkar 1981: 60-62]. Apparently it was an offering to the god.

CONCLUSION

i. From the discussion made so far it appears that the temple besides its architectural importance was a useful medium to the king to consolidate his power and authority. The temple provided the space which the trader found helpful to carry on his economic activities. Thus the political and economic aspects of the temple are well known. Apart from these the temple as a social institution also played a cultural role and communicated aesthetic sense to the common people not only in south India, but also in western India.

NOTES

According to Narasimhachar, in most of the South Indian temples a particular festival called Pavitrotsava is annually celebrated between the full-moon day of Āṣāa (June-July) and the full-moon day of Kārttika (Oct-Nov). At this time the garlands of the cotton or silk-made sacred thread are put on the neck and other parts of the body of the deity. In this connection our attention is also drawn to the rites to be observed in order to celebrate the festival of Pavitra (Pavitrotsava-vidhi). This festival is celebrated in any of the four months beginning with the month of Jyeṣṭha (May-June). Therefore, according to Narasimhachar, the Caitra-Pavitra has no connection with the “purificatory ceremony of the month of Chaitra” [Narasimhachar 1909: 52-53].

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