Untitled Document
 
Home
Featured Articles:
Kali (The Benevolent Goddess)
Tourism in Nepal
Lumbini
Janakpur
Toerisme in Nepal
(In Dutch)
 
Book Reviews:
The Symbolism of the Stupa
The Eternal Kumari of Kathmandu Valley
Nepalese Architecture
The Himalayan Art
The learned author has missed many aspects of Nepalese culture. The so called Virupakshya is described by him as a nobel man. If the author had studied more carefully he would not have missed the third eye indicating that the figure is one of the manifestations of Shiva and not a nobel man.
More
 
Tourism in Nepal
Nepal is a tourist's paradise with an infinite variety of interesting things to see and do. Nepal has many things to offer the visitor the flourishing of art and architecture a demonstrated by the temples of Kathmandu Valley, the natural beauties of the soaring peaks of Himalayas including Mountain Everest and others.
More 
 
 
 
 
 
Pagoda Style Architecture and Nepal
 
PAGODA Style Architecture and Nepal
 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Man is tiny and insignificant before the gigantic creation. He finds himself surrounded by a world which is too difficult to comprehend with his tiny intelligence. Man's sojourn in this complex world has a definite purpose. That purpose is to understand his predicament in this temporary world and discover his original nature. Learning to live in harmony with the laws, gross and subtle, of material nature facilitates this. As long as he continues to violate the laws of material nature, there will be no progress towards the ultimate goal. Knowledge provides direction for man to reach his goal. The Vedas, the enternal source of knowledge, provide specific guidance on how man can conduct himself successfully in various aspects of life1 .

Most of the temples of the Kathmandu valley, which have layers of the roofs are called Pagoda. In such temples or Pagodas the high roofs are smaller than the roof below. Dr. N. R. Banerjee, an well known archaeologist and art-historian describing the term "the word Pagoda" is clearly misnomer when applied to a temple, for it is derived from the word Dagaba applied to Buddhist Stupa in Sri Lanka as derived from the word Dhatugarbha or the monument containing the essence of the Buddha. The Stupa in Burma came to be called Pagodas which was apparently a phonetic transformation of the word Dagaba. In course of time the Chinese tower-like storied temples came to be called Pagodas. The earliest tower in existence in China is the multiple storied Pagoda at Sung Shan, Honan, built of bricks and dated to A.D. 523. The multiple-roofed temples of Nepal came to be called by the westerners as of the Pagoda-style in view of adoption of the storied or multi-roofed motif in the particular variety of temples in Nepal "2.

D. J. Snellgrove suggests the Shrines and Temples of Nepal that the westerner adopted the word from an Indo-Persian word such as 'But-kada' or the Sanskrit word 'Bhagavat' meaning 'idol temple' of any kind and gradually extended to mean a temple 'with tailored roofs' and that the word was picked up by the Portuguese as a corruption of some Indian term in the sixteenth century3 .

Sylvan Levi, a French Scholar, at the beginning of this century describes the Pagoda of Nepal as "In the centre the houses of the god, a storied building raised on a terrace of stone, the sanctuary in the lower storey, a rectangle of brick and wood sheltered by a slanting roof, covered with tiles or copper with corners bend upwards, beams running counter to the slope of the roof and bearing it up. Over this agreeing with he fundamental principle of all Indian architecture, the ensemble (on outfit) is repeated from storey to storey, but gradually diminishing each of the upper roofs being drawn back a little more than lower one, a bell turret of metal crown on the summit "4.

The noted scholar and an art critique Percy Brown describes the style of the temple, " As a comparatively simple design. The plan is ordinarily square and the ground floor is generally the only one put to any practical use, the upper floors, which may be several in number, being often blind storeys. The lower room built on a stone plinth, is the chamber of the temple or sanctuary of the deity, and contains little but idol, and a few religious accessories..... Above this arises the red tiled roof of the sanctuary , and surmounting this are progressive storeys, which go up to make the pagoda. The roof of the highest of these is plated with copper gilt..... A very attractive addition to the gilder roof of the Pagoda is a kind pendant escutcheon of embossed metal hanging from the pinnacle over the lane "5.

In Nepal, we find that there were several famous buildings, temples and palaces during the Lichchhavi period. Mangriha, Kailashkut Bhawan and Bhadradiwas Bhavan were the famous palaces of the period. Many icons of Lichhavi period have come to light and published. Some temples of the Lichhavi period we have today also are not in their original shape. They are either enlarged or altered while carrying repair works. Now the time has come that the scholars have to find the reasons of the disappearance of Kailashkut Bhawan, Mangriha, Bhadradiwas Bhavan and other Lichchhavi monuments and their sites.

The Changnnarayan inscription of King Manadeva I starts by invoking the Hari of Doladri6 . The Gopal Raja Vamsavali (hereafter GRV) credits King Supaspa for the construction of the gold roofed temple of Pasupatinath 7. It is hard to say that the Pasupatinatha , Bhringareshwor and Ananta Lingeshower temples of the Lichhhavi era are in the same shape today as they were in the Lichhavi period.

Pashupati coins and epithet of Pashupati Bhattarak Padanugrihita by Ansuvarma indicate the importance of Pashupatinath. Most probably all the important buildings of Lichhavi period were destroyed by the frequent earthquakes in the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu valley has been suffering from earthquakes for centuries. Those Lichhavi temple we have today must have been changed due to the frequent renovation and repair works. Unless we find the ruins of the temples of Lichhavi period we are not in a position to draw a conclusion that the temples of Lichhavi period were made in Pagoda style. However, an inscription of Amsuvarrma dated Sambat 34 equivalent to of Christian Era 7th century A.D. located at Sundhara of Patan indicates about Pagoda temples in existence during the period.. Mating Devkula, a temple was damaged by rodents, rats and windows and doors destroyed by white ants and turmoits were carefully repaired 8.

This inscription provides a clue that it was a Pagoda temple. If it was under such bad condition during the period of Anshuvarma this might have been raised at least 200 years earlier. It might have taken that much time for a temple of brick and wood to be so badly damaged.

Wang Huen T'se , who visited Nepal, describes about the Nepalese buildings made of wood with various kinds of paintings on them9 .

To quote the Chinese traveller - "The walls of their wooden houses are sculpture and painted... They sculpture images on stone." Wang Huen T'se describes the immense palace of Nepal. According to him, the Royal palace had seven storeys, and copper roof. The upper part was smaller than the lower part. There was a chowk (yard) in the centre where as the place covered all four directions and the upper 'Burja' has the capacity to hold thousands of people. There were several idols made of precious stone and covered by artistic pillars.

The above description must be of Kailashkut palace because the inscriptions from the time available describe the beauty of Kailashkut. On the basis of both the Chinese account and Nepalese inscription historians have reached to the conclusion that Pagoda temples were popular even during the Lichchari period. Dr. D. R. Regime is the first of foremost scholar of this view. He claims that Pagoda temple to be prudent of Nepal. His view is mainly based on the emphasis of the Chinese account to support his claim. In fact, high sounding description of Chinese traveller have stated," there are sculptures to astonish you". This phrase also has to be studied properly and reach to the conclusion whether he was astonished by the palace or sculptures there.

Dr Regmi opines that the Chinese traveller has never seem a Pagoda temple in China on the ground that he describes the Nepali pagoda to be astonishing. Criticising Fergusson's claim in his history of Indian and Eastern Architecture Dr. Regmi opines "the possibility, therefore of the style to have travel Nepal to China and other countries is more acceptable. It was during the seventh century that the advent was made by this style into Tibet mainly through Nepalese efforts. All credit goes to those who not only produced a new masterly style of architecture but also gave expression to the same the way, such as, was gladly copied by other "10.

Probably the Pagoda system did spread to the other countries from Nepal via China. It might happened in the seventh century due to the efforts of Nepalese who went to Tibet.

Man Bajra Bajracharya who is professionally a physician but a well known figure of Nepalese culture and history opines that Pagoda are the creation of Nepalese. His argument is based on the then ecology and views that Nepalese made such temples or buildings after the coniferous trees. He is of the opinion that Pagoda was developed by Nepalese being influenced by Himalayan coniferous tree.

Percival Landon, who came to Nepal at the first quarter of this century argue that Pagodas style to have originated from Nepal. He claims that those things belonged there where they are in great quantity.

Dr. D. R. Regmi thinks Pagoda style is a gift to Asia by the Nepalese architects. He on his book Ancient Nepal writes a special sub-chapter under this heading11 .

Thus some historians believe Nepal to be the original place of Pagoda style whereas other believes it to have started either from India or China. Now we have three hypothesis about Pagodas:- it is emerged in Nepal, it is developed in China and it is originated in India. So now question is from where Pagoda style started ? This is the first question to be studied and solved. Furgussion believes Pagoda to have been developed in China whereas D. J. Snellgrove, Hermann Goetz, N. R. Banarjee and other Indian historian as well as Precy Brown believe India to be first home of Pagodas. However, Nepalese historians and some foreign intellectuals believe Pagodas were the outcome of the Nepali genius.

A group of scholars headed by Furgussion opine that Pagodas were first designed in China and then spread to Nepal and India as in China the Pagodas are ancient and popular.

The people who believe Pagodas to be developed in India have their own arguments. Indians have, through excavations, in Kashmir, Kathiyabad, etc. found the foundation of Pagoda temples. If these foundation reconstructed the plain would be of Pagoda. In this way Pagodas seemed to developed during Gupta period. Citing these examples, Indians argue that even Pagodas were developed in India, but Indians, later started making stone temple due to the hot climate of soil destroy the wood or wood was not suitable for the climate12 .

N.R. Banarjee pointing the different classical descriptions of Bhadrapith in different books on Indian cannons of architecture claims that Nepalese Pagoda are the imitation of Indian. Bhadrapith were told to be those temples which have multi-roofs that become smaller as the height of the temple building increases. He presents temples found in various parts of India, Kerala, Karnatak, Kathiawar (Gujrat) as examples. He argues that Pagodas in Nepal are found only after the begining of Nepal Sambat. According to chronology, Nepal Sambat (started in 20th Oct 879). The new Era started after offering an immense worship to Pashupatinath to prevent frequent earthquakes and other natural calamities. The present Pagoda style of the Pashupatinath was made then13 . However, the description about the importance of Pashupatinath is found even during Lichhavi period. The studies have shown that Pashupatinath has been venerated and temple existed long before the beginning of Nepal Sambat. GRV notes that King Raghav Dev started Nepal Sambat after a special worship to the Pashupatinath. The same GRV mentiones that King Shupuspa made the three storied temple of Pashupatinath offering gold roofings.

Mention of 'Pashupati Bhattarak' by Lichhavi King on their inscriptions and Pasupati coins also indicate the importance of Pashupatinath during the period So as indicated above Pashupatinath was immensely popular then. The Hindus hardly destroy their temples, the centres of their faith, one can not easily agree that the ancient Pashupatinath temple was pulled down and made in a new style, the pagoda style as argued by N.R. Banarjee.

Percy Brown is of the opinion that Pagoda was developed as the imitation of 'Yaggyamandap' covered by mat in ancient India and the same was introduced in Nepal in due course of time14 .

Dr. Regmi a well reputed Nepalese scholar and historian strongly believes Pagodas to be the creation of Nepal. He calls it multi-roofed-style instead of Pagoda. His arguments are based on the description of Wang Huen T'se. "In the middle of the palace there is a tower of seven storeys roofed with copper tiles. Its balustrade grilles, columns, beams and every thing therein are set with fine and even precious stones. At each of the four corners of the tower these projects a water pipe of copper. At the base there are golden dragons which spout forth water is poured through runnels which finds its way down below, streaming like a fountain from the mouth of the golden Makara15 ." In the capital of Nepal there is a construction is storeys which has more than 200 tch'eu of height and 80 peu (400 ft.) of circumference. Ten thousand man can find place in its upper part. It is divided it three terraces and each terrace is divided in seven storeys. In the pavilions, there are sculptures to make you marvel. Stones and pearls decorate them16 .

Citing the above quote of the Chinese Traveller Dr. Regmi claims that had he seen these pagoda temples in China, he would not have certainly praised them in such a manner. Such description clearly indicates that he had not seen such Pagodas in China.

He might be right but it is not sure whether his saying "there are sculpture to astonish you" or "there are sculpture to make you marvel" are the outcome of the temples or the icon styles. It needs further research to reach to a conclusion.

GRV the earliest known chronicle from 15th century A.D. describes that King Supuspa constructed the multi-storeys Pashupatinath temple. However, the construction of Pashupatinath temple about 1500 years before Jayastyiti Malla seems doubtful until further research so it would not be wise to reach to any conclusion..

The description of Chinese traveller is from the 7th century and further testified by the Patan inscription it seems that the Pagodas were already in developed stage .
Ranipokhari was made in Pagoda style by Pratap Malla. The frequent earthquakes are responsible for its present shape and size.

One can doubt whether the Pagodas of Lichhavi period might have damaged with the collapse of Lichhavi period civilisation due to earthquake, natural calamities and plagues. Nepal is a place where powerful earthquakes have been occurring in every 100 years plus, minus few years. Thus people made Pagodas of wood and bricks so that they can be reused after the earthquakes damage them. May be it is for the reason we find the number provided in few struts ?

Dr. Regmi argues in length it is not appropriate to mention such multi roofed temples as Pagodas. "It is mistake to take the temple style in Nepal as one deriving from the pagoda style, since temples of the style existed in Nepal earlier than elsewhere. It is therefore not proper to consider the temples as derivatives and to call them Pagodas. They should enjoy in all justice a name which is attached to the place of their birth, and the style should be named as the Nepalese style17 ."

In fact Nepalese Pagodas have its their own features. Pasupatinath, Changunarayan, Jaisidewal, Shiva temple of Kathmandu Durbar square, Taleju temples of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Bhimsen temple of Kathmandu and Patan, Macchindranath, Bishweshor temple of Patan Durbar square, Yakshaswor temple of Bhaktapur, Akashbhairav, Dattatraya, Bramhayani, Nyatapol, Bajrayogini of Sankhu, Harishidhi, Bhagawati of Nala, Chandesori of Banepa, Bajrabarahi of Chapagaun, Indreshowor of Panauti, Mahadev of Tripureshowor, Bhairav of Nuwakot, Kumbheshowor of Patan, etc. are some of the famous temples of made in Nepali style.

There are mainly four kinds of plan in Nepalese Pagoda temples: rectangular, square, circular and octagonal.

Rectangular: Akash Bhairav of Bhaktapur, Bagh Bairav of Kritipur, Bhimsen temple of Patan and Kathmandu are rectangular whereas others are square. In this way, temples of Bhimsen, Bhairav and Nawadurga temples made in group seem to be rectangular. In rectangular temple, the idol of Gods are kept in the first floor not on the ground floor. As the room of these temples are large, there are enough space to chant hymens, to perform worship, etc. The ground floor does not come into use. However, objects related to Gods can be kept in the ground floor. In some rectangular temples we can see shops in Kathmandu as to the case of Bhimsen, Bairave temples.

Square: In the Nepalese square temple, the sanctum (Garvagriha) is in the ground floor. So the first, second and third storeys rarely come into use or in other words, they are beautiful and high in appearance but lack practical use.

Circular: It is circular round. Hanuman Mandir of Hanumandoka, Shiva temple of Pashupatinath, etc. are circular temples in Nepal.

Octagonal: It has eight corners. The octagonal temples are in front of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar squares with enough rooms for may people to stay at the same time.

There are certain differences in the pagodas in every country. A typical pagadas has three to fifteen storeys of decreasing size from bottom to top. Each storey has an ornate tile roofing that curbs up wards at the corner. In most of the cases carved wooden beams and post support the structure. Chinese pagoda are mostly octagonal in plan and odd number of storeys. The Japanese pagoda developed after Chinese model are made of wood. The ground floor contained, images and the upper storeys are used to view the surrounding area. In Tai-wan the pagodas house the ashes of cremated Buddhist. In Nepal the pagodas in rare case are octagonal. They have the supportive elements the struts turn into decorative element very smartly. Thus the function of pagodas in every where is different so made differently. The function of Nepalese pagodas is to meditate, to pay homage to the God to chant. That is the reason many pagodas of are raised on diminishing plinths for the use of circumbulation as well as to pray for hours and hours. For this reason the Nepalese pagoda has more aesthetic value. People do not go to second storeys. This idea is found in Chinese pagoda too. So very smartly they have place the God in the ground floor in such a way that nobody can step right above the God. The balconies of the upper storeys are used for site scene.

There are different versions by scholars about the originality of Pagoda. Some scholar opinion that Pagoda is imported feature and indigenous origin of Nepal. Writer believes that Nepalese Pagoda has own feature and unique type which is not found in world - it is real one. So all the hosting evidences indicate that Nepal is the home of the so called Pagoda style architecture in the world.

Main Features of Nepalese Style Temple

1. Unseen/unnoticed base

2. These temples have multi plinths - for examples Kumbheshowor of Patan has only one plinth but the Nyatapol has six plinths.

3. The stairs are made cutting the plinths. The stairs of Pashupatinath temple has three stairs whereas the stairs of Nyatapol has many steps.

4. Important and big squares temples have either a door or four in each direction for example Pashupatinath, Changunarayan and Kumveshowor have four doors. Nakshal Bhagwati, Mahankal and many others have only one door.

5. Pagodas are often made by raising of wooden pillar from the sanctum and making space to circumbulate the temple.

6. The four door temples have other two door on the either side of the main doors, which can be opened when needed. Pashupatinath ,Changunarayan and Kumbheswar of Patan are the best examples of this.

7. Above the main gate there is always a tympanum (Toran). The image of the main god of Toran a corresponds with the God of the temple. If there is Shiva's phallus in the temple, the Toran must have Shiva's picture or some thing that represents Siva. . However, it is not necessary to be the exact copy. Tympanum is surmonted in the entrance door which is semi-circular and made of exquisitely carved wood or metal. The detail of torana gives the idea of the main diety residing inside the shrine. The torana adapted to an infinite number of design often has a number of deities evenly spaced around the main deity. It is generally covered by a crowded complex of nagas, garuda, minor deities, acquit animals, etc. But the commonest of torana image is the Kirtimudha clenching the head of a pair of nagas which forms the border decoration. Torana at the main entrance of the chusya bahal crowned by the garuda-shaped kirtimukha is the best example of the wooden torana architecture (17 century )18. Here the kirtimukha is holding a pair of snakes which flanks the border of carved torana on either side. Shankhu Bajrayogini temple has the similar type of wooden torana. Bhawani temple in Patan (16th century )19 Teleju temple in Bhaktapur (17 century )20 are the master pieces of metal torana. Thus, the torana as an architectural and decorative element is highly developed in Kathmandu valley.

8. After completing the wall of the ground floor, wooden beams are kept. Above the wooden bases support the bamboo or wood used to hold the soil kept above.

9. Vertical beams are put to support all the storeys. These verticle beams in turn are supported by a horizontal beams in slanting shape are kept. Struts (Tundal) on 45 degree angle are there to support the horizontal beams.

10. Struts add beauty to Nepalese temple. In fact, struts are the supporting elements of Nepalese Pagodas but also serve as decorative architectural function.

11. If observed watch carefully, corner struts are united shape of human beings, animals and birds. They have wings, horns, human shape or image of birds. It is totally in anthropomorphic style.

12. As it is necessary to pinch the corner of horizontal beam to stick each other, corner struts are kept in Nepalese Pagodas. They are also called Kusal (horse of corner). Corner struts are strong and powerful because they have to bear the double load.

13. The struts have idols of God and Goddess. Some have one and others have with their along twist (Shakti) female half..

14 Similar shape of soil of wood is repeated in upper storeys. As the upper storeys become smaller than the ones below, the struts are also smaller both in quantity and size. For example there are six struts in the lower storeys and only four in the upper storeys. Similarly, the number of struts has decreased with the increase in the height of the Pashupatinath and Indreshowor of Panauti. However, there are only two struts in the last or upper most roof of Nyatapol.

15. Whether the temple is one storeys or five, the corner of roof is always bent to upward. For this is needed special tiles. Birds and other Additions at the corner up were bent. The curves often have further additions, most notably bird. These small images of metal are about the size of sparrows but look like crane and in the mouth catching a fish upon the upward curved tips of the corners. General opinion is that they are basically decorative, but that there is also some symbolic importance in the chirping of real birds as a kind of warning. When the images are added to a building, its construction is said to be finished and special worship procedure take place including a roofing ceremony. It is believed that its a mark of the last step in building. Just as the sacrifice of a goat in the foundation depression may be the first spet21 . This birds also give a symbolic meaning that they are flying and taking this temple to the heaven.

16. The upper roofs are made of copper or gold coated metal but the lowers are roofed with ceramic tiles.

17. At the top of the temple is kept a Gajur (pinnacle) like a poured bell. The number of Gajurs varies. Some have a Gajur whereas other have more or up to Taleju temple of Bhaktapur, Kumari temple, Rudrabarnamahabihar have Stupa like Gajurs. There are other many examples in some places umbrellas are kept around the Gajurs.

18. The roofs of Nepalese temples are either round or circular, rectangular and square. The Panchamukhi Hanuman temple raised by Pratap Malla and Pashupatinath are circular, Bhimsen temple of Kathmandu and Patan are rectangular and Taleju of Kathmandu and Kumbheshowor of Patan are in square.

19. Some temples are octagonal. The best example of octagonal are temple made in front of Hanumandoka square by Pratap Mall and a temple of Bhaktapur. These temples are called "Chyasingdeg" in local terminology.

20. A leaf of embossed metal comes down to the entrance door from its roof. Some temples have many such leaves and some have only one. In fact, such leaves are offered by devotees in the name of their ancestors or to beautify the temple. Descending metal banners called Bhuajas or Patakas. This descend from the pinnacle down past the edge of the lower most roof edge, are as important for their religious meaning as far their decorative appearance. This metal plates are believed a kind of pathway from heaven along which a god may descend toward the earth. For example Matsyendranath, Bhimsenath temple, Annapurna Mandir etc. They are also offered by the devotees on memory of the departed soul.

21. Another feature of Nepalese temple is the artistic windows. These windows also help to add beauty to the temples. The design and construction of windows have become an important focus for displaying in Nepalese architecture, the wood-work both in external design and skill joinery work. The windows are made from many prefabricated units of varying shapes and sizes without using any metal nails or glue. Each window consists of two frames inner and outer, richly carved and both frames are held together by wooden ties and nails. The lattice work of the window is generally combining three different battens: the perforated, the serrated and key battens. Windows is a very common element for building which may be a place or temples or a monasteries or a private house. Light and ventilation is the main function of these windows but religious importance is also added to it by putting divinities or object of worship as a motif on these. Windows are combinations of grills and frame and the frames may have decoration of auspicious symbols, flower, mesh style, geometrical design, perfect in symmetrical order and always kept in odd number. Symbolisation of sun and moon, representation of auspicious symbols, bird motifs are popular works which are displayed in most of the monuments. The royal palace of Bhaktapur is known as Pachapanna jhyale darbar because of its fifty-five carved windows, Pujarimath and peacock window is the best example of Bhaktapur. Desemarujhaya at a private house and Kumari Ghar in Kathmandu is a master piece of window workmanship, as name itself suggests that nowhere in the country like this. Some temples have fake windows and other peacock windows so that there would be no monotonous feelings in the shape from the temple. There are false window to decorate. For example the false balcony windows of Patan, Sundari Chowk, Peacock windows of Bhaktapur.

22. Wind bell (Fyanga) is the another feature of Nepalese temple. They are called
so because even wind can ring them. According to direction of wind, these
bells blow.

23. Around the temples there is a courtyard (Chowk) paved with stone or bricks.

24. In some places we find statues of donors. The statues of Pratap Malla and his family at Degu Taleju temple is an example. Similarly, the statue of Parthibendra in front of Taleju temple, Siddhinarshingh Malla in front of Krishna temple in Patan and of Yognarendra in front of Patan Taleju temple are some examples. Such was an old tradition in Nepal. The vehicles of Gods and Anjali Mudras (Namaste) of donors are found.

25. Public rest house is made at the premises of the temples. Generally the temples are made near the source of water. There may be either rivers, springs, ponds or wells.

26. In front of the temples the vehicles of Gods like bulls, lion, peacock, mouse are offered.

27. Brick and woods are excessively used in Nepalese temples so that they can be reused whenever the temples are damage by earthquakes and other natural calamities. Sometimes, the devotees can make small temples larger. Even two storeys temples can be turned into five storeys. While doing so, the Gajur of first floor is kept in the storage. Recently when the French repaired a temple in Panauti they found two such Gajurs in the store. This indicates that the temple of Indreshowor was once one storied in the beginning. The devotees who made the second storey offered new Gajur and kept the old one in the store. Similarly, the maker of third storey offered new Gajur and kept the old ones in the store.

28. Another important feature is that Nepalese people are the followers of Smarta religion. Smarta means belief in five Gods - Sun, Durga, Ganesh, Shiva, Bishnu. Therefore, there four small idols around the main Gods of Pashupatinath, Indreshowor Changunarayan and even in small temples they are placed in their respective places as per the cannons of iconography and architecture.

29. In many temples we find bells hung on two large iron ,rope stuck in stone pillars, photos, mirrors, utensils and weapons, and the information provided by the donors. Such temples are often kept neat and clean .

30. In some temples we can find the description of religious stories through pictures like in Jayabageswori of Devpatan , Chandeswori of Banepa, Bagh Bhairav of Kirtipur. An inscription of Chabahil describes the various scenes of Kinnari Jataka painted on the monastery.

31. Erotic carving: caption of pictures and in sometimes number can be found in struts. They also show secular art. Visitors with pure and holy mind, when go to temples, frequently surprise to find erotic arts in struts on eye level. Some of these do not take it seriously or solve in the themselves but other plunge into the non-solving fathoms of doubt. Solutions have been given and many more interpretations have come . Justice to revive a series of new doubt and questions. Simply speaking; these art contain religious faiths, if not so would not be carved in temples. This fact reminds other historious and surprising facts hidden in the faiths distributed in other contents. In Nepal, Kathmandu Valley is the fertile land of erotic arts. Similarly Gorkha, Palpa and Pokhara are also remarkable in this context. Following is the group of the art found generally in temple. Even though a separate articles in erotic carvings is needed but let me grab the opportunity to discuss in detail about the secrets of erotic carvings.

1. Exhibition of Sex organs (Mahadev Temple, Hanumandhoka)

2. Couple engages in sexual Romance (Dattatreya Temple. Dattatreya temple of Bhaktapur, Yakeshwor temple (Bhaktapur), Char Narayan, Patan Three Devi Kathmandu)

3. Couples in Lustful Passion (Jal Binayak, Chobhar, Jagannath temple Kathmandu).

4. Couples in sexual union in fantastic poses
a. A man with two women (Parvati Temple, Jagannath Temple.
b. Two men with a woman (Charnarayan Temple, Jagannath Temple).
c. A man with a woman with attendent (Mahadev Temple, Gokarna, Three
goddess Temple).

5. Sexual Action; with an attendant collecting semen (Pasupati Temple,
Yakeshwor Temple Bhaktapur, Jagannath temple of Kathmandu).

6. Couple practising Sodomy or titillation of the anus (Charnarayan Patan).

7. Women having coitus with animals:
a. Women with a dog (Laxmeshwor Mahadeve Temple. Teku
b. Two women with an ass/horse (Charnarayan Temple, Patan)
c. Woman with hybrid (Jagannath temple)

8. Coitus among animals:
a. Among dogs (Manakamana Temple, Thamel).
b. Among Asses/horses (Jagannath temple)
c. Among monkey (cafe Nyatopola Bhaktapur)
d. Among lions/hybrids/Elephant

9. Woman with woman (Charnarayan).

10. Woman with a branch of a tree (Guest house Gorkha).

11. Scene of delivery (Yakeshwor Bhaktapur, Laxmeswor Teku)

Common Interpretation

a. It is believed that these arts protects from thunder. In Sanskrit the term "Vidyut" is believed Virgin, and she does not enter the temple, where it is Garud in the gateway.

b. The Lord of thunder "Indra" pleases seeing these posters and does not destroy the temples.

c. Some mystical thought are behind it. It is to protect the temple or the living divine soul active to fulfil human desires abiding inside the temple from evil eyes. Tantric would not take the deity from the shrine by doing this renunciation showing the divine couples in fantastic postures.

These are baseless layman's logic. One of the classical interpretation of the erotic themes is as a language of Tantra, written in erotic forms to make them very secret, and makes them neglected by hypocritric Priests (Pandits). It is a sort of Sandhya - bhasa ca twilight- language that only Tantric Yogis can decode. The very basic of this interpretation is the male-female nature of the ultimate reality. The male nature is interpreted by "Shiva" and female nature by Sakti.

Tantrism was a powerful religious movement which emerged out of the coalescence between primitive magic and highly evolved spiritual ideals. It incorporated folk and tribal magico-religious beliefs and rites at an organised level. It is import to clarify different aspects of Tantrism and se which among these could be relevant to erotic depictions. We will examine two broad aspects of it:

(i) its spiritual goal of advaya, sahaja, non-duality.
(ii) its practice of maithuna as a makara to be offered to the deity. We have to ascetain the extent to which these have a bearing on sexual depictions.

As Tantrism is treated in Tantric texts as an esoteric religion, meant only for the initiated, questions certainly arise as to how its tenets and practices could have been exposed to the general public. What can be relationship between the "depiction" of sex and Ttantrism? It is possible to distinguish Tantrism at three levels:

(i) "genuine" or "ideal" tantrism with its ritualistic rigour and esoterism,
(ii) Tantrism at a "popular" level, as associated with some of the Medieval Tantric sects and their aristocratic patrons,
(iii) the influence of tantrism in general in various areas of Indian culture through the fusion of some of the tantric magical elements and beliefs in puranas, Nibandhas, etc22 .

Tantrism developed out of Mahayana Buddhism and Sakta cults, is now believed to be based on wrong assumptions. As S. B. Dasgupta puts it: side by side with the commonly known theological speculations and religious practices there has been flowing in India an important religious undercurrent of esoteric yogic practices from a pretty old times; these esoteric practices, when associated with the theological speculations of the Saivas and the Saktas, have given rise to Saiva and Sakta Tantricism; when assoc iated with the Buddhistic speculations, have given rise to the composite religious system of Buddhist Tantricism; and again, when associated with the speculations of Bengal Vaisnavism, the same esoteric practices have been responsible for the growth of the esoteric Vaisnavite cult, known as the Vaisnava Sahajiya movement. Similalry, we have Saura and Ganapatya Tantras associated with the worship of Surya and Ganapati. The Tantric mode of worship and practices are also associated with Jainism23 .

Essential Features of Tantrism:

Goal of Non-Duality: The aim of Tantric Sadhana is the realisation of the identity of the worshipper and the worshipped, the individual soul and the supreme soul. Here it does not differ in its philosophy from non-Tantric Hindu or Buddhist philosophies, but it distinct from them in its methods. Tantras point to a short-cut to Moksa or liberation. Instead of the laborious path of asceticism, moral discipline and mortification, they make use of magical and psychological aids which help the sadhaka (aspirant) to achieve quickly the goal of self-realization. These include mantras (Incantations), yantras (mystic diagrams), mandalas (circles), kavachas (amulets) and mudras (gestures). By the practice of nyasa the sadhaka identifies each part of his body with that of the deity. Identifying his body with the deity, he becomes the deity. What is speculatively conceived of in the religious systems of the Vedanta is actually put into practice in Trantric sadhana24 .

Yogic Practices: In Buddhist Tantrism and some schools of Hindu Tantrism (Natha sect and Sahajiya sect), the semen, called bodhichitta or bija, is not to be cast. The fall of the semen is considered a great sin. The semen must not be emitted; otherwise the yogin falls under the law of time and death, like any other common libertine. For checking the flow of semen, the sadhaka practises coitus reservatus by taking recourse of Hatha-yogic or psycho-physical techniques. The semen instead of flowing downwards is let by Yoga to the highest centre of the body or the Ushnisha Kamala of Buddhist Tantras or the Sahasrara Chakra or Hindu Tantras. Hastha-yogic processes of mudra, bandha, asana and pranayama are resorted to in arresting the flow of semen25 .

Maithuna and Other Makaras: In Hindu Tantrism, the fifth makara, the maithuna, is offered to the goddess as are wine, fish, rice and meal. The Tantric sadhaka emits semen with the following formula: "Om with light and ether as my two hands, I, the exulting one, relying on the ladle, I who take darma and non-dharma as his sacrificial ingredients, offer (this oblation) lovingly into the fire, svaha. The Karpuradistolram (10,15), a Medieval Tantric work, declares: "If by night, Thy (Devi's) devotee, unclothed with dishevelled hair, recites whilst meditating on Thee, Thy mantra, when united with his Sakti, youthful, full-breasted, and heavy-hipped, such a one makes all powers subject to him, and dwells on the earth ever a seer." "He, O Mahakali, who in the cremation ground, naked and with dishevelled hair, intently meditates upon Thee and recites Thy mantra, and, with each recitation makes offering to Thee of a thousand Akanda (sunflowers) with seed (nijagalitaviryena) becomes without many effort." The Tara-Bhakti-Sudharnava Tantra says that the fifth tattva or maithuna is not the ordinarily performed sexual act but the ritual process involving nyasa, mantras, etc; the entire operation is to be carried out as an offering to the Goddess or Brahman in its collective female aspect. The Kalikulasarvasva declares: "By doing japa or mantra and by adoration of Bhagavati, the consort of Siva, at the time of sexual union, a man becomes like Suka, free from all sins.". Mantras and dhyana (meditation formula) of several Tantric goddesses contain descriptions of a couple of sexual union near the goddess. For instance, Chhinamasta, a fierce goddess, has to be visualised, according to the Mahakalasamhita (248th Patala, p.116), with Dakini and Varnini on either side and Rati and Kama in form of Siva and Parvatiinvolved in viparitarata as a sexual act where female is in top26 .

Tantrism and Fertility Cults: The significant place assigned to the panchamakaras in Tantrism clearly associates it with primitive and folk religion. The propitiation of Vinayakas, according to the Manava Grihyasutra (II,28) of the pre-Christian period, included bali or offering of mudra, mamsa, mina, madya or wine in a basket which was put at the cross road. These four objects are the makaras in Tantric religion. The Mother goddesses were also propitiated by similar means in the popular religion practised in the 2nd century A.D. The primitive worship of the Mother goddess with meat and wine, two of the Tantric makaras, is seen in the Aryastava in the Harivamsa, and is also mentioned in the Visnu Purana (V, 2.84). The utmost importance given to maithuna asone of the five makaras in Tantrism, either in its actual or symbolic performance, reveals its closeness to cults of fertility in which, as we have ritual copulation is performed for the attainment of general welfare and the riddance of all evils27 .

As a matter of fact the writer of these lines personally has a different opinion regarding the erotic carving in Nepal. The Nepalese erotic carving is very much similar to the Orrisan carvings. The tantra literature are written in a code language. The simple translation of tantric literature confuses the reader. The teacher only is able to decode the code language. Once the decoding technique is understood, then the erotic carvings of the Nepal is understood. So far the scholars have tried to explain the real meanings and sense of erotic carving just translating the literature but without being able to decode them. In certain places the erotic carving of Nepal is explained by proper caption. The writer is convinced that there are very scientific tantric equations that describes both the gross and stubble word from microcosm to macrocosm.

32. Pillars and Plasters: These stand to bear the bale of the super structural roof together with a complex of beams, lintels and rafters. In the structures, which have the circumbulatory passages provided outside, the delicacy of pillar can not be enjoyed but as one enters the courtyard of monastry, place or temple there are series of carved pillar and pilasters start projecting out throughout the cloisters. In the residential houses the pillars are usually plain, without any motifs. The base portion of a wooden pillar is generally a plain square without carving, but the shaft and the capitals are much more ornate. Ghatapallava, Patravali, Ratnahara, Puspapatra, Kumbha, Kalasa, Amalaka, etc. are some of the most common motifs. The cross section of the shafts differ from one adorning layer to another, for the motifs are vividly executed. The Purnakalasa, floral design and effigy of Garuda are very common motifs on the pillars. The capitals may display on either side Kirtimukha or miniature of divinity surrounded by the Patravallis. The pillars of Durga temple in Bhaktapur, Krishna temple in Patan (17 century, N. R. Banerjee). Lohan chock at Hanumanadhoka palace are the some of the best examples of the pillars deriving. They are all place in the ground floor. Dettatraya temple at Bhaktapur, Kasthamandapa, Siva and Panchali temples in Kathmandu, Bhairava temple at Panauti have decorative pillars in the first floor also. The pillars of Durga temple in Bhaktapur have more than a dozen of mouldings in the shaft portion alone28 .

33. Wall Band: Many temple and monasteries have wall band design like coiled body of the snake. At the very end of the wall these turn into the bust of naga and naginies offering water through a conch snell or in anjali mudra. In many brick temples of the late period as well as on stone temples we find the ceramic and stone wall band, respectively. Some medieval palaces and Buddhist monasteries are famous for these kinds of wall band. At the very beginning this might have been started to check and stop the dampness of the earth. But later on this became a fashion and part of the temple. When temple started to regarded as a body and the God as the soul of the body, they might have developed this concept as udaravandha. A wrest band that separates the earthly affairs and heavenly affairs.

34. The cloth flag or banner is a very old religious form in Nepal and they may still be seen hanging from poles around temples or attached to the temples themselves. For example the Bhairava temple in Bhaktapur.

35. Kalasa:- The copper gilt bell shaped crescent on the top of a temple. This Kalasa which hang from the underside of the roof of temple. This represents the blessings shown on man much like the cornucopia symbol of the western world, and also this humble water vessel is considered to be a most auspicious ornament.

36. Horns: In some temples exteriors are mounted horns of sacrificial buffaloes. The are considered important as symbols rather than as art. Example are found in Nasadya, Bhairavs of Kathmandu valley and Thecho Nava Durga.

37. The oil lamp railings which so often surround the bases of Nepalese Temples at the height of the plinths. In most of the temples we will find oil lamp Railings to burn wick lamps.

38. Painting: In some temples we will find beautiful wall paintings, struts and other carvings. We can see many Hindu and Buddhist stories in painting. The temples of Bag Bhairava at Kirtipur, Bhagavati Temple of Nala, Jaya Bageswari, Vaku Bahal, are among the many shrine displaying such vibrantly coloured roof paintings

39. Colour: "While the brick construction and materials of Nepalese temples have already been explained, a few very basic additions to the walls have not. As the walls are commonly painted bright red with yellow colour defining the lines of mortar between the bricks, red is said to be the colour of bravery, courage, and strength, while yellow may in some cases symbolise gold, be associated with Visnu, or symbolic of mildness. Both colours are probably used on temple walls, however, for their decorative quality and for their similarity to the colour of the original materials. Red paint renews the appearance of bricks which were baked with oil, and yellow colour is said to resemble a layer of earth. Like most painting on temples, wall colouring of this sort may not be really traditional; certainly the very bright and long-lasting coloured enamels often used today were not in ancient practice "29.

40. Cornice: The wooden cornice designs, sometimes combined with plastered elements, are discussed in detail with reference to several individual temples in the survey of Kathmandu Valley temples. In almost every case this 1 to 2 foot wide band of carved wooden borders, topped by a ledge extending out about 4 to 10 inches from the wall, serves as a base for the struts. These struts are partially braced at their bottoms by the brick walls but the cornice, too, is usually needed to brace them. The struts are rarely seen to be based in niches of the core wall only, as at the Gah Bahal, and this occurs only with temples of very unusual design. Presumably for extra strength, the top ledge of the cornice is often plastered over, and special large bricks are sometimes used here in projection from the core walls to form a ledge. In both of these cases the ledge is painted red and yellow or red and white in the style of brick construction elements. The cornice top may be wood alone, and this is common of most small scale structures30 .

41. The eight Auspicious symbols so common in Nepalese temple design. Always of reference, the usual eight symbols are listed here:

a) Kalasa or colus - holy water jar
b) Sriwatsa - endless knot
c) Padma - lotus
d) Dhwaja - flag, standard of victory
e) Chakra - Dharmachakra - wheel
f) Matsya - pair of fishes
g) Chhatra - umbrella
h) Sankha - conch shell

A meandering line along the cornice may be associated with the water jar symbol and the border of petals, a very common motif, is clearly associated with the lotus. Other garland-like borders may be distantly related to other auspicious symbols like the pair of fishes, although it may be assumed that these borders have now become so standardised that their symbolic origins are sometimes lost to the Nepalese craftsman. Whatever their origin, the many motifs which form repeated borders from the top of the wide cornice to its bottom combine to give an especially delicate and elegant appearance to this band of wood which passes around the temple. Further relationships exist between the auspicious symbols and passage carvings not yet discussed, and these individual symbols and passage carvings not yet discussed, and these individual symbols are given prominent positions on some temples, such as Vajra Yogini, Taleju, Machhindranath and Bhimsen temple of Patan31 .

42. Large Bells: The great bronze bells which hang from massive stone frames in front side of the temple. It gives a symbolic meaning to calling the Gods and project the prayers of devotees to the God through their diving sound.

43. There are a number of wooden elements which have the essential roles to keep erect the structures. They are beams, lintel, rafters, pins, etc. which are concealed inside the structure. Their main function is to bear the load of the superstructure much care has been given in the size and quality of fitness. If any piece of wood happens to fail to conceal inside the wall, artists never forget to leave it without carving. Kirtimukha or animal heads are generally found in the rafter head keeping outside the wall. There are a variety of such heads carved on the rafter head in the Changunarayana temple and which are not similar to each other. From time to time various auspicious symbols are carved in the wood flanking the entrance to the shrine32.

 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Derebail Muralidhar Rao, Hidden Treasure of Vastu Shilpa Shastra and Indian Traditions, pg. no. (V).
2. N. R. Banerjee, Nepalese Architecture, pg. no. 73.
3. D. J. Snellgrove, Shrines and Temple of Nepal, pg. no. 102.
4. D. R. Regmi, Medieval Nepal II, pg. no. 873.
5. Ibid, pg. no. 874.
6. Dhanvajra Vajracharya, Lichchhavi Kal Ka Abhilekh, pg. no. 10.
7. Dhanvajra Vajracharya/Kamal P. Malla, Gopal Raja Vamsavali, pg. no. 122.
8. Hari Ram Joshi, Nepal Ko Prachin Abhilekh, pg. no. 302.
9. Perceval Landon, Nepal, Vol. II, pg. no. 257.
10. D. R. Regmi, Ancient Nepal, pg. no. 300.
11. Ibid, pg. no. 337.
12. N. R. Banerjee, Nepalese Architecture, pg. no. 86-87.
13. Ibid, pg. no. 84.
14. Percy Brown, Indian Architecture, suggestion plate V, picture 4.
15. Perceval Landon, Nepal, vol. II, pg. no. 257/58.
16. Ibid, pg. no. 261.
17. D. R. Regmi, Medieval Nepal, II, pg. no. 871.
18. N. R. Banerjee, Nepalese Architecture, pl. xxiv.
19. Ibid, pl. xxiii.
20. Ibid, pl. xxv.
21. Ronal M. Bernier, The Temples of Nepal, pg. no. 24.
22. Devangang Desai, Erotic Sculpture of India, pg. no. 112.
23. Ibid, pg. no. 112-13.
24. Ibid, pg. no. 114.
25. Ibid, pg. no. 114-15.
26. Ibid, pg. no. 116.
27. Ibid, pg. no. 118.
28. Basanta K. Bidari, Traditional Wooden Architecture of Kathmandu (Post Graduation Dissertation), pg. no. 32-33.
29. Ronal M. Bernier, The Temples of Nepal, pg. no. 37.
30. Ibid, pg. no. 37/38.
31. Ibid, pg. no. 39.
32. Basanta K. Bidari, Traditional Wooden Architecture of Kathmandu (Post Graduation
Dissertation), pg. no. 37-38.
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reference:

Bajracharya, Dhana Bajra. (2053 B.S). Lichchhavi Kal Ko Abhilekh. Kirtipur: CNAS.

Banerjee, N. R. , (1980). Nepalese Architecture. Delhi: Agnikala Prakashan.

Bernier, Ronald M. (1978). The Temples of Nepal. New Delhi: S. Chand and Company Ltd.

Bidari, Basanta K. (1988). Traditional Wooden Architecture of Kathmandu Valley, unpublished Post Graduate Dissertation. New Delhi: Institute of Archaeology.

Brown, Percy. (1956). Indian Architecture (Buddhist and Hindu Period. Bombay: D.B. Taraporevale Sons & Co. Pvt. Ltd.

Desai, Devangana. (1975). Erotic Sculpture of India. New Dehli: Tata Mc Graw-Hill Publishing Co.

Joshi, Hari Ram. (1973) Nepal Ko Prachin Abhilekh. Kathmandu: Royal Nepal Academy.

Ray, Derebail Musalidhar. (1995). Hidden Treasure of Vastu Shilpa Shastra and Indian Traditions. Bangalore: S. B. S. Publisher.

Regmi, D. R. (1965). Medieval Nepal, Part I. India: K. L. Makhopadya.

-------------. (1966). Medieval Nepal, Part II. India: K. L. Makhopadya.

------------. (1969). Ancient Nepal. Kathmandu: Nepal Institute of Asian Studies.

Snellgrove, D. J. (1961). Shrines and Temple of Nepal, vol ix. Art Asiatiques.

Vajracarya, Dhana Vajra and Kamal P. Malla. (1985). Gopal Raja Vamsavali. Kathmandu: CNAS, Kritipur.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
 
  Untitled Document
 

Nepalese Culture, Society and Tourism
By: Diwas Dhakal

This book is a collection
of essays devoted to the
Nepalese Culture,Society and Tourism. A special
stress on Natural and
cultural Heritage of Nepal has been very carefully emphasised.
Diwas Dhakal, 2000 ISBN 99933-570-0-6,
First Edition 2000
Published by:
Mukta Dhakl
Read more
Contents:

Tourism in Nepal: A Critical Analysis

Ghandruk: A Socio-cultural Study

The Aqua Culture of Kathmandu

People, Nature and Wild Life in Makalu - Barun

Purnachandi Bhuja Jatra of Patan: A Protection from Lightening

Vajrayan Buddhism and Nepal

The Accumulate Stupa of Ramagrama

The Stupa of Boudhnath: A World Heritage Site

Pagoda Style Architecture and Nepal

Development of Architecture in Nepal

 
 
 
 
 
Diwas Dhakal : Photo Gallery : Articles : Media Coverages : Contact Information
Copyright © 2009 diwasdhakal.com. All Right Reserved.