The Chandellas of Jejakabhukti (present Bundelkhand region of U.P. & M.P.) were great rulers, warriors and builders of their times. Their cultural achievements were more significant than their political achievements. They decorated their kingdom with forts, palaces, temples, tanks, lakes and gardens, which were mainly centred in the cities of Mahoba (U.P.), Kalanjara (U.P.) and Ajaigarh (M.P.) and to lesser degree in towns of Dudhahi, Chandpur, Mandanpur and Deogarh, all in Uttar Pradesh. But none of these places could be compared in magnificence with Khajuraho which was adorned by the Chandellas with beautiful temples, tanks, lakes and gardens. According to literary tradition, the place had originally eighty-five temples, but only twenty-five remain in different stages of preservation. In the art of Khajuraho every aspect of human life — from birth to decay, every phase of our imagination — realistic or otherwise, is depicted with great delicacy through the chisel of the artists of the Chandellas.
Much work has been published on the different aspects of Chandella art and architecture. But no attempt has been made so far to study the reflection of environment on the Chandella art and architecture. Jejakabhukti is a beautiful region with rich flora and fauna that is set against the lovely and picturesque landscape — a definite inspiration for the Chandella artists. An attempt has been made in the present volume to study the reflection of nature on the basis of literary and archaeological sources.
The present book will be useful to scholars, researchers, tourists and general readers and is a valuable contribution to Indian art in general and Chandella art in particular.
Dr. S.K. Sullerey (b. 30th November 1942), Professor and Head of Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture & Archaeology and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur (M.P.), retired in the year 2004. Subsequently he was selected as Fellow in the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla from the year 2004 to 2007.
Professor Sullerey has directed explorations and excavations in Mahakoshal region of Madhya Pradesh. He has also published numerous research papers in reputed journals. His prestigious publications include:
1. Ajaigarh Aur Kalanjara Ki Deva Pratimayain, New Delhi: Ramannanada Vidya Bhawan, 1987.
2. Heritage of India: Past & Present (Essays in Honour of Professor R.K. Sharma) (2 vols.), edited jointly, Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1994.
3. Prachin Bharat Ka Itihasa, written jointly, Bhopal: Hindi Granth Academy, 1997(4th Edition).
4. Smarika, edited jointly, published on the occasion of 23rd Annual Session of Madhya Pradesh Itihass Parished held at R.D.V.V. Jabalpur (M.P.).
5. Kalachuri: Rajvansh Aur unka Yug (2 vols.), edited jointly, New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 1998.
6. Kalanjara, Banda (U.P.), 2001.>br> 7. Chandella Art, Delhi: Aakar Books, 2004
The Chandellas of Jejakabhukti (Present Bundelkhand region of UP. and M.P.) were great rulers, warriors and builders of their times. They protected their kingdom twice from the attacks of Muhmud of Ghazni. They ruled over Jejakabhukti region for about six centuries, an unusual period in the annals of ruling dynasties of early medieval India. Their cultural achievements were more significant than their political achievements. They adorned their kingdom with forts, palaces, temples, tanks, lakes and parks, which were mainly centred in the cities of Mahoba (UP.), Kalanjara (U.P.) and Ajaigarh (M.P.) and to a lesser degree in the towns of Dudhahi, Chandpur, Madanpur and Deogarh. But none of these places could be compared in magnificence with Khajuraho, which was decorated by the Chandellas with temples, tanks and lakes. According to literary tradition, the place had originally eighty-five temples, but only twenty-five now remain in different stages of preservation. Khajuraho is one of the finest creation of Chandellas. The existing temples of Khajuraho built during the reign of the Chandellas offer interesting study of art and architecture. In the sculptural art of Khajuraho every aspect of human life — from birth to decay — every phase of our imagination, realistic or otherwise, is depicted with great delicacy through the chisel of the artists of Chandella kingdom. The entire history of a section of Indian people, their habits and manners, their joys and sorrows, their religion and culture, could be seen on the temple walls with glaring vividness.
The temples of Khajuraho are not inchoate blocks of stone, kept one over the other but they are living monuments of great inspiration of singing the symphony of life for centuries to come.
The region of Madhya Pradesh, where Khajuraho is situated, is rich in natural surroundings, which inspired Chandella artists to create great monuments of world heritage. Much work has been published by many art historians and art critics on different aspects of Chandella art and architecture. But no attempt has been made so far to study the reflection of environment on the Chandella art and architecture. An attempt has been made in the present volume to study the reflection of environment on the basis of literary and archaeological sources.
The present monograph is the outcome of a study under a project entitled, Environment as Reflected in Chandella Art and Architecture (with special reference to Khajuraho) approved by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. It comprises of an introduction and seven chapters along with maps and photographs related to the project. The Introduction contains importance and justification of topics concerned and also sources pertaining to the research project. Similarly, it also comprises the review of work already done from 19th century AD to 21st century AD. While reviewing the work already done in the field of Chandella history and art history, I found that art historians overlooked the environmental reflections on Chandella art and architecture.
In the present project an attempt has been made to study the rock-cut art and architecture that flourished during the Chandella period at Ajaigarh, Kalanjara, Mahoba and Deogarh. The present study is confined to the main centres of Chandella art and architecture — Ajaigarh, Kalanjara and Mahoba, with special reference to Khajuraho. It dwells on those aspects which are closely associated with the environmental aspects related to art studies.
The monograph is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter contains the geo-political study of Jejakabhukti region over which Chandella art and architecture flourished. The geographical environment to a large extent influenced the life and culture of the region. The geographical factors are reflected in the Chandella art and architecture in various ways. The geographical location provided them building material such as rocks and stone slabs which were available in the region. The Chandella artists utilized rocks for construction of tanks, ponds, caves, temples and vivid sculptures at Ajaigarh, Kalanjara and Mahoba.
The Panna stone quarries of sandstone provided ample material to the Chandella artists for construction of magnificent temples at Khajuraho. Similarly, the diamond mines of Panna gave richness to Chandella rulers for the construction of extraordinary temples at Khajuraho and other places in their kingdom. Thus, the geographical environment provides a basis for study of Chandella art and architecture.
The Chandella rulers were great builders of their time. They patronised art and architectural activities in their kingdom and for the study of chronology of the temples, political history is indispensable.
The second chapter contains natural surroundings of the main centres of Chandella art and architecture. The natural surroundings are reflected in temple architecture of Khajuraho in various decorative motifs. Similarly, the social features of the people are reflected in Chandella sculptures depicted at Khajuraho temples.
The third chapter is related with environmental geography. Environmental geography played a key role in the construction of monuments and selection of sites for the construction of temples. It inspired the artist to create beautiful surroundings of the temples.
The fourth chapter contains forestry and wildlife along with reptiles reflected in Chandella art and architecture. We find several depictions of forests and hunting scenes in which Chandella artists revealed the forestry and wildlife in a beautiful and realistic manner.
The fifth chapter contains animals and birds which were depicted in Chandella art and architecture. An attempt has been made to study in depth this aspect which is less studied by art historians.
The sixth chapter contains the study of water resources. The water resources are divided into two parts — natural water resources and excavated and constructed water resources. The water resources played a vital role in enhancing the beauty of the monuments. Water also played a significant role in the ritual life of the temples.
The seventh chapter is related with the conclusions. The creativity of the artists during the Chandella period articulated and inspired by the surrounding environment is reflected beautifully in their sculptural art.
We can conclude that every aspect is related to human life and the environment is beautifully reflected in Chandella art and architecture. In the words of Banabhatta, they are truly ‘Darshit Vishwarupa’. Firstly, I bow to the gods and goddesses of Khajuraho and other sites for their divine blessing and inspiration to complete this project successfully.
I express my heartiest gratitude to the past and present authorities of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, for providing me an opportunity to pursue my project in the beautiful surroundings of heritage building presently known as Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla. The Institute provided me all the basic amenities and an academic atmosphere to pursue my research project.
I also express my gratitude to the authorities of the Archaeological Survey of India, Bhopal Circle, for providing me beautiful photographs related to my project work.
I also acknowledge the help of the officials of A.S.I. working at the sites of Khajuraho, Kalanjara and Ajaigarh for helping me in my project work.
I express my gratitude to the authorities of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurgaon, for providing me some photographs related to my project work.
I express my thanks to the Librarian and his colleagues at IIAS, Shimla, for providing me all facilities related to my academic pursuit relating to books and journals. The administrative and all other staff of the Institute also helped and cooperated with me in various ways. I also express my heartiest thanks to them.
I express my thanks to my fellow colleagues and research associates coming from all parts of the country for inspiring me and helping me in my project.
May God bless the members of my family who assisted me and inspired me to complete this project. I heartily thank SMS Computer, Boileauganj, Shimla, for typing my monograph neatly arid correctly.
The Chandellas of Jejakabhukti occupy a significant place both in the political and cultural history of India. They adorned their kingdom with forts, palaces, temples, lakes and tanks, which were chiefly centred in their strongholds of Mahoba (ancient Mahotsvanagar), Kalanjara and Ajaigarh (Jayapura-durga)’ and to a lesser degree, in their towns of Dudhai, Chandpur, Madanpur and Deogarh. But none of these places could be compared in magnificence with Khajuraho, which was decorated by the Chandellas with tanks and temples. According to literary tradition, the place originally had eighty-five temples but at present only twenty-five remain in different stages of preservation. Recently, a large and beautiful temple was unearthed in the southern area of the site. Thus, the contribution of the Chandellas in the field of art and architecture is much more significant than their political achievements.
Khajuraho is surrounded by the hilly mountain ranges of the Vindhyas. A small stream flows nearby and the wild natural growth tends to add on to the scenic beauty of the place. The neighbouring hills supplied the artists with massive slabs of stones needed for the construction of huge temples, which are built entirely of sandstone.
According to the Visnudharmottar Purana,3 “consecrated images should be installed in forts, auspicious cities, at the head of shop-lined streets or in villages or in hamlets of cowherds. At river-sides in the forests, gardens, at sides of ponds, on hill tops, in beautiful valleys and particularly in caves. The images should be installed because, in these places, the ‘denizens of heaven’ are not present. In places without tanks, gods are not present; therefore, a temple should not be built in a place having no tank on the right the left or in front. A temple built on an island is considered to be auspicious”. The Chandellas followed these instructions in their art and architecture. Thus, the natural surroundings played a very significant role in Chandella art and architecture.
Much work has been done on Chandella art and architecture by Cunningham, Havell, Fergusson, Percy Brown, Stella Kramrisch, Zannas, Krishna Deva, Vidya Prakash, Urmila
Agrawal, Devangana Desai and others, but no systematic analysis of the material content of art and architecture pertaining to environmental aspect has been made so far.
The Jejakabhukti is a beautiful region with rich flora and fauna that is set against a lovely and picturesque landscape. The high mountains, the flowing rivers, the water-falls, the fecund forests, the trees with their coat of green and variegated flowers, most of them spreading an aroma of perfume all round, the colourful animals whose every little movement suggests their habits and propensities, the birds warbling sweet songs, even the butterflies with tinted patterns on their wing hopping on every flower to sip nectar there from, have all been a joy and an inspiration for the artists during the Chandella period.
Before studying the environment in Chandella art and architecture, we must know the region over which the Chandellas ruled and where monuments were constructed during the period concerned. The boundaries of Chandella kingdom varied from time to time but the area roughly corresponded to what is now known as Bundelkhand. At the climax of the Chandella power in the eleventh century AD, this region was bound on all four sides by rivers — in the north by the Yamuna, in the south by the Narmada, in the east the Tamasa, and in the west the Chambal. The tract was known during sixth century c as Chedi, during the Chandella times as Jejakabhukti, and since the fourteenth century as Bundelkhand.’ During ancient times, the region played a glorious role in the political and cultural history of India. According to local tradition, the ashramas of famous rishis like Valmiki, Vedavyasa, Atri and Agastya were located here. This region is also known for its numerous lakes, formed by erecting embasrkments across the streams. The region is rich in natural resources, and being traversed by many branches of the Vindhyas and numerous rivers and rivulets, it is remarkable for its natural beauty which even attracted the attention of Rama.” Thus, geographical and environmental features influenced the physical and mental activities of the people of the concerned area. The mountains, rivers, and its distinctive fauna and flora are also reflected in the Chandella art and architecture. The numerous art motifs, decorative patterns and designs are taken from the natural surroundings of the region. The rocks of the region provided artists the material for construction of temples, caves, tanks and sculptures. Similarly, the quarries of Panna provided a very finely grained sandstone ranging from a creamy buff to a deep golden hue for the construction of temples and sculptures at Khajuraho. The texture and colour of the stone gave warmth and fullness to the modelled surface. It is smooth where the stone is not weathered. Evenness of surface texture is one of the qualities on which the Indian craftsman insists throughout.’1 A panel kept in the Khajuraho museum depicts a huge number of labourers carrying stones with the help of a long wooden pole.12 The diamond mines at Paima equally add to the ruler’s richness to construct high profile temples at Khajuraho and in other art centres. The environmental factor plays a very significant role in the study of art and architecture of the Chandellas, which is least studied by the scholars so far.
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