Folio with Architectural Drawings of South Indian temples

India, circa 1840

Ink on European paper

28cm high, 40cm wide

Stock no.: A1991

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Full Description

Folio with Architectural Drawings of South Indian temples

Containing seventeen pages with drawings in black ink of Hindu mythology on temple architecture across Rameshvaram, Kanchipuram and Madurai, the first page with later addition in French: “Mythologie Hindou d’apres des scultures (sic) de temples a Ramispuram et Condgevirum et Madura, recueuillis par le Colonel Mackinsie (sic), definis exactement par des Indiens sous sa direction et trouvant au complet a la Societe Asiatique de Calcutta.” 



Translation: 

“Hindu mythology from carvings (sic) of temples at Ramispuram and Condgevirum and Madura, collected by Colonel Mackinsie (sic), exactly defined by Indians under his direction and found complete at the Asiatic Society of Calcutta.”



This volume is an illustration of the continuing fascination of the British with the elaborately decorated, iconic temple architecture in South India. In the 1780s Adam Blackader supervised an extensive series of drawings of Tirumala Nayak’s mandapa and these helped to spark an interest in South Indian temple architecture in English antiquarian circles. Col. Mackenzie (1754-1821) continued this tradition by commissioning the detailed drawings of the temples in Madurai between 1801 and 1805 by local artisans (Mildred Archer, Company Paintings, London 1992, pp. 40). This interest is further illustrated in the collection held at the Victoria and Albert Museum (AL.7766:62AL.7766:4AL.7766:10AL.7766:29, AL.7766:107AL.7766:38). ‘Many of the British were excited by the Great temple at Madura and it was frequently illustrated…These drawings provided detailed architectural descriptions of the pillars, showing various elevations, and betray the hand of an artist trained in the conventions of Dravidian architecture.’[1]



Despite the annotation on the front page being to Col. Mackenzie, a closer inspection of the paper and the watermarks (ranging from 1839 to 1841) indicates that this album postdates Mackenzie. It is, however, in the style of Mackenzie’s collections, seen especially in the examples at the British Library (WD.1066, WD1063). It is possible this was commissioned to be in this style by the Asiatic Society which was an organisation committed to ‘Orientalist’ studies and research, with a focus on Indian languages, architecture, religion and religious texts, which was founded in 1784. It was renamed in 1832 to The Asiatic Society of Bengal and was based in Calcutta. 



The desire to continue the tradition of architectural drawings in a highly detailed manner is reflected in these sketches. Each page contains detailed sketches of sculptures of gods and goddesses, intricately carved pillars, shrines, and designs on ceilings. At the top over every sketch is a small number. Below or to the sides of some of the sketches are annotations light remnants of writing in pencil. Above the sketches, the same thing written in cursive hand appears. On some pages it is just the title and on others it describes the scene. Below is each page and what is depicted:



1. ‘Wardens to the Portals of all Sacred Buildings consecrated to Shiven and sometimes on those of Vishnu’

2. ‘The Hindu Triad of Deity or Trimoortee’

3. ‘Two different representations of the manifestations of Shiven on Earth as particularly described in the popular poems of Madura (sic) known by the name of the Sixty four Sacred Diversions of that God.’

4. ‘Parvathey Shiven’

5. ‘Representation of the Divinity Paravathy painted in the Pagoda at Madura’ (across pages 5,6, and 7)

8. ‘Solemnization of the Marriage of Shiven with Paravathey, whom her brother Vishnu is giving away by the act of pouring the sacred water of the Ganges into their hands.’

9. ‘Arthu Naidesurer’ mostly likely Ardhanareshwar, ‘Signifying the union of Shiven & Paravathey in the same figure’

10. ‘Eswaren or Shiven in the act of setting out to war with the Trepuram. Three formidable demons.’

11. ‘Shiven under the character of Chidumbra Esvara’

12. ‘Dutge’ (sic), likely Durga defeating Mahishasura, ‘one of transformations of Paravathey overthrowing Demon Midah Sooran’

13. ‘Shiven in the Gungala Rubum’, likely Rupam

14. ‘Shiven hurling to the Earth Yamen the God of Death for his temerity in attempting to drag away to the Infernal regions the pious Maracanden when in the very act of performing the Lingam worship’

15. ‘The chief shrine of Choca Lingam in the Pagoda of Madura’

16 ‘Shrine of Minachy at Madura’ or Shrine of Meenkashi at Madurai

17. ‘Badra Callei’ or Bhadrakali



[1] https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O405155/architectural-drawing-of-tirumala-nayak-drawing-unknown/ 

 

Folio with Architectural Drawings of South Indian temples


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