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Konarak - The Heritage of Mankind

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Item Code: NAY898
Author: K.S. Behera
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9788173056499
Pages: 384 (Throughout B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 1.66 kg
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Book Description
About the Book
In the Indian state of Odisha near the shore of the Bay of Bengal, stands the great Sun Temple of Konarak, now in ruins. Built in the 13th century by Narasimha I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, the temple once served as a landmark for the European sailors, who called it The Black Pagoda' to distinguish it from The White Pagoda' or the temple of Jagannatha at Puri.

The temple with its sanctuary (deula) and the audience hall (jagamohana) was designed as the mighty chariot of the Sun god with its twenty-four magnificent wheels, drawn by seven horses. In front of the jagamohana exists the remains of the hall of dance (natamandira) covered with beautiful figures of dancers and musicians.

The surface of the temple is adorned with many reliefs reflecting the life and culture of the people when it was built. Konarak. the greatest of Odisha's monuments, is also one of the most glorious achievements of the mankind as a whole.

Since the remains were first studied early in the 19th century, a considerable amount of writing has appeared on Konarak. Now, however, for the first time, appears a monograph in which all aspects of Konarak are treated in depth - its religious significance, history, architecture and sculpture? I he book tries to depict, in all its details, the art and architecture of the temple in a broader Indian framework, as well as in the context of regional developments. The monograph provides reinterpretations of already known facts, and is based on the latest research on the subject. The Appendices towards the end of the book provide interesting additional information on the subject.

It is hoped that this comprehensive monograph may encourage art lovers throughout the world to come to Konarak and help them appreciate the artistic significance of this priceless treasure in the right perspective.

About the Author
K.S. Behera (1939-200H) was born in Angul, Odisha. He was educated at Angul High School, Angul and Ravens haw College, Cuttack. He earned M.A. in History in 1960 from Utkal University with first position. He obtained Post-Graduate Diploma in Archaeology from the School of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. He was awarded the D.Litt. by Utkal University for his study on Konarak.

An eminent archaeologist and historian, he held various positions such as Professor and Head of the Post- Graduate Department of History, Utkal University; Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Utkal University; Dean, Faculty of Arts, Chairman, Post-Graduate Council, Utkal University: President, Orissa History Congress; Member, Central Advisory Board in Archaeology, Govt. of lndia Member, Covering Body of the National Council of Science Museums; Indira Gandhi Fellow of the lndira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi; Vice Chancellor, Fakir Mohan University, Balasore, etc.

Built in the 13th century, the fame of the Sun Temple of Konarak was known to Muslim historians such as Abul-Fazl. In the 17th century it was noticed from the sea by European sailors, who used it as a landmark and called it The Black Pagoda', to distinguish it from. 'The White Pagoda', which was the temple of Jagannatha at Puri. The Konarak temple has been commonly known to Europeans as 'The Black Pagoda' down to this day.

The temple began to draw the attention of scholars in the first quarter of the 19th century. Its architectural significance being what it is, historians, competent authorities on architecture, archaeologists, and students of art history, both European and Indian, have felt inspired to make an evaluation of the monument from their own. As a result, during the last one century and a half, a considerable amount of writing has appeared on Konarak. But surprisingly enough, no attempt has been made to do adequate justice to the subject in a comprehensive and objective study of the monument in broader historical perspective and in greater detail. A survey of the works so far written on Konarak will show the scope of the attempts made, and the nature of the results achieved.

The first work on Konarak came from the pen of Andrew Sterling in 1825.

It is, in fact, the first history of Orissa written by an Englishman. It contains merely a passing reference to Konarak, giving a few traditional accounts. Sterling did not try to verify either the accuracy or the authenticity of the prevailing legends which he mentions. He no doubt visited Konarak, but had no opportunity to make a study of it. In the East India Gazetteer of Walter Hamilton, published in 1828, Sterling’s brief description is incorporated. The next great scholar to visit Konarak was James Fergusson, who observed the monument in June, 1837, made an excellent eye- sketch of the temple, and prepared an explanatory text on it. The sketch and the text are both included. in his book Picturesque illustrations on Indent Architecture in Hindustan. published in 1847. Everything he has to say about Konarak is contained in two pages only. The same brief description was repeated by Fergusson as late as 1876 in his History of Indian and Eastern Architecture; the only new things added being the sketches of the plan and the restored elevation. In March, 1838, Ueutenant Markham Kittoe, the curator and librarian to the Astatic Society, Calcutta, visited Konarak. His account of the monument was included in Mr. Kittoe's journal of his tour in the province of Orissa, published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1838. In hardly two pages Kittoe summed up his observations.

In 1849. William F.B. Laurie visited Konarak and gave a description of the monument in his "Notes on Archaeology and Mythology in Orissa" published in the Calcutta Review in 1849. His observations are contained only in three pages. The same account was incorporated in his book Orissa. the garden of superstition and idolatry; published in 1850.

The next scholar to study Konarak was Rajendralala Mitra. who visited the place in the winter of 1868? His account contains a description of the temple running to about 12 pages with 3 illustrations. The description is included in his famous work The Antiquities of Orissa. published in 1875. In February. 1870. W.W. Hunter made a minute investigation of the ruined Sun Temple and put his description in his "Orissa". published in 1872. It runs only to 10 pages. The same account is included in his A Statistical Account of Bengal. Vol. XIX. published in 1877.

Among other writers of the 19th century. an officer of the Bengal army under the pseudonym of Mr. Carlisle. and a missionary named Rev. J. Long wrote brief accounts of Konarak. or on related subjects. An Indian scholar named Brij Kishore Ghosh made a passing reference to Konarak in his History of Poor in 1848. On the whole. the works of the 19th century observers do not constitute anything very useful in regard to the subject.

Early in the 20th century the restoration of Konarak put the subject into archaeological perspective. Annual reports on the works of restoration and conservation were published by the Archaeological Survey of India. In 1910. Bishan Swarup. an executive engineer. wrote a book entitled Konaraka. the Black Pagoda of Orissa. It was the first full length study of the subject, though limited to 100 pages only. The book contains a fairly accurate general description of the temple including the conservation work. but everything concerning its history and religious Significance is based on wrong theories. Bishan Swarup admits in his introduction that the object of his work was "to describe briefly the work done by the Public Works Department (Bengal) in excavating out the ruins of the Black Pagoda and in preserving what remained of that grand temple. and to give a detailed description of its design. architecture. molding etc.", He did not try to make a critical estimate of the other aspects of the subject. The book is full of mistakes regarding such common matters as the builder of the temple. the time of its construction. its religious affiliation. etc. In 1912 were published Mano Mohan Ganguly's Orissa and Her Remains. The author describes Konarak in general terms in about 45 pages only.

In 1931 •. Nirmal Kumar Basu wrote a work in Bengali entitled Kanaraker Vivaran (A description of Konarak). It was of the, nature of a guide book. though the work deserves credit for having used the local architectural terminology to describe the monument. In 1957. Robert Ebersole published a book entitled-Black Pagoda. Though the title refers only to the Sun Temple. the book contains also a description of the temples of Bhubaneswar. Only two brief chapters. out of a total of six chapters. deal with Konarak and .us sculptures.

Not far from the sacred city of Purl in the Indian state of Orissa rises the mighty ruin of the great Sun Temple of Konarak, once widely known as The Black Pagoda'. As we approach it, its massive bulk stands out against the sky, and from some angles it seems rather grim and forbidding. On one side of the Jagamohana, or vestibule, which remains more or less intact, are piled the enormous stones of the ruined d.eul, the tower above the inner shrine, which once soared even higher than the Jagamohana and was a landmark for sailors coasting the eastern shores of India. Konarak is a tragic reminder of the transttormess of all things, for the great king who ordered its building in the thirteenth century can hardly have imagined that it would be in ruins so soon.

The atmosphere of sadness and desolation, however, soon changes as we draw nearer to the building, for we see that it is covered with sculpture, in relief and in the round. From near the summit. with its figures of gay women musicians playing various instruments, to the ground, where the temple is adorned with many small scale reliefs reflecting the life of the times when it was built, our eyes are carried from one detail to the next, and the temple seems no longer a ruin but a living thing, where the vitality and beauty of a great age in the history of Orissa are recorded for all time in the stone. The court of king Narastmha, the shrines where he worshipped, his hunting expeditions, his battles, is vividly depicted. Elephants are trapped by beaters in the forests. Warriors fight in single combat. Coolies drag large blocks of stone for the building of the temple. And, punctuating these scenes of public activity, peaceful or warlike, are beautiful women, many of them in provocative poses, others closely embracing their lovers. The erotic sculpture of Konarak has gained the temple a fame, or even a notoriety, which its designers could hardly have expected for it. One earnest" nineteenth century British administrator even seriously suggested that the remains should be finally demolished, since they had a corrupting effect upon morals. More recently the erotic sculpture of Konarak has been praised highly, as giving evidence of-medieval India's emancipation from the shackles of fossilized convention and as foreshadowing what modern people like" to call 'the new morality' and 'the permissive society'. Various mystical and religious interpretations of these sculptures have been suggested, and they still form a popular subject of discussion among both specialists and amateurs. But in fact the erotic sculpture of Konarak is much less immediately noticeable than that at Khajuraho, with which it is often compared, and it is time that it should be treated in proper perspective. It is doubtful whether those who planned the temple had any special reason for including erotic scenes here and there among the many illustrations of the life of the times. They represented one aspect of that life, as did the scenes of war and worship: and physical love too deserved its place in the scheme of things. Too much has been made of this aspect of the art of Konarak, for it forms only a small part of the whole.

Since the remains were first studied, early in the last century. many books and articles about Konarak have been written. Some of these are essentially works of literature, subjective impressions of the beauty and majesty of the place. illustrated with fine plates, chosen and arranged chiefly for their visual elect. Others are scholarly studies of single aspects of the temple. Most of these works have their own merits, and we have no intention of disparaging them. Now, however, for the first time, appears a monograph in which all aspects of Konarak are treated in depth-Us architecture, its sculpture,' its religious significance, and its history.

Most of the earlier studies of the subject are the productions of people who carne to the place as strangers studied it. and went away again to write up their notes. This book is different from the others in that it is the work of a man who has, one might say, grown up almost in the shadow of Konarak. Himself an Orissa, Dr. K.S. Behera has known the great temple since his earliest boyhood. It has become part of his life, as St Paul's Cathedral is of the Londoner's or the Statue of Liberty of the New Yorker's. He has spent not many days, but many months. spread over several years, on the site, studying the monument directly in all its aspects, and he has spent even longer in libraries, in search of material which might throw further light upon it. This Is, in fact, the most detailed, thorough and comprehensive study of Konarak ever to have been made. And into the work have gone not only immense labor and very sound scholarship, but also deep love for the subject-not the love- at-first-sight of the writer who, when he sees Konarak, is so carried away by its splendor that he is impelled to write adulatory passages of prose-poetry about it, but a sincerer love, analogous to the love which a man feels for an old friend or a senior member of his family. In the veins of Dr. Behera there must run the blood of some of the thousands of men who helped to build this temple more than twenty generations ago. It is part of his inheritance, in a sense that is not true of most of the other scholars who have studied it. He does not merely know facts about Konarak: he knows Konarak, as no other scholar knows it.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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