Posted by: itsme | December 24, 2009

Modhera Masterpieces

Lintel and jamb of the doorway into the temple

Lintel and jamb of the doorway into the temple

Modhera is well-known for its magnificent Sun Temple from the 11th century. It is believed to be the work of Bhimadev I of the Solanki dynasty. The temple complex can be described as a composite of three distinct parts – the temple, the sabhamandapa and the tank.

The temple consists of a sanctum, an ambulatory, projected balconies on the sides and an octogonal mandapa. The pillars of the mandapa are themselves octogonal, each side carved with elegant figures framed by miniature sculpted pillars. Square pillars and pilasters are beautifully decorated with purna kumbhas and floral medallions. On the outside, the walls are packed with images of the Sun God beside apsaras, deities and wonderful motifs. Friezes of elephants, kirtimukhas and numerous figures installed in miniatures leave no empty space.

The sabhamandapa is a free standing octogonal mandapa aligned East-West to the entrance of the main temple. Entrance porches, parapets, pillars, half-pillars and a central ceiling are the architectural elements of this mandapa. At its center is a superb ceiling to match the beautiful torana arches that give it grace. Some of these arches are alternately triangular and semi-circular but either way they are beautifully cusped. The space is a symmetric octogon but it is truly ingenious the way these torana arches are all not alike. The pillars are filled with reliefs more wonderful than those of the mandapa within the temple. Each pillar is a masterpiece on its own, but together they are more fantastic than fantasy can ever manage to conceive.

The tank and the sabhamandapa beyond

The tank and the sabhamandapa beyond

The rectangular tank is aligned to the temple and the mandapa. This is entered by a long flight of broad steps from a torana arch that stands between itself and the sabhamandapa. This torana arch is missing today and survives grandly in two superb pillars that stand uniquely with a bell-shaped base. These pillars are indication of the grandeur and artistic magnificence of the entire temple. From the arch, the stairs lead to small steps laid out in five levels to the water level. The tank is symmetrical in design with lots of steps, landings and shrines containing beautiful stone idols. Many of the deities carved out in stone are eroded by age but here lies the timeless beauty of these medieval masterpieces. Among the best are Ganesha, Nataraja, Brahmi, Anantasheyana and Trivikrama. Curiously, Anantasheyana is reclined with his head to the right rather than the customary left. Afternoon light puts parts of the tank in shadow and others in brilliant mid-day glow. Light and shade contrast beautifully and bring out the form of the steps, their indecisive ups and downs, and their coordinated still dance.

It is said of the temple that the rising sun will enter the innermost sanctum. Creatures of the night do not care for such a light. Bats hang from the ceiling within the temple. Foreign tourists who are overwhelmed or bored by the plethora of sculptures here and elsewhere, or simply by the repetition of similar motifs, gods and goddesses, are more interested in these bats than anything else.

By scale, this temple is a lot smaller than its counterpart at Konark. It is just one temple unlike groups of larger ones at Khajuraho. Yet in terms of artistry it is as marvellous as either of them. It deserves as much time. No visit in a hurry will do justice. Everything about this temple complex is a masterpiece. No detail is trivial or unnecessary. No stone surface is left to its element. Every flatness is erased to forms and reliefs. Nothing has been done in haste. I can discern a master architect at work, someone who could visualize true beauty even before the first fall of the chisel.

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