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Indian Art & Culture - Sculpture and Architecture
                                                                                                    October 26, 2017


  • Australia returned three ancient sculptures to India that were stolen and smuggled out of the country.
  • The sculptures that have been returned includes a third century rock carving worth $8,40, 000, a 900-yearold stone statue of Goddess Pratyangira and a Seated Buddha.

  • It is an androgynous form in which Shiva is on the right half and his consort Parvathi on left half, split down the middle.
  • This form of Shiva came into existence after Goddess Parvati got a boon to be merged with Shiva.
  • The essence of worshipping this form of Shiva is that if the inner masculine and feminine meet, you can be in a perpetual state of ecstasy.
  • The famous statue of Ardhanariswara in Elephanta is an excellent portrayal of this form.

  • Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) along with the Army and Public Works Department has taken up the restoration of the moat around Fort St. George in Chennai. 
  • The 2.3 km moat was built during the French Attack in 1760s. 
  • The big section of the moat has becomes a waste water chamber.
  • The sluice gates were closed many years ago and would remain so. The moat would turn into a dry channel, used only to collect excess rainwater.

Why in news?

Buddhist remains on a mound called ‘Ernamma Pallu Dibba’ were unearthed in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.

The remains have been unearthed under the campaign, “‘Preserve Heritage for Posterity’, an initiative of the Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati

What is it?

The remains (limestone pillars) are carved with half-lotus medallions, two limestone panels and a fragment of a Buddha image.

Basing on the style and architecture, the remains are datable top 3rd century AD i.e Ikshwaku times.


Why in news?
  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) included YOGA in its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.
  • The decision was taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 11th session of the intergovernmental committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  • Yoga is the 13th intangible cultural heritage to be listed in UNESCO’s list. 

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity from India

Chaau Dance

Buddhist Chanting of Ladakh

– the ritual singing, dancing and drumming of Manipur

The traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab

– the traditional performance of Ramayana

Tradition of Vedic Chanting




: religious festival and ritual theatre of Garhwal, Uttarakhand

 UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • The list was established in 2008 when Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage came into effect. 
  • It includes important intangible cultural heritages worldwide. It has two parts:
  • Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of urgent Safeguarding.
  • The list includes 814 cultural sites, 203 natural and 35 both natural and cultural sites

  • Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple in Kerala, India has received the Award of Excellence in this year’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
  • This Award was given for the remarkable conservation effort undertaken at the sacred site which employed age-old rituals and conservation techniques drawn from vastu shastra, an Indian traditional science focusing on architecture and construction. 
  • The temple is situated in the Thrissur district and is a classic example of the Kerala style of architecture.
  • The temple has many decorative murals, including some on the Mahabharata theme and other pieces of art.
The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation programme recognizes the efforts of private individuals and organizations that have successfully restored and conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region. By recognizing private efforts to restore and adapt historic properties the awards aim to encourage other property owners to undertake conservation projects within their communities, either independently or by seeking public-private partnerships.

Parvati Nandan Ganapati Temple, Pune, Maharashtra

  • It was given an Honourable Mention UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
  • Jijabai, mother of Chhatrapati Shivaji, earlier renovated the temple in the early 17th century.
  • The temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the main deity of Maharashtra.
  • The temple has a ‘gabhara’ (inner sanctum), ‘mandap’ (outer pavilion), ‘sabhamandap’ (assembly pavilion), ‘shikhar’ (roof) and the main entrance gateway.
  • The Muziris Heritage Project is being implemented by the Government of Kerala, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. 
  • It was initiated six years ago, is an ambitious project comprising the --

  1. development works of Chennamangalam palaces, 
  2. Cheraman Parambu, Synagogue and waterfront at North Paravur;
  3. a performance centre at Gothuruthu; 
  4. a Museum at Pallipuram

  • The project envisages conservation of monuments across Thrissur and Ernakulam.
  • Muziris was an ancient seaport and urban centre which dates from at least the 1st century BC and located at the mouth of the Periyar River at present on the west coast of south Indian state of Kerala. 
  • Large ships of ocean traders frequented the port from across the world, including Arabs, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese. Its historic importance has been mentioned in the Sangam literature and a number of classical European historical sources.
  • Next phase of the project is the ‘Spice Route Initiative’, which will explore the international connections and linkages that the Malabar Coast had with many parts of the world.
  • This phase is to be implemented with the support of UNESCO and United Nations World Tourism Organization. Kerala Tourism has won 2015 Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) award in the ‘Heritage & Culture’. 


  • The Indian Government decided to develop Bodhgaya as the site of spiritual capital to serve as a civilizational bond between India and the Buddhist world.
  • Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodhgaya, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
  • Bodh Gaya is the most holy place for Buddhists all over the world. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana (now Falgu) the place was then known as Uruwela.
  • The main monastery of Bodh Gaya used to be called the Bodhimanda-vihara (Pali). Now it is called the Mahabodhi Temple.

  •  It was here under a banyan tree, the Bodhi Tree, Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the Enlightened One.
  • The temple is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries, cultures and heritages.
  • Its architecture has a distinct stamp of the Gupta era, and it has later ages inscriptions describing visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China between 7th and 10th century AD.
  • Bodh Gaya has monasteries from almost all prominent Buddhist countries.

About Mahabodhi temple
  • it marks the location where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment
  • One of the oldest brick structure in eastern India, it influenced the development of brick architecture over the centuries
  • The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC. However, the present temple is of the 5th-6th century CE, belonging to the late Gupta period. 

About Vesak

Vesak poya, aka Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day, is a holiday observed traditionally by Buddhists on different days in South Asian and South-East Asian countries. 

It commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana) and death (parinirvana) of Gautam Buddha in the Theravad or southern tradition. 

The name of the observance represents a month in the Hindu calendar falling in April-May i.e. Vaishaka. 

On this day the followers gather and sing hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples).

  • Amaravathi has been approved as the upcoming capital city of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It was ancient seat of Satavahana ruler’s kingdom, located on the banks of river Krishna.
  •  Andhra Pradesh Cabinet has also approved the first phase of the master plan prepared by Singapore government. 
  • The city derives its name from Lord Amareswara temple in the village. It is also known as ‘Dakshina Kashi’ (Kashi of the south). It also has Buddhist significance. 
  • The Andhra sculpture is generally known as Amaravati schools. The stupas at Amaravati were made of a distinctive white green marble.


Researchers from the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), which houses South Asia’s largest collection of manuscripts and rare texts, have decoded a copper plate.

Conclusions from the copper plate
  • The date of Harshavardhan’s defeat to the Chalukya King Pulakeshin II is fixed at 618 AD.
  • It was believed that the battle occurred sometime between 612 AD and 634 AD.
  • The plate also fixed the details of the coronation of Pulakeshi II in 610-611 AD.

The Battle of Harshvardhan and Pulakeshin II
  • The battle was fought on the banks of the Narmada.
  • Pulakeshin, ruling from the Chalukyan capital Badami, challenged Harsha’s conquests. 
  • Unwilling to tolerate the existence of a powerful rival in the south, Harsha had marched from Kanauj with a huge force.
  •  Such was Pulakeshin’s efficiency in guarding the passes of the Narmada that Harsha was compelled to accept the river as the demarcation and retire from the battlefield after losing most of his elephant force.


A sculpture of Chandesvarar, believed to belong to 10th century AD, has been found near Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

Description of the sculpture
  • The headgear is arranged as 'jatabhara', a hairstyle worn particularly by Shiva, usually characterised by a large number of penitential plaits worn in a bunch on the side.
  • The apparel at the hip is short and wavy and is kept in place by a well draped cloth around the waist called ‘idaikkattu’ 
  • The sculpture is found seated in ‘suhasana’ with one leg folded and kept on the seat, his other leg rests on a pedestal.

About Chandesvarar
  • Chandesvarar is one of the 63 Nayanars of the Saivite sect and was the first among them to find a place in temples.
  • He is housed in a separate shrine on the northern side of all the Saivite temples, facing the presiding deity.
  • Rajaraja I built the most distinguished shrine of Chandesvarar at Thanjavur.

  • The 7th to 9th centuries saw the emergence of new religious movements in south India, led by the Nayanars (saints devoted to Shiva) and Alvars (saints devoted to Vishnu) who came from all castes including “untouchables”.
  • They were critical of the Buddhists and Jainas and preached love of Shiva or Vishnu as the path to salvation. 
  • They drew upon the ideals of love and heroism as found in the Sangam literature and blended them with the values of bhakti. 
  • There were 63 Nayanars, belonging to different backgrounds such as potters, “untouchable” workers, peasants, hunters, soldiers, Brahmanas and chiefs. 
  • Best known were Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavasagar.
  •  There are two sets of compilations of their songs – Tevaram and Tiruvacakam.


The gilded finial to 16th century Humayun's Tomb was restored after it was knocked in a storm few years ago.

The finial was last dismantled and repaired by British in 1912, who also did a documentation of the object.

About the tomb
  • The tomb was built by his widow, Begha Begum in Delhi.
  • The building was constructed with red sandstone, edged with white marble.
  • The grand mausoleum is a synthesis of Persian architecture and Indian traditions. It is also inspired by Syrian and earlier Islamic models.
  • It served as an architectural inspiration for Mausoleum of Jahangir at Shahdara, Lahore, as well as the Taj Mahal, at Agra.
  • The tomb stands in the centre of a square garden, divided into four parts by causeways (‘charbagh’), in the centre of which ran shallow water-channels.
  • The arched alcoves, corridors and a high double dome as well as the kiosks (chhatris) give it a pyramidal shape from a distance.

  • King Trinumalai Nsayak built this palace in 17th century over 20 acres depicting the grandeur of South India. 
  • This Palace is a classical fusion of Dravidian and Rajput styles.
  •  Built in 1636, it was known for its 248 pillars.
  •  Only a quarter of the original structure stands today.
  • After independence, the Palace was declared to be a national monument.

Why in news?

The Delhi government’s calendar for 2017 celebrates the history of Baolis in Delhi. 

As per the ASI, there are 16 baolis in the Delhi and most of them are in a very poor state.

  • Step wells are wells or ponds in which the water may be reached by descending a set of steps.
  • All forms of step wells are examples of many types of storage and irrigation tanks that were developed to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability.
  • Step wells are of architectural significance.
  • They are most common in western India and are found in the other more arid regions of South Asia, extending into Pakistan.
  •  A basic difference between step wells and tanks and wells was to make it easier for people to reach the ground water, and to maintain and manage the wells better.

A brief History
  • Step wells can be traced back in the sites of Indus Valley Civilization such as Dholavira and Mohenjo-daro.
  • Mohenjo-daro has cylindrical brick lined wells which may be the predecessors of the step well.
  • The first rock-cut step wells in India date from 200-400 AD.
  • The earliest example of bath-like pond reached by steps is found at Uperkot caves in Junagadh.
  • The step wells at Dhank in Rajkot district are dated to 550-625 AD. 
  • The stepped ponds at Bhinmal (Rajasthan) are dated to 850-950 AD.


Why in News?

Recently a historic relic, believed to be from Kempe Gowda era, called Mantapa was unearthed during desilting work inHosakerehalli Lake in Bengaluru.

It is made up of greyish-black granite.

  • It is a four-pillared structure holding together the roof and floor, which are essentially stone slabs.
  • It is adorned by floral carvingswhile the rooftop with a depression appears like a cradle.
  • It is locally known as Gangammana Thottilu (the cradle of Ganga).

Who was Kempe Gowda?
  • He was a chieftain under vijaynagar empire who ruled most part of Karnataka during 16th century. 
  • He is considered as the founder of Bengaluru city. As per a legend, he built Hosakerehalli lake in 16th century.