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Monday, June 5, 2023

Suthradhara Mandhana: talented architect and author during time of great Maharana Kumbha of Mewar

This is a short article on two lesser known, but important iconographic texts called Devatamurthiprakaranam and Rupamandanam. Both texts are credited to Suthradhara Mandhana, a talented architect who was under the patronage of none other than the great Maharana Kumbha of Medapata (Mewar).

Rana Kumbha himself was an authority art, literature and music. He wrote a commentary on Gita Govinda of Jayadeva called Rasikapriya and also two works on music titled Sangita mimansa and Sangeeta Raja.

No wonder that Mewar and the surrounding area is still home to some of the finest Hindu architectural marvels. What makes all this even more admirable is that all this was being done while Kumbha was fighting off barbarians from every direction.

It is this patronage for classical architecture by the Ranas that kept it alive to an extent in parts of Rajasthan, while it was majorly wiped off in the rest of northern Bharat.

Some of the works attributed to Mandana are

1) Devatamurthiprakaranam

2) Rupamandanam

3) Prasadamandanam

4) Rajavallabha Vastushastra

5) Vasthumandana

A prolific of treatises on the subject, his works made way from Mewar to Kashi and from there, to the rest of the country.

The interesting thing about Mandana is that he made extensive use of iconographic texts from Southern Bharat. Devatamurthiprakaranam is said to be more Southern in character. Indicative of the fact of the classical architecture was rapidly on the decline in the north unfortunately.

Mandana made extensive use of Shilparatna and Mayamatam of Mayamuni, both works in Sanskrit traced to Kerala apparently. Other works consulted by Mandana are Vishnudharmottara, Vishvakarma Shastra and the various Puranas. This was a brief history of the text. Now, onto the contents.

The Devatamurthiprakaranam has a total of 8 chapters.

Chapter 1 called the Shila-pariksha deals with throughout examination and selection of stones, timber and other raw materials needed for making the sculpture.

Chapter 2 called Pratima-tala-nirnaya deals with determination of heights for making of the murthis. Here mandana explains a unit of measurement called “Tala”.

Chapter 3 deals with drawing ground plans of buildings and the placement of different deities (Devatapadasthanam) in the plan.

Chapter 4 explains in detail the 12 different forms of Surya, followed by Navagrahas, Dikpalakas, etc.

Chapter 5 is completely dedicated to Maha Vishnu, including the Dashaavatara iconography. But the most important is what is called Chaturvimshati Murtayah. Rupamandam describes 24 forms of Vishnu based on sequence of object held by Vishnu.

Lengthy chapter 6 is dedicated to Shiva. Mandana here describes various aspects to depict Shiva including the famous Sadashiva form. Characteristics of various Linga forms are described. Interestingly Mandana classifies Linga into 3 major types. Nagara, Dravida and Vesara Linga.

Chapter 7 is dedicated to Jain iconography. It describes how the 24 Tirthankaras have to be depicted.

The final chapter is dedicated to Devi. It includes Saptamatrikas, Navadurgas, Saraswathi, Lakshmi. The same chapter also includes details on how to depict Ganesha and Skanda. Many forms of Ganesha are mentioned. Many commonalities exist between texts.

Rupamandanam has been extensively quoted by TA Gopinath Rao, the authority on Hindu Iconography in his book to describe various deities. Clearly it is an important work, which would’t have been possible with the patronage of the then Hindu rulers.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread of @_ugra_)

(Featured image source: bharattravelblog.com)

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