Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Tribhanga Goverdhandhari Krishna : A Hoysala Architecture Masterpiece

Regular readers to my blog and also the first time visitors would have noticed my special affection towards Hoysala Architecture.Continuing with series on Hoysala Architecture, I would like to share with you all a wonderful 12th Century depiction from the life of the Hindu God Sri Krishna (Govardhandhari) i.e Lifting of the Sacred Govardhan Hill ,which has been depicted beautifully in a comparatively small frame.

To Know the history on this event please visit the following Links:

The Lifting of Goverdhan Hill
The Life of Sri Krishna

This beautiful Panel from Sri Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebeedu, Karnataka, India is truly mesmerizing. We might get overwhelmed by the details as with most of Hoysala Gems or might give it a pass as just another depiction of the Sacred Govardhan Mountain lifting by Sri Krishna. But Wait there is more to this than meets eye.

But if we just give few minutes to this then we might me able to appreciate the mastery of ancient sculptors and the ingenuity in depicting a whole story in a single frame.I would like to make your task easier by trying to bring in front the details which get missed in our usual glance.

Let us have a look at this depiction in full. What an specimen of fine art, the poise and bends has a special meaning which we will look into now.The Length of the land under the hill has been ingeniously depicted  by putting subjects who are on ground level vertically due to shortage of space in the frame.

Going Anti-Clockwise we will see the subject which fill the left and right of the frame.Starting from the point which actually took my attention. Among the herd of cows literally rubbing shoulders with each other on the bottom left of the panel, I thought I saw a Rhino. But on a closer examination I came to know that it was actually a depiction of cow whose one horn and head has been cut most probably by an invader's sword to demerit an otherwise perfect sculpture.

The same signs of damage are also seen on the bottom right but here we see a broken portion of what would have been a snake in a standing posture most probably awestruck by the spectacle taking place.

We also see the few villagers totally unhindered by the grand spectacle and probably shows their confidence on Sri Krishna protecting them to the core.The details of the Attire,Tools, Pot-belly and even the knots in Loin Cloth is truly mind-blowing.One of the Villager seems to be depicting the event to his friend.

Continuing ,we see a dance party happening in full swing might be to express the happiness on being saved by Sri Krishna and also to entertain all in the times of despair.Again we see a trademark attention to details by Hoysala Sculptors in portraying expressions, attire , instruments and Anklets.

The next interesting components in the frame which show how the sculptors have brought their unique thinking and style to the fore are the snakes,who have been disturbed from their peace by the uprooting of the hill which has exposed them to open, The snakes though literally hanging from the top seem to be mesmerized by the charm of Sri Krishna by putting all  their energy to devote their attention towards him

Coming to the Left of the frame, We see that there was no shortage of entertainment for villagers who have come together under the hill for protection. Here we see musicians enchanting the crowd, again we see that there is no shortage of details.

Below we see again villagers standing totally unfazed in group glancing at the spectacle. Again we see a glimpse of those times in attire and tools, Comradeship shown is also need to be mentioned.

As in the thriller movies, I have kept the best for the last, i.e.The two main characters in the frame ; Sri Krishna and the Govardhan Hill.

Let us look at the lively Depiction of the Goverdhan Hill. Even though the sculptors were given a small frame to work with but there were given full freedom to run their imagination in their sculptures.The depiction of flora and Fauna in the Hill with Human Activities is immaculate, The Most Eye catching component is the Hunting Scene which is in motion with Monkey, Lizard, Bear and Elephant showing their presence, Another scene of a predator most probably a tiger or leopard grabbing his prey by the mouth is also interesting.The Variety of Flora in the form of different trees including Banana Tree. Many other components in hill are still a puzzle to me and I will be updating the post as and when I get more information.

All this seem to reflect the Master (Sri Krishna) who controls all the worlds. The One who Supports the Earth , the Heaven and the Nether World seems to be the mindset of the sculptor. It also symbolizes the same through depiction of Flowering Trees (Creation) , Villagers and Cowherds (Protector) and Hunting Scene in the hill (Destroyer)

Coming to the "Hero" of the frame, Sri Krishna we see that here also Hoysala sculptors have tried to experiment and try something new. And what they come up with is a unique depiction of Goverdhandhari Krishna in a Tribhanga Posture.The pose is also seen in many Buddhist Sculptures also.A dance mode known as "Lalitha".

Wikipedia describes Tribhanga Pose as a Tri-Bent (At Neck,Waist and Knee) Posture where Body is depicted in form of "S". It is used to denote Sensuality and grace in Indian Sculptures and dance.The Sculptor have again let their imagination take over and have come up with a unique solution with crunch in space.

The Sober Face expresses the ease with which the lord is holding a giant hill but the magnanimity of the lord is shown by reducing the dimensions of the hill with respect to the lord.The Ornamentation be it the rings , necklaces coupled with the Free flowing garland is so pleasing to the eye. The Belt around his waist which is in form of a Chakra (Discus) also is rich in details.To top it all, A kind of muffler around his neck reminds us of the current fashion trend which again shows how much forward thinking Hoysala Sculptors were.

As if to Signify that all's well that ends well , we have a beautiful rectangular panel with one of the beautiful depiction of Sri Ganesha one can ever see surrounded by beautiful figures of avian and a miniature of Krishna playing the flute having the similar details as in the main panel above.

Ornaments Worn by Sri Krishna

One of most crucial component of Hoysala Architecture is their Ornamentation, in fact they are kind of experts on it.Now we will look into the Ornaments Worn by Sri Krishna in the above Panel.

  • Ear                                          - Karna Kundala
  • Throat                                     - Kanta Haara
  • Upper Curve of the Arm          - Bhuja Kirti
  • Arm band                                - Keyura or Bahu Bandha 
  • Bracelets                                 - Kankana 
  • Chest                                      - Vaksha Haara 
  • Crossed Girdle                        - Chchannavira (Shoulder)
  • Chest                                      - Yajnopavita (Cross-Thread)
  • Long Girdle Beyond Knee       - Vaijayanti
  • Girdle at Waist                        - Kati Bhanda
  • Tassels over Pitambhara          - Mekhala
  • Anklets                                   - Kadaga
  • Chains at Feet                         - Nupura (With Jinglings)
  • Chains at Feet                         - Painjani (Without Jinglings)
  • Toe and Finger Rings               - Unguliyaka
Will be writing a detailed post on the ornaments in the Hoysala Sculptures....

At the end of writing this post , only one word comes to mind  .. Amazing !!! Truly the Goverdhandhari Panel is truly a high mix of  art ,religion and intuitive thinking

Hope you would have liked this journey with me in to one of the most beautiful specimen of art from Hoysala Dynasty.

As always I look forward to your feedback on the post !




A masterpiece indeed - thank you for interpreting the different frames so clearly.
Only one suggestion - would it have been possible to make the pictures larger, so we can study them better?

Swami said...

Thanks madam.

Agreed the close up are not high resolution. but The full frame photos are high in resolution. you can enlarge it in viewer

will try to post high res photos as and when I get it.

thanks once again.

nlb said...

Very nice, though I was trying to catch some more details in some pics...

Liesbeth Pankaja said...

Hello Swami, thank you so much for your contribution. I so much love Belur and Halebid, we can learn so much from these beautiful places. I am so happy to see so much commitment and dedication with your generation. Please keep it up. And thanks, Liesbeth Pankaja

SSRajan said...

Hi Swami, thanks... wonderful work... keep it up... all the best,

S. S. Rajan


Thanks for sharing the link.

Looking forward to our Nov visit to these magnificent Hoysala temples.

Sanyaasi said...

Amazing is the sculpture and equally commendable is your narration which took us right there in front of the place. Truly remarkable!

Arun said...

I too am a great fan of Hoysala architecture.
Great job! U have studied the masterpiece in detail.

Kundan said...

Gr8 Job Done ... Keep it up ..

Arvind Venkatraman said...

Good post. The descriptions were excellent. You should also do a post describing the ornaments worn by Krishna, other men and the cattle.
Given that Hoysalas specialized on ornamentation, it would be a good details them.

DHIVAKAR said...

Hoysala Art is no less to Chola's. Excellent description. All the best!!


Ashok KRISHNASWAMY said...

Great work Swami!
you are really dedicated. Keep it up.

Gokul Seshadri said...

Dear Swami, Very good post. Please note that the underlying theme of this whole sculpture is something very subtle: Lord Krishna was holding the Govardhan Hill for almost 7 days and nights by which time life had become so casual at Vrindavan. That's why people are so relaxed!

KK said...

Very good article swami, keep up the good work :)

ilaja said...

Amazing exploration... Even I saw this sculpture. All I said was, "Govaradhanadhari panel". Never imagined there's this lot to look at... Sad, that I did not look at it last time...

R.Ramakrishnan said...

Stunning pictures and awesome descriptions. This post really gives a feel of the mystique and magic of the sculptures and has on the whole a mesmerizing impact on the viewers. Congratulations on this amazing post. Great work with the camera.
You can enlarge the pictures by using the feature in the blogger.Trust all well at your end.
Warm Regards R.Ramakrishnan

Swami said...

Thanks Sir. All well Sir

Liesbeth Pankaja said...

Super Swami, thanks.

chakresh singh said...

Loved it. I was searching fro the significance of Tribhanga posture on google and I got directed to your blog. Though I still do not have answer to the question I had but I got to know so much here. The pictures were awesome. Great work. I feel inspired.

Thank you.

Gouri Satya said...

Well described. Cultivation of banana was common in this area till very recently. Hence, the sculptor has made best use of its depiction in various panels inside and outside the temple, adding grace and beauty to his work.

Gouri Satya said...

Well described. Cultivation of banana in this area was common till recently. The sculptors have made best of it in their artistic skill both outside and outside the temple, adding grace and beauty to their work.

Swami said...

Thanks sir

Arvind Shah said...

I am retired engineer and travelled all over India & World. I have not seen anywhere intricate stone carving like Hoysala Architecture. I have also read your profile and amaze to know young man like you doing remarkable work of keeping alive our heritage.

Swami said...

Thanks for your comments !

My Pleasure Sir. Hope you liked the blog and photography page