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Monday, June 19, 2017

Hoysala temple of soapstone coming up at Venkatapura - Jai Sriman Narayana

Cardiff, is the capital and largest city in Wales and the tenth largest city in the United Kingdom.  Cardiff is a significant tourist centre and the most popular visitor destination in Wales.   A small town until the early 19th century, its prominence as a major port for the transport of coal following the arrival of industry in the region contributed to its rise as a major city. Cardiff was made a city in 1905, and proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955. Since the 1990s, Cardiff has seen significant development. 

Sophia Gardens, known since 2015 as The SSE SWALEC for sponsorship reasons, is the  cricket stadium in Cardiff and is  home to Glamorgan County Cricket Club – it has hosted many International matches. The first semi-final between England and Pakistan was  played at Cardiff on Wednesday  and the loss made the hosts make some remarks on the pitch !

Typologies are a dominant feature of the diverse Sanskrit treatises surviving from ancient and medieval India. Canonical texts on architecture, called Vastuśāstras, are no exception. They put forward elaborate schemes naming and classifying all kinds of settlements and buildings – palaces, houses, stables for horses or elephants, altars, and not least temples, the palaces of gods. That distinctive varieties and categories are central to the way in which Indian temple architecture was traditionally conceived is as evident in the architecture itself as in the texts that deal with it. Formal types are the very basis of temple design, both through variations and permutations of a given type, and through combinations of types in composite arrangements.    ~ ~  an essay written not in Sanskrit but in English and its author is ‘ Adam Hardy ‘ !!!

Adam Hardy is an architect and architectural historian, and Professor of Asian Architecture at Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University. He is Director of PRASADA, a centre bringing together research and practice in South Asian art and architecture. His research is largely in the history of architecture in South Asia, particularly Indian temple architecture (Buddhist, Hindu, Jain).   He has tried to bring to light a meaningful way of looking at what at first sight seem bewilderingly complex structures.   Drawings have played an important role in his research, not only for explanation but also as a means of analysis.

‘Prasada’ [no m (prasadam)] – is a centre devoted to the architecture, visual arts and material culture of South Asia and its diaspora. The centre aims to integrate academic research with creative practice through research projects and publications, design consultancy work, teaching and postgraduate research programmes. Founded in 1995 by Adam Hardy,  it is  based at the Welsh School of Architecture since 2004.

Nearer home, the  Hoysala empire was a prominent Southern Indian Kannadiga empire that ruled most of the modern-day state of Karnataka between the 10th and 14th centuries. The capital of the Hoysalas was initially located at Belur but was later moved to Halebidu.   In the 12th century,  they expanded to  areas of present-day Karnataka and the fertile areas north of the Kaveri River delta in present-day Tamil Nadu. By the 13th  century, they governed most of present-day Karnataka, minor parts of Tamil Nadu and parts of western Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in Deccan India. The Hoysala era was an important period in the development of art, architecture, and religion in South India. The empire is remembered today primarily for its temple architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka.
 famous Melukote temple – Sri Cheluvanaranar.

Well known temples "which exhibit an amazing display of sculptural exuberance" include the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura.  The Hoysala rulers also patronised the fine arts, encouraging literature to flourish in Kannada and Sanskrit. Their style of architecture is appreciated by all.   Temples built prior to Hoysala independence in the mid-12th century reflect significant Western Chalukya influences, while later temples retain some features salient to Chalukyan art but have additional inventive decoration and ornamentation, features unique to Hoysala artisans.

An architectural style that goes back 800 years, a plan for an ornate 21st century temple built out of soapstone in an obscure village, and an architect from Wales to see it through. That is what connects things in this post and is the nucleus of the story of   Hoysala-inspired Lord Venkateshwara temple at Venkatapura, a few km away from Mulbagal in Kolar district of Karnataka. The usually quiet hamlet hums with activity as people make a clearing, where the fields lead to a plateau.

In 2010 the Shree Kalyana Venkateshwara Hoysala Art Foundation  commissioned PRASADA, through Cardiff University’s Research and Commercial Development division (RACD), for Prof. Adam Hardy to design a new temple in the complex 12th-century style of the Hoysala dynasty. The traditionally constructed Hindu temple is being  built on a hill at Venkatapura near Nangali in Kolar District, Karnataka, India, made of the blue-grey soapstone (chloritic schist) beloved of the Hoysalas. It is for our Lord Sriman Narayana   in the form of Shree Venkateshwara (or Balaji). The brief is not for a copy of a Hoysala temple, but for a new creation arising from the design principles manifest in the tradition.  It is attempted  to revitalise regional cultural traditions: the temple is to provide a setting for dance performances, with schools of dance and sculpture envisaged at the site.
A group of master craftsmen proficient in the Hoysala style of sculpture  are on the job.  The bhumipuja (initiation of the project, orientation of the temple, worship of the goddess earth) took place on 21 March 2010, and the shilanyasa (foundation stone ceremony) in April 2012. Large granite blocks are (2013) being transported to the site and lain to create a level platform for the whole complex.

The Temple trust website: states that :  Rising on its hill of granite and commanding wide views over the surrounding plains, the temple will stand on a 450 ft x 650 ft platform, surrounded by a prakara wall lined by ancillary rooms and a colonnade, all of granite. Entry to the enclosure will be from the east through a soapstone rajagopura. The entire complex will be ordered by a geometry of circles and squares, and a corresponding grid, originating in the dimensions of the garbhagriha.  The temple itself will be built of soapstone, standing on a 6 ft jagati encircled by seven shrines. The vimana and rangamandapa will be preceded by a fifty-four pillared sabhamandapa, a place for performances, open and visible from all around. This will have a star shaped plan around a central octagon, like the sabhamandapa at Arsikere, but with a central dome of twice the span and surrounded by eight smaller domes. 

Beyond the sabhamandapa a flight of steps will lead via an imposing porch to the grand doorway of the rangamandapa. The hall will have solid walls, except at the front, where the doorway will be set in a pillared screen with a kaksasana seat and perforated jalis. Inside, sixteen freestanding pillars will support nine principal ceiling bays, with minor ceiling divisions set at a lower to allow light to enter and glow across the main domes. Two further doorways will lead, via the antarala, to the garbhagriha. The pillars and ceilings of the two mandapas will be infused with a spirit of variety, generated through the figurative and geometrical principles that underlie the temple as a whole.

The structure shuns modern-day cement. Floated by a public trust, it promises to be bigger than the Belur Chennakeshava temple. Leading the team is architect Adam Hardy, Professor of Asian Architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.  The temple has been commissioned by a public trust. “ Prof. Hardy says, “The Hoysala style is known for architectural planning, detailed iconography, beautifully carved pillars and use of soapstone instead of sandstone. To replicate it will be no easy job.”

The foundation for the ambitious plan has been laid now, and the ceremony was attended by the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore Yaduveera Chamaraja Wadiyar. Sure, it promises to be a glorious piece of architecture dedicated to Sriman Narayana. 

adiyen Srinivasadhasan
19th June 2017.

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