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The Development of Hindu Iconography

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Item Code: IAB67
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Jitendra Nath Banerjea
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788121500692
Pages: 692 (49 B&W Ills. 3rd Revised and Enlarged Edition.)
Other Details 6.5" x 10.0"
Weight 1.16 kg
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Hindu Iconography reflects fully the Hindu mind in its religious and social aspects. Its study enables one to understand the mysterious India in the varied facets of her life and culture. Iconography means not merely the mechanical description and identification of an image, but also a study of the various processes, mental and social, which lead to the growth of a cult or of a particular iconic type. The present book by a reputed Indian specialists view the subject of the Hindu Iconography from the evolutionary standpoint and can claim to be a pioneer and authoritative work in this respect. The author has carefully marshaled all kinds of data - literary, epigraphic, numismatic, glyptic and sculptural - and presents his materials and different problems in a systematic manner so as to build up a logical and coherent picture of Hindu Iconography in its wide and varied scope. A special feature of the book lies in a discussion of early iconographic types even before the systematisation of this branch of knowledge in the ancient Hindu texts. First published in 1941, the present edition has been completely revised and enlarged so as to serve as the most authoritative guide and reference work on this interesting subject.

About the Author

Dr. Jitendra Nath Banerjea was an eminent historian and Indologist. After his M.A. in 1918, he was appointed as an assistant to Carmichael Professor Dr. D.R. Bhandarkar. In 1952, he was promoted to the chair of the Carmichael Professor and Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History, Calcutta University and continued on this post till his retirement in 1959. His magnum opus in his thesis The Development of Hindu Iconography. He was a fellow of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta and a correspondent for life of the Archaeological Department of the Government of India, a corresponding member from India of the Commission Internationale pour une Histoire du Development Scientifique et Cultural de l'Humanite, UNESCO and a charter member of the International University Foundation, New York. He was a prolific writer on Indian history, art, iconography and numismatics and was a contributor to the different volumes of Comprehensive History of India.

Preface to The First Edition

T. A. G. Hao's Elements of Hindu Iconography (Vols. I and II, published under the auspices uf the Travancore State in 1914 and HHG respectively) has so long been and still is the standard work on the subject. Some other works on it, such as H. Krishna Sastris South Indian Gods and Goddesses, B. C. Bhattucharyas Indian Images, Part I, J. Dubreuil's South. Indian. Iconog raphy, the Bruhmanical section of N. K. Bhnttasalis Iconoqraphu of the Buddhist and Brahmanical' Sculptures in the Dacca Museum, ctc., have been published since then. Krishna Sastri' s and Dubreuil's works, as their names imply, deal with the South Indian images only, while Bhattacharya's book treats of several North Indian Hindu images of tile Gupta and the post- Gupta periods. Bhattasali discusses the special features of the Brahmanical sculptures found mostly in Eastern Bengal. So none of these works can claim to be as full and comprehensive as the monumental work of T, .A. G. Rao. But comprehensive as the latter is, it still lacks certain features which are essential for the study of Hindu Iconography. Rao, no doubt, collected a number of very useful iconographic texts (many of which were then unpublished, some are still so even now) in the- appendices to his volumes, and reproduced numerous early and late mediaeval and some modern sculptures, mostly South Indian, to illustrate the same, but the development of the individual iconographic types has seldom been discussed by him. To show this development, it is not only necessary to study critically the extant reliefs and single sculptures of the Gupta, Kushan u nd pre-Kushan periods, but a careful and systematic handling of the numismatic and glyptic remains of India of the same periods is also indispensable. When earlier sculptural types of gods and goddesses are not available, ancient Indian coin and seal devices help us remarkably in determining the mode of their representation in the remote past. To refer to one or two instances: The Buddha type on Kanishkas coins, the Gaja- Laksmi device on the coins of Bahasatimita, Azihses and Rajuvula, and the' Varaha avatara ' one on the' Adivaraha drammas of the Gurjara Pratihara king Bhoja I, fully show; how they were based on the contemporary representations of the same divinities ill Indian plastic art.

Not only have the above-mentioned data not been utilised by Rao, but the earliest monumental and epigraphic ones also have not been fully made use of by him. But his was a pioneer work, and it must be said that many of the above materials were not available to him. In the course of long years of teaching the subject to the Post-Graduate student" of the Calcutta University, I felt the need of the systematic collection of the above materials and their careful study in relation to Hindu Iconography. The present work is the outcome of years of collection and first-hand study of not only such archaeological data, but also of bringing together many Hew texts relevant to the subject, which have not yet been fully noticed. This volume, however, mainly deals with the general principles of Hindu Iconography, and the early iconographic types of Hindu divinities as determin- able by ancient Indian coins and seals. It is thus complete in itself, and I intend to follow it up with two more volumes dealing with the numerous Hindu cult images and their accessones.

In the first chapter of this book, after giving an idea about the subject itself, I have indicated the lines in which the study of Hindu Iconography should be conducted and the varieties of materials handled in its scientific treatment. The second and third chapters contain elaborate discussions about the antiquity and origin of image-worship in India. In them I have tried to appraise critically the views of previous scholars on the above problems and have given my own based on literary and archaeological data. In the fourth and fifth chapters I have shown how the ancient Indian coins and seal-impressions can materially help us in ascertaining the early iconographic types of a number of Hindu divinities and their emblems, many of which would have otherwise remained unknown to us. In the sixth chapter I have elaborately discussed- the technique of the Iconoplastic art in India with the help of a variety of indigenous texts, few of which were critically studied by the previous writers on the subject. I have also discussed there the various factors which contributed to the development of this art in India and the nature and extent of their individual contributions. In the seventh chapter have been explained the various technical terms and terminologies that are frequently to be found in iconographic texts, a correct knowledge of which is essential to every student of Hindu Iconography. In the eighth and last chapter the Indian canons of Iconornetry have been discussed, a proper understanding of which is necessary for the study of this subject. In course of this I have instituted a brief comparison of the Indian canons with those followed by the Egyptian and the Hellenistic artists of ancient times. It has been found necessary to add three appendices to my book, ill the second one of which I have re-edited the iconometrie text entitled ‘Pratimamanalaksanam’ with translation and notes. In all these tasks I have of ten referred to the views of various previous writers; reasons have of ten been adduced by me, whether I accepted or rejected them. I may submit here that my method in the above studies is mainly objective, and I have approached tile subject chiefly as a student of history and archaeology. This is the reason why I could not utilise some comparatively recent publica- tions of eminent authors, which, remarkable as they are, treat Iconography from an angle different from that of mine. Ten plates are appended to this work, the first five of which contain drawings carefully made by Mr. S. Banerjee, artist, under my supervision, from early Indian coin and seal- devices and sculptures; the IMt four plates Arc reproductions of the reverse figures of some coins and of a few seal- impressions. These mostly illustrate the fourth, fifth and the seventh chapters of my book. Figures 1, 2, 3 in plate No. VI illustrate my observations contained in the last chapter; figure 4 in the same plate shows the broad proportion- of the height of a, human body followed by modern artists of the West.

A few words about the system of trunsliteration adopted in the following pages are necessary. I have followed the system recommended in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, with slight modification; for example, I have invariably used m in place of m to denote an anusvara. In writing modern place names as well as ancient ones still current, 1 have usually desisted from the use of diacritical marks. But sometimes, due to oversight, the same name (e.g., Gandhara) has been spelt with or without these marks: but such lapses, I hope, arc comparatively few. I have prepared it General Index as well as a Biblio- graphic one for the convenience of my readers. Attempt has been made to make both as full and comprehensive as possible; Sanskrit words of technical import have been incorporated into the former.

Preface to The Second Edition

A revised and enlarged edition of the Development of Hindu Iconography was being contemplated by me, since its first edition (1941) had run out of print several years ago. Scholars interested in the religion and art of ancient and mediaeval India. appear to have found something of interest in the book, otherwise the need for its second edition could not have been felt in such a comparatively short time. When I was requested by the publishers to revise it for a second edition, I not only revised it thoroughly, but also incorporated much fresh matter into it, thus enlarging it to nearly double its original size. The topics dealt with in the first edition were mainly connected with the general principles, early types and iconographic and iconometric technicalities. So I intended to follow it up with volumes dealing with the developmental aspects of the different groups of cult icons, and this intention was expressed by me in its preface. But due to various reasons none of the volumes could be published, though manuscripts of some of them were made ready for the press. Dr. Stella Kramrisch, Professor of Fine Arts in the University of Calcutta at that time, and Editor of the Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, requested me to make over the chapters for publication in the Journal. Four elaborate chapters, three dealing with the Visnuite icons and one with those of Surya, were published in Volumes XIII, XIV and XVI of the same. Very few plates, however, could be inserted in them to illustrate the icons, the idea being that they would appear in the monograph, Visnu and Surya, to be brought out separately. After a great deal of progress had been made in this matter, the project fell through mostly due to the intransigence of the printers of those volumes of the Journal. Thus, my original inten- tion did not materialise, and when the second edition of the book was taken up by the University Press, I utilised the opportunity to add four big chapters on different cult icons, including miscellaneous and syncretistic groups. In doing so, I confined myself mainly to their essential features which would specially emphasise the aspect of their growth and development.

In dealing with the cult icons, I have thought it neces- sary to present in broad outlines the history of the origin and development of the different Brahmanical Hindu cults. I have also given brief accounts of some of the principal cult tenets, in order that groups of images illustrating them in an esoteric manner may be properly understood. The Vyantara Devatas, or the folk divinities, have been considered first, for they are the divine entities centering round whom the primitive cults of Bhakti first originated. I have included the iconographic types of Ganapati , Karttikeya, Laksmi and Sarasvati in this group, for I believe that these deities were originally recruited from the category of the folk gods and goddesses. true it is, that compared with the original Vedic gods like Indra, Mitra, Vayu, Varuna and others, such cult deities of the epic and Puranic order like Visnu, Surya, Siva and Sakti contain a considerable amount of popular element in them; but at the same time many features and ideologies that are distinctly Vedic in character are absorbed in them. Thus, various groups of icons associated with the major Brahmanical Hindu cults have been discussed in Chapters X and XI, where their composite character has been deli- neated. Icons of Brahma and the A!?tadikpalas, as well as those of such accessories to the major cult deities, like Garuda, Nandin and the Ayudhapurusas, have been com- mented on in the first part of the twelfth or the last chapter, the characteristic traits of various groups of syncretistic icons being dealt with in the second part. I can justifiably claim that I have been the first person to give a full and systematic consideration to these very interesting groups of images, only a few among which (Hari-Hara, Ardhanarisvara, Visnu-Lokesvara and Marttanda-Bhairava) having been inci- dentally noticed by previous scholars. Two sections, (a) and (d), of Appendix A of the first edition (‘Image worship and the Pancaratra ' and ' Dhulicitra .) have been incorporated in Chapters X and VI of the present edition, while two new topics, ' The Ideology behind the Hindu Images ' and ' Some Puranic Deities in Vedic Texts ' have been inserted in their place as sections (c) and (d) in it. I have also changed the order of the two parts of Appendix B, giving precedence to Chapter 57 of the Brhatsamhita, the whole of which with its English translation and notes has been incorporated. There is no change in the remaining portions of the Appendices.

The first edition of the book contained only ten plates, six being reproductions of line blocks, the rest being of half- tone ones. The addition of the chapters On cult icons in the present edition has made many more illustrations neces- sary, and I have been at pains to make them as full as possible under the circumstances. Sri A. Ghosh, the Director-General of Archaeology in India, Sri C. Sivarama- murti, the former Superintendent of the Archaeological Section, Indian Museum, and Sri S. K. Saraswati , once a student and now a distinguished colleague of mine in the University, rendered a great deal of assistance to me in the acquisition of a large number of photographs of images from various Museums and other collections of India, from which a fairly representative selection was made. I am grateful to all of them for this help. I am also indebted to Sri D. P. Ghosh, the Curator of the Asutosh Museum, for the loan of five blocks from the collection of the same. My cordial thanks are also due to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Bombay and to the Indian Society of Oriental Art (Calcutta) for lending me nine. and eight good blocks from their respec- tive collections for reproduction in this edition. To the old line blocks have heen added a few new ones which are being reproduced in Plates VII and VIII. These as well as the new half-tone blocks were prepared by Messrs. Bharat Phototype Studio.

In the selection of specimens for illustrations, I have heen guided more hy their iconographic features, than by their artistic excellence, though a good many of the images illustrated here are also of a high order from the art point of view. Some of the best examples of Orissan sculptural art, notably those from Khiching (Mayurbhanj), have been reproduced here; many of them were not given their proper share of recognition by previous scholars. Images selected for illustration hail mostly from Northern, Eastern and Southern India, though images belonging to Central and Western India do not go unrepresented. It is true that many of the images selected belong to the category of the oft-reproduced ones; hut I found it necessary to select them for demonstrating my own interpretation about them with the help of textual and archaeological data. The attention of the readers may be drawn to one only among them in this connection. . None of the early mediaeval reliefs of India possessing artistic merit of a very high order has been repro- duced oftener than the so-called Trimurti of Elephanta. But I have illustrated it again for substantiating my own suggestion about its true import (ef. pp. 476-77). I would have been happy to include in the illustrations many images that have been least reproduced or that still remain unrepro- duced. But the acquisition of good photographs of them has not been easy, and for dealing with the developmental aspect of the cult icons many of the well-known ones have been very useful. It may also be noted here that iconography is such a vast subject that it is impossible for anyone scholar to do full justice to it. It requires a band of earnest workers in the field to devote their energy and scholarship to the general as well as regional studies of this fascinating branch of Indology in order that many facets of the composite culture of India may be correctly interpreted.

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