Bengali Terracottas - Marriage of Siva and Parvati


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Jan 22, CANADA (SUN) — Terracotta story panel at Sridhara Temple, Bankura, West Bengal.

At the close of the previous segment in this series, we previewed a collection of intricate panels detailing Lord Krsna's Vrindavan pastimes that we'll share with the reader in future segments. Before going into these Krsna lila panels, however, we offer the above terracotta of Lord Siva and Parvati's marriage, which exemplifies the famed Bengali storytelling terracottas we're about to see.

This panel, along with others depicting both Krsna and Saiva legends, are found on the Sridhara Temple at Bishnupar District, Bankura, West Bengal. These two panels occupy the space above the left-hand doorway of the temple. The lower panel depicts the marriage of Siva and Parvati (Kalyanasundara-murti).

This storytelling panel is comparable in its magnitude, though expressed on a small scale, to the famous portrayal of the same theme on the walls of the Elephanta Cave. While the Siva-Parvati marriage pastime has been depicted many times, and nowhere more strikingly than on the stele like that housed at the Dacca Museum in Rampal, this Bengali terracotta story panel is one of the most exquisite to be found anywhere.

In the bottom panel, the stage of the scene is the marriage-pandal, decorated with curtains, which are seen above the heads of the people on the right. In the center of the scene stands Lord Siva, the bridegroom, profusely decorated with ornaments, wearing jatamukuta on the head and a garland of snakes round the neck, but otherwise naked.

The bride, Parvati, is seen on the right, seated on a wooden stool borne by two men, who will carry her around the bridegroom (Pradakshina) seven times, as is required by Bengali marriage custom. In front of them are seated two priests, one of whom reads from a manuscript. On the extreme right of the scene is a female blowing by the mouth (huludhvani).

On the extreme left stands the three-faced Lord Brahma, next to him is Vishnu, looking somewhat Buddha-like under a parasol. Then comes Himalaya, the bride's father, with an attendant.

Interestingly, the way in which the marriage scene has been depicted has something peculiarly familiar to Bengal about it. The scene does not appear to have taken place in the distant Himalayas, but rather in the artists' own home surroundings among the villages of Bengal, with Bengali men and women as their heroes and heroines. We do see the Himalayan mood, however, in the faces of Parvati's father and his attendant, who wears tilak, as well as in the face of the priest who is reading.

The upper panel is thought to depict the birth-rites (jatakarma) of Kartikeya, the son of Siva and Parvati. The child is held by his mother in the center of panel. On the left side, the child is being passed into his mother's arms, while Parvati's attendants stand by.

The dramatis personae in both the panels are clad in the sorts of garments that were worn by high-class Bengali gentlemen of about the 18th century.

As we've seen in other terracotta example, the artist has made excellent use of space and angle, which conveys a sense of time and movement to the diorama.


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