Durga, Matrikas in the Eastern Chalukyan reign!

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One of the important temples of the eastern Chalukyan period is in the village of Biccavolu which lies between Samalkot and Rajahmundry. The village’s name is a corruption of Bikkanavrol, or Birudankavrolu, which was derived from Birudankabhima—an epithet of the Eastern Chalukya king Gunaga Vijayadita III.

Gunaga Vijayaditya III, one of the eastern Chalukyan Kings fully endowed with the warlike qualities of his grandfather. Gunaga Vijayaditya’s grandfather Vijayaditya was a great warrior and a staunch devotee of Shiva. Several grants like Sataluru and Uratur Grants of Gunaga Vijayaditya and the plates of Chalukya Bhima and Ederu plates of Amma I mention how Vijayaditya fought for twelve years 108 battles to defeat his brother and erected the same number of temples for Siva one on the site of every battle-field. In the Ederu plates, a portrait in the words of this great warrior king is presented as this brave monarch is described as having fought the foe for twelve years by day and night, sword in hands by means of polity and valor. Though a brave warrior with undaunted courage for fighting the enemy hordes he was however deeply conscious of the evils of bloodshed in the war which was forced on him. To expiate the sin of manslaughter Gunaga Vijayaditya’s grandfather Vijayaditya built temples on every one of battlefields in honor of Siva named after himself Narendresvara and dotted his kingdom with these edifices. Interesting to note that, the story Of Asoka’s remorse which is surrounded by false theories is well advertised but the remorse of Vijayaditya’s after his twelve years of war remains unexplored.

Like his ancestors, Gunaga Vijayaditya couldn’t escape the feuds between Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas, for eg. Gunaga Vijayaditya after the first year of his coronation anointed Pandranga as the commander of his forces and sent him to quell the rebellion and effectively capture the territory that was lost when Udayachandra the able general of Pallava King Nandivarman had subjugated the southern portion of Eastern Chalukyan territory which was originally of Pallavas.

Interplay of Arts, Tradition and Sculptures!

The inspiration of different motifs and sculptures of the Eastern Chalukyan traditions were predominantly from the Western Chalukyan traditions. When Pulakesin II after subjugating the Malvas, Gujaras in the north turned his attention towards Kalinga in the east and then further south in Andhra region, the beloved brother of Pulakesin, Vishnuvardhana was allowed to establish a sovereign kingdom at vengi which initiated the Eastern Chalukyan Tradition. Hence, the traditions were interplay of western Chalukyan, eastern Kalinga region, Vatakas (political predecessors of Western Chalukyas), and the Gupta art.  The symbols of river Ganga and Yamuna, of the sun and the moon, and the banner Palidhvaja (insignia of imperial dignity), symbols of sovereignty which the Rashtrakutas had inherited from their political predecessors(Western Chalukyas), were adopted by Vijayaditya and Gunaga Vijayaditya the river symbols at the gate of the palace and at the doorway of the temples.

In the vicinity of the village, but in the fields stand three temples and a monolithic Ganesh, and within the village another group of three Siva temples still under worship, including Ganesh in the fields. Among the three temples that stand in fields the doorway of this temple has two river Goddess Ganga and Yamuna as guardians of the doorway along with the Palidhvaja banner were very common in Gupta Temples. These Ganga-Yamuna doabs were brought to the Chalukya dynasty by the Vinayaditya the son of the western Chalukyas king Vikramaditya by returning victorious in the northern part of the expedition. The Rashtrakutas adopted the Ganga-Yamuna doab from their political predecessors and were later won over by the eastern Chalukyan king Vijayaditya. An inscription of the Rashtrakuta King Vallabha paid homage to Vijayaditya by mentioning the winning over the symbols of Ganga-Yamuna doab and the Palidhvaja.

One of the three Siva Temples in the fields.

The three Siva temples mentioned above that are under worship are Golingeshwara, Rajaraja and Chandrasekhara Temple. In the Mukha mandapa of Golingeswara temple are two masterpieces of Eastern Chalukyan Sculpture, one representing Siva and Parvati in form of Alinganachandrashekaramurti and the other one of seated Ganesa figure. In the niches and between pilasters include figures of Goddess, Ganga, Chamunda and Mahishasurmardini along with Surya, Indra, Vishnu, Vayu, Bramha, Naga, Ardhanarisvara etc.

Golingeswara Temple, Rajaraja Temple and Chandrasekhara Temple

The commonness of Mahishasura Mardini between Eastern Chalukyan and the Eastern region!

In the case of Rajaraja Temple, there is a niche of Mahishasura Mardini, the victory or great achievement of killing the buffalo demon in this niche figure is suggested by the motifs or two figures of cherubs flying above holding the crown over the Goddess.

Mahishasura Mardini, Rajaraja Temple

The Durga in the niche of the Golingeswara temple pierces the demon Buffalo holding Sula with a sword into the neck from which the demon is issuing. Her left foot tramples the demon as she stands with a warrior-like attitude. The form of Mahishasura Mardini Durga trampling the buffalo and killing the demon is the north Indian type, which occurs not only in Kalinga, Pala eastern sculptures but also in Chandella and the Deccan in western Chalukyan sculpture which may be derivative of the Gupta art. The commonness of Mahishasur Mardini sculpture represents that although for the feud between Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas and other dynasties the flow of traditions remained constant as is evident from the Ganga-Yamuna doab on the doorways that flew from north to the western Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas to the Eastern Chalukyas.

Durga in the niche of the Golingeswara temple
Mahishasuramardini, Dulmi, Manbhum district in Bihar.  Pala Art|Source: Wikimedia Commons

The commonness of Mahishasur Mardini sculpture represents that although for the feud between Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas and other dynasties the flow of traditions remained constant as is evident from the Ganga-Yamuna doab on the doorways that flew from north to the western Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas to the Eastern Chalukyas.

Eastern Chalukyan Goddess Chamunda, the derivative of Orrisan Carvings!

Chamunda in one of the niches here is seated on the pretäsana, a corpse which jackals are tearing and eating with gusto. One of her hands is in the Tarjani, an attitude of threatening and commanding silence and awe this Tarjani finger is just placed on her lips to suggest an atmosphere of awe. Her face is shrunk like her body revealing her as almost a skeleton and on her shrunk belly is the indistinct mark of a scorpion suggesting the pangs of hunger and indicating her terrific aspect as Krisodari. She carries the Khatvanga. a weapon composed Of bone, a long bone handle with the human skull fixed towards One end. Her kapäla skull cap bowl, the Khatvanga weapon, the sword, the peculiar Tarjani, her bundled up hair, her peculiar seated posture, and the hide Of the elephant usually associated with Chamunda, all combined makes it a really fierceful concept. Unfortunately due to the lack of an illustration of the niche figure Goddess Chamunda from the Golingeswara temple, we consider the Goddess Chamunda seen in different museums to which the author has compared this sculpture.

The source of inspiration for this Eastern Chälukya sculpture is not far to seek for as it can be seen in Orissan carvings, a fine example of which is preserved in the Indian Museum. The conquering of the DakshinKoshala and the Kalinga area by Pulakesin II and then independently ruled as Sovereign Kingdom by Vishnuvardhana led to the flow of such orissan carvings of Chamunda Devi into the Eastern Chalukyan art.

Goddess Chamunda, Indian Museum, Orissan Carvings

It is also interesting to compare with this a sculpture in the Indian Museum of Chamundä from Bihar wherein the hand in tarjani, the emaciated form of the goddess, and the scorpion in the belly are very clear.

Goddess Chamunda, Originally from Bihar, Currently in British Museum

Saptamatrikas: Chamunda and Kaumari in the Golingeswara Courtyard

Due to lack of preservation, the courtyard of the Golingeswara temple lost a group of saptamatrikas out of Brahmi, Vaishnavi, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Varahi, Indrani, and Chamunda only Kaumari and Chamunda are preserved.

Here too, unfortunately, due to lack of illustrations we consider an equivalent sculpture where the pair Kaumari and Vaishnavi matrikas of 13th century from Guntur.

The Chamunda is as described above in fearful form with her sunken eyes, gaping mouth, and frightful tusks striking terror in the minds of the viewer. The kaumari figure is seated on a pedestal against which is shown her a vehicle, peacock. The figure is attractive, as the youthful Goddess wears the Karandamukta (a crown style of hairdo), necklace armlets and bracelets and yajnopavita running over her right arm. The central tassel is dangling from the katisutra (waist zones) and the folds of nivibandha of her garment issuing from above the waist zones are artistically presented. The pasa and vajra are shown in the upper arms, while one of these is held in fingers in katarimukha attitude the other is in norma fashion. One of the right hands is in Abhaya while other is resting on the knee. The Kaumari Goddess sculpture currently in the courtyard of the Golingeswara temple was built during the times of Gunaga Vijayaditya.

Matrikas Kaumari and Vaishnavi in Birla Museum

The Eastern Chalukyan period saw the intense period of martial activity however also during the same time the art and literature fostered right from the times of King Vishnuvardhana (established the Eastern Chalukyan kingdom) to the times of Vijayaditya (the grandfather of Gunaga Vijayaditya) who built 108 Siva temples, till the time of Gunaga Vijayaditya. The eastern Chalukyan period marked the story of sculptural activity which were highly influenced from the western Chalukyas and the other dynasties in eastern Kalinga and Dakshinkoshala where the sculptural art of Mahishasur Mardini flew to Andhra and /or the fierceful Chamunda’s sculpture which was highly influenced by the same eastern region, or the Ganga-Yamuna Doab which were seen in the Gupta temples.

The flow of traditions and art sets an important story, the artists from the eastern part were invited to build upon the sculptures of Shiva, Mahishasurmardini, Chamunda, Matrikas etc. in the Andhra region the same northern motifs were transferred by the Kings to their own kingdoms in the south, the building of temples were always patronized by several kings in the eastern Chalukyan period and that although for the constant bloodshed and feud between Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas, and between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas, the traditions, art, literature were received by different Kings with open arms.

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Note: The images are used for purely educational purposes, the views are personal.

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Sairaj Desai
About Sairaj Desai 9 Articles
Sairaj is currently working in a start-up based on providing 5G solutions. He is a post-graduate from the communications background in IIT, Madras. His areas of interest include history, culture, heritage and science & technology.