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Hoysala Emperor Eleventh to Thirteenth Century A.D.

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 2:33 AM
Mural paintings
With their name derived from an incident narrated about their ancestor Sala, who was called upon by a sage to kill a tiger, 'Poysala' (strike Sala), the Hoysalas were a dynasty of rulers in western Mysore, claiming descent from the Yadavas. Their ancient capital was Dorasamudra, called Dvaravatipura in their inscriptions. The Hoysalas were originally feudatories of the Western Chalukyas.

Vinayaditya was the first important king, whose grand-son Bittideva or Bittiga was a mighty monarch. He made the dynasty independent. Originally a Jain, he was con-verted to Vaishnavism by Ramanuja in the twelfth century A.D. Now styled Vishnuvardhana, the newly-converted king enthusiastically built beautiful temples and embellished them with the finest art of the period under the inspiration of the great religious reformer. The temple at Belur, a gem of Hoysala art, is his creation. A striking portrait of the king, with his learned Jain queen Santala beside him, is found on a carved lithic screen. Though the king changed his faith, he was catholic in outlook and Jainism flourished equally during his time and later. As in the case of the Ikshvaku sovereigns, who were of the Brahmanical faith, with the princesses devoted to Buddha, here was a king, a devout Vaishnavite, with his wife dedicated to the faith of the Tirthankaras. His ministers and generals like Gangaraja and Hulli Dandanayaka were devout followers of the Jain faith.

After Ballala II or Vira Ballala, as he was known, and his sons Narasimha II and Somesvara, the Hoysala kingdom slowly crumbled till it was dealt a death-blow by Alla-ud-din Khilji through his general Malik Kafur.

Examples of architecture and sculpture all over Mysore have revealed a magnificent sculptural wealth of the Hoysalas. No examples of the painter's art were known so far. Though no murals have been noticed in any of the temples, fortunately there are specimens of Hoysala painting preserved in Moodbidri. These are painted palm-leaf manuscripts at this pontifical seat. They compose the com-mentaries of Virasena known as Dhavala and Jayadhavala and Mahadhavala or Mahabandha of the original text of Shatkhandagama.

It is fortunate that these manuscripts, with the palaeography, clearly Hoysala, of the time of Vishnu-vardhana, with paintings in bright colours of great charm, shouled have survived, thanks to the institution at Moodbidri, to give us an idea of the art of the Hoysala painter. It is interesting to compare with the writing in these manuscripts the letters composing the flowery lines in the metal plates from the Belur temple. The sweeping lines composing the letters are characteristic of both. 
Hoysala Emperor Painting
These paintings should be attributed to the time of Vishnuvardhana and his wife Santala who was so devoted to Jainism. These paintings are in bright colours on unusually large palm-leaves, which are important both for the beauty of the letters composing the text and for the illustrations that accompany it. Two of the leaves with letters rather thickened, with a greater delicacy than in the case of the rest, with a soft tone reducing all effect of contrast in colours, and with the outline drawn in very pleasing pro-portions, appear the earliest among these paintings. This manuscript of Dhavala is dated A.D. 1113. Here is presented the Yakshi Kali of Suparsvanatha who, however, is of fair complexion. The bull, her vehicle, is also present. The flexion of her body and the sinuous lines composing the figures are remarkable. Similarly, the royal devotees on one side, the king, queen and the prince, are drawn and painted with great delicacy. These are towards the end of the leaves. The central paintings in both the leaves are a standing and a seated Tirthankara Mahavira. Though it is very difficult to handle a theme so simple as that of a figure in the nude like the Tirthankara, the painter has made both these creations truly artistic. The lovely seat with a makara-decorated back and rearing lions is matched by the fine chauri-bearers on either side in pleasing proportions and flexions. This painting at once recalls the masterpiece of early Chola workman-ship in the Nagapattinam Buddha with Nagaraja chauri-bearers on either side. It is almost monochrome here, but it has a wonderful effect as a painting with depth brought out with great mastery.

One end of one of the other leaves presents Parsvana tha with snake-hoods over his head seated on a lion-throne with chauri-bearers flanking, and with Dharanendra Yaksha on one side and Padmavati Yakshini on the other. One end of another leaf shows Srutadevi in the centre, flanked by elegant female chauribearers, whose body flexion, coiffure, turn of face and twist of neck and crossing of the legs are all very pleasing. An almost similar and equally effective one is towards another end of a leaf. In the same style but somewhat simple is represented the theme of Bahubali who turned an ascetic and allowed creepers to grow and en-twine around his legs. His sisters flanking him are almost as in the panel at Ellora depicting the same theme.

kerala mural paintingYakshi Ambika, the most popular in Jain art, is shown under the mango tree with her two children and a lion. One of the boys rides the lion, while the other is very close to his mother. The theme of devotees adoring Parsvanatha and Suparsvanatha is extremely simple. Such themes, however, as Matanga Yaksha with his vehicle, the elephant, seated with its head proudly lifted up, and the whole picture arranged with an artistic background of trees, interesting for their conventional patterns, are very pleasing. Srutadevi with her peacock or Mahamanasi with her swan and Yaks ha Ajita on a tortoise are all delightful artistic creations of the Hoysala painter's brush. The floriated tail of the bird and the delineation of the contours of the figures reflect great artistic taste and creative talent.

Even the borders in these manuscripts reveal great taste and elegance. Though innumerable floral patterns have been exclusively painted on other leaves, there is no repetition anywhere.

Writer – C. Sivaramamurti

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