Monday, November 19, 2012

Sindhudurg Narasimha Ramtek research article part 1

1. Introduction The hill of Ramtek (210.28'N, 790.28'E), c. 45km. NE of Nagpur (Maharashtra), merits special attention because it appears to be one of the very few places in India where an uninterrupted historical development from the fourth century A.D. to the present day can be investigated through a series of archaeological monuments which, although partly restored or built over in later periods, seem never to have been exposed to destructive and iconoclastic forces. From at least the fifth century onwards the hill, also known as Ramagiri, Sinduragiri, or Tapamgiri (Tapogiri), served as a regional centre of religious activity and probably, also had a more secular function as an outstanding strategic base controlling the highway that connected, and still connects, the central and eastern part of the basin of the Ganges with the northern Deccan. This could possibly explain, at least in part, why the religious structures on top of the hill have attracted the attention and care of the rulers of the area from a very early date. Archaeological explorations in the Nagpur Plain during the last two decades have brought to light a great number of interesting sites belonging to the culture of the Vakatakas (fourth-fifth centuries), notably Nagardhan and adjacent Hamlapuri (7 km. south of Ramtek), generally considered to be the area of the Vakataka capital, Nandivardhana. In Hamlapuri, a splendid collection of Buddhist bronzes was recently found which seems to prove, in the words of Jamkhedkar, 'that Buddhism was a living faith under the Brahmanical Vakatakas'.2 Whereas other Vakataka centres of culture fell into decay and were gradually obliterated,3 Ramtek survived and to date still has four intact and one impaired Vakataka temples (four of them still containing the original idol), besides a small cave-temple and a cave-reclusory, probably also dating back to this period. Moreover, at least one stone tank situated on the top of the hill appears to preserve very old cloister constructions which could likewise go back to the Vakataka period. In addition, the hill and its immediate surroundings contain at least one undamaged temple that may go back to the Calukya period (the Kalika temple c. 200 m. NW of the hill), and temples and tanks constructed during the Yadava period (twelfth-thirteenth centuries), the Vijayanagara period (fifteenth-sixteenth centuries), as well as the Maratha period (eighteenth century and later). In view of this astonishing richness in historical monuments, it is surprising to discover that the hill has been systematically ignored in all standard works dealing with the history of Indian art and architecture.4 In two forthcoming articles the present author has described the archaeological remains of Ramtek hill on the basis of an inventory made during field-work in November 1986; and secondly, has evaluated the
'I am grateful to Prof. Dr. J. Ensink and Prof. Dr. R. Salomon for their valuable suggestions, and to Prof. Dr. A. W. Entwistle for correcting the English of this article. 2Jamkhedkar, 1985, 18. 3 Nagardhan: IAR, 1981-82, 49 f.; IAR, 1982-83, 137; Jamkhedkar, 1986, 339. Mandal: IAR, 1975-76, 36; IAR, 1976-77, 39. Mansar: Nagpur Gaz. 57, 303; Hunter, 1934; Mirashi, 1959, 22. Nagara: IAR, 1979-80, 56; IAR, 1980-81, 40: IAR, 1981-82, 49. Markandi: Jamkhedkar, 1974. Paunar: Mirashi in CII, v, 23 if.; Deo and Dhavalikar, 1968; Jamkhedkar, s.d. 4I looked in vain in H. Cousens, 1931, Brown, 1976. Deglurkar, 1974, Verma, 1973, Deshpande, 1985, Huntington, 1985, Harle, 1986. A short treatment of two of the Vakataka temples is found in Williams, 1983, 225-7.

historical development of the religious structure of the Ramtek complex by making use of this inventory.5Among the collected data are several inscriptions which could be only referred to in the above-mentioned articles, but which deserve a more detailed treatment. This is the purpose of the present paper. For an historical evaluation of the religious content of these inscriptions the reader is referred to the second of the two articles mentioned. To the best of my knowledge there are four Sanskrit inscriptions to be found in temples on the Ramtek hill, as well as two ancient pieces of graffiti. Three inscriptions and the graffiti are found on the walls and pillars of one of the two Narasimha temples, the so-called Kevala-Nrsimha temple (pls. I(a) and (b)); the other lengthy inscription is found in the Laksmana temple. The latter has been published by Mirashi and Kulkarni in Epigraphia Indica, xxv, 1939-40. However, that edition does not attempt to restore the original metrical composition of the text, nor is a translation given. Unfortunately, the oldest inscription, found in the Kevala-Nrsimha temple, cannot be presented here. Its publication is envisaged by the Archaeological Survey of India, and here we can only note what has been published about it so far. In a recent article Jamkhedkar observed: 'During conservation (i.e. of the Kevala-Nrsimha temple), an inscription, covered with lime plaster, was discovered on the temple wall beneath the thick layers of white wash. This 14-line record in nail-headed Gupta Brahmi characters, caused to be carved by Prabhavati Gupta herself, refers to the god as Prabhavatisvamin. On the basis of the internal evidence the temple as well as the image can be dated to c. 415-425 A.D.... The presence of a cluster of stone temples enshrining different avatdras of Visnu (viz. Trivikrama, Varaha) at Ramtek has established beyond doubt the prevalence of a Bhdgavata cult on parallel lines with that popular in the Gupta court. On architectural, sculptural and epigraphical evidence these can be firmly dated at least to the first quarter of the fifth century A.D. The stylistic characteristic observed in the images of Visnu found at Nagra, Nandapuri (Ramtek) and Mandhal suggest that on art historical considerations, the introduction of Vaisnavism in the Vidarbha area can be further pushed back, at least by half a century.' 6 One may add that the other Narasimha temple, which is referred to as the Ugra-Nrsimha, and is not far from the first, seems to be older still. It is similar to the first in construction as well as in having the huge Narasimha idol installed. It is, however, less refined, lacking the two small windows and the ornamentation along the doorposts and on the outer walls. However, it has eight firepits (kundas)along its sides, above which are small pedestals constructed against the temple wall on which, originally, dikpala deities may have been installed. Two fragments of such images have been found and are at present stored in the Central Nagpur Museum. If the statement of Jamkhedkar quoted above proves to be correct, we should assign the earliest Narasimha temple to the beginning of the fifth century. However, stylistic considerations would favour a somewhat later dating, say, the end of the fifth century at the earliest, a date to which the two pieces of graffiti also seem to point.7
5 The antiquities of Ramtek Hill (Maharashtra)' (to appear in the Journal of South Asian Studies, 5, 1989) and' Ramtek. An ancient centre of Visnu devotion in Maharashtra' (to appear in: The history of sacred places as reflected in traditional literature, ed. Hans Bakker, Leiden, Brill, 1989). 6Jamkhedkar, 1986, 340. 7cf. Williams, 1983, 226.

2. The graffiti (Pls. II(a) and (b)) The first graffito is found on a square pillar at the temple entrance. It is written in Deccani style characters with solid triangular head-marks (PI. II(a)). The letter forms, which show a tendency to roundedness, resemble the scripts of the Deccan of the fifth-century Vakatakas and Kadambas.8 The inscription reads: srTmadanalobha evidently the name of one of the early visitors. The other graffito is found on the left square pillar that stands in front of the cella (PI. II(b)). Its characters show a mixture of solid triangular and block head-marks and have notches in the horizontal bars.9 The last quadrangular letter with a dot inside resembles the tha of the Western Calukya script of the sixth century.'0 Hence the inscription dates from the fifth-sixth century. It reads: bharaka(ta?)natha probably also the name of a devotee. 3. The Kevala-Nrsimha temple inscriptions On the same pillar on which the second graffito is found, on the side that faces the entrance, is engraved a more lengthy Sanskrit inscription. An outwardly very similar inscription is found on the parallel pillar at the right side of the cella entrance. Both pillars have recently been connected by an iron frame which fences in the entry to that part of the temple where the image is installed. The appearance of both parallel inscriptions on the two pillars in front of the adytum strongly suggests that they somehow belong together and were engraved at about the same time. As it happens, photographs of both inscriptions have been published in Indian Archaeology 1982-83-A Review (p. 167), hereafter IAR, but this might have been more or less accidental since the description of these two plates (p. 137) confuses them with the reported PrabhavatT Gupta inscription 'on the southern wall of the mandapa'. Unfortunately, no photograph of the latter is given. Nothing is said as to the contents of the two parallel inscriptions, and they certainly do not endorse the statement made in the IAR that the temple' on the basis of these inscriptions could definitely be dated to the fifth to sixth century A.D.") In fact, both inscriptions belong to the Yadava period as will be shown below. I shall refer to these two inscriptions as' Kevala-Nrsimha Temple Ramtek Inscription No. 1 ' and 'No. 2' Kevala-Nrsimha Temple Ramtek Inscription No. 1 (P1.III) Text: 1. 1 trivikramapadodbhutavamdanlyisarasvatl/sarvajnasyd 1.2 . sirasdrasalamkrtisobhand//kdmadevasutah 1.3. rngadevastdrkikasekharah/trivikramakavervd 1.4 dyonautisrinrharimsaddllsimhanardjyesdrva 1.5 . vatsare/a.mgamvaikalyatdmetirdmebhaktasya 1.6 sarvadd/2/samudgayamaka. krtljdndtu/
8Dani, 1963, pl. XV; Biihler, 1896, pls. VII. x-xiii. 9Dani, 1963, 80 f. '0ibid., 184f. " IAR, 1982-83, 137.

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