Plans of temples: appendix to ‘wandering in a wilderness of moss’

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Dhamnar, complex of shrines from NW with recent brickdust coating

 

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Gyaraspur, Maladevi temple, plan with the cliff that hugs the building on its right flank entirely omitted, and the upper right corner, a part of the building which does not exist, because of the intrusion of the rock, filled in in ghostly form as if it had been there at some time in the past.

 

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Dhamnar, Dharmanatha complex, plan of main shrine and seven sub-shrines, shown as if they existed in a wide empty space, though they are hemmed in on all four sides by the high walls of rock left by the excavation of the temples from the rock that formerly filled the space which now holds the buildings.

Below:  We are standing on the rockface at the top of the plan, looking east over the complex in its pit seen from above.  The tower of the main shrine is nearest to us.  Four of the small shrines are visible, two at the top, two on either side of the tower.  The three shrines across the top of the plan are not visible; to see them we would need to lean over the ledge in front.

 

Dharmrajeshwar fr W and above 5

 

Below:  Masrur, plan of the unfinished monolithic temple

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There have been studies of how this project would have been extended further, based on existing symmetrical temples.

 

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Osian, Harihara temple 1, plan. At some time in the past the fourth sub-shrine, in the NW corner, has been leveled. leaving a poignant vacancy that the visitor fills in or just feels the ache of, and appreciates the plan all the more through its disruption.  Only one of the sub-shrines keeps its porch semi-intact, and there are other anomalies (missing pediments and images etc) that are brought out more strongly by the dispersion of the plan, which draws attention to the isolated, widely separated parts.

 

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Osian, Harihara 2, plan.  Hard to appreciate the similarity of this building’s plan to the previous one.  The scale of the colonnade that turns an empty court into a large draughty hall is so unexpected and out of keeping that everything is changed utterly.  But this project too has to cope with incompleteness, and feels just as much a ruin as Harihara 1, but not a peaceful one this time.

 

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Osian, Harihara 1, jagati (platform) base.  This surrounds the whole site with carving of incredible richness and raises its little shrines to visionary heights.

 

 

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Osian, Harihara 2, jagati base. Another powerful foundation something like a fort.  Very near the preceding temple.  The habit of Indian rulers of endowing whole cities of temples, very rich and sometimes almost indistinguishable, remains unfathomable to me.  Pattadakal and Osian are prime examples and there are others.  Is it the old idea of creating heaven on earth?

 

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Kanchipuram, Kailasanatha temple, plan

The heavily indented wall at the top of the main mass creates some of the most powerful effects in Indian architecture, weaving in and out in continuous zig-zag movement to join a series of sub-shrines to the sanctum at the top. I don’t know how these apparently separate spaces work or how you get into them, but the sculptural effects as you circle the building and get temporarily lost in cavern-like narrowings guarded by nrsimha-beasts with monstrous eyes, claws and feet make a wonderful and fearful experience like one of Blake’s alarming epics brought to life.

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