Indian Temple Art and Architecture

In this segment of the interview, Dr Pushkar Sohoni interviews Dr Mankodi on his journey and the influences that shaped his passion for Indian art and architecture. He elaborates on how the temple architecture and iconographic styles reflect the cultural and historical contexts of their regions rather than just their dynastic affiliations. Additionally, he discusses the role of interdisciplinary approaches in enhancing our understanding of temple architecture and the importance of preserving historical information amidst modern jirnoddhara (restoration) activities.

The Significance of Jyestha Gauri Pujan in Versova Koliwada

In coastal Maharashtra, Gauri is worshipped as a singular goddess known as Jyeshtha Gauri (jyestha meaning the elder one or the senior). In the interior parts of Maharashtra, in the Deccan, Gauri is worshipped together with Kanistha Gauri (kanistha meaning the younger one or junior), popularly known as Mahalakshmi. Jyeshtha Gauri is typically worshipped as a metal facemask attached to an anthropomorphic body adorned with traditional Koli attire and jewelry. A new Nauvari saree, a type of saree worn by Koli women, is offered to the Goddess and is changed every year.

Myths and Symbolism in Indian Temple Architecture

In this segment of the interview, Dr Kirit Mankodi explores the interplay between myth, symbolism, and temple architecture in India, shedding light on how these elements intertwine to tell deeper cultural and historical narratives. While discussing his book To What God Shall We Render Homage, he highlights how myths embedded in temple structures reflect deeper mythological, cultural and historical narratives. He provides examples of how these narratives are preserved and expressed through temple art.

Indian Temple Antiquities: Theft and Illicit Trade

In this part, Dr Kirit Mankodi addresses the critical issue of antiquity theft and illicit art trafficking, sharing his experiences and insights into efforts to reclaim stolen cultural heritage. He discusses the major challenges and ethical concerns associated with the preservation and protection of India's artistic heritage. Highlights the complexities of dealing with illicit art trafficking and the impact of urbanization on built heritage.

Taste of the Sea: Versova Koli Seafood Festival

Versova is among Mumbai’s oldest Koliwadas (fishing villages), strategically located at the confluence of Malad Creek and the Arabian Sea. As with other Koliwadas, the culture of Versova is deeply intertwined with maritime history. The Kolis are among the earliest inhabitants of the islands of Mumbai. They are expert seamen and rely on fishing as their main source of income. The Versova Koli Seafood Festival is organized in Versova village annually. It takes place over three days in January, which is a low season for fishing operations, making it the ideal time to organize community events. Encouraged by the festival's success, similar Koli seafood festivals also take place in Juhu, Worli, Mahim, and Sasoon Dock, among other places in Mumbai.

Exploring Indian Temple Architecture

In this interview, historian Dr Pushkar Sohoni delves into the evolution and development of Indian temple architecture. In the conversation with Meenakshi Vashisth, Curator and Project Lead of the Temples of India project, Dr Sohoni expresses his view on the concept of sacred geometry in temple design, the integration of sacred geography and natural elements in building these sacred spaces, and technological interventions influencing the development over time.

The Symbolism and Spiritual Essence of Krishna Janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami celebrates the janma (divine birth) of Sri Krishna on the eighth day (ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada according to the Hindu lunar calendar, corresponding to August–September in the Gregorian calendar. Versova Koliwada, a historic fishing village in Mumbai, comes alive during Krishna Janmashtami, merging traditional Hindu rituals with the local culture of the Koli community, which has its own distinct traditions and customs.

The Emergence and Reception of Temples in India

The history of temple architecture begins with caves, trees, and other sites of worship, which were later enclosed in structures to house divinity as anthropomorphic forms of worship became prevalent. Temple morphology evolved differently across various regions of the subcontinent in response to available materials, crafts traditions, and worship practices.

Echoes of Faith: Religious Monuments of Mazagaon

By the mid-19th century CE, Mazagaon and its surrounding areas, such as Byculla and Parel, saw the rise of multiple textile mills. This contributed to the industrial growth of Mumbai and attracted migrants from diverse ethnicities and geographies, both within India and abroad. Mazagaon’s numerous dargahs, temples, churches, and agiaries (fire temples) are a result of the complex interplay of colonial-era policies and patterns of human migration over many centuries.

Honouring the Harvest: The Significance of Aagera in East Indian Tradition

The Bombay East Indians’ syncretic culture is also visible in their celebration of Aagera (sometimes spelt agera), a harvest festival for the Kharif crop held at the end of the monsoon season. In agrarian societies, the end of the harvest season brings relief and joy, as successful harvests provide food security in the coming months. The festival’s name is derived from the Latin word ager, meaning a field or tract of cultivable land, which is also the root of the word agriculture.

Suswani Mata Temple at Morkhana

Bikaner, Rajasthan

The Morkhana village, also called as Morkhiyana, is home to an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected temple dedicated to Suswani Ma. The Goddess is believed to be a kuldevi (family deity) of the Surana clan. The original temple of Suswani Mata dates back to the twelfth century CE construction, undergoing restoration and reconstruction multiple times since its inception. Presently, the temple comprises only the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), with a later added mandapa (closed hall), courtyard, and rest houses.

Reverence and Reflection: Observance of Good Friday at Mount Mary Basilica in Bandra

Good Friday, observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday, attracts numerous devotees to Mount Mary Basilica, both from the local community and visitors. Good Friday is marked by mourning, reflection, and devotion as Catholics remember the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ for humanity’s salvation. The day is considered ‘good’ because it is believed to be the day when Jesus Christ, through his sacrificial death on the cross, redeemed humanity from sin and opened the way to salvation and eternal life. The term ‘good’ in this context likely originates from an older meaning of the word, which meant ‘holy’ or ‘pious’.

Seth Bhandasar Jain Temple

Bikaner, Rajasthan

The Seth Bhandasar Jain Temple is situated in Bikaner, Rajasthan, within the older part of the walled city. It resides amidst one of the busiest areas of the city, Bada Bazaar, adjacent to another famous temple of Bikaner, the Lakshmi Nath Temple. Bhandasar Temple is dedicated to the fifth tirthankara (spiritual teacher), Sumatinath, and is affiliated to the Shvetambara Jain tradition.

Stitch in Time: Fish Net Repair by Kolis

Kolis fish in the creeks and mangroves along Mumbai’s coastline. In shallow intertidal zones, they rely on fixed gillnets, cast nets, and hand-held nets to trap fish that get caught during high tide. Koli men devote their spare time to repairing their fishing nets. Fishing nets require regular maintenance and repair to keep them in good condition. It is a task of utmost importance to ensure broken nets are ready as quickly as possible.

Bijolia Group of Temples

Bhilwara, Rajasthan

The Bijolia group of temples, located in the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan, represents a significant chapter in the region's rich architectural heritage. Located in the quaint town of Bijolia, the complex, protected under the Jaipur Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), stands as a timeless marvel amidst the Uparmal plateau, formerly known as Vindhyavali. The complex includes three temples and a kund (water tank). The group of temples is much renowned for the first one the Mahakal Temple, also popularly called the Bijoliyan Mahadeva Temple. The other two temples are the Hazareshwar Temple and Undeshwar Temple. The serene Mandakini Kund adds to the spiritual ambience of this historical site.

Sustainable Traditions: Dried Fish Industry in Khar Danda

Despite the urbanization of much of the surrounding area, Khar Danda has retained its identity as a fishing village. The quaint village is home to the Koli community, who rely on fishing and related activities for their livelihood. From Danda dhakka (dock), hundreds of fishing boats venture out to sea at dawn. After a few hours, the boats return and offload the catch. Packed in ice, the catch is transported to wholesale markets, where it is sorted and distributed to fish vendors. The damaged and unsold fish are bought by Koli women to make dried fish, which is a valuable source of income for many Koli families. Though the supply is highly variable and seasonal, it is estimated that 10–20 percent of the total catch is dried.

Baroli Group of Temples

Chittorgarh, Rajasthan

The village of Baroli, also known as Badoli near Rawatbhata, is home to nine ancient temples built around the 10th to 11th centuries CE. The Baroli group of temples, designated a monument of national significance under the Jodhpur Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), encompasses eight of these nine temples, standing as a testament to the exquisite artistry and architectural prowess of the Pratihara style. The temples are dedicated to various deities; Shiva who is represented in three temples, Vishnu in his reclining Sheshashayi and Vamana form, Mahishasuramardini who is deified in two temples, one of which is outside the complex walls, and Ganesha.

Worli Koliwada

Situated at the tip of a plush locality of Worli in Mumbai is a gaothan or an urban village, known as the Worli Koliwada, which is home to the Indigenous fishing community of Mumbai, the Kolis and the East Indians. The Worli Koliwada is rich with cultural, historical, and social significance.

Bisaldeo Temple

Tonk, Rajasthan

The Bisaldeo Temple in the Tonk district of Rajasthan is a 12th-century CE temple that is popularly revered as the Gokarneshwara (Gokarnesvara) Mahadev in and around the region. Located near the Bisalpur dam on the Banas river, 150 km from Jaipur, the courtyard of the temple is partly submerged in the river water most of time around the year.

Mahim Koliwada

The completion of the Mahim Causeway in 1846 brought about significant changes in the local demographic setup for the Mahim Kolis. Despite its current appearance at a similar level to the surrounding neighbourhood of Mahim, the causeway was actually built at a slight elevation from the adjoining area, with a slope on the sea-facing side. The Kolis of Mahim adopted the term ‘sulup’ from their vocabulary to describe this slope, and the settlement that emerged between the sea and the causeway became known and is still referred to as Sulup. Two other areas where the Mahim Kolis were and still are concentrated are the Mori Road and the Kapad Bazaar area, the latter being the main marketplace of the Mahim Koliwada.

Neelkanth Mahadev Group of Temples

Alwar, Rajasthan

The Sariska Tiger Reserve in the Alwar district of Rajasthan is home to several temples that are more than 1000 years old. A magnificent collection of architectural designs spread over two kilometres, these temples are known as the Neelkanth Mahadev group of temples, named after one of its better-preserved temples from the complex. This module focuses on the architectural remains of the Neelkanth Mahadev group of temples with special reference to the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. A triple-shrine temple probably dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi, the temple is an excellent example of temple architecture prevalent during the 10th century CE.

Mumbai’s Biodiversity and the Kolis

Humans depend on nature for their survival. As a result, cultures, value systems, and behaviours are often a result of the environment and habitat one resides in. All over the world, indigenous communities have adapted to their natural environments over time. Indigenous populations residing in these spaces revere them and conserve the ecosystem through sustainable practices, as seen in farming and fishing.

The Temple Doorway

Context and Manifestations: A select case study from North India

The Hindu temple is one of the most significant tangible expressions of the highly evolved architectural knowledge system and can be seen throughout the nation. From the 5th to the mid-13th century CE, temple-building activities were carried out on a massive scale and in various styles, each rooted in its regional traditions but maintaining the essence of form and meaning. The temple building embodies the entire cosmos in its structure and is the abode of God. All three realms of the universe are symbolically represented through the plethora of imagery on the temple walls and doorways.

Madh Koliwada

The Madh Koliwada of Madh is situated on the south side of the present-day peninsula that was once an island off the west coast of Sashti. The British-era map of Mumbai refers to it as Mhar. It is strategically located, with the open sea to its west and the creek to its east, which gave the local Kolis plenty of area to fish in. It is a considerably large Koliwada divided into numerous padas or gaons and gallis; like Dongar Pada, Vatar Galli, Madhla Pada, Bhotkar Galli, Darya Galli, Vandre Galli, Nava Nagar, Navpada, Lochar Gaon, Paat Wadi, Dhondi Pada, Oscar Wadi, Christian Galli, Marathi Aali, etc.

Charchoma Shiva Temple

Kota, Rajasthan

Protected under the Jaipur Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Shiva Temple at Charchoma Maliya is one of the oldest surviving temples in Rajasthan. It has gone several modifications over the period of time up till 19th century CE. The garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum with a flat roofed antarala (vestibule) belong to the late Gupta period (about 7th century CE) are the oldest surviving architectural features of the temple

Malvani Gaon

Malvani Gaon (or Malvani Village) is located in Malad and also finds mention in the Mahikavatichi Bakhar by the name of Malvan, whose Sanskritised name must have been Mallavana, or forest of malla trees. The malla tree (Bauhinia racemosa), is also known as apta in Marathi, and the region of Malvani must have been wooded with these trees, possibly giving the place its name. Malvani is comprised of Hindu and Christian Kolis, also known as East Indians, and Bhandaris. The village was and is still ensconced between Rathodi village to its west, Charkop village to its north, Marve to its east, and Dharavali village to its south. It was one of the most important villages in this part of Mumbai, and the villages of Kharodi and Rathodi are still considered part of Malvani division in terms of administration.

Harshnath Temple

Sikar, Rajasthan

Located 14km from the district headquarters and perched atop the Harsha Hill in the Sikar district of Rajasthan, the Harshnath Temple Complex is a protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The complex comprises many architectural remnants from the 10th to 18th century CE. At the heart of the complex, lies the historical Harshnath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Harshatmata Temple

Dausa, Rajasthan

The Harshatmata Temple in Abhaneri, situated off the Delhi-Jaipur highway—six kilometres from the Bandikui railway station—in the Dausa district of Rajasthan, dates back to the 9th century CE. The temple was built under the reign of the Shakambhari Chahamanas, who were the feudatories of the Gurjara-Pratiharas. The temple stands as an example of the Maha-Maru style architecture in the region. The temple is dedicated to the worship of Harshat Mata, or Harasiddhi Devi who is considered the ishta (main or presiding deity) of Abhaneri.

Documenting Temples: Understanding the different techniques, scope, strengths, and limitations of documenting built heritage

In the process of conserving cultural heritage, there are three main phases highlighted in The Burra Charter: the Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (2013). The first is understanding the significance of heritage, the second is developing a policy for it, and the third is managing the heritage site according to the policy. It is crucial to have a holistic understanding of the significance of heritage sites. Data collection on cultural heritage sites is based on various primary and secondary documentation techniques and sources.

Arthuna Group of Temples

Banswara, Rajasthan

A group of about twelve temples is located in the small village of Arthuna in the Garhi tehsil of the Banswara district of Rajasthan. It is nestled in the historical region of Vagada, and is one of the forested zones with rich flora and fauna. Several of the temples, for instance, the Hanuman Garhi Temple complex, Mandaleshwar Temple, Someshwar Mahadev Temple and Jain Temple, among a few others are large temple complexes, built in the panchayatana system, where the main temple is surrounded by four subsidiary shrines. Arthuna mainly flourished as the capital of the Paramaras of Vagada, a branch of the imperial Paramaras of Malwa. As evident from the eleventh-twelfth century inscriptions, Paramara rulers Chamundaraja and Vijayraja, were instrumental in patronizing the temples in Arthuna.

Versova Koliwada

Situated in the Andheri suburb of Mumbai, Versova Koliwada is one of the city’s prominent Koliwadas. The earliest reference to Versova dates back to the 12th century chronicle named Mahikavatichi Bakhar, which mentions a village named Yesav[1] (येसाव) on the west coast of Salsette island. The term ‘Versova’ appears to be derived from the Prakrit and later Marathi word Visava which means respite. Locals still refer to their Koliwada as Vesave (वेसावे), with the surname ‘Vesavkar’ being common in the area. Mumbai has long been renowned for its deep natural harbour, and this holds true for the many villages that dot its coast, which boast deep waters safe for heavy cargo boats. Strategically positioned at the mouth of the Versova Creek, a deep inlet of the sea into the mainland, Versova served as a resting and restocking station for merchant ships traversing the west coast of India for centuries.

Bhandup Koliwada

Bhandup is one of the most historically relevant places in the city of Mumbai. The Shilaharas of Thane, who ruled this region from the 10th- 12th centuries CE, are known to have built a Rajpath, or royal road, that passed through Bhandup, and connected their capital to places on the eastern seaboard of Mumbai. A copper plate inscription mentioning Bhandup was found in 1835 in a field in Nahur. The inscription dates back to the reign of the Northern Shilahara King Chhittarajadev, who ruled from 1022-1035 CE.

Dharavi Koliwada

The word Dharavi conjures up images of vast sprawls of unorganized housing, with the notorious title of the largest slum in Asia. However, like everywhere, Dharavi has more than meets the eye. On a casual stroll from one of the entry points of the settlement, one stumbles across the quaint Koliwada of Dharavi. Visually distinct from the other areas of the Dharavi, this part of modern Dharavi was once the aboriginal fishing village on the banks of the Mithi River and Mahim Creek, which gave its name to the entire locality that grew around it.

Manori Koliwada

The Bakhar mentions Manori as one of the five villages that made up ‘Thikan Uttan’ under the administration of an officer called Sindhe Sheshvanshi. In fact, Manori is one of the few places whose name has remained unchanged since the time. The traditional expanse of Manori Koliwada stretches from Sumlai Talav in the north, Manori jetty to the south, the open sea to the west, and Manori creek to the east. It is home predominantly to the Koli community, comprised of Hindu and Christian Kolis, along with a small population of Bhandari and Kunbi communities.

Vazira Koliwada

The Vazira Koliwada is situated at the intersection of Lokmanya Tilak Road and Linking Road on the western side of the Borivali suburb of Mumbai. It is one of the indigenous Koliwadas in the Borivali region. While neighbouring Eksar and Shimpoli gaothans are mentioned in the Mahikavatichi Bakhar, Vazira finds no mention in this work or in any other old documents related to the city. According to a local resident, Yavan Vaity, Vazira has been in existence for at least the past century, as per accounts passed down by village elders. The name Vazira is peculiar compared to other Koliwadas, and the current inhabitants have no information on its etymological origins.

Mahanal Temple And Math: Menal Group of Temples

Chittorgarh, Rajasthan

The scenic location of the Menal Valley in Rajasthan is home to exquisite temples and monasteries built over four hundred years, ranging from as early as the eighth century up to the fourteenth century CE. Apart from the two large temples, Mahanaleshwar and Suhaveshwar, there are about four to five smaller temples, two monasteries, and several architectural fragments strewn within the premises of the complex.

Chandrabhaga Group of Temples

Jhalawar, Rajasthan

Situated on the banks of the Chandrabhaga River in the heart of Jhalawar district, Rajasthan, lie the ancient temples of Chandravati, also known as Chandrabhaga, at Jhalarpatan. Founded by Jhala Jalim Singh in 1789 CE, the city of Jhalawar, formerly known as Chandravati, has seen the rise and fall of empires, yet its sacred temples remain significant symbols of architectural and spiritual heritage. Within the temple complex, the compound under the Jaipur Circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) houses five temples in varying states of preservation. The Sitaleshwar Temple, dedicated to Shiva, is the most prominent, accompanied by two other Shiva temples, a Vishnu Temple, and a temple dedicated to Mahishasuramardini. A modest four-pillared mandapa (pillared hall), with a Ganesha figure at the centre, is also part of the complex.

Kaner-ki-Putli Temple

Bhilwara, Rajasthan

The Kaner-ki-Putli Temple is a Shiva temple located in the picturesque Khadirpur locality of Bijolia, Rajasthan. The protected heritage site under the Jaipur Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), preserves its cultural legacy in the wild within the Vindhya ranges. The secluded temple is surrounded by Bijolia stone mines all around it. The temple is oriented towards the west and its current structure includes a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and an antarala (antechamber), while the mandapa (pillared hall) lies in ruins. The temple features intricate vedibandha (basal mouldings) and a finely carved jangha (wall), characteristic of the 12th century CE architectural style

Gavanpada Koliwada

The Mahikavatichi Bakhar, the oldest medieval chronicle of Mumbai dating back to the 13th-14th centuries CE, mentions Mulund as one of the villages under the jurisdiction of an administrator named Harbaji. This firmly establishes the historicity of Mulund as being at least six to seven centuries old. The original boundary of Gavanpada Koliwada was marked by the Gavan River to the north, Mulund Station to the west, and numerous creeks that demarcated its eastern and southern frontiers. The oldest families inhabiting the Gavanpada Koliwada are the Vaity, Patil, Bhoir, and Keni. The families of Gavanpada traditionally established marital ties with Koli families from the Koliwadas of Bhandup, Bhivandi, Kalyan, Sion, Nanepada, and Navgharpada.

Charkop Gaon

The suburb of Kandivali is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Mumbai, referred to as Kandhavli in the Mahikavatichi Bakhar, the city’s oldest chronicle dating back to the 13th-14th century AD. Even today, the coastline near the Manori creek in Kandhavli is richly covered with mangroves, bordering the native hamlet of Charkop, inhabited by the Koli and Bhandari communities, who are among the original settlers of Kandivali.

Eksar Gaothan

Eksar is home to the Agri community whose traditional occupation was farming, and managing salt pans. It was originally a large village whose original boundaries stretched from the Manori creek in the west to Dahisar in the north, Ravalpada and Devipada in the east, and Vazira to the south. This original expanse of Eksar is still preserved in the administrative records, wherein all the places mentioned prior administratively still fall under mauje Eksar. The village of Eksar is traditionally divided into five neighbourhoods viz. Talepakhadi, Mhatarpakhadi, Dattapada, and Koliwadi. The original families who made up Eksar Gaothan, and who continue to reside in it, are the Mhatre, Patil, and Thakur.

Kelti Pada

Mumbai is one of the most peculiar cities in the world and is home to a wide range of natural ecosystems and biodiversity, from the open seas, creeks, and rivers to dense jungles. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, of which Aarey Forest forms a part, is the largest protected forest within a city anywhere in the world. Aarey is home to numerous Adivasi tribes, such as the Kolis, who have settled in the coastal terrains of the city. Several Adivasi communities have made their homes in various padas or hamlets in these forests, situated in the central region of Mumbai’s contemporary urban landscape, for thousands of years and continue to do so.

Kandarpada Gaothan

The name Kandarpada might be derived from the abundant mangrove forests that once surrounded this locality. One of the Marathi words for mangrove is kandar, which may have given this gaothan, or village, its name. It is a gaothan home to the Agri, Pachkalshi and Christian Koli communities as well as members of the adivasi community. The traditional boundaries of the Kandarpada gaothan extend from Eksar in the south to Manori Creek in the west and the Dahisar River in the east and the north.

Koli Cuisine: An Introduction

Food plays a fundamental role in all human cultures. It is not just a means of sustenance but also serves as a means of expressing oneself, connecting with others, and preserving the cultural history of a region or community. It is a way of life that is passed down through generations, an intangible heritage. Drawing from these historical and cultural roots, the food serves as a recollection of bygone eras, and simultaneously, the related cooking methods and social conventions provide invaluable insight into the values and material conditions of the people making it.

Bottle Masala

If you have lived in Mumbai long enough, it is hard not to have come across East Indian cuisine, which, over time, has adapted itself to reflect a mixture of Portuguese, British and Maharashtrian culinary influences. Quintessential to the aroma and taste of East Indian cuisine is a potent masala prepared from a variety of exotic spices, known colloquially as bottle masala. The name derives from the empty beer bottles in which the masala was packed and stored to keep them airtight and fresh. The masala is a staple in East Indian community kitchens and is used in the preparation of various dishes.

Erangal Village

The antiquity of Erangal is evinced from certain archaeological remains and its mention in the early medieval texts of the region. One such text is the Mahikavatichi Bakhar, a 12th century chronicle detailing the administrative setup of the contemporary Sashthi or Salcette island. The text refers to Erangal as ‘Yergan’, which was assigned to an administrator named ‘Singhe Sheshvanshi’.

Babhai Gaothan

The modern-day Gaothan of Babhai is nestled between Lokmanya Tilak Road and Chandavarkar Road, commanding attention with its distinctive blend of traditional dwellings amidst the backdrop of modern buildings and high rises. It stands as an urban village inhabited by the Pachkalshi or the Somvanshi Kshatriya Pathare community, representing one of the rare enclaves of this community within Mumbai.