Hindu superiority: An Attempt to Determine the Position of the Hindu Race in the Scale of Nations By Har Bilas Sarda, B. A., F. R. S. L



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ARTS.

I.—ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE,


I asked of Time for whom those temples rose That prostrate by his hands in silence lie; His lips disdained the mystery to disclose, And borne on swifter wings he hurried by I

The broken columns whose? I asked of Fame

(His kindling breath gives life to works sublime); With downcast looks of mingled grief and shame

‘ She heaved the uncertain sigh and followed Time.

Wrapt in amazement over the smouldering pile

I saw oblivion pass with giant strides,

And while his visage wore Pride’s seornful smile, Haply these vast domes that even in ruin shine

“ I reek not whose,” he said, “they now are mine.”

—13vnow.

THERE is another unmistakeable proof of the wonderful civilization of the ancient Hindus—it is their architecture The magnificent Hindu temples, the splendid palaces, the formidable forts and the wonderful caves are truly monuments of human genius and marvels of human industry and skill. They have excited the admiration of all European critics, and have elicited expressions of wonder and amazement from them. Mrs. Manning says: “The ancient architecture of India is so amazing that the first European observers could not find terms sufficiently intense to express their wonder and admiration, and although the vividness of such emotions subsides on more intimate acquaintance, the most sober critics still allow that it is both wonderful and beautiful.”‘

‘Ancient and Mediteval India,, Vol, I, p. 391.

390 HINDU SLTEMOHITY.

Strength and durability, beauty and majesty are the characteristics of the Hindu style of architecture. Mahrnud Ghaznavi writing to the Khalif from Mathura said that the buildings of India were surely not less strong than the Mohamedan faith. Such expressions of wonder from one of the greatest fanatics that ever lived is significant evidence of the highest development of the art of architecture in India.

Mr. Thornton says: “The ancient Indian erected buildings the solidity of which has not been overcome by the revolution of thousands of years.”‘

After speaking of Hindu sculpture, Professor Weber continues: “A far higher degree of development was attained by architecture, of which some most admirable monuments still remain.”‘ While describing the structure of a building, Mr. Elphinstone says: “The posts and lintels of the doors, the panels and other spaces are enclosed and almost covered by deep borders of mouldings and a profusion of arabesques of plants, flowers, fruits, men, animals and imaginary beings; in short, of every embellishm3nt that the most fertile fancy could devise. These arabesques, the running patterns of plants and creepers in particular, are often of an elegance scarcely equalled in any other part of the world.”3

Mr. Fergusson describes a remarkable temple at Rameshwaram, of which the outer court measures the length of the river face of Parliament House at Westminster by twice their depth.

Thornton’s Chapte’rs from the British History of India. 2 Weber’s Indian Literature, p. 274.

3Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 160. The author also says “ Perhaps the greatest of all the Hindu works are the tanks. The--Hindu wells are also very remarkable.”

Of-the pagoda at Rameshwaram, Lord Valentia says: “The whole building presents a magnificent appearance, which we might in vain seek adequate language to tlescri be.”‘

After giving a description of the pagoda atChalambron, 27 miles south of Pondicherry, .Professor Heeren says: “On the other side of the large tank is the most wonderful structure of all. This is a sanctuary or chapel in the middle of an.enormous hall, 360 ft. long x 260 ft. in breadth, and supported by upwards of one thousand pillars each thirty feet high and disposed in regular order. “2 Dr. Robertson thus speaks of the Hindu architectural elegance: “Some of the ornamental parts are finished with an elegance entitled to the admiration of the most ingenious artists.”3

The cave temples are not only peculiar to this countrybut show the highest artistic genius of the people. Professor Heeren4 thus speaks of the Elora temples: .” All that is great, splendid and ornamental in architectureabove ground is here seen, also beneath the earth—staircases, bridges, chapels columns and porticos, obelisks, colossal statues and reliefs sculptured on almost all the

Travels. Vol. I, pp. 340, 341. A description of the temple of Mahakal at Ujjain and of the famous temple of Gobind Deoji at Brindaban will give one an idea of the magnificence of Hindu temples.

Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, pp. 95.

S Dr. Robertson’s Works, Vol. XII, “ Disquisition Concerning India,” p. 16.

. 4See Historical Researches, Vol. II, pp. 60-70. “Magnitude,” says

Professor Wilson, “is not the only element of beauty in the cavern temples. The columns are carved with great elegance and fitness of design. Notice is taken of the numerous remains of temples in varioug parts of India in ‘which extreme architectural beauty is to be found. —3E11’8 History of India, Vol. II, p. 15.

walls, representing Hindu deities.” An English critic says: “All this wonderful structure, the variety, richness and skill displayed in the ornaments surpass all description.”I Professor Heeren again says: “It is not without an involuntary shudder that we pass the threshold of these spacious grottoes, and compare the weight of these ponderous roofs with the apparant slenderness and inadequacy of its support, an admirable and ingenious effect which must have required no ordinary share of abilities in the architect to calculate and determine 1”2 The learned Professor concludes: “Such are the seven Pagodas or ancient monuments so-called, at Mavalipuram on the CoromAndel coast, of which extraordinary buildings it will be hardly too much to assert that they will occupy a most distinguished place in the scale of human skill and ingenuity” 3

Baron Dalberg was greatly struck with the architecture of Dwarka, which he calls “ the wonderful city,” and says: “The natives of that country (India) have carried the art of constructing, and ornamenting excavated grottoes to a much higher degree of perfection than any other people.”4

Comparing the Hindu with the Greek and the Egyptian architecture, Professor Heeren says: “In the richness of decoration bestowed on their pilasters, and, among other things, in the execution of statues resembling caryatides they (the Hindus) far surpass both those nations (the Greeks and Egyptians).”

Mrs. Manning says: “The caves are remarkable also for the use of stucco and paint, not merely on the

Asiatic Researches, Vol. III, p. 405.



2Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 74. Sakya Padamrita is tha name of the sculptor of the Grottoes of Ellora.

3Heeren’s History of Researches, Vol. II, p. 78.

4Geowraphical Ephemerides, Vol. XXXII, p. 12.

walls but on the roof and pillars. And the frets and scrolls are of such beauty and elegance as to rival those at Pompeii and the Baths of Titus.’—The Kailas and the other excavations of Western India excite our awe and wonder.”2 She adds: “India is most famous for pillared architecture.” The pillared colonnades or choultries connected with the Southern temples are the most extraordinary buildings.”3 Buddhism gave a great stimulus to the development of archi- tecture in ancient India; and with the spread of Buddhism in foreign countries, the Buddhistic style of architecture was largely borrowed by foreign nations. Professor Weber hits the point when he says: “It is, indeed, not improbable that our Western steeples owe their origin to the imitation of the Buddhistic topes.”4

Col. Tod says: “The Saracen arch’ is of Hindu

Ancient and Medieval India, Vol. I, p. 404. See also Fergus-son’s History of Architecture, Vol. II, pp. 499-501. The Karli cave is the most perfect specimen of the cave temples.

2Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. I[. p. 420.

sAncient and Medieval India, Vol. I, p. 418.

4 Indian Literature, p. 274.

5Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 781. Colonel Tod, speaking of the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra at Ajmer, says: “I may further, with this temple and screen before us, speculate on the possibility of its having furnished some hints to the architects of Europe. It is well-known that the saracenic arch has crept into many of those structures called Gothic, erected in the 12th and 13th centuries, when a more florid style succeeded to the severity of the Saxon or Roman; but I believe it has been -doubted whence the Saracens obtained their model: certainly it was neither from Egypt nor from Persia.” He then goes on to surmise that the influence of the early Caliphs of Baghdad (who were as enlightened as powerful), on European society was great, and that the victories of the Caliph’s lieutenants produce no trifling results to the arts, that “ this very spot, Ajmer was visited by the first hostile force Which Islam sent-across the Indus,” and that the arches of the “temple” at Ajmer may thus be the models of the arches that were subsequently introduced amongst the Saracens.

origin,” and yet some would deny the existence of arches in the architectural style of ancient India.I

Sir William Hunter says: “Although Mohamedans brought their new forms of architecture, nevertheless Hindu art powerfully asserted itself in the Imperial works of the Mughals, and has left behind memorials which extort the admiration and astonishment of our age. The palace architecture of G-walior, the mosques and the mausoleums, of Agra and Delhi, with several of the older temples of Southern India, stand unrivalled for grace of outline and elaborate wealth of ornament.”

Mr. Coleman says: “The remains of their architectural art might furnish the architects of Europe with new ideas of beauty and sublimity.”

“ English decorative art,” to quote Sir W. W. Hunter once more, “ in our day has borrowed largely from Indian forms and patterns. The exquisite scrolls of the rock temples at Karli and Ajanta, the delicate marble tracery and flat-wood carving of Western India, the harmonious blending of forms and colours in the fabrics of Kashmir, have contributed to the restoration of taste in England.”‘

Mr. ColeMan says: “The ancient Hindu sculpture can boast of an almost unrivalled richness and beautiful minuteness of floral ornaments which claim and excite our warmest admiration.”4



1.’ The finest example of the triumphal arches is at Barnagar, north of Guzerat, which is the richest specimen of Hindu art,”—Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 163. LHindu Mythology, Preface, p. ix.

3lmperial Indian Gazetteer, Art “India,” p. 225. “Indian art work, when faithful to native designs, has obtained the highest honours at the various International Exhibitions of Europe.” Such isIndian art even in these degenerate .days.!

4Hinclu Mythology, Preface, p. vii.

“ The grand temple at Barolli (Rajputana),” says the English translator of Heeren’s Historical Researches, “contains unrivalled specimens of sculpture, some parts of which, especially the heads, in the language of an eye witness, would be no disgrace to Canova himself.”

Cplonel Tod, after carefully examining and exploring the temple, exclaims: “To describe its stupendous and diversified architecture is impossible; it is the office of the pen alone, but the labour would be endless. Art seems to have exhausted itself, and we are perhaps now for the first time fully impressed with the beauty of Hindu sculpture. The columns, the ceilings, the external roofing where each stone presents a miniature temple, one rising over another until the crown, by the urn-like icalas, distract our attention. The carving on the capital of each column would require pages of explanation, and the whole, inSpite of its high antiquity, is in wonderful preservation.

“ The doorway, which is destroyed, must have been curious, and the remains that choke up the interior are highly interesting. One of these speciinens was entire and unrivalled in taste and beauty.”‘



1Toci.’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, p. 704. Col. Tod says: “ In short, it would. require the labour of several artists for six months to do anything like justice to the wonders of Barolli.”
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