top of page

The Metaphorical Concepts and Rules in Indian Sculpture

Part - 2


Many ancient books on sculpture were written in Sanskrit, but most of them no longer exist. Only a few reference books remain based on those ancient scriptures. I came across two critical ancient texts: Brihat Samhita and Suprovedagam. Brihat Samhita can still be found in South India. I have included an image of the Brihat Samhita in the Sanskrit language.


brihat samhita artique blog
Original image of Brihat Samhita scripture.

The second one is probably only available in some places. The author of the mentioned books has provided specific guidelines for creating sculptures intended for worship in a temple. However, this unidentified author offers no additional rules regarding sculpting for any other purpose.


Creating small models on the riverside for worship using materials like mud and sand is customary in Hindu communities. However, these models must be destroyed as advised and do not need to follow the rules of sculpture. In some states of India, models made for a particular purpose can be made with any material for display. Still, for worship, the model must be made with soil, wood, metal, or stone, as these are the only materials allowed by scripture for religious work. Earlier in this book, I mentioned that the author of a particular scripture gave artists a great deal of freedom to create as they pleased. This is where that idea comes into play. Artists were given this freedom, so we can now enjoy their creations in many ways. During the Puja festival (a national festival in Bengal) in Calcutta, you will be amazed by the incredible models of Goddess Durga and the intricate artificial temples created by artists who have even won awards from government and non-government organizations. Although these are not intended for worship, they are remarkably works of art. Such artistic endeavors would not be possible without the support of that scripture.  


The model in standing position should follow the specified forms I mentioned above. 

No other posture was granted for worship or spiritual purpose in the temple. The seated position of a model should follow the formation of Yoga. They should be composed in the yoga form of Padmasana, Swastikasana, Birasana, Bhadrasana, and Vajrasana. The most popular seating position is Padmasana, which means a place for seating made in the lotus. The Padma means lotus, and Asana means a seating place. Here is a demonstration below. The sculpture of Lord Adinath ( Adinath, also known as Rishabhanatha, is the first of the 24 Tirthankaras, or spiritual teachers, in Jainism.) in Padmasana.

adinath first tirthankar in jain community
Adinath, the first Tirthankara in Jain community.

As per the rule, the lower portion of any sculpture should be covered with an attire from waist to foot. The other body parts should have several ornaments based on the character, such as male or female, God or demon, etc. No sexual representation/indication is allowed in the sculptures made for religious purposes. The book also advised sculptors that the face of the model should be similar to a young-aged, child, or teen face. The face of the aged person may be allowed in the sculpture, which is in a meditative mood.


The concept of the spiritual realm suggests that individuals who have devoted themselves entirely to God experience a significant transformation in their entire being, including their appearance. These individuals' countenances can resemble those of 

young boys or girls, and this is not a mere fantasy but rather a natural occurrence. While in the Himalayas, I met a few elderly devotees who appeared so youthful that I was astonished. You will be amazed by the childlike smile of these individuals. They have incorporated secret methods into their daily routine that can bring about a significant transformation in their body, mind, and even their brain. These practices signify their spiritual progression towards God, and some may even possess the ability to extend their lifespan as desired - essentially achieving near-immortality!


You may be familiar with the purpose behind sculpting in India, which is reflected in the given command. As previously mentioned, this directive ensures that each sculpture represents a healthy body, regardless of gender or age. Sculptures depicting overweight or weak individuals were prohibited, as they were seen as symbols of illness, poverty, and extravagance. In the realm of divinity, there is no room for sickness, sorrow, or hunger. Instead, it is a place of everlasting happiness and youthfulness.


four headed Brahma
Four headed Brahma

In Hindu mythology, some characters are depicted with multiple heads, such as Brahma, who has four heads on four sides, and Ravana, a devotee of Lord Shiva, has ten heads equally on both sides. The reason for this conception is versatile; however, it is believed that Brahma, as the father and creator of the universe, is represented by his four heads, which symbolize the four Vedas, which are significant Hindu scriptures. It is suggested that Brahma's four heads also represent the main four divisions of the Hindu community. It is recommended that the four heads be placed on the four sides according to tradition.


The first one should take place on the front side of the shoulder, and the next three will be on the three sides of the same shoulder as in the image shown. The right hand of the Bramha bearing the scripture Vedas. According to Indian mythology, Lord Shiva is 

believed to have five heads. Because those five heads are the symbol of the five must-have

elements to form this universe. To arrange the six heads, the author suggests that the fifth head should be positioned above the other four, with its gaze directed toward the sky. Following this, the final two heads should be placed above the previous four, as instructed.


lord shiva with several heads
Lord Shiva with infinite power

According to scripture, one should begin by composing the first four to assemble ten or more heads. Then, the other three heads should be placed above and around the four. The following two heads should be placed above the three, and the final should be above the nine. I discovered a sculpture of Lord Shiva with 26 faces and 52 hands at the Sucheendram temple in Tamilnadu, South India. This sculpture perfectly demonstrates the direction for placing heads, as the scripture suggests. In the statues of Ravana, his ten heads are typically arranged on both sides of the main head to convey a sense of terror. The artist's primary goal was to create a terrifying image, and the arrangement of the heads was designed to achieve this effect.


I'll continue the discussion in the next episode with other rules precepted by the scripture. So stay tuned with Artique Blog. Thank you.







4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Σχόλια


bottom of page