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Faith adapting to difficult times

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 26, 2022

📍 🇮🇳 Faith adapting to more difficult times

Krishna, literally the “dark coloured”, became a beloved deity in Medieval times, especially with the strong poetic influence of the Vaishnava sect. Bishnupur (the town of Vishnu) became an important center of devotion to Krishna - and the Madana-Mohana temple in the 17th century an ode to this Lord.

“Madana” (beautiful bodied, synonymous to Kama/ Eros) and “Mohana” (hypnotic, mesmerizing) are popular adjectives for Krishna. They also define the sentiment of that period. The temple is dedicated to this dark-skinned Lord (color of the “black rain cloud”) - a handsome hero with flaws, emotions, playfulness, regrets. The nuances, the complexity of that devotion reflected challenging times in Eastern India, as Dutch and British forces established their own towns nearby while Islamic traders captured territories as well.

Built by King Durjana Singha in 1674 CE, the temple is unique in shape and structure; made of bricks, its facade is layered with elaborate narratives of Krishna on terracotta tiles. The massive canopy-like roof (“chala”) must have come from regional houses adapting to the heavy rains in the Gangetic plains.

Bishnupur temples are a unique culmination of classical and rural styles, drawn from an era where development of a new devotional system tried to restructure the dogmatic classicism of previous centuries. That makes these temples here unique, a witness to rapidly changing times.

____ Sources ____

>> Marg, A Magazine of the Arts, volume 54 number 3, March 2003

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17th CE