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6. Mediaeval Hindu columns from Sahár.
Sahár is a small town in the Chhátá. Pargana, which was of some importance last century as the favourite residence of Thákur Badan Sinh, the father of Sūraj Mall the founder of the present Bharatpur dynasty. A short time ago a dispute arose between the Muhammadans and the Hindus as to the possession of a site on which they wished to erect, the one party a mosque, the other a temple. The real fact, as afterwards more clearly appeared, was that the Hindus had originally a temple there, which the Muhammadans had thrown down and built a mosque over it. This too had fallen and the ground had for some years remained unoccupied. The case when brought into Court was decided in favour of the Hindus, who thereupon set to work and commenced the erection of a shrine to be dedicated to Rádhá Ballabh. In digging the foundations, they came upon the remains of the old temple, which I rescued and brought into Mathurá. They consist of 10 large pillars or pilasters in very good preservation and elegantly carved with foliage and arabesques and also a number of mutilated capitals, bases, &c., the whole series proving an interesting illustration of the mediaeval Hindu style of architecture. Their value is increased by the fact that two of the shafts bear inscriptions, in which the date is clearly given as sambat 1128 (1072 A. D.). With the exception of the date, I have not succeeded in reading much else; but the accompanying photograph” of one of them is on a scale large enough to be legible, The style that I call ‘the mediaeval Hindu,’ and of which these pillars afford a good late example, began about the year 400 A. D. and continued to flourish over the whole of Upper India for more than seven centuries. It is distinguished by the constant employment in the capital, or upper half column, of two decorative features, the one being a flower-vase with foliage over-hanging the corners and the other a grotesque mask. The physiognomy of the latter is generally of a very un-Indian type, and the more so the further we go back, as is well illustrated by Plate 13, a photograph that Sir John Strachey was kind enough to send me of a pillar in the underground temple in the Allahabad Fort. The motif is precisely the same as may be seen in many European cinque cento arabesques, where a scroll pattern is worked up at the ends, or in the centre, into the semblance of a human face. The fashion with us certainly arose out of the classic arenaissance, and in India also may possibly have been suggested by the reminiscence of a Greek design. But it was more probably of spontaneous and independent origin; as also it was among our Gothic architects, in whose works a similar style of decoration is not altogether unknown. In * The base, shown in this photograph, is more than a thousand years older and belongs to the Indo-Scythian period. It has been used simply as a socket in which to imbed tho pillar and So raise the inscription above the ground.
the earlier examples, such as that at Allahabad, the face is very clearly marked; though even there the hair of the head and the moustaches are worked off into a scroll or leaf pattern. In later work, of which numerous specimens may be seen in the accompanying illustrations of different dates ranging between the two limits fixed by the Allahabad pillar at the beginning and the Sahár columns at the end, the eyes are made so protuberant, and the other features so distorted and confused by the more elaborate treatment of the foliage and the introduction of other accessories that the proportions of a human face are almost and in some cases are altogether destroyed. The tradition however exists to the present day; and a Mathurá stone-mason, if told to carve a grotesque for a corbel or stringcourse of any building, will at once draw a design, in which are reproduced all the peculiarities of the old models.
7. Miscellaneous Antiquities, Mathurá Museum.
Plate No. 13 shews two Buddhist rails of early character. The one giving the representation of a stipa, to which I have already referred, was brought from the schera of Jaysińhpura, a village on the road between Mathurá and Brindaban. The other I dug out of one of the Chauwára mounds, where I found also a copper coin of Kanishka's reign. The columns with their bell-capitals surmounted by winged lions, and the miniature window-fronts or pediments, with which the architraves are decorated, illustrate the characteristic features of the architecture of the period. The upper group represents a sacred tree, enclosed in a railing, with two devotees worshipping it, the one having a wreath in his hand and the other a chauri. Below is an inscription in a single line ending with the word dànam, which records the name of the donor; but though most of the letters are clear, I cannot determine what the name is. The second group is probably a scene from one of the Játakas, to which the two birds will probably at some time give a clue.
Plate No. 14 shews a Buddhist rail, also of the Indo-Scythian period, of unusually large dimensions, the height of the stone, though a piece of it has been broken off at the bottom, being still 6 ft. 4 in. It is sculptured with a female figure, almost nude but for her metal ornaments, who carries a wicker-work umbrella, the stick of which is so long that it rests upon the ground. In the compartment above is a very curious bas-relief representing two monkeys and a bird, seated on basket-work chairs, with a hideously mis-shapen dwarf standing on the ground between them and apparently shedding tears.
In Plate 15 the two Buddhist rails placed on either side of the lowest range of sculptures are the same of which a back view is given in Plate 13.