Saturday, November 23, 2013

History mystery: Dravidian Architecture

Great Bath
The legacy of Mohenjo-Daro symbolizes the vibrant past from the times when the inhabitants from several parts of the world lived in caves. A recent survey into civilization indicates that Mohenjo-Daro civilization was perhaps the first kind of civilization where the concept of civil engineering, architecture and luxurious life styles prevailed which was not less than the current standard at that time. Mohenjo-Daro had a planned layout based on a grid of streets having structures built of bricks of baked mud, sun dried bricks as well as burned wood. The city probably had around 35,000 inhabitants. With its advanced drainage system, they had a variety of buildings of up to two storeys high with an elaborate bath space. It also featured a large well being an agricultural city as well as a granary and central market place.

GreatBath drain
Another amazing discovery was the building with an underground furnace or hypocaust which was probably used for heating the bathing with some similarity to those Baths built during the Roman period. The Great Bath was of fine quality brick work and drains which was 40 feet long and 8 feet deep and was a public facility according to normal standards. It was watertight with the use of two layers of brick, lime cement and finally sealed with bitumen or tar to stop any water leakage. The bath also included a shallow section for children and had channels to fill fresh water from river as well as drain the water out in to downstream. Besides, it had quarter turn steps in the main area on either sides rather than the main stairs in the centre.

The people of this civilization had gained spectacular standards in building their cities with each city carefully planned which housed the inhabitants where a typical city would be divided into two sections. This is turn was fortified separately with one section located on an artificially raise level known as the acropolis while the other was at ground level. It was at the acropolis which contained all the important buildings of the city like the assembly halls, religious structures, including the granaries as well as the Great Bath. The city was well connected with broad roads around 30 meters in length which met at right angle. The housing of the inhabitants was located within the rectangular squares that were formed and were built with standardized baked bricks having many spacious courtyards.

Mohenjadaro lower town
The bigger houses had provision for multiple stories with paved floors. The most peculiar discovery was that, every home had its own wells drains as well as bathrooms and the houses were directly connected to an underground sewer system which ran throughout the city. Thus these people enjoyed a life style of not only sanitary convenience but also a highly developed municipal life. The Dravidian or the Chola architecture was a style of architecture which emerged a thousand of years ago in the southern part of India and was built by the Dravidians. This style had a number of wonderful buildings, the growth of which had been patronized by various dynasties which ruled the region.

Mohenjadaro  high well
It consisted mainly of pyramid shaped temples called Kovils in Tamil which were intricately carved stones with a view to create step designs with many statues of deities, kings, warriors and dancers. In the ancient book Vastu shastra, it is mentioned as one of the three styles of temple building, which originated in the region of Tamil Nadu. A majority of the present buildings are in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Several kingdoms and empires namely Cholas, Chera, Chalikyas, Hoysalas, Pandvas, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas and Vijayanagara Empire amongst others have a remarkable contribution to the evolution of the Dravidian architecture all through the ages. The earliest temple of the Dravidian was built by Cholas and it is appropriately called the Chola architecture.

teracotta drain line
 The Great Living Chola temples are of three granite temples namely, Brihadisvara in Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram which are dedicated to Shiva, showing the progress and development of its architecture and art. The Chola civilization is depicted between the 10th and the 13th century which was then succeeded by the Pallavan dynasty. Besides this, the Dravidian styled architecture was also found in the various parts of North India, central and northeastern Sri Lanka, Maldives as well as in the various parts of Southeast Asia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Prambanan in Indonesia. All these were built based on the early Chola Architecture. The Chola period domination was the golden age for Dravidian architecture and under the reign of the great kings, Rajaraja and his son Rajendra Chola, all architectural activities got royal patronage and the temples built during that time were large ones like the Grate Temple of Thanjavur. The Pallava period also provided several building, the earliest one being the rock cut temples and later on there were temples carved in one stone. It was the Pallavas who introduced the technique of building in stone in Tamil Nadu and were pioneers of South Indian architecture.

Tharasuram temple
Their rock cut temples dated way back to 610 – 690 CE and the structural temples between 690 – 900 CE, their greatest accomplishment being the rock cut temples at Mahabalipuram. There are also excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines called rathas in Mahabalipuram and the early temples were dedicated to Shiva. Another example of the Palava style temple is the Kailasanatha temple also called Rajasimha Pallaveswaram in Kanchipuram which was built by Narasimhavarmsn II or Rajasmha. The Shore Temple constructed near Mahabalipuram by him is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pandya style saw the beginning of huge towers, high wall enclosures and massive towered gateways while the Vijayanagar style was noted for its intricacy and beauty for the decorated monolithic pillars. All these description of the Dravidian temple styles are found in Tamil Nadu and the age of the temple are determined from the architectural features displayed by it together with references found in the ancient literature. The stone inscriptions found in most of the temples give us some indication on the history and the patronage extended to them by various rulers.

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