A Vegetable Motif in Central Indian Art [Part 8]

Published: 24.05.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

§ 9. Taxonomy
The study of an individual motif is concerned with both: collection and organization of the available data. A few general remarks concerning the methods of organization may, therefore, not be superfluous. Our formulation will be of a general nature, but we are mainly guided by the experience acquired in the present study.

We can start from two primary planes:

  1. form and
  2. iconography.
Form is normally discussed in terms of periods and provinces, and we expect that each period and each province has “its“ peculiar form of a motif. However, such a state of affairs cannot be taken for granted. A study of the various different forms of a motif should, therefore, also consider the problem of continuity (as opposed to discontinuity, i.e. to clear-cut lines of demarcation). On the diachronic plane, we hope that transition from one period to the next is organic but that, nevertheless, the forms of different periods are clearly distinguished, that they are discrete units. On the synchronic plane, we can most easily handle a material with discrete or bounded units: this would make it possible to reduce the variety of forms to a limited set of formulas. However, the evolution of art was not determined by the requirements of later scholars, and situations which are diametrically opposed to our expectations must be considered as perfectly normal: gradual changes instead of changes by discrete steps, continuity instead of discontinuity.

In the case of iconography, we are concerned with attribution: We want to know which types (Jina, Sūrya etc.) attract a given motif. It is of course necessary to distinguish between types with identity and types without identity but in the present context that is only of marginal interest. Relevant is the fact that a motif (banana plant etc.) may occur occasionally or invariably (almost invariably) with a given type (Devī etc.), and that the taxonomic constellation may change from period to period and from province to province. Generally speaking, we are again faced with the dualism of taxonomic order and disorder.

Ultimately, we have to refer to “form principles.“ It is always tempting to isolate certain processes (assimilation, multiplication, trend towards symmetry etc.). But even in those cases where these processes seem to be well-defined, a note of caution is necessary. The situation is involved. So we would suggest to test the value of our process concepts (classes of form principles) on the basis of suitable samples (§ 5 supra).

Both in connection with iconography and in connection with the history of style, taxonomy emerges as an explicit or implicit guide line in our studies. Considering all the complexities of the situation, it is however quite normal that, at this stage at least, theoretical elements can only be supplied in a casual manner and without any claim to coherence and systematic character. A few general observations are nevertheless possible. First of all, we stress the importance of proper distinction, both in taxonomic and non-taxonomic contexts, especially the need of distinguishing between different planes. As an example of distinction we mention our concordance of botanical and non-botanical (representational) features in § 1. Also we have to accentuate the necessity of a flexible procedure in taxonomic matters (refer to §§ 4-6). Finally, we have to return to the Introduction where we posited a link between the absence of the classical text-image relation and an increased importance of taxonomic strategies. The importance of taxonomy increases as the proximity between text and image decreases, and vice versa. Apart from that, we need a taxonomy of purely artistic data (e.g. different forms of the lotus) and of purely textual data (“textual images“ as opposed to “artistic images“: Bautze-Picron Id p. 35).

The renewed bias towards taxonomy (e.g. compare the classification of Jina images in JID), is largely due to our study of the stimulating inquiries by R. Needham and by G. Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi (Needham Cl, Eichinger St). We include in this acknowledgement a word of thanks to S.A. Srinivasan who directed our attention to these two publication. - See also Bautze-Picron Id.

§ 10. List of illustrations with acknowledgements

Drawing 1.

Musa sapientum. § 1. - Schumann Mu p. 25. - Descriptions: Schmeil Bo pp. 242-43 (see also drawing 2); Cheesman Cl p. 108; Cowen Sh pp. 83-85.

Drawing 2.

M. sapientum. § 1. - Schmeil Bo p. 243.

Fig. 1.

Rajshahi Museum. Devī flanked by banana plants. We see only the banana plant on our left. Both banana plants taken together show a luxuriant ensemble of vegetable forms. The representation of a stalk (inflorescence) with a cluster of bananas is rare if not unique. A.D. 1100-1150. § 1. - Collection Cl. Bautze-Picron. - For another elaborate rendering of the banana plant motif refer to A.S.I.A.R. 1928/29, pl. 42e (=Bhattacharya De 7).

Fig. 2.

Deogarh. Panel from the plinth of the Gupta Temple. Rāma and Lakṣmaa. A.D. 500-600. § 3. - Vats Gu 16b and p. 17.

Fig. 3.

Nālandā. Panel from the outer wall of Temple Site 2. Teacher and disciple. A.S.I, no. 168. A.D. 600-700. § 4. - Collection J. Bautze.

Fig. 4.

Nālandā. Panel from outer wall (cf. fig. 3). Teacher (A.S.I, no. 213). § 4. - Collection J. Bautze.

Fig. 5.

Gwalior Fort. Niche 56 from the outer wall of the Telī-kā-Mandir. Dancing figure (Śaiva). A.D. 750-800. § 5. - Author's collection.

Fig. 6.

Gwalior Fort. Niche 107 (cf. fig. 5). Standing figure (Śaiva).

Fig. 7.

Gwalior Fort. Niche 30 (cf. fig. 5). Standing figure (Śaiva).

Fig. 8.

Gwalior, Fort. Niche 50 (cf. fig. 5). Standing figure (Śaiva).

Fig. 9.

Badoh-Pathari. Niche 10 from the lower niche-zone of the Gardarmal Temple. A.D. 800-900. § 5. - Author's collection.

Fig. 10.

Rakhetra (Guna Dt., M.P.). Image of Brahma in a series of three rock-cut panels. A.D. 900-950. § 7. - Photo purchased by the author.

Fig. 11.

Deogarh Fort. Panel on Jaina Temple 1 (JID p. 32). Ācārya and disciple. A.D. 1000-1050. Here and in the case of fig. 12 we have indicated map-squares for reference purposes (A 1 etc.). Thus “fig. 11-CD-3“ (two squares) gives the position of two halved leaves, while “fig. 12-EF-3.4.5“ (six squares) locates the two brooms. § 8. - Author's collection.

Fig. 12.

Deogarh Fort. Panel belonging to Wall-Section IV (JID 392). Ācārya and disciple. A.D. 1000-1050. § 8. - Author's collection.


Makaranda - Essays in honour of Dr. James C. Harle

Compiled by PK

Revised online edition by HN4U 2012


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